« PreviousContinue »
lest the popish cantons should fall upon you. If Geneva should need you, the greater number among you would answer, We cannot for want of money! We dare not, for fear of our popish neighbours !'
“Cromwell, knowing at the same time that the Romish cantons were strongly supported by the princes of their faith ordered his minister (22nd February, 1656) to assist the evangelical cantons to make a good and honourable peace, and to that end to counterbalance by his endeavours the interposition of the public minister of other princes, who may be partial to the popish cantons.
“ He interposed also in Germany in defence of the religious liberty of the reformed states. In a Latin letter from a very considerable person, which was forwarded to Cromwell in January, 1655, we read : “The whole popish cohort is plotting against us and ours. We must consider and inquire into everything with prudence. We must deliberate on the means to be employed for our common preservation; for we know the aim of all our Babylonian adversaries. The Lord of Hosts be the Protector of the Protector and of the Church. This writer added : The persecution continues in Austria and in Bohemia, and it is very easy to foresee a general league of the Papists against the Protestants of Germany and Switzerland.'
“ Against this, Oliver made provision. If he could not reach them with the arm of his power, he sent them proofs at least of his sympathy. Collections were made by his order in behalf of the persecuted Protestants of Bohemia ; and again, in 1657, when delegates from the Polish and Silesian Protestants arrived in England complaining of the persecutions directed against them, public subscriptions were immediately opened in their favour throughout the whole country.
“ Desirous of giving regularity to all these movements, Cromwell conceived the idea of a great institution in favour of the evangelical faith. He proposed to unite all the various members of the Protestant body, and by this means place them in a condition to resist Rome, which was at that time preparing for conquest. To this end he resolved to found a council for the General Interests of Protestantism, and he was probably led to this idea by the establishment of the Roman congregation for the propagation of the faith. He divided the Protestant world out of England into four provinces : the first included France, Switzerland, and the Piedmontese valleys; the second comprised the Palatinate and other Calvinistic countries; the third, the remainder of Germany, the north of Europe, and Turkey; the colonies of the East and West Indies (Asia and America) formed the fourth. The council was to consist of seven members and four secretaries, who were to keep up a correspondence with all the world, and inquire into the state of religion everywhere, to the intent that England might suitably direct her encouragement, lier protection, and her support. The yearly sum of £10,000, with extraordinary supplies in case of need, was to be placed at the disposal of the council, whose sittings were to be held in Chelsea College.
No doubt many objections might be urged against this plan. It was, perhaps, to be feared that, in certain cases, such diplomatic interposition might injure the spiritual character and true life of the reformed religion. But Cromwell's chief object was to maintain religious liberty in all the world, as he was maintaining it in England. It is right that the Protestants on the Continent should know what a friend they had in the illustrious Pro
tector. A Catholic historian, one of those who have perhaps the least appreciated his christian character, cannot here repress a movement of admiration. When we think of the combats of the Protestant religion against the Catholic faith,' says M. Villemain, it was undoubtedly a noble and a mighty thought to claim for himself the protection of all the dissident sects, and to regulate, in a fixed and durable manner, the support which England had granted them on more than one occasion. If it had not been interrupted by death, Cromwell would no doubt have resumed a design so much in accordance with his genius, and which his power would have allowed him to attempt with courage.'
“Such was the Protector's activity. In every place he showed himself the true Samaritan, binding up the wounds of those who had fallen into the hands of the wicked, and pouring in oil and wine. ... He is the greatest Protestant that has lived since the days of Calvin and Luther. More than any other sovereign of England, he deserved the glorious title of DEFENDER OF THE FAITH."
THE PROTÉGÉ. By Mrs. PONSONBT. 3 vols. post 8vo. H. Hurst.
8vo. E. Moxon.
THERE are so many temptations to novel writing, that it is not surprising so many attempt it. If a fervid fancy or an overwhelming sensibility afflicts an educated individual, a relief is afforded by giving vent to his irrestrainable fancies or feelings in the three volumes of the fashionable novel. If a creed is to be defended, or a law attacked, it affords an admirable means of indirectly advocating or attacking; and, worst decadence of all, if a new theory, or even mercantile speculation, requires puffing and pushing, this mightiest literary invention of modern times is used for it. It is therefore not wonderful that although no particular calling to the occupation is manifested at present, that an equal number are yet daily issued. That the number of readers decline, we believe; but, with the unphilosophical producers of novels, this is of no effect, for they disdain to proportion their supplies in any accordance to the demand.
The three works we have selected for especial notice have all a different character, though they all partake of the same style of execution.
