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lations of the Border; in the elaborate precautions taken, while allying the heiresses of the House with the noblest English blood, to retain the Norman name and its ancient dignities; in the elaborate ceremony and state which surround the successive heads of the House, the social homage which they exact, and the civil influence which they assume as a matter of right, and exercise unquestioned, under varying forms of national polity. And, coming down towards our own time, we recognize the old tone of traditional mastery in the circular of instructions issued by the second Duke to his nominees in Parliament; while hardly less suggestive of the 'antique world,' and its constant service are the same Duke's orders to his house-steward, butler, and clerk of the kitchen, with a view to economy in the domestic consumption of food, at a time of general distress and high prices. Even at the present day, if we are correctly informed, the old spirit survives in the administration of stately Alnwick, and in the tenure of its broad domains. The hardy farmers of Northumberland accompany their periodical disbursements to His Grace's steward by the formal presentation of a lamb or a rose ; and the commonplace process of paying rent is rendered romantic by symbolical acts which acknowledge, with all the picturesque expressiveness of the Middle Age, the supreme rights of the lord of the soil.

We close Mr. de Fonblanque's sumptuous volumes with the sense, that they record the annals of a fortunate as well as a famous race.

And when we regard the historic greatness of the Percies, their narrow escape from extinction in the seventeenth century, and their present condition of established prosperity, we are reminded of that charming story, in which our greatest master of Romance describes the varying fortunes of the House of Avenel, and the sympathetic apparitions of its tutelary Spirit. When it seemed that the ancient line had dwindled down to a single life, and that its warlike blood flowed only in the veins of one defenceless girl, the White Lady's golden girdle, once a massive chain, was diminished to the fineness of a silken thread.' But when an auspicious marriage had renewed the race, and promised the due perpetuation of its honours, then the white Lady, whose apparitions had been infrequent when the House of Avenel seemed verging to extinction, was seen to sport by her haunted well, with a zone of gold around her bosom as broad as the baldrick of an Earl.'

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ART. VI.-1. Heaps of Money. By W. E. Norris. London, 1877. 2. Mademoiselle de Mersac. By the Same. London, 1880. 3. Matrimony. By the Same. London, 1881. 4. No New Thing. By the Same. London, 1883. 5. Thirlby Hall. By the Same, London, 1884. 6. Adrian Vidal. By the Same. London, 1885. 7. The Man of his Word, and other Short Stories. By the

Same. London, 1886. 8. The Bachelor's Blunder. By the Same. London, 1886.

9. My Friend Jim. By the Same. London, 1886. 10. Major and Minor. By the Same. London, 1887. . 11. Chris. By the Same. London, 1888. 12. The Rogue. By the Same. London, 1888. FEW

years ago we were turning over the leaves of a kind

of literary album, in which were preserved in manuscript striking scenes or happy descriptive passages chosen from modern fiction. There was a good deal that was clever, and a great deal that was in many ways impressive ; but we were becoming aware of a feeling of monotony, when we came upon an extract in which an almost forgotten note seemed to be struck. The simplicity, the quiet humour, and the minuteness of observation, shown in the passage, took us back to the · Vicar of Wakefield, and Washington Irving; while the writer's power of style was at once apparent in the air of drowsiness and calm which he was able to breathe into his description of Sunday in an English village. Young Maxwell returns after many wanderings to the scene of his boyhood, and finds the same routine which, week after week and year after year, had enacted itself in that sleepy hollow. The extract is from Mr. Norris's • Thirlby Hall:'

• The next day being Sunday, my uncle and I of course went to church in the morning. The old square pew in which we sat, with its worm-eaten boards, its green baize curtain above them, and its shabby cushions and hassocks; the faint musty smell, for which partly damp and partly the remains of our decaying ancestors were responsible; the village choir in the gallery bawling out “I will arise” to the accompaniment of various musical instruments, which had always been dimly associated in my imagination with King Nebuchadnezzar and his image of gold-all these things brought back vividly to me the days of my boyhood; days that seemed then far more remote than they do now. I am afraid


mind was a good deal more occupied with memories and vain regrets than with the prayers and the Rector's subsequent homily.

This, like all his discourses, was constructed on time-honoured and unvarying lines. Firstly: What was so-and-so? Was it this ? -No. Was it that ?-No. Was it something else altogether

improbable ? improbable ?-Again, no. What, then, was it? Which led to the agreeable discovery that, after all, it was very much what the untutored mind would have pronounced it to be at first sight. Secondly: How was this doctrine illustrated by examples from Holy Writ? Examples from Holy Writ, numerous and more or less apposite, followed. Finally, brethren, how did this great truth come home to all of us? The unsatisfactory conclusion being that it ought to come home to us all in many ways, but that, by reason of the hardness of our hearts, it didn't. Then there was a great scuffling of hobnailed boots, a great sigh of relief, and we were dismissed. Sir Digby and Lady Welby were always waiting for us in the porch, and Sir Digby invariably remarked that the weather was seasonable, while Lady Welby as invariably informed us that she had a headache, “but not one of my bad ones to-day.” Then they got into their yellow chariot and were driven away, and my uncle and I walked down the churchyard path to our more modest equipage.'

