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of the story may be told in a single sentence. In a recess far in the mountains, whose wild and savage features are portrayed by a master's hand, to which he had been driven by his abhorrence of the government of King William, Morton finds his early associate John Balfour of Burley; his mind tottering on the verge of insanity, produced by the united working of his political and religious enthusiasm, and compunctious visitings for a base and cowardly deed of murder, which the fervour of his zeal could not altogether allay. After effecting his escape from this moody maniae, who attempts to involve him in his favourite scheme of radical reformation, and who destroys the deed under which Lady Margaret Bellenden claimed the inheritance of her fathers, Morton, with high-minded generosity, endeavours to save the life of his rival, which is in peril from the machinations of Basil Qliphant and Balfour. His exertions, however, are unsuccessful. Just as he is setting out to join the insurgent jacobites, Lord Evandale is surrounded by the assassins, and mortally wounded. Balfour is slain after a most desperate resistance well and strikingly described. The intrusive heir male is killed in the fray-which opens to Lady Margaret an easy access to her rightful inheritance; and Miss Edith, who must now have obtained the ripe age of thirty years, bestows her hand on Morton.
We have given these details partly in compliance with the es tablished rules which our office prescribes, and partly in the hope that the authorities we have been enabled to bring together might give additional light and interest to the story. From the unprecedented popularity of the work, we cannot flatter ourselves that our summary has made any one of our readers acquainted with events with which he was not previously familiar. The causes of that popularity we may be permitted shortly to allude to; we cannot even hope to exhaust them, and it is the less necessary that we d should attempt it, since we cannot suggest a consideration which a perusal of the work has not anticipated in the minds of all our readers.
One great source of the universal admiration which this family of Novels has attracted, is their peculiar plan, and the distinguished excellence with which it has been executed. The objections that have frequently been stated against what are called His torical Romances, have been suggested, we think, rather front observing the universal failure of that species of composition, than from any inherent and constitutional defect in the species of composi tion itself. If the manners of different ages are injudiciously blended together, if unpowdered crops and slin and fairy shapes are commingled in the dance with volumed wigs and far-extending hoops,if in the portraiture of real character the truth of history be violated,
the eyes of the spectator are necessarily averted from a picture which excites in every well regulated and intelligent mind the hatred of incredulity. We have neither time nor inclination to enforce our remark by giving illustrations of it. But if those unpardonable sins against good taste can be avoided, and the features of an age gone by can be recalled in a spirit of delineation at once faithful and striking, the very opposite is the legitimate conclusion: the composition itself is in every poitit of view dignified and improved; and the author, leaving the light and frivolous associates with whom a careless observer would be disposed to ally him, takes his seat on the bench of the historians of his time and country. In this proud assembly, and in no mean place of it, we are disposed to rank the author of these works; for we again express our conviction-and we desire to be understood to use the term as distinguished from knowledge-that they are all the offspring of the same parent. At once a master of the great events and minuter incidents of history, and of the manners of the times he celebrates, as distinguished from those which now prevail,-the intimate thus of the living and of the dead, his judgment enables him to separate those traits which are characteristic from those that are generic; and his imagination, not less accurate and discriminating than vi gorous and vivid, presents to the mind of the reader the manners of the times, and introduces to his familiar acquaintance the indivi duals of his drama as they thought and spoke and acted. We are not quite sure that any thing is to be found in the manner and character of the Black Dwarf which would enable us, without the aid of the author's information, and the facts he relates, to give it to the beginning of the last century; and, as we have already remarked, his free-booting robber lives, perhaps, too late in time. But his delineation is perfect. With palpable and inexcusable defects in the denouement, there are scenes of deep and overwhelming interest; and every one, we think, must be delighted with the portrait of the Grandmother of Hobbie Elliott, a representation soothing and consoling in itself, and heightened in its effect by the contrast produced from the lighter manners of the younger members of the family, and the honest but somewhat blunt and boisterous bearing of the shepherd himself.
The second tale however, as we have remarked, is more adapted to the talents of the author, and his success has been proportionably triumphant. We have trespassed too unmercifully on the time. of our gentle readers to indulge our inclination in endeavouring to form au estimate of that melancholy but, nevertheless, most attractive period in our history, when by the united efforts of a corrupt and unprincipled government, of extravagant fanaticism, want of education, perversion of religion, and the influence of illinstructed
instructed teachers, whose hearts and understandings were estranged and debased by the illapses of the wildest enthusiasm, the liberty of the people was all but extinguished, and the bonds of society nearly dissolved. Revolting as all this is to the Patriot, it affords fertile materials to the Poet. As to the beauty of the delineation presented to the reader in this tale, there is, we believe, but one opinion and we are persuaded that the more carefully and dispassionately it is contemplated, the more perfect will it appear in the still more valuable qualities of fidelity and truth. We have given part of the evidence on which we say this, and we will again recur to the subject. The opinions and language of the honest party are detailed with the accuracy of a witness; and he who could open to our view the state of the Scottish peasantry, perishing in the field or on the scaffold, and driven to utter and just desperation, in attempting to defend their first and most sacred rights; who could place before our eyes the leaders of these enormities, from the notorious Duke of Lauderdale downwards to the fellow mind that executed his behest, precisely as they lived and looked,--such a chronicler cannot justly be charged with attempting to extenuate or throw into the shade the corruptions of a government that soon afterwards fell a victim to its own follies and crimes.
