« ElőzőTovább »
tance on certain folk,-one who, it was whispered, would even "faint” at their door, for the sake of being carried into the coveted enclosure.
Throughout the progress of “The Dodds,” Lever almost for the first time in his career, contemned cavils, and held on his career boldly. Once in this, as in a previous book, he had some thoughts of seeking to justify himself before the public, for certain things which a captious paragraphist had condemned; but he decided on remaining mute, lest by his defence against manslaughter a new indictment for murder should be framed; critics had less often taken him up when tripping, than when he stood, with port erect, on good and firm ground.
It was at this time that invitations to enter Parliament began to beckon. “Lever's friends set their faces against the project,” writes Mr. Innes, “though of his successfully addressing the House they felt no doubt; but he had never made a political speech; on constitutional history or government by party,—of the rules of the House, &c., &c., he was ignorant, and time would be required to learn them, and, meantime, what was to become of his work by which he lived; and then he was no longer young. There was also the warning furnished by Sheridan's career. He had wit, eloquence, an early start, and an opportunity such as few men ever enjoyed, and yet from social snares, and lack of business capacity, where did it all end? The public lost trust in him, though at one time in no man was confidence higher. He lost confidence in himself, and died—we all know how he died.”
“The Fortunes of Glencore ”_Startling change observed in Lever's style
-Wreck of a Mentor's mind-Spezzia-Death of McGlashan-Lever wishes to return to Ireland—“The Martins of Cro-Martin ”-Appointed Vice-Consul at Spezzia—“The Daltons ”_“Sir Jasper Carew” - Major D_~'s recollections resumed–Objections to the threevolume novel-Comical speeches.
GRATTAN said that an oak of the forest was too old to be transplanted at fifty, alluding to the difficulties of change from the Irish to the English Senate. Lever proved that at fifty he was not too old to change the venue of his novels, and deliberately to begin a fresh start. Grattan's sun set with the Union. Lever dated his real outburst of mind from the hour he had passed his zenith. He was half a century old when in sobriety of thought he applied himself to the task of realising an ideal which the author of “Lorrequer” or“O'Malley” would be thought the last to dream. “The Fortunes of Glencore” broke to the world this startling change. They who had roared over the fun of “O'Malley” were dismayed to find that nothing more could be hoped for in that vein ; and with more groan than grin they hailed every book which followed in the wake of “Glencore.” Lever, by this stroke, cut for ever his early worshippers, and appealed to the judgment of a tribunal as différent from
“ THE FORTUNES OF GLENCORE.”
the first as is a racket-court from a court of Equity. Large as was the popularity which “ O'Malley” reaped, Lever could never well understand how it so triumphantly achieved it. On the 11th May, 1841, he wrote to McGlashan to say that he looked upon the whole thing as very inferior, and if not sanctioned by success would not readily forgive himself for writing it—in fact he hoped to live and do much better, for hitherto he had disappointed himself, not in the amount of praise he had met with, but in his own estimation. This, he added, was modesty or assurance, as McGlashan liked to take it.
The style of his early novels was an acquired art, taught by the contagious companionship of Maxwell, fostered by an observant study of his mind, and recommended by McGlashan who found it pay well. All the while Lever was writing in the style of “O'Malley,” a voice perpetually whispered that such, after all, was not his real vocation; and that an ideal, shadowed forth in early dreams, had yet to be realised. So long as Maxwell lived, he ran the race with him. That popular writer died in 1850, and we find Lever soon after shifting his ground. The change was sudden, and startling. Lever felt, or fancied, that he had, at last, found the true vein in the mine of his brain ; but it is not clear to us that the very novels on which he hardly cared to stake his reputation are not those which, after all, will enjoy the really enduring fame, and be read and thumbed when the more thoughtful ones are forgotten. “Glencore,” which he put forth as his leading sample of the good
store coming, is weak in plot, though indicative of genius in analysing character and in disentangling the web of human motives. Correspondence, sometimes newspaper paragraphs, and in one instance“ a leader," were the vehicles which he mainly employed to conduct his story. But on the whole, he regarded “Glencore” as a trump card, which he led forth boldly, and with the air of a man who felt that he had the game in his hands.
It was said by one of the ablest of Lever's critics that there is nothing in the history of literature to correspond with this sudden and complete change in his style. The case of Lord Lytton, however, partly supplies a parallel. What can be more unlike “Pelham” or even “Paul Clifford,” than “ Rienzi,” or “ The Last Days of Pompeii”? When Bulwer began with his “ Adventures of a Gentleman,” displaying fun as broad as Smollett and wit as bright as that of Fielding, it does not follow that his succeeding novels should be conceived in the same strain. A bright train of books dropped from Bulwer one by one until, in the “Caxtons,” he again turned over a new leaf, and almost cut the connection with the previous series.
In changing his style, Lever shewed, at all events, rare courage. As master of the “Lorrequer” school he stood unrivalled. In “Glencore ” one day he broke new ground, and henceforth his bright ploughshare turned up fresh strata in a field wherein sundry competitors, in the prime of power, strove. Lever wrote to McGlashan, telling him of this new tale to which he had
CHANGES HIS STYLE.
given much forethought. He did not know when he took to a new story with the same gusto and felt as if he wanted to write it.
Introducing “Glencore " to the world, he wrote :
“If I have never disguised from myself the grounds of any humble success I have attained to as a writer of fiction; if I have always had before me the fact that to movement and action, the stir of incident, and a certain lightheartedness and gaiety of temperament, more easy to impart to others than to repress in oneself, I have owed much if not all of whatever popularity I have enjoyed ;-I have yet felt that it would be in the delineation of very different scenes and the portraiture of very different emotions that I should reap what I would reckon as a real success. . . . . Years have imparted, and time has but confirmed me in the notion, that any skill I possess, lies in the detection of character and the unravelment of that tangled skein which makes up human motives.”
Lever, as he got older, had less of Lorrequer, and more of Kenny Dodd in his nature; and he probably showed judgment in cutting the former. Lorrequer, it will be remembered, was a practical joker whose invariable success makes us laugh while we enjoy his companionship, but we never pity the fate of his victims; and this, perhaps, is the chief danger of familiarity with such stories. It has been observed with pith and pleasantry, by “ Blackwood”—
“When a clown trips up a baker in the street, wheels him off in his own barrow, trundles him into his own