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incongruous, and all his deceptions gross, nine tenths of the unthinking would go away convinced they had been with a great artist
“Who rul'd like a wizard the world of the heart,
The reputation of Notre Dame de Paris is a humbug of this description. For music, we have the author's considerable command of words, and somewhat pompous style ; for lights, an occasional energy and brilliancy of expression, a sort of fire which he produces laboriously, and by the rubbing together of woody ideas. But he leads us on among things which, after we have once considered them, we are certain to rememberwhich are made impressive simply by exaggeration and painful detail, and which their own horrors defend from close scrutiny and systematic criticism. If a poet or a romancer tells us a pleasing scene or circumstance, and tells it pleasingly, we return to it again and again ; our imagination dwells on it willingly, and recurs"to it often; we enjoy all its beauties, and we discover all its faults. With scenes of horror or disgust the case is different; yet, there is an inexplicable curiosity which often attracts us momentarily to them, as it were, against our will; and if M. Victor Hugo will consider why such abominations as the Tour de Nesle, and such ribaldries as Tom and Jerry, have obtained a run, and kept possession of the stage, he will be on the way towards discovering what are the causes, and what is the nature, of his own success.
As for his style, it is hardly within the province of a foreigner to speak of it too positively, though we are certainly disposed to subscribe entirely to the qualified praise of an accomplished Frenchman, whom we once heard describe him as “un très habile phrasier,”—an able maker of phrases. The remark was applied as well to several others, and does apply, in our judgment, at least, to all the distinguished French romance-writers of the present day. Some of these horror-daubers are much worse than Victor Hugo, which a man who had read Hans d'Islande would hardly think possible; but so it is. The Dansę Macabra is several shades darker in its groundwork, and much inferior in its language. Hans d'Islande is a sort of devil, illustrated by much ancestry, all devilish. His genealogy, which is given with exactness, exhibits a line of pictures of about as much originality and diversity as would appear in a series of sketches of Macbeth's witches, taken in different theatres; and Hans himself is made up in a sort of Frankenstein fashion of traits taken from Caliban, Orson, Walter Scott's black dwarf, and a spice of pure devil. All this is made up by recipe :
"Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing." And the character being thus got up and ready for action, he is introduced to us in a mosque, or depository of the dead, somewhere in Norway, where bodies found drowned are kept for recognition. His son, a human son, and a youth of great promise, it should seem, has been found drowned, and the nionster is come to claw off the crown of the young man's head with his long nails to make a drinking cup of it. This fatherly and surgeonlike process is very minutely described. The author seeks diligently to be graphic, and make you feel and see, as far as possible, all the horror and disgust of such a scene in its minutest details. It next appears that, when this son was living, a soldier of a certain regiment had disobliged him, which soldier the old monster cannot find out, but he resolves to assassinate the whole regiment in detail to make sure of revenging his son, and, in the course of the first two volumes makes a good deal of progress in this work—its completion remaining, we suppose, to furnish material for the other two, which we did not read. As for the Danse Macabra, which is by a writer who calls himself the bibliophile Jacob, it is: somewhat worse, as we have said, than all this. All the characters named in it come to violent or tragic deaths—there is not one exception. The heroine lives longest; she dies about a year after the action of the piece, of religious melancholy, in a convent. Her husband, after being buried alive and dug up, dies in a convulsion scene, in an under-ground place, where three Jews are crucifying his child; her lover dies at the altar, as she is just married to hiin, of the plague; her father is eaten by wolves; the lover's father is boiled in oil; his father by adoption is flayed alive; and Macabra, a charlatan, who gives name to the story, is thrown from a tower by his wife, who is pelted to death afterwards, by the mob, with dead men's bones, in a sepulchre. There are more characters and more deaths, all foul and revolting to the last degree, sufficient to disgrace the man who could find pleasure in reading such a book, and to stamp him that wrote it as unfit for human society. Amidst the unrelieved ghastliness of the scenes and incidents of this story, the clumsy improbability of the characters and plot escapes all criticism. Suffice it, that no Bartholomew-fair invention could be grosser or cruder.
There is another writer whose works have a reputation in France, nearly or quite equal to those of Victor Hugo, whose equal he certainly is not in style and management of language, though he is much upon a par with him in his inventions and characters—we speak of Balzac. He paints fewer studied
horrors; he is not so fond as Victor Hugo is, of making a man “lie drowning the washing of ten tides," and telling you all about it, but he trusts for his effect and piquancy to another principle, and a baser one than even the vicious and ghoul-like curiosity which gloats on horrors. Balzac is eminently immoral; his vein of thought is essentially bad and malignant; he assaults all the temples of virtue, and honour, and affection, and is never so happy as when he thinks he is breaking their walls, or shaking their pillars. Yet he can turn round and preach, too, as in one of his stories which bears the extraordinary title of Jesus Christ in Flanders, where he represents a boat load of people sunk, and drowned all but one or two, who are saved by a miraculous person to whom the title points; and the moral seems to be, as far as one can gather it, that the vices of the upper classes are real, though concealed by decorum; and that those of the lower classes are external, and the result of circumstances, while their hearts are more likely to be right than the others, and that he who sees the heart, judges them accordingly. The manner of the story is not such as to develope any proofs of this ;
the author relates incidents which he makes to suit himself
, and his conclusion follows, of course, if you admit his facts to be probable or natural. Stories told for a moral usually fail in this way; you see the frame work and comprehend the design, and your curiosity is soon extinguished, and your interest with it. This story, then, is only remarkable as coming from Balzac, without any pretence to a moral at all; his works, in general, are marked with such malignity as one might attribute to a crippled fiend.