It was this passage which introduced to us the work of Mr. Norris, and we have since read. Thirlby Hall' and his other novels with great pleasure and admiration. It is true that most of his novels have won their way into cheaper editions, and three of them, 'Mademoiselle de Mersac,''Matrimony,' and No New Thing,' have attained that measure of popularity, of which the outward and visible sign is bad print, and the superscription, · Fcap. 8vo, picture-boards, 2s.' Yet his works are unknown to scores of thousands who have read-or who are declared to have at least purchased—The Hansom Cab’; and there may be some use in indicating the fatted calf to those who are fain to fill their bellies with the husks that the swine ate. For surely never was there an age in which the emptiest literary husks were more eagerly devoured than now, nor in which there was less excuse for its depraved appetite. For we heartily recognize many high qualities and hopeful elements in the English school of fiction of to-day. If its style does not flash and burn like the French, we must remember that it is so difficult to write a really classic French sentence, that only the fit writers survive and the unfit perish. A book written as is the Mystery of a Hansom Cab' could not exist in French; we doubt, indeed, whether a French Hawley Smart would be possible. But after all, it is as much the good luck as good guidance of a Bourget or a Droz which has brought it to pass that a French sentence must either be written correctly, or must obviously be no sentence at all.* Though we have but few writers whose pages


* M. Scherer, whose recent loss the literar world has to deplore, is far more fastidious. He divides the novels of his own country into two classes—those which are written and those which are not written. With the latter he ranges our English school,

scintillate ascendant,

scintillate like those of George Meredith and R. L. Stevenson, we have many whose style more or less nearly approximates to that of Mr. Norris ; that is, to the style of one who always writes like a gentleman, and often like a wit and a scholar. Surely the present generation, when it betakes itself to its husks, can by no means plead in excuse any want of variety in the good grain offered for its acceptance. Among living novelists, Black, Blackmore, Hardy, Meredith, Baring-Gould, Mrs. Oliphant, Mrs. Burnett, the Sisters Gerard, Miss Fothergill, offer each diverse samples of good wholesome grain. And may it not be procured, chopped to the finest tenuity in the analytical school of America, with its dozen or so of reasons why a girl did not smile? Nay, even theology is held to the lips of the novel reader of the present day, if he prefers his theology diluted. We, for our part, recommend him to take it neat.


When we say that we owe Mr. Norris thanks for writing like a scholar, we have no fear of misconstruction; but when we go so far as to congratulate him on writing like a man of ordinary education, we feel we owe him an apology. This is a quality which ought to belong to all novelists, and to ascribe it to Mr. Norris is indeed to damn him with faint praise. But we have now reached an epoch in literature at which this praise, humble as it is, can be awarded to very few. Fully fifty per cent. of the novelists of the present day will write “ whom he said was his brother’; and about seventy-five per cent. will offend the taste of their readers with a sentence like this, which we quote from an accepted purveyor of fiction, the prolific Hawley Smart:

• A veritable storm in a teacup this, no doubt, but it is precisely such little convulsions that constitute the salt of existence in small country towns. There is a sentence which will pass muster with the careless reader, but it is disfigured by a vulgarity of style which lies deeper than grammatical solecisms. The sentence is the work of a writer who has not words to say what he means, who takes refuge in utterly outworn figures which he does not clearly conceive, and who finally flounders into a confusion of metaphors which is just not sufficiently marked to be amusing like the blunders ascribed to Sir Boyle Roche, and generally laid to the account of Irish oratory, where the exuberance, not the poverty, of imagination is as a rule the source of the incongruity. The vulgar mind is always under the dominion of some form of words which happens for the time to be in the


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ascendant. We were once haunted by the skeleton in the closet '--indeed we are still. The popular writer from whom we have just quoted, in another place, wishing to say that his hero was not at any time known to be suffering from any secret sorrow, writes, 'no skeleton in the background ever transpired.' We recollect when one could not take up a newspaper or a magazine article without meeting kittle cattle.' To it succeeded the courage of his convictions,' and the bolt from the blue'; and now we suffer most from measurable distance and ‘proven up to the hilt.'

Most of these were once good phrases, and we hold with Justice Swallow that 'good phrases are surely and ever were very commendable.' It has been said that the first man who likened his mistress to a rose was a poet, the second an ass. To speak thus is perhaps to put a truth too strongly. But undoubtedly the best phrase, the most brilliant figure, the aptest quotation, ultimately attains a ripeness at which it begins to become offensive to sensitive nostrils. The decomposed thought cast away by a Meredith, a Stevenson, or a Norris, is eagerly taken up by the pedlars of literature and exposed for sale on every booth. Not only have we to complain that we are offered intellectual aliment, which, though once good meat, is now unfit for human food, but we have to guard against wooden nutmegs, chicory for coffee, and sand for sugar. “The opportunity was availed of by thousands' never was, and never could have been, an English expression; yet it has made its way into the London daily press, and has been adopted by the rank and file of our minor novelists. The same may be said of phenomenal, vulgarly used as synonymous with remarkable, conspicuous. Barbarisms have become so rife in the literature of to-day,

and dreadful objects so familiar, that we do but smile when we behold' such an usage as he desired to considerably modify the remarks which had previously fallen from him.' Yet we feel confident that this outrage on English syntax, this divorce of the infinitive mood from the preposition which is its sign, is a thing of yesterday. We believe that English speech was free from this error until the present generation, and that it was not till after Macaulay that

'on its property and most dear life

This damned defeat was made.' The uneducated writer has just that dangerous modicum of knowledge which makes it certain that he shall always go wrong. Instead of what joy he felt' he thinks he shows




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