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'ART. XVII. Matilda; a Tale of the Day. Post 8vo. 10s. 6d. pp. 379. Colburn. 1825.
IT T has been much the fashion, of late years, to ascribe anonymous novels to persons moving in the higher ranks of e. Thus "Tremaine" has been imputed to several noblemen, without being as yet owned by any body; thus, too, Matilda' has already glittered under four or five distinguished names, though it seems to be pretty generally agreed that the author is Lord Normanby. There is not a principle, not a sentiment, not even perhaps a line, in the book, which any man need blush to acknowledge. As a literary composition it is evidently the work of an enlightened, liberal, and accomplished mind, as a story, it is fraught with the deepest interest, and at the same time forms one of the most eloquent lessons of morality that we haye ever perused. If the narrative be founded on fact, as the author more than once declares it to be, the effect which it is calculated to produce on society is of the greatest importance. The pictures which it presents of English fashionable life, both as it exists at home and on the Continent, are manifestly copied from nature, and are executed with great vigor and beauty. Perhaps there is a want of keeping in the grouping and coloring, so to speak, which has arisen from an anxiety on the part of the author to introduce variety and contrasts into his scenes. But the charm and the value of the work consist in the masterly description, which it exhibits of the fatal progress and issue of a passion, innocent in its commencement, frustrated in its progress, revived under circumstances which ought to have prevailed on both parties to check their feelings, till at last it overwhelmed their sense of duty, and with guilt brought upon them the most exquisite misery.
Augustus Arlingford formed an attachment in early life for Lady Matilda Delaval, which she fully returned. Equal in family, though she was his superior in fortune, they were not, however, destined to be married. During a temporary absence of Arlingford from England, his conduct was foully misrepresented to her: his circumstances were described to her as ruinous; and in an evil hour, through the persuasion of interested friends, she became the wife of Sir James Dornton, a partner every way unsuitable for her. Some time after her marriage, Arlingford, by the death of his elder brother, succeeded to the title and estates of Lord Ormsby, but he found in them no consolation for the loss of Matilda. He returned to England, and accidentally met her, for the first time, at a dinner-party. It was a severe trial to both: but they were too
conversant with the usage of the world to allow their feelings to be observed; and Matilda was still too virtuous not to use all the means in her power in order to suppress the recollections of her earliest affection. A vague consciousness that he was not utterly indifferent to her, notwithstanding the change in her situation, found admission to the breast of Ormsby, but he had as yet no desire to try it by any severer test, and retired to his seat in the country.
* $ 12
At this part of the narrative the family of the Hobsons, related to Sir James, are introduced on the stage. These nouveaux riches are extremely tiresome; and though the caricature which the author draws of them is bold, and often amusing, yet we think that, upon the whole, it tends rather to deform than improve the picture. One feels oppressed with a sense of pain, in seeing these assuming persons intruding so often upon the repose of scenes, which, without their presence, would have produced only impressions of unqualified delight. With this disagreeable family it is Lady Matilda's fate to take a journey to the Continent. At Geneva she meets two of the beloved friends of her childhood in Lady Ormsby, the mother of Augustus, and in Emily, his sister. Here, too, unhappily for her peace, she encounters another of her early companions. But this meeting is too forcibly depicted to be given in any other words than those of the author.
It was not yet mid-day when an English travelling carriage, that seemed" stained with the variation of each soil," marking that its inmate had not lingered by the way, turned out of the main road down the lane which led to the campagne on the lake; and after a handsome head in travelling cap had several times been thrust through the window, as if making inquiries, the postillions finally stopped at the gate of Lady Ormsby's villa... The traveller jumped out, and was at the inner door before he was met by old Wilson the house-steward, who, after giving him a lengthened stare, exclaimed, "My Lord! well, to be sure- to think of your coming upon us all like a little impromptu, as I may say!" for in his residence abroad, Wilson too had acquired a little foreign garnish for his tongue. Then altering his tone he added, “But nothing's happened amiss, I hope ?"
"No, nothing at all, Wilson," said Lord Ormsby, " only that I got away sooner than I expected, that's all. But where's my
Why, her Ladyship is just stepped out for a little promenade, I believe, but if you will wait in here, I will fetch her myself." To this Lord Ormsby consented, as he did not wish to have the family meeting under the restraint of a public walk—which was what he perhaps understood by Wilson's "promenade." He
was left therefore to himself in the sitting-room, which opened into the conservatory.
"What a happy life," thought he, as he first admired the room itself, and then the thousand little comforts with which its present mistress had adorned it. "Never idle, either of them, I'm sure," he continued, as his eye wandered among various symptoms of elegant occupation, and at last rested on the instrument,
on the desk of which he was somewhat startled at recognizing, in a well-known hand-writing, "Matilda Delaval," marked on the first leaf of his favourite "Ombra adorata."
Full well he recollected the night at Ormsby Castle when she had thus marked that paper, and which had at the time drawn from him a remark upon her thinking it necessary thus to appropriate that which she had every way identified with herself. "Could she then be thus near to him? Was it possible that on the very spot where he was then standing, she had been lately delighting his own family, with those tones to which he had never listened without rapture? No, he persuaded himself that these were all vain illusions, the offspring of a heated imagination; and that a much more natural explanation was, that, like those little relics he had found at Ormsby, the music had formerly been left there, and that his sister had now been practising it."
He had nearly convinced himself that this must be the case, when he accidentally took up from another table a sketch-book, with a pencil, whose touch he well knew, left between the leaves, at a half-finished view from the very windows of the apartment where he was seated. There could be no mistake here." Her pencil was always left in the book." This was apparently so trifling a circumstance, that none but a lover's recollection could have retained it as characteristic: but the view spoke for itself; and, as he took it to the window, and devoured it with his eyes, "she is then actually at Geneva," exclaimed he.
