« ElőzőTovább »
COOPER'S "INDIAN AND INGIN.”
American Review, September 1846.
VERY narrow and imperfect is the common notion about novels, that they are fictitious narratives written to amuse. So far is this from being the case that we are persuaded no successful novelist ever wrote, or, at least, continued to write, without some ulterior aim-the advocacy of some principle or sentiment. A man of vivid imagination is generally, if indeed we must not say necessarily,) also a man of strong personal feelings and partisan tendencies; and when he finds himself in the position of a moral agent, can he help making his fiction the vehicle of truth, or what he conceives to be truth? To uphold certain schools of art, literature or politics; to further social reforms; to discourage prejudices, and expose abuses; to make one nation better known to, and therefore, better appreciated by, another; to influence popular opinion, and even modify national habits of thought-these are some of the novelist's aims-not merely as some suppose in their short-sightedness, to help boarding-school misses and silly boys to kill time. Great, indeed, is his power for evil; but mighty is it likewise for good, nor is he always, thank God, a servant of Darkness. If D’Israeli perverts his dexterous humor to the gratification of private pique, and the resuscitation of defunct fallacies, Miss Martineau inculcates lessons of charity and long-suffering that are better than many sermons. If the French Romancers do their best to create a hell upon earth, by way of compensation for their disbelief in one hereafter, our own great novelist presents that spectacle which has ever been the philosopher's admiration-an individual who dares to tell the truth to a tyrant.
When “Satanstoe," the first of the Littlepage Manuscripts, appeared, it excited in us feelings of unmitigated