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The expectation aroused by the announcement of a new work from Victor Hugo will not be disappointed by the first instalment, which has appeared under the title of “Fantine.” * It is a production of extraordinary power, in whatever light regarded. The characters are original, marked, and drawn with sharp distinctness; the scenes are described with minute fidelity, and yet without redundance of epithet ; and the plot of the story, though by no means complicated, is intensely interesting. It moves on more slowly than the course of most French novels, and there is no attempt to produce surprises or startling effects. There is a singular union of calmness and tragedy, and the last impression is at once pleasant and painful. The book is at once the exbibition of social abuses and of Christian virtues, of the working of noble principles in the soul, and the disaster of false customs in the world. It has probably some secret political purpose, which foreign readers will not easily discover.
We shall not attempt to give an analysis of a story in which so much of the interest is in the details of description, and in the exquisite beauty of style. Each of the eight books into which it is divided is complete in itself, and might be given as a separate sketch. The Bishop Myral, “ Monsieur Bienvenu,” and his household of two women quite unlike, make an admirable cabinet picture. The portrait of a perfect Christian pastor has never been more beautifully drawn. The emphasis with which his traits are specialized has almost the effect of satire, and perhaps was meant for that. His interview with the dying revolutionist is perhaps the most skilful and impressive scene in the volume. Another striking character is the convict Jean Valjean, who is introduced first to show the consequences of unjust judicial sentence and harsh penal administration, and afterwards, in his changed and regenerate condition, as mayor of a provincial city, to show what may be done by one man of energy and influence, who has the spirit of Christ in his heart. Still another remarkable figure is that of the policeman Javert, given as the type of the French official, grave, honest, and truthful, but stern and unrelenting in his devotion to forms of laws and to precedents of social custom, a noble soul enslaved to the routine of duty, never able to get beyond the line of established rule.
Fantine, the heroine of the story, does not appear until the third book. She is first shown in one of those characteristic Parisian groups which may be met anywhere in the Bois de Boulogne, or in the cafés, students and their grisette companions taking a holiday. The inevitable issue comes in desertion, shame, poverty, struggle between womanly pride and maternal love. The beautiful, pure, and confiding girl becomes gradually, through the succession of persecutions, mishaps, and miseries which follow her, a jealous, reckless, abandoned woman, held to virtue only by the love of her child. Incidentally in connection with this child, we have glimpses of the brutal side of peasant life in France, in
* Victor Hugo. Les Misérables. Fantine. New York: F. W. Christern. The Same, translated. New York : Carleton.
the household of the Thenardier family. Fantine dies at last in comparafive peace; but her death is only the end of a victim to society. We can feel for this poor creature only pity.
We have connected with this notice the title of the American edition, containing in a single well-printed and cheap volume the whole matter of the two bulky and costly French octavos. The time is not far distant, we may hope, when French and German works of solid value will be reissued here to as much profit as English works. It is a mistake for any who can command the original, to read the works of a French author in a translation.
Most of the English arguments that we
seen upon the state of things in America are simply illustrations of an unfortunate habit of mind, more easy to be accounted for than to be got rid of. Their interest is not political, bnt psychological. They are materials, gathered in advance, for Archbishop Whately to use in the next edition of his Logic, to enrich the chapter on “ Bias, as a Source of Fallacy in Reasoning.” The wish is father of the thought; and the thought is of a nature to beget perpetual surprise. The aristocratic patrons of abolition strike hands with the aristocracy of the cotton-field, and Mr. Mason succeeds to the place in their good graces left vacant by Mrs. Stowe. The candid “ Edinburgh ” expounds our system of government by citations from Mr. Calhoun, with never a hint that he is generally regarded here as the chief of heretics in political opinion. The conservative “ Quarterly" assumes that the work of rebellion is complete as soon as its flag is raised, and lends all its sympathies to the cause of anarchy. The liberal “ Westminster” weighs the Northern democracy against the Southern oligarchy, and finds all the advantage on the side of the latter, not allowing its opponent even the poor merit of fighting qualities. And the one elaborate exposition of the question at issue in this war, which seems to have acquired a hold on the public mind of England, and to stand there as a sort of classic authority on the subject, is simply the argument of a retained attorney, to make good the doctrine of Southern Rights.
