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times fails her, as in the memorable instance of the American commissioners. Madame de Staël gives the following description of this pastoral metropolitan female:
IMMORALITY OF A BOOK.
"Though she is at least forty, she still appears charming even among the young and beautiful of her own sex. The paleness of her complexion, the slight relaxation of her features, indicate the languor of indisposition, and not the decay of years; the easy negligence of her dress accords with this impression. Every one concludes, that when her health is recovered, and she dresses with more care, she must be completely beautiful: this change, however, never happens, but it is always expected; and that is sufficient to make the imagination still add something more to the natural effect of her charms."(Vol. i., p. 21.)
Nothing can be more execrable than the manner in which this book is translated. The bookseller has employed one of our countrymen for that purpose, who appears to have been very lately caught. The contrast between the passionate exclamations of Madame de Staël, and the barbarous vulgarities of poor Sawney, produces a mighty ludicrous effect. One of the heroes, a man of high fastidious temper, exclaims in a letter to Delphine, "I cannot endure this Paris; I have met with ever so many people, whom my soul abhors." And the accomplished and enraptured Leonce terminates one of his letters thus; "Adieu! Adieu, my dearest Delphine! I will give you a call to-morrow." We doubt if Grub street ever imported from Caledonia a more abominable translator.
We admit the character of Madame de Vernon to be drawn with considerable skill. There are occasional traits of eloquence and pathos in this novel, and very many of those observations upon manners and character, which are totally out of the reach of all who have not lived long in the world, and observed it well.
The immorality of any book (in our estimation) is to be determined by the general impression it leaves on those minds, whose principles, not yet ossified, are capable of affording a less powerful defence to its influence. The most dangerous effect that any fictitious character can produce, is when two or three of its popular vices are varnished over with everything that is captivating and gracious in the exterior, and ennobled by association with splendid virtues; this apology will be more sure of its effect, if the faults are not against nature, but against society. The aversion to murder and cruelty could not perhaps be so overcome; but a regard
to the sanctity of marriage vows, to the sacred and sensitive delicacy of the female character, and to numberless restrictions important to the well-being of our species, may easily be relaxed by this subtle and voluptuous confusion of good and evil. It is in vain to say the fable evinces, in the last act, that vice is productive of misery. We may decorate a villain with graces and felicities for nine volumes and hang him in the last page. This is not teaching virtue, but gilding the gallows, and raising up splendid associations in favour of being hanged. In such a union of the amiable and the vicious (especially if the vices are such, to the commission of which there is no want of natural disposition), the vice will not degrade the man, but the man will ennoble the vice. We shall wish to be him we admire, in spite of his vices, and, if the novel be well written, even in consequence of his vice. There exists, through the whole of this novel, a show of exquisite sensibility to the evils which individuals suffer by the inflexible rules of virtue prescribed by society, and an eager disposition to apologize for particular transgressions. Such doctrine is not confined to Madame de Staël; an Arcadian cant is gaining fast upon Spartan gravity; and the happiness diffused, and the beautiful order established in society, by this unbending discipline, are wholly swallowed up in compassion for the unfortunate and interesting individual. Either the exceptions or the rule must be given up: every highwayman who thrusts his pistol into a chaise-window has met with unforeseen misfortunes; and every loose matron who flies into the arms of her Greville was compelled to marry an old man whom she detested, by an avaricious and unfeeling father. The passions want not accelerating, but retarding machinery. This fatal and foolish sophistry has power enough over every heart, not to need the aid of fine composition, and well-contrived incident-auxiliaries which Madame de Staël intended to bring forward in the cause, though she has fortunately not succeeded.
M. de Serbellone is received as a guest into the house of M. d'Ervins, whose wife he debauches as a recompense for his hospitality. Is it possible to be disgusted with ingratitude and injustice, when united to such an assemblage of talents and virtues as this man of paper possesses? Was there ever a more delightful, fascinating adultress than Madame d'Ervins is intended to be? or a povero cornuto less capable of exciting compassion than her hus
band? The morality of all this is the old morality of Farquhar, Vanburgh, and Congreve-that every witty man may transgress the seventh commandment, which was never meant for the protection of husbands who labour under the incapacity of making repartees. In Matilda, religion is always as unamiable as dissimulation is graceful in Madame de Vernon, and imprudence generous in Delphine. This said Delphine, with her fine auburn hair, and her beautiful blue or green eyes (we forget which), cheats her cousin Matilda out of her lover, alienates the affections of her husband, and keeps a sort of assignation house for Serbellone and his chère amie, justifying herself by the most touching complaints against the rigour of the world, and using the customary phrases, union of souls, married in the eye of heaven, &c., &c., &c., and such like diction, the types of which Mr. Lane, of the Minerva Press, very prudently keeps ready composed, in order to facilitate the printing of the Adventures of Captain C and Miss F, and other interesting stories, of which he, the said inimitable Mr. Lane, of the Minerva Press, well knows these sentiments must make a part. Another perilous absurdity which this useful production tends to cherish, is the common notion, that contempt of rule and order is a proof of greatness of mind. Delphine is everywhere a great spirit struggling with the shackles imposed upon her, in common with the little world around her; and it is managed so that her contempt of restrictions shall always appear to flow from the extent, variety, and splendour of her talents. The vulgarity of this heroism ought, in some degree, to diminish its value. Mr. Colquhoun, in his Police of the Metropolis, reckons up above forty thousand heroines of this species, most of whom, we dare to say, have, at one time or another, reasoned like the sentimental Delphine about the judgments of the world.