That he was not more surprised at the discovery, was what he could not account for. He had never owned to himself that the possibility of such a chance had had the least effect in determining him upon this foreign expedition; whilst it was so very natural he should be desirous to see his mother and sister, that that reason alone was quite satisfactory to one never rigid in selfexamination of the motives of every action to which he felt inclined.
Whilst still gazing on the sketch which he held in his hand, he was roused by a gentle tap at the farther window, by which the garden-entrance passed which led through the conservatory into the room; and turning round, he caught the last glimpse of a female form entering at the glass-door. Almost at the same moment a well-known voice exclaimed, whilst passing the conservatory, "My dear Emily, Sir James is gone to Chamouni, and I can stay:"
and the next moment Matilda stood in amazement before him. 'That moment was one made up of the purest inspiration of feeling, and was as little amenable to the dictates of precon
certed prudence, as the effusions of gifted genius are to the dogmas of art.
Augustus!" escaped from her lips, in a tone which thrilled the heart's core of Ormsby, and created an oblivion of all things present and past, save only the delights of that happy time when it was "familiar to him as a household word," even from her lips. With her, too, the exclamation had arisen from a momentary selfoblivion. But instead of perpetuating, it caused it in an instant to pass away. Her feelings since her marriage had been so severely disciplined, and under such constant controul, that with a single effort she recovered the appearance of composure. Not that the impression was transient, that it bounded lightly off, that it was no longer retained when no longer shewn; but as a rock, if dashed on the calm still lake before them, would with its first shock only cause outward agitation; and whilst it sunk deeper and deeper within, and was imbedded for ever in the bosom of the waters, stillness would again have settled on their surface, Matilda conquered all external emotion, at a meeting which was *not however without influence on her after-fate.
With perfect calmness she began questioning Ormsby as to his unexpected arrival. But his feelings were much less tractable, excited as they had been, not only by the exclamation of Matilda, but by the momentary expression of her lovely face, glowing with matchless sensibility. It had seemed to him like the transient glimpse of another and a better world. In vain he tried to force himself into common topics, -to account for his being there, to stammer out a common-place compliment on meeting her, to bestow some hackneyed praise on her drawing, which he still held in his hand. At last he exclaimed, "It's all in vain, - I may form resolutions in solitude, in a crowd I may maintain them; but in a meeting like this I can but be-myself! Pardon this language,
this unwarrantable, but involuntary, trespass on your tranquillity. Pity and forget me!" then pressing her hand for an instant to his lips, he rushed into the garden.
It had been a scene of such bewildering emotion, such unexpected interest, previously so utterly unforeseen, so rapid in its development,so abrupt in its termination, that Matilda, wandering unconsciously forth, and finding herself again in her carriage, felt, when first roused by the servant inquiring for orders, like one awakened from the confusion of a dream; but as hastily replying, "Home, home," she threw herself back in the carriage, every thing that had passed recurred in all the agitating consciousness of reality, and her feelings now burst forth with a vehemence redoubled by previous restraint.'
The concealment of this interview from all her friends is the first false step taken by Matilda. She felt dissatisfied with herself for it, although her only motive was to spare the feelings of Ormsby. The worst effect of it was, that it accustomed her mind to associate his image with the necessity of
disguise. At Milan they meet again: but it is not until they arrive at Rome, that accidental circumstances place them so near each other as to endanger the hitherto unsullied innocence of Matilda. Sir James, yielding to a fit of that irascibility, which our countrymen are so fond of displaying abroad, picked a quarrel with a Roman tradesman, which might have been fatal to his life, had he not been defended by Ormsby, who happened to be in the shop. In the affray, Ormsby was desperately wounded: he was afterwards taken to Sir James's residence, and placed under the care of Matilda! Many weeks elapsed before his bodily recovery was effected: but, in the mean time, the disease of his mind, as might be expected, was fully communicated to that of Matilda. Her husband had not as yet conceived any suspicions as to the real state of her heart. An excursion was fixed for the Pamphyli Doria gardens by Sir James and the Hobsons: Lady Matilda having been detained at the sculptor's, sitting for her bust, Ormsby was appointed to call for her.
To this Ormsby could not consent more readily than did the Baronet; and Matilda, being already from home, was not a party consulted. When Ormsby alone, therefore, attended her at the sculptor's, she certainly did not think it necessary to volunteer any fictitious objection to an arrangement in which her opinion had never been asked. To the Pamphyli Doria therefore they went, and there they were left long to loiter alone on this, the last day which remained to them of that unrestrained intercourse in which circumstances had recently permitted them to indulge.
The time and place seemed not only peculiarly to harmonize with the state of their mutual feelings, but to be even emblematical of the deceitful dangers of their relative situation. It was one of those delicious days when nature's self seems new; and here, on this favoured spot, whose refined solitudes are purposely elevated above the grosser cares of the lower world, its sunshiny smile tempts a lingering stay, and soothes into oblivion of all but the present pleasure. But, alas! malaria's deadly poison hovers in every balmy breath that whispers love, and destruction lurks beneath the budding hopes of each opening flower.
• Matilda and Ormsby had lingered long near one of those lonely fountains which adorn some of the varied vistas of the gardens. Even in his eyes she had never looked more lovely. The simple attire to which, as best suited to a statuary's classical taste, she had confined her morning's toilet, was peculiarly calculated to invest her perfect form with an almost aërial grace; whilst the tranquil indulgence of the softer feelings of her nature gave a matchless expression of tenderness to her angelic features. But as she bent her eyes towards him who occupied all her thoughts, and met his adoring gaze, she felt suddenly struck with the change which his recent severe illness had made in his fine manly