While English statesmen, high in the ranks of opposition, have publicly speculated on the advantages to England of the dismemberment of our Republic, and while officers of the crown have owned in Parliament that the action of the government has been a bid in advance for the good-will of the future Southern “ Slave-Empire of the West,” it has been a courageous as well as honorable thing when any
voice bas been lifted on the side of liberty and public order. The admirable pamphlet by Mr. Mill we have already noticed. Private as well as public correspondence has developed a great amount of right and generous feeling, and indicated a great deal more that no doubt lies latent there. And the constitutional question at issue has been argued with a candor and ability and knowledge of the ground which deserve a grateful recognition from us who honor England and who love the
things that make for peace. Such an argument, brief, clear, and conclusive, has been made in the volume whose title we register below.*
The importance of the constitutional argument we are a little apt to overlook, since the decision was carried to other fields. There was a certain truth in what the London “ Times" said, that the right and wrong of it are to be proved by dint of arms. The sound constitutional doctrine will be that which can beat the other in fair fight. Practically, perhaps, it is so. At least, the facts to which future interpretations of the law must shape themselves, will be so determined. But there is enough difference of opinion, even this side of the water, to make it very important that our government should be able to make its case good by argument as well as arms. The point is admirably stated by Mr. Rawlins :
“ If the Southern States are only resuming powers which they never entirely abandoned, but only leased for an indefinite period to the Federal government, it is clear that, whether their reasons for resumption be good or bad, they are at any rate constitutional, and the war now waged against them is purely aggressive, and deserving the reprobation of every honest man, and every constitutional government, as one of the most fearful outrages upon human rights recorded in the history of civilization.
“ But if, on the contrary, secession is nothing more nor less than rebellion, not justified by previous oppression of any kind whatever, or by the slightest violation of any clause in the Constitution, then we say that a President, a Senate and Representatives, who have solemnly sworn .faithfully to preserve, protect, and defend that Constitution,' would be utterly unworthy the name of a government if they did not do their utmost to uphold it.”
The first is the mischievous fallacy which so many at the South have clung to, honestly we suppose, passionately at any rate, and ruinously; which is assumed by those in England who would otherwise do justice to this convulsive struggle to vindicate our nationality; and which is elaborately maintained by such works as that of Mr. Spence, specially replied to in the book before us. Though very brief, this volume is ample in its citations from the eminent statesmen of seventy-five years ago; it includes the documents most important to be consulted, - the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and Washington's Farewell Address ; and it is difficult to believe that any person, with a fair knowledge of the ground it treats, can honestly hold the heresy of secession any longer, or utter another syllable about the aggression ” of the North upon the South.
We copy the concluding paragraph :
“ It has been well observed, that no Constitution ever provides for its own destruction. It is confessedly subject to the changes of time and to the chances of revolution. The Constitution of the United States provides against the latter and for the former in the power of amendment by appeal to the source of its authority, — the sovereign people. It guarantees the blessings of a free press, free speech, free religion, free self-government, in
* American Dis-Union: Constitutional or Unconstitutional ? A Reply to Mr. James Spence upon the Question, “Is Secession a Constitutional Right?” discussed in his recent Work, “ The American Union.” By CHARLES ED. Rawlins, Jun. London: Robert Hardwicke.
internal affairs, and trial by jury. The Southern States have rebelled against this Constitution, in order to secure, and, if possible, to extend, the institution of slavery; to create for the first time a state founded upon the subordination of the African race as its unchangeable basis ; to make slavery.that stone rejected by the first builders, — the chief stone of the corner, and the conservatives of England have justified their rebellion!” 16.04.