French novels have made a good many articles lately for various reviews, and it is not our purpose to go more at length into any discussion of their tendencies or merits—we set out to say something of Notre Dame, as that work stands, probably, at the head of its class, and what we have added has been beyond our design. It is somewhat gratifying to those who view these books as we do, to observe that they do not succeed in this country, nor in England; few or none of them are translated, and the reviewing pen has bestowed upon them general condemnation. It must needs be, we suppose, that romances come; and few enough, and far enough between, are the good or even the tolerable ones; but for the bad, and especially for the class we have been considering, we may safely add the imprecation"Wo be to that man by whom they come.”
ART. VII.—The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whil
law; or, Scenes on the Mississippi. By FRANCES TROLLOPE, `author of “Paris and the Parisians,” “ Domestic Manpers of the Americans,” &c. &c. With fifteen engravings. London: 1836.
We are not about to do this book the honour to review it; to show up its libels, its indecencies, and its falsehoods; or, in any manner, to sully our pages by quoting from its scenes of imaginary vulgarity and cruelty. It is altogether such a book as a vulgar and mercenary woman, who had found her account in former slanders, would write to replenish her means by ministering to a perverted moral sense, and a sickly appetite for slander. We shall not stoop to pick it out of the kennel into which it fell immediately on its publication; and we have only written its title at the head of this article, because it chances to be the newest specimen of ignorance and misrepresentation which has emanated from the English press, and because its author (masculine as she is) may as well serve the purpose of Mr. John Doe, to bring the real party into court, as another.
With Mrs. Trollope, therefore, (save as one of a class,) we have nothing to do. We are not, in any degree, surprised at her peculiar want of those requisites which should characterize a sagacious enquirer into foreign manners and institutions. Our surprise is, that none of the English travellers in this country have been endowed, in the least degree, with the philosophic spirit, with that nicety of observation, which penetrates the character of a people; the correct judgment which leads them from present circumstances to future results; with the delicate discretion that never betrays into false positions; and with the habit of looking to the truth of things, that keeps down or averts the view of prejudice.
It is true that our position is peculiar. Our distance from the high degree of European civilization and its influences; the few tendrils by which we hang to the past ; our solitary position among the empires of the earth; the want of dangerous neighbours and competitors to turn our attention from ourselves, and mingle us with the passions and interests of other nations, mark our condition and our destiny as extraordinary-as matters of high hope and broad speculation. It is true, too, from causes very easily pointed out, that we have attracted but little attention. Europe, since our entrance on the political sphere, has been busy with her own affairs. Revolution after revolution has kept kings and governments anxious for their safety; and the angry and open workings of the revolutionary spirit has made them timid with apprehension. They dared not look on
us, as it only threw back the reflection of what they themselves were to meet at no very distant time. They saw a people stretching forward in the powerful race of freedom, unshackled by tradition or prejudice; with no guide in history; no instruction from experience; little or no hope from the past, and all its despair; surrounded by those vague surmises of danger that are called up by the consideration of the ruin of similar institutions; a young, a new, and unknown people, venturing, undaunted, on the most hazardous experiment that has ever tested the energies and virtues of human nature; and they turned with dread to themselves, and looked with anxious fear on the future, thus figured before them in a distant quarter of the earth.
There was once scorn and contempt for us: because time and ages of events had not given us a history; because there was no high lineage to our great names; because a republic carried, to the gentle ears of kings and courtiers, the idea of vulgarityof something base and grovelling-of popular turbulence and vacillation—the rule of demagogues—and all the startling shadows that come with the names of Greece and Rome. peared impossible that a nation could exist without kings and crowns; that King People could be a substitute for King George; that there could be an anomaly so great as an empire of opinion, and not an empire of will; that there could be submission to law, without the aid or the awe of power. It seemed something paradoxical, something more than strange, that there should be such audacity as to run opposite to old-fashioned and longestablished notions; such temerity as to declare they were absurd and intolerable; and such fearlessness as not only to throw them off, but to express a determination to undertake selfgovernment.
These things gave to the name of America a something lower than humility. She was regarded as the Botany Bay of the universe—the resort of the restless, discontented, and criminal; not the home of the exile for opinion's sake, but the land where the factious and the traitor could find shelter-a land inhabited by a people whose ancestors were outcasts—whose manners, habits, and pursuits were all degrading.
These were the ideas attached to our character by those who were ignorant of our real situation; by those who would not know it; by those who suspected the truth, and feared it; by those who dreaded our success, and wished our ruin. There is much of this still left among the ignorant and indifferent of Europe—for apathy, as to all things, is the signal peculiarity of countries where society has but two grand divisons—the master and the servant-and where the anarch, custom, presses with its drowsy yet iron rule, and men play but the part of spec