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ten members of congress; she is always out at night in the rain, and seldom appears except accompanied by thunder and lightning, the inseparable attendants on ladies of her sublimity. Nobody can tell whence she comes, or what is her object in coming, except it be to scold ; and nobody knows whither she vanishes, or why she departs in such a hurry. She never commits the vulgarity of walking, but always stalks, or flits away most majestically-she is here, there, and every where; she is sometimes in male, and sometimes in female attire; she deals in hints, inuendoes, mysterious threats, and diabolical anathemas; is always threatening terrible things, yet doing nothing; always plotting, to no purpose; always in a furious passion about something, and always talking in a strain, such as no human being ever talked, out of Bedlam, except in a modern historical romance. The first appearance of this mysterious mummer is thus described:
“There was a momentary suspension of speech and employment throughout the apartment, when the tall strange-looking woman stalkeil silently in, followed by major St. Olmar, and every eye was simultaneously turned towards her, with a strongly marked expression of surprise and curiosity. The scarlet cloak and hood, which enveloped her person, were drenched with rain, but these she Aung back, revealing to those present, of whose gaze she seemed utterly regardless, a form, thin almost to emaciation, and a visage wrinkled as if with the blasts of eighty winters, though as yet it had not witnessed threescore. Her eyes alone might have appertained to a youthful face—there was something supernatural in their terrific brightness-something in their fixed and piercing gaze, that made one shrink as if from the deadly glance of the basilisk. Her dress was according to the fashion of the times-shoes fastened with ponderous buckles—a short full petticoat of drab-coloured shalloon, an open chintz gown, a lawn handkerchief pinned across her · breast, with the precision wnich at that period marked the dress of all classes ; and a cap of the same material, from beneath which strayed the tresses of her long hair, whiter and more glossy than threads of silver.”
Perceiving some wounded soldiers in the apartment, she breaks out:
“ There will be vengeance taken, for these gaping wounds; not one shall bleed in vain; the ravagers may slay, and flee when they have slain; but the reckoning day will come, and that ere long."
Her attention is then arrested by the appearance of major St. Olmar:
“As she looked with almost trembling earnestness upon him, ber striking countenance betrayed the workings of sudden and powerful emotion ; while he, though he bore her gaze in silence, felt the insufferable brightness of those strange eyes thrill through every fibre of his frame, and instinctively turned aside to avoid them. But at this juncture, she darted towards him, and holding him at arm's length, with a muscular power which he was unable to resist, she continued to read every lineament of his face, with a passionate eagerness, which he could only ascribe to a disordered intellect. Anxious to divert her attention from his person, he attempted to speak, but she vehemently interrupted him : “ That eye! those brows!" she said. "Young man, tell me, in God's name, who
you are ?"
St. Olmar tells his name.
“St, Olmar !" she repeated, in a doubtful and less impassioned tone ; and unclasping bis arm, which she had held till now, she folded hier arms across her
breast, and remained for a few moments musing. Then, as if a sudden recollection had daarted through her mind, she hastily approached him, and laying her withered hand upon his brow, lifted the dark curls which clustered around it; and gazing for an instant upon three somewhat singular moles, which appeared high upon the right temple, pushed him from her, and covering her face with her hands, uttered a shriek so wild and piercing, that even the dying soldiers seemed startled at the sound.”
St. Olmar beseeches for an explanation; but, true to the attributes of her caste, the virago, after uttering a few mysterious hints, cutting a few more capers, and frightening the dead-we beg pardon—the dying soldiers, puts on the following unaccountable appearance, makes the following inexplicable speech, and as usual, stalks off with a dignity peculiar to this class of ladies:
“Her wild laugh of irony, rang through the low-arched cellar"(what a pity we have no “donjon keeps" in our country!) “as she ended, and her eyes, like living coals, shot forth a fierce, unnatural light. She looked, indeed, a very sybil; as she stood leaning against the damp gray wall, the feeble rays of the candle partially illumining her figure, and casting a still more deadly hue over her sallow countenance-her cap pushed far back from her wrinkled forehead, her gray and bushy eyebrows projecting over those unearthly orbs, her long white hair streaming upon her shoulders, and her bare and shrivelled arm stretched forth with a gesture well suited to her look and words.
“You are in a wild mood to-night, Maude, and the moon is not at its full, either"-observed Edward Leslie, an old acquaintance.