The “ Protégé” is intended to be a novel of character, as the story has but little involvement in it, and no ingenuity of construction. The characters are numerous, and tolerably diversified, but have no distinguishing traits of excellence. They are drawn without any gross violations of common sense or probability, but betoken some of that original power of observation which is necessary to the delineation of new phases and combinations of human characteristics. In fact, they are on a level with all common efforts at character, pourtraying at the best but the operation of a passion or an appetite indulged into a humour or eccentricity. Of the complication of human motives, and the diversity of human conduct, there are no examples. The chief personages are a calm duke and duchess, a wilful heir-apparent, à sincere but fanatical parson, and an opposite, in a worldly, coarse, selfish specimen of the same profession. The intended hero, the Protégé, is described as one of those persevering, self-denying, lofty sentimental gentlemen that lady-writers love to exhaust their fancies upon, but who, in real life, are very seldom found in so high a state of preservation. The heroine if there really be any heroine—is a very high-born beauty, in whom the pride of high birth overcomes any of the more tender and feminine feelings, and who is so penetrated (and the authoress seems to delight in the notion) with the superlative position conveyed by a long genealogy and rank, that she looks upon herself as a sort of trustee-a mere casket—to perpetuate, from generation to generation, this something-nothing, that like an aroma pervades her existence. That such notions are prevalent, we admit, as it cannot be denied lunatics have had similar unreasonable fancies, but that it should be considered as a pleasing or valuable trait of character, by persons not supposed to be gifted in the same way, does appear to us absurd.
The book is made up with the description of these and numerous other characters, and with disquisitions on politics, morals, religion, and philosophy in general ; but we cannot find in these, any more than in the delineation of the characters, anything denoting peculiar sagacity of observation, or powers of reflection. There is indeed a want of decision and purpose running through it, which somewhat obscures one's notions of the authoress's ideas on the very subject on which she dissertates. One very amiable lady, anxious to love and be loved, is represented in no very favourable light, and is reproved even for loving her own child.
“Grantley Manor" is also by a lady ; but is more ambitious in its aim. Its great effort is to delineate individual character, and almost every one introduced is an eccentric. There is nothing vague in the attempt to pourtray the various individuals, although we cannot think it successful. The greatest effort is lavished upon a young lady who is intended to be gay, joyous, confiding, and high-minded, though somewhat wilful. But her own utterances and conduct by no means agree with the descriptions lavished upon. Her gaiety often descends to mere flippancy, and in avoiding common-place speeches she frequently drops into pert and vulgar conduct. In contradistinction to her, we have a lady with superhuman forbearance: a half-Italian, gifted with the faculty divine ; a wonderful musician and improvisatrice ; who, involved in a secret marriage with a Protestant, is torn in pieces by a sentimental contest between her religion and her affections. To draw
common combinations of character, is given to very few, but to still fewer is it meted to give, with the effect of reality, the eccentrics of the race.
We do not think Lady Fullerton has succeeded. She has indeed mixed, in an extraordinary mode, contradictory qualities, but we cannot acknowledge their truth nor semblance to anything really human. There is also, in the literary style of the book, a continuous effort to be plain and simple, engendered by an apparent horror at falling into the usual style of such works, that being unsuccessful, only looks and reads like affectation. This is an error that well-bred and well-educated persons are apt to fall into, from a notion that it gives an air of nature to their writing ; but the perception of a reader of common intelligence can by no means be juggled in this manner. As an instance of what we have specified, we refer the reader to the conversation supposed to take place at the house of “a lawyer of great reputation, much frequented by old judges and young barristers : "a mixture, by the way, not very likely to occur. Whether a barrister of high standing and attainments, is likely, in a mixed assembly of ladies and gentlemen, to ask, as a matter of sprightliness,“ What did he do with his wife then-brirked her somewhere or gagged her ?” or to say, “How he must have bullied his wife to keep her quiet.” This mode of expression, although certainly not high flown as in the usual novel, is equally assuredly not "natural,” which is the only reason, we presume, of its introduction. The authoress herself gives proof of high cultivation and having adequate notions of true refinement, and falls into these absurdities and misrepresentations entirely from a desire to be true, although she is evidently unacquainted with the manners she pretends to delineate.
The sentimental prevails in both these novels, and the hyper-cultivation of the feelings leads the authoresses of such works to dwell upon and exaggerate any emotion and thought, until the soul is subdued by a perpetual succession of trivial emotions, begotten by the undue stimulants perpetually applied to the expectations and fears of the morbid idlers indulging in them. “Grantley Manor" has many indirect pleadings for the Roman Catholic persuasion, though it has nothing bigoted in its advocacy.
“Russell," by Mr. James, declares its own character. Of course it includes many delineations of well-known characters : many descriptions of old oak chambers : of many old-fashioned interiors: of many hair-breadth escapes of heroes and heroines. Many elucidations of manners, and a due admixture of sentiment and historical detail. The machinery of this kind of novel has been reduced to a formula ; and very little opportunity of novelty is left for it. We are bound, however, to say, though no very intense admirers of Mr. James's style and mode of producing fiction, that this novel has agreeably surprised us : there is in it a vivacity and spirit that we scarcely thought him capable of. The characters are sketched vigorously and freshly, and even the descriptions have a force and vitality we could not expect from the frequency of their repetition. The extremely interesting nature of the subject may in some measure account for this. The fortunes of such distinguished men as Lord Russell and Algernon Sydney, could not fail to kindle the genius of the tamest writer. The manners of the time too, must always yield matter of suggestion to one possessed of any imaginative power. The strong privileges attached to one class, the strong peculiarities of all others, certainly afford ample room for picturesque description. With the women, especially the handsome, it was a continual contest for the protection of their character ; and with the men, a spirit of adventure, running into recklessness and crime, pervaded all classes. Although we cannot award to Mr. James the merit of truly depicting so extraordinary and characteristic a period, yet we may safely say that he has contrived to give interest and vitality to a formula universally adopted by the historical novelist, that gives a genuine interest to his book.