It is unnecessary to say that Mr. Trollope has produced a very entertaining and readable book of his travels in the United States and Canada.* He is a man of the world, observes keenly, enjoys heartily, and talks well, — with a fulness of animal life about him that is quite refreshing. We feel very much indebted to any one who candidly holds up to us the mirror of our life such as it is. And we never felt it in our heart to be distressed overmuch at what may have been said in the way of criticism, sarcasm, or fun, by the great company of those English guests of ours who have reported of us among their kindred. The tone of Mr. Trollopes book is fair and friendly, and the appearance of it very timely. Not only are we curious to see how affairs among us looked to visitors from abroad, who could share neither our passions nor our fears; but there was a sudden perplexity
a cloud even threatening fierce thunders — that interrupted our cordial fellowship with England, and made it hard even for the best disposed to understand each other. We think Mr. Trollope has done something effectually to break through that barrier. He came just when the fortunes of the war were most dark for us, - in September of last year, and went away, six months later, when the tide of victory was setting with so strong a sweep in favor of the national arms. The structure of our national and State governments he studied intelligently and with care, and has been at a good deal of pains to set them fairly before his English readers. His vindication of the position taken by our government, and of the necessity of the struggle which has been forced upon it, is manly and generous.
The sophistries of Mr. Spence's book, so eagerly and generally caught up by the English, he meets with a very short answer: “ There are axioms in politics, as in mathematics, which recommend themselves to the mind at once, and require no argument for proof.
Men who are not argumentative perceive at once that they are true. A part cannot be greater than the whole.”
We are glad, also, that Mr. Trollope has said the few words he has in explanation of the position of England. The nature of the govern. ment, compelling the British administration to declare its policy publicly, he thinks was the source of the misunderstanding. The mere declaration of neutrality, we take it, nobody here found fault with. Made in the way it was, it had the air of saying, somewhat ostentatiously, We will go as far as our treaties will let us to propitiate the rebellious States, which will probably gain their independence. And, whether right or wrong, a very strong conviction got ground among us, that this neutrality was neither honestly meant nor honestly kept. The mistaken opin
* So described by the Vice-President of the Confederacy. † North America. By ANTHONY TROLLOPE. New York: Harper and Brothers.
ions, almost universal in England, relative to this struggle, are frankly acknowledged by our traveller, who was cured of them only by some months' stay among us. And the state of feeling on both sides the water has been so real a calamity, so many wrong and bitter and mischievous things have been said on both sides, — that we receive with particular satisfaction words coming from an English source which seem likely to abate something of these unhappy differences.
We have received the first number of a new monthly review bearing the title of “The Exchange,”* the object of which is to chronicle and discuss the movements and prospects of trade and industry, especially those in which England is concerned. The idea is a good one; and if the contents of the first number are to be taken as a specimen of what is to come, we shall have variety enough in the topics. In this first issue, there are articles on Mexico, on the American War, on the financial condition of Bengal, on Canada and its resources, on Australian politics, on Collieries, on Cotton, on Foreign Exchanges, and on British Commerce in the last two years; besides the closing summary of stocks, trade, manufactures, and produce for the previous month. The articles are all readable, and easy to be read, but are none of them very able. The tone of the paper on the American war is the prevalent English tone, a pretended abhorrence of slavery, with an evident sympathy with the South, and wish either for permanent disruption or a restoration of the old state of things, which shall give slavery its former power, and restore cheap cotton to the English mills. It denies, however, that the “ Tariff” had anything to do with the war, and maintains that slavery is its only and sufficient cause.
The facts of this magazine are not always accurate or consistent. China is mentioned as a " tropical nation,” when hardly a twentieth of that vast land lies within the tropics, and the latitude of its capital is about that of Philadelphia. The comparative consumption of cotton in the slave and free States is mentioned as one to three,” wbile by the figures in the tables it would be less than one to four. In what is said about the near future of Canada, there is a ludicrous exaggeration. And the Morrill Tariff is sneered at and denounced, with a charming forgetfulness of the long sin of England in her tariffs and unjust restrictions on trade. It will not do to receive too implicitly the conclusions of these English statistical journals, which are always drawn more in regard to the interests of English merchants than to the interest of truth.
A COLORED clergyman, a graduate of Queen's College, Cambridge, now a prominent citizen of Liberia, gives us, in a respectable volume of sermons and speeches, his “ Hope for Africa,” in terms that command confidence and deserve praise.f Had there been but a single
* The Exchange. A Home and Colonial Monthly Review of Commerce, Man. ufactures, and General Politics. No. I. April, 1862. London: Sampson, Low, & Son. Boston: Walker, Wise, & Co.
† The Future of Africa: Addresses, &c., in Liberia. By Rev. Alex. CrumMELL. New York: Scribner.