“And there is that, boy, to make me wild, which you dream not of,” she returned, dropping her extended arm, and standing erect as before_"Influences more potent than the fickle moon, which drives me sometimes almost to the borders of insanity. But this night-aye-this very night, I have seen that which has fired my brain, and awakened memories that I would fain bave sleep for ever." Again, a few pages further on :
“Maude's eyes gleamed wildly, as she vehemently exclaimed, "Why is it, do you ask! Know me but a space longer, young man, and you will never seek to learn the motives of my wayward humour. God has fathomed, and will judge them; but mortal man, save one alone, from whom I cannot hide them, shall never read the secrets of this dark and sinful heart." And again :
“ Young man,” said Maude, with a menacing look, “the feeble sparrow is not more in the power of the greedy kite that bears hier through the air in her talons, than thou art in mine ; beware, then, how you trifle with one whose vengeance never dies unsatisfied. Once more answer me, with truth—did you know that face?"
Thus she goes on talking in high-flown hyperbole, which no one can comprehend, and acting from motives which her hearers can never fathom, until the catastrophe at the close of the second volume, when she finally explodes in the following valedictory; swallows laudanum, and dies on the body of her unfortunate son, whose situation and character afford ample proof of what the author of this work could achieve, were he content with nature and probability in constructing his fictions.
“Away, all of you!" she said, with a stern and determined look. “Away! nos cast your seed upon a soil, where all that was ever good, has long since been choaked and withered by the thorns and tares of passions. Go, try your clo
quence on softer bearts! for me, I am a reprobate! Why else through life have I rejected good, and sought the paths of evil? It was my fate ; and wherefore should I struggle with it? From all eternity, it was ordained that I should perish, and I am prepared to meet my doom. Now go, and leave me to wrap the winding-sheet around my son ; to array once more those comely limbs, which I have often decked with a mother's pride.”
The next morning, the body of Maude is found, as described in the following passage; which is quite sufficient to fill us with regret, that the writer did not oftener condescend, in the work before us, to bring down his genius to the level of human wants, of natural feelings and descriptions. The picture is striking, affecting, and moral.
“All there was quiet ; and it was the dread and dreamless quiet of the last unbroken sleep. Rupert, in his grave clothes, his face covered with a napkin, and his hands crossed peacefully upon his breast, lay stretched upon the bed where he bad breathed his last. it was sad to look upon that youthful form, thus early snatched from life—but there was hope and comfort in the hearts of those who mourned; for he was good and virtuous, and he had gone from a world of trial, to reap the rewards of a pure and blameless soul. But alas! for her, his wretched mother! all recoiled with horror as they beheld her, and thought upon her past life, and the terrors of her eternal destiny. She was lying on the floor; her cap had fallen off, and her white locks hung in dishevelled masses over her face and arms, partially concealing the distorted features, which still bore traces of the recent agony that had convulsed them. Beside her, lay an empty vial, labelled “laudanum,” the contents of which had terminated the wicked career of one born to better fortunes. She died, as she had lived, the miserable victim of passion.”
Here all is natural, and the situation, such as might, and does occur in real life. There is neither inflated description, npr inflated language--no attempt to give a disproportioned and fantastic pomposity to the simple picture of death. Yet, we are mistaken, if the reader will not bear testimony both to its pathos and sublimity, and regret that the author should have wasted his powers in the unsuccessful endeavour to imitate, what in its most successful examples, hardly deserves imitation. A departure from nature, is, we cannot help thinking, a proof either of a bad taste, or a barren genius; since it is only those who are destitute of the higher powers of invention and description, that despair of giving beauty, variety, and interest, to probable incidents and natural characters. It is a vulgar error to suppose it a proof of superior intellect, to create monsters. The fame of Shakespeare does not depend upon his Caliban; and had this been the only creation of his almost unrivalled genius, he would never have become the object of idolatry to millions of intellectual beings. The most crude and impoverished mind, is generally the most fruitful, in caricatures of passion, and outrages upon probability. A miracle is the easiest possible way of bringing about events; it requires little exercise of invention, and less of judgment. Agents beyond the sphere of nature, and subject to none of her laws, are easily managed; and actions equally beyond the reach
of probability, are as easily enlisted in our service; but to bring about striking events, to produce interesting characters, and are rive at an affecting or splendid catastrophe, by the management of probable incidents and natural instruments, is the work only of a master-mind.
