« ElőzőTovább »
settled in the English, to say nothing of the Scottish mind; a great variety of circumstances, external as well as internal, had by degrees co-operated to its general establishment: yet there were not wanting persons who still dissented, or at least affected to dissent from it. It was reserved for the enthusiastic industry, and admirable ingenuity of this juvenile academic, to set the question at rest by an accumulation of critical evidence which no sophistry could evade, and yet produced in a style of such high-bred delicacy, that it was impossible for the hitherto • veiled propheť to take the slightest offence with the hand that had for ever abolished his disguise. The only sceptical scruple that survived this exposition, was extinguished in due time by Scott's avowal of the sole and unassisted authorship of his novels; and now Mr Adolphus's Letters have shared the fate of other elaborate arguments, the thesis of which has ceased to be controverted. Hereafter, I am persuaded, his volume will be revived for its own sake;
- but, in the meantime, regarding it merely as forming, by its original effect, an epoch in Scott's history, I think it my duty to mark my sense of its importance in that point of view, by transcribing the writer's own summary of its
“ CONTENTS. “ LETTER I.— Introduction-General reasons for believing the novels to have been written by the author of Marmion.
“ LETTER II. -Resemblance between the novelist and poet
in their tastes, studies, and habits of life, as illustrated by their works — Both Scotchmen - Habitual residents in Edinburgh Poets - Antiquaries - German and Spanish scholars - Equal in classical attainment - Deeply read in British history – Lawyers – Fond of field sports — Of dogs --Acquainted with most manly exercises—Lovers of military subjects—The novelist apparently not a soldier.
“ LETTER III. — The novelist is, like the poet, a man of good society - His stories never betray forgetfulness of honourable principles, or ignorance of good manners - Spirited pictures of gentlemanly character - Colonel Mannering — Judicious treatment of elevated historical personages. The novelist quotes and praises most contemporary poets, except the author of Marmion
-Instances in which the poet has appeared to slight his own un. acknowledged, but afterwards avowed productions.
“ LETTER IV. - Comparison of the works themselves — A! distinguished by good morals and good sense — The latter par. ticularly shown in the management of character - Prose style its general features - Plainness and facility - Grave banter Manner of telling a short story -- Negligence - Scotticisms — Great propriety and correctness occasionally, and sometimes unusual sweetness.
“ Letter V._Dialogue in the novels and poems — Neat colloquial turns in the former, such as cannot be expected in romantic poetry - Happy adaptation of dialogue to character, whether merely natural, or artificially modified, as by profession, local habits, &c. — Faults of dialogue, as connected with cha. racter of speakers-Quaintness of language and thought- Bookish air in conversation - Historical personages alluding to their own celebrated acts and sayings- Unsuccessful attempts at broad vulgarity-Beauties of composition peculiar to the dialogue_ Terseness and spirit — These qualities well displayed in quarrels; but not in scenes of polished raillery_Eloquence.
“ LETTER VI. — The poetry of the author of Marmion generally characterised–His habits of composition and turn of mind
as a poet, compared with those of the novelist - Their descriptions simply conceived and composed, without abstruse and farfetched circumstances or refined comments - Great advantage derived by both from accidental combinations of images, and the association of objects in the mind with persons, events, &c.Distinctness and liveliness of effect in narrative and description Narrative usually picturesque or dramatic, or both-Distinctness, &c. of effect, produced in various ways--Striking pictures of individuals—Their persons, dress, &c.—Descriptions sometimes too obviously picturesque -- Subjects for painters — Effects of light frequently noticed and finely described - Both writers excel in grand and complicated scenes - Among detached and occasional ornaments, the similes particularly noticed-Their frequency and beauty — Similes and metaphors sometimes quaint, and pursued too far.
“ Letter VII.- Stories of the two writers compared - These are generally connected with true history, and have their scene laid in a real place - Local peculiarities diligently attended to Instances in which the novelist and poet have celebrated the same places—they frequently describe these as seen by a traveller (the hero or some other principal personage) for the first time Dramatic mode of relating story-Soliloquies—Some scenes degenerate into melodrame - Lyrical pieces introduced sometimes too theatrically - Comparative unimportance of heroes - Various causes of this fault — Heroes rejected by ladies, and marrying others whom they had before slighted - Personal struggle between a civilized and a barbarous hero — Characters resembling each other-Female portraits in general-Fathers and daughters - Characters in Paul's Letters - Wycliffe and Risingham Glossin and Hatteraick — Other characters compared — Long periods of time abruptly passed over — Surprises, unexpected discoveries, &c. - These sometimes too forced and artificial Frequent recourse to the marvellous — Dreams well described Living persons mistaken for spectres --Deaths of Burley Risingham, and Rashleigh.
“LETTER VIII. - Comparison of particular passages — Descriptions --Miscellaneous thoughts - Instances in which the two writers have resorted to the same sources of information, and borrowed the same incidents, &c.—Same authors quoted by both — the poet, like the novelist, fond of mentioning his contemporaries, whether as private friends or as men publicly distinguished — Author of Marmion never notices the Author of Waverley (see Letter III.) – Both delight in frequently introducing an antiquated or fantastic dialect — Peculiarities of expression common to both writers-Conclusion.”
I wish I had space for extracting copious specimens of the felicity with which Mr Adolphus works out these various points of his problem. As it is, I must be contented with a narrow selection—and I shall take two or three of the passages which seem to me to connect themselves most naturally with the main purpose of my own compilation.
“ A thorough knowledge and statesmanlike understanding of the domestic history and politics of Britain at various and distant periods; a familiar acquaintance with the manners and prevailing spirit of former generations, and with the characters and habits of their most distinguished men, are of themselves no cheap or common attainments; and it is rare indeed to find them united with a strong original genius, and great brilliancy of imagination. We know, however, that the towering poet of Flodden-field is also the diligent editor of Swift and Dryden, of Lord Somers's Tracts, and of Sir Ralph Sadler's State Papers ; that in these and other parts of his literary career he has necessarily plunged deep into the study of British history, biography, and antiquities, and that the talent and activity which he brought to these researches have been warmly seconded by the zeal and liberality of those who possessed the amplest and rarest sources of information. The
muse found him,' as he himself said long ago, engaged in the pursuit of historical and traditional antiquities, and the excursions which he has made in her company have been of a nature which increases his attachment to his original study. Are we then to suppose, that another writer has combined the same powers of fancy with the same spirit of investigation, the same perseverance, and the same good fortune ? and shall we not rather believe, that the labour employed in the illustration of Dryden has helped to fertilize the invention which produced Montrose and Old Mortality? .....
“ However it may militate against the supposition of his being a poet, I cannot suppress my opinion, that our novelist is a man of Jaw. He deals out the peculiar terms and phrases of that science (as practised in Scotland) with a freedom and confidence beyond the reach of any uninitiated person. If ever, in the progress of his narrative, a legal topic presents itself (which very frequently happens), he neither declines the subject, nor timidly slurs it over, but enters as largely and formally into all its technicalities, as if the case were actually before the fifteen. The manners, humours, and professional bavardage of lawyers are sketched with all the ease and familiarity which result from habitual observation. In fact, the subject of law, which is a stumbling-block to others, is to the present writer a spot of repose ; upon this theme he lounges and gossips, he is discinctus et soleatus, and, at times, almost forgets that when an author finds himself at home and perfectly at ease, he is in great danger of falling asleep.-If, then, my inferences are correct, the unknown writer who was just now proved to be an excellent poet, must also be pronounced a follower of the law: the combination is so unusual, at least on this side of the Tweed, that, as Juvenal says on a different occasion
Nature has indeed presented us with one such prodigy in the