To conclude-Our general opinion of this book is, that it is calculated to shed a mild lustre over adultery; by gentle and convenient gradation, to destroy the modesty and the caution of women; to facilitate the acquisition of easy vices, and encumber the difficulty of virtue. What a wretched qualification of this censure to add, that the badness of the principles is alone corrected by the badness of the style, and that this celebrated lady would have been very guilty, if she had not been very dull!
THE LESSON OF DELPHINE.
USE OF RIDICULE.*
WE are a good deal amused, indeed, with the extreme disrelish which Mr. John Styles† exhibits to the humour and pleasantry with which he admits the Methodists to have been attacked; but Mr. John Styles should remember, that it is not the practice with destroyers of vermin to allow the little victims a veto upon the weapons used against them. If this were otherwise, we should have one set of vermin banishing small-tooth combs; another protesting against mouse-traps: a third prohibiting the finger and thumb; a fourth exclaiming against the intolerable infamy of using soap and water. It is impossible, however, to listen to such pleas. They must all be caught, killed, and cracked, in the manner, and by the instruments which are found most efficacious to their destruction; and the more they cry out, the greater, plainly, is the skill used against them. We are convinced a little laughter will do them more harm than all the arguments in the world. Such men as the author before us, cannot understand when they are outargued; but he has given us a specimen, from his irritability, that he fully comprehends when he has become the object of universal contempt and derision. We agree with him, that ridicule is not exactly the weapon to be used in matters of religion; but the use of it is excusable, when there is no other which can make fools tremble.‡
*From an article on "Methodism." Ed. Rev., 1809.
↑ Strictures on two Critiques in the Edinburgh Review, on the Subject of Methodism and Missions; with Remarks on the Influence of Reviews, in general, on Morals and Happiness. By John Styles. 8vo. London, 1809. Smith repeats the "small-tooth comb" illustration in his handling of Dr. Monk, Bishop of Gloucester, in the Third Letter to Archdeacon Singleton. Mr. Styles was again the subject of a literary agitation in 1839, when, having become the Rev. John Styles, D. D., he published, under the auspices of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a prize Essay entitled, "The Animal Creation, its Claims on our Humanity Stated and Enforced." The tract was replied to in "A Pamphlet, dedicated to the Noblemen, Gentlemen, and Sportsmen of England, Ireland, and Scotland," by the Hon. Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley, M. P. The subject is roughly reviewed in an article, "Sydney Smith, John Styles, and Grantley Berkeley," in Fraser's Magazine, August, 1839. The Rev. Dr. Styles was a dissenting clergyman of note, the author of various published discourses of an occasional character. He also published a Life of David Brainerd, and a Family Bible, with illustrative notes, in two volumes quarto.
AUTHORS AND THE ARK.
THERE are occasionally, in Philopatris, a great vigour of style and felicity of expression. His display of classical learning is quite unrivalled—his reading various and good; and we may observe, at intervals, a talent for wit, of which he might have availed himself to excellent purpose, had it been compatible with the dignified style in which he generally conveys his sentiments. With all these excellent qualities of head and heart, we have seldom met with a writer more full of faults than Philopatris. There is an event recorded in the Bible, which men who write books should keep constantly in their remembrance. It is there set forth, that many centuries ago, the earth was covered with a great flood, by which the whole of the human race, with the exception of one family, were destroyed. It appears also, that from thence, a great alteration was made in the longevity of mankind, who, from a range of seven or eight hundred years, which they enjoyed before the flood, were confined to their present period of seventy or eighty years. This epoch in the history of man gave birth to the twofold division of the antediluvian and postdiluvian style of writing, the latter of which naturally contracted itself into those inferior limits which were better accommodated to the abridged duration of human life and literary labour. Now, to forget this event—to write without the fear of the deluge before his eyes, and to handle a subject as if mankind could lounge over a pamphlet for ten years, as before their submersion-is to be guilty of the most grievous error into which a writer can possibly fall. The author of this book should call in the aid of some brilliant pencil, and cause the distressing scenes of the deluge to be portrayed in the most lively colours for his use. He should gaze at Noah and be brief. The ark should constantly remind him of the little time there is left for reading; and he should learn, as they did in the ark, to crowd a great deal of matter into a very little compass.
*From a review of Characters of the late Charles James Fox, by Philopatris Varvicensis (Dr. Parr). Ed. Rev., 1809.
† Macaulay has borrowed this illustration. In a review (Ed. Rev., 1832) of Nares' Memoirs of Lord Burghley, he has: "Such a book might, before the deluge, have been considered as light reading by Hilpa and Shalum. But, unhappily, the life of man is now three score years and ten: and we cannot but think it somewhat unfair in Dr. Nares to demand from us so large a portion of so short an existence."