Independently of the delineation of the manners and characters of the times to which the story refers, it is impossible to avoid noticing, as a separate excellence, the faithful representation of general nature. Looking not merely to the litter of novels that peep out for a single day from the mud where they were spawned, but to many of more ambitious pretensions-it is quite evident that in framing them, the authors have first addressed themselves to the involutions and developement of the story, as the principal object of their attention; and that in entangling and unravelling the plot, in combining the incidents which compose it, and even in depicting the characters, they sought for assistance chiefly in the writings of their predecessors. Baldness, and uniformity, and inanity are the inevitable results of this slovenly and unintellectual proceeding. The volume which this author has studied is the great book of Nature. He has gone abroad into the world in quest of what the world will certainly and abundantly supply, but what a man of great discrimination alone will find, and a man of the very highest genius will alone depict after he has discovered it. The characters of Shakspeare are not more exclusively human, not more perfectly men and women as they live and move, than those of this mysterious author. It is from this circumstance that, as we have already observed, many of his personages are supposed to be sketched from real life. He must
have mixed much and variously in the society of his native country; his studies must have familiarized him to systems of manners now forgotten; and thus the persons of his drama, though in truth the creatures of his own imagination, convey the impression of individuals who we are persuaded must exist, or are evoked from their graves in all their original freshness, entire in their lineaments, and perfect in all the minute peculiarities of dress and demeanour. The work now more immediately under our consideration is accordingly equally remarkable for the truth and the endless variety of its characters. The stately and pompous dignity of Lady Margaret Bellenden, absorbed in the consciousness of her rank;-the bustling importance and unaffected kindliness of Mrs. Alison Wilson, varying in their form, but preserv ing their substance, with her variations of fortune;-the true Caledonian prudence of Neil Blane; we cannot stay to examine, nor point out with what exquisite skill their characteristic features are brought to the reader's eye, not by description or enumeration, but by compelling him, as in real life, to observe their effect when forced into contact with the peculiarities of others. The more prominent personages it would be superfluous to notice. We must be pardoned, however, for offering one slight tribute of respect to the interesting old woman by whom Morton is directed to Burley's last retreat: she is portrayed as a patient, kind, gentle, and generous being, even in the lowest state of oppression, poverty and blindness; her religious enthusiasm, unlike that of her sect, is impressed with the pure stamp of the Gospel, combining meekness with piety, and love to her neighbour with obedience and love of the Deity. And the author's knowledge of human nature is well illustrated in the last glimpse he gives us of our early acquaintance, Jenny Dennison. When Morton returns from the continent, the giddy fille de chambre of Tillietudlem has become the wife of Cuddie Headrigg, and the mother of a large family. Every one must have observed that coquetry, whether in high or low life, is always founded on intense selfishness, which, as age advances, gradually displays itself in its true colours, and vanity gives way to avarice; and with perfect truth of representation, the lively, thoughtless girl has settled into a prudent housewife, whose whole cares are centered in herself, and in her husband and children, because they are her husband and children. Nor in this rapid and imperfect sketch can we altogether pass over the peculiar excellence of the dialogue. We do not allude merely to its dramatic merit, nor to the lively and easy tone of natural conversation by which it is uniformly distinguished: we would notice the singular skill and felicity with which, in conveying the genuine sentiments of the Scotush peasant in the genuine language of his native land, the
author has avoided that appearance of grossness and vulgarity by which the success of every similar attempt has hitherto been defeated. The full value of this praise we, on this part of the island, cannot, perhaps, be expected to feel, though we are not wholly insensible to it. The Scottish peasant speaks the language of his native country, his national language, not the patois of an individual district; and in listening to it we not only do not experience even the slightest feeling of disgust or aversion, but our bosoms are responsive to every sentiment of sublimity, or awe, or terror which the author may D be disposed to excite. Of the truth of all this, Meg Merrilies is a sufficiently decisive instance. The terrible graces of this mysterious personage, an outcast and profligate of the lowest class, are complete in their effect, though conveyed by the medium of language that has hitherto been connected with associations that must have altogether neutralized them. We could, with much satisfaction to ourselves, and much we fear to the annoyance of our patient readers, dilate on this part of the subject, and illustrate our views by quotations from some of the scenes that peculiarly struck ourselves; but we have trespassed much on their indulgence, and there is one not unimportant view we have still to open to them. This chiefly relates to the historical portraits with which the author has presented us. We propose to examine these somewhat in detail, and we trust the information we have collected from sources not often resorted to, may be an apology for the length of the Article.
Most of the group are drawn in harsh colours, and yet the truth of the resemblances, when illustrated by historical documents, will scarcely be disputed, except by those staunch partizans whose religious or political creed is the sole gauge for estimating the good or bad qualities of the characters of past ages. To such men an extensive knowledge of history is only the means of further perversion of its truth. The portraits of their favourites (as Queen Elizabeth is said to have required of her own) must be drawn without shadow, and the objects of their political antipathy be blackened, horned, hoofed, and clawed ere they will acknowledge the likeness of either. But if we are to idolize the memory of deceased men of worth and piety of our own persuasion, as if they had not been fallible mortals, it is in vain that we are converted from paganism, which transformed deceased heroes into deities; and if we damn utterly the characters and motives of those who stood in opposition to their opinions, we have gained little by leaving the Church of Rome, in whose creed heresy includes every other possible guilt,
The most prominent portrait, historically considered, is that of Jolin Grahame, of Claverhouse, afterwards Viscount of Dundee,