Page images

to his researches at Ballymacruiskeen lead only to subsequent disappointment.

Fenton is a poor, miserable, drunken wretch, without an interest attached to him, till we learn that by the malignity of the villain Corbet, whose daughter the Black Baronet had seduced, the said Black Baronet had in his person been all his life persecuting and killing by degrees his own son. This is the most horrible incident in a work full of horrors. Lucy is a gifted and a noble girl from beginning to end, and deserves better than the silent, little energetic "stranger," albeit, after continuing as such through three long volumes, he turns out to be a "lord." Lord Cullamore fails, like most of the good characters, in distinctness, while Lord Dunroe's profligacy and utter want of principle are depicted with melancholy earnestness. Father M'Snug is the best character in the lot, morally and artistically; and in the numerous rakes, conspirators, cheats, and counterplotters, deceivers and deceived, belonging to the middle and lower classes of society, who help to fill up the parts in this most complicated history, Mr. Carleton shows clearly enough that he is more at home than in the aristocratic circles. These life-like pictures, with their Irish readiness and warm Irish heartiness-when not perverted or corrupt their never failing wit and rollicking humour, would carry a story, if possible, even of more repulsive materials than the "Black Baronet," to a triumphant conclusion. In such pictures Mr. Carleton is truly himself, and he shines with almost unrivalled lustre.

A new novel from the pen of a well-established favourite like Mrs. Trollope requires but brief notice from the literary commentator. The reading public expects a work worthy of its author's reputation, and looks forward with confidence to a gratification more or less intellectual, moral, or cynical, according to circumstances. All know what to expect from Mrs. Trollope: prominent, and before all, a widow-a clever, scheming, unscrupulous female-a lover and a maid, after tolerably well stereotyped or conventional forms, and a goodly group of secondary personages, all more or less characteristic of the follies of the age, without much regard as to whether religion or politics happen to be in the ascendancy. In the present instance, Mrs. General Fitzjames yields the palm to none of her predecessors for humorous effrontery and unblushing scheming; Kate Harrington makes an excellent and a lovely heroine; and Puseyism, Calvinism, and Church of Englandism are cleverly caricatured in the persons of individuals, whose prototypes we every now and then stumble upon in our social peregrinations, and whom we are never sorry to see exposed to the world in their true colours by the per of the practised novelist. "Uncle Walter" will, we feel assured, afford as much amusement and pleasure to that large section of the myriad-minded public who constitute the authoress's admirers, as any of her previous publications.

* Uncle Walter. A Novel. By Mrs. Trollope, Author of "Father Eustace," "The Barnabys," &c., &c. 3 vols. Colburn and Co.


If not fruitful of many incidents, the year now drawing rapidly to its close has witnessed at least two events which will make it memorable hereafter in the annals of Europe.

The Duke of Wellington has died, and the French Empire is about to be proclaimed!

[ocr errors]

We have paid the last honours to the "Star of England" who so greatly liv'd;" we are waiting for the ovation in France that is to commence a new Imperial Era.

In December, 1851, the French Republic set in blood; in December, 1852, the French Empire rises in a sky, to all appearance, cloudless and serene. "L'Empire, c'est la Paix," has been the mot d'ordre with which the present ruler over our warlike neighbours inaugurates his elevation to the purple, and no nation is more willing than our own to accept that declaration in its most literal sense.

But in spite of protestations-many people think because of themthere is a certain feeling, a kind of instinct awakened, which warns us to look out for the worst at the moment when the prospect seems the fairest. Summer skies are not-in our latitudes-" for ever, unchangeably bright," and in the best and most Oriental of climates, the fiercest tempests arise, almost unheralded. As the gloomy moralist says:

Ruin from man is most conceal'd when near,

And sends the fatal tidings in the blow.

[ocr errors]

But, without being gloomy, we may as well be prepared. There is no occasion for our 66 Night Thoughts" to be sombre because our waking reason counsels us to be on the qui vive. We have all the means for security at hand: brave men, efficient commanders, and an admirable materiel that only wants organisation to ensure its perfect condition. And we are much mistaken if the present Government have anything nearer to their thoughts than the completion of the defences of the country. Their "Militia Bill," which, in spite of the "amiable cynicism of the leader of the Whig party (who, par parenthèse, broke his shins over his own measure), has so admirably accomplished the end proposed by it, is a convincing proof that the ministry know what they are about, and are resolved to be as practical as their predecessors were theoretical. We may point also to the quiet but steady progress which is being made in the conversion of the largest of our line-of-battle ships into screw steamers, leaving little to be apprehended in the event of a contest with the leviathan batteries now afloat in the harbours of Toulon and L'Orient.

The message delivered to the French legislative body, only a few days ago, stated that the Government of that country would only change its form, and that, devoted to the great interests which are brought forth by intellect and carried out by peace, it would, as in the past, maintain itself within the limits of moderation. We shall be happy to find that this "moderation” is such as England can recognise, as readily as she recognises the form of government which the French have chosen; but, en atDec.-VOL. XCVI. NO. CCCLXXXIV.

2 L

tendant, again we say it is desirable that she be prepared for any emergency. This world is not governed by so much wisdom but that an unforeseen contretemps may arise. Mr. Prichard's missionary zeal and Don Pacifico's household gods are cases in point; and then-is it altogether an improbable event-Lord Palmerston, who, we are given to understand, is the inventor of the "Versatio, or Reversible Coat," now so much in fashion, may once more find himself in the Foreign Office!

This is not exactly what we should desire, though the noble lord has so gallantly stepped forward with the amendment respecting Free-trade, which, at the moment we write, is still under discussion.

The four resolutions which have been