But whatever may be thought of the abstract excellence of such materials as compose the romance under consideration, and such a class of beings as the Meg Merrilies school, we must be permitted to question if the one or the other can be naturalized in the romances of this country. They belong to a different soil, and appertain to a different state of manners, from any which has ever prevailed here, at least among the descendants of Europeans. They are neither historical nor traditional, as in many other countries; they claim no association with modern manners, nor connexion with recent events ; they are the offspring of distance and obscurity ; cradled in the mists of unsubstantial fiction, or woven in the web of distorted truth. The justly distinguished author of Lionel Lincoln, found the impossibility of naturally connecting the agency of this mystical, mixed, and incongruous race of sublimated old ladies with recent events and well known localities. There was an insuperable obstacle to their reception, in the experience of the good people of Boston; and the very evidence of their senses convinced them that such adventures, and above all, such people as some of those who exercise so powerful an agency in that work, never were connected with events so recent, and scenes so near, as the battle of Bunker Hill, and the hill itself. The region of romance and improbability is beyond the reach of the naked eye, and its era is equally remote. So far as the mere ovidence of our senses extends, there is nothing miraculous—or if miraculous, use soon makes it appear natural. Even credulity expects to be treated with some little ceremony; and a person that would believe and tremble at a wonder which happened in a distant land, or a remote period, would feel insulted at having it located right under his eye. It might be quite as impossible in one place as in the other ; but still it would not involve the same contradiction of the actual evidence of our senses, and would consequently leave room for the imagination to operate upon our belief. A traveller inclined to rhodomontade, always goes as far from home as possible; and a writer of romance, if he means to draw a long bow, and tax our credulity rather heavily, had better not lay his scenes at home, nor attempt to revolutionize events so recent as those of our Revolution. If, on the contrary, he intends to keep within the bounds of nature and probability, he may venture upon these themes and times with perfect safety. A discriminating imitator of Sir Walter Scott will bear in mind, that his romances are those of other ages and countries; and that in proportion as VOL. II.NO. 3.
the scene is laid nearer as to time or space, he relaxes in favour of probability both in characters and incidents.
The clouds of ignorance and superstition, which in turn passed over the nations of Europe, and constituted what are called the dark ages, had, in a great measure, rolled away previous to the first settlement of the United States. The only agency beyond natural causes, recognised by the Puritans, was, with a single exception, that of the Deity, to whose immediate interference was ascribed every good and every evil.* The former was ever the reward of virtue, the latter the punishment of vice. No fairies danced upon the green sward by moonlight; no malignant or beneficent beings, such as peopled the sequestered valleys of Greece, or the deep gloomy woods of the Scandinavians, sported with the hopes and fears of our forefathers; or interposed between them and the direct decrees of the divinity. They believed in no other influences than those which were sanctioned by the Bible, and this belief naturally predisposed them to acknowledge the existence of witches, which presents a singular exception to their stern rejection of Gothic fictions, and classical mythology. The witch of Endor has always furnished the believers in witchcraft with an unquestionable evidence of its having once existed, and credulity is ever irresistibly fortified by a reference to this solitary example. But the age of witchcraft soon passed away from among them, and it is not the least singular fact, that it found its most strenuous supporters and advocates among the most orthodox and learned of the clergy. Cotton Mather, unquestionably one of the best scholars and most deeply read divives of NewEngland, has left in his Magnalia sufficient evidence that there was nothing too extravagant in relation to witchcraft for his boundless credulity. Admitting, however, this exception, we think ourselves warranted in saying, that the people of the United States, as a body, are, and ever have been, far less superstitious than any
other of ancient or modern times. Strictly speaking, there has been no dark or romantic this country, connected with its European race. The adventures, the sufferings, the conflicts, of our forefathers, besides being of a recent date, all partook of severe reality. Hunger and privations of every kind; the pestilence and the savage, each walking alike in darkness; the pressure of perpetual dangers, and the necessity of unceasing exertion, left them but little leisure for the exercise of the imagination, in conjuring up fantastic creations. The Banshec, the Cluricaune, the sage enchanter, the mischievous pack of fairies and goblins-all the romantic and seductive brood of idleness and superstition, gave place to Indians, and to privations of every kind. The only spectre that stalked before them was that
* See Morton's “New-England Memorial,” and all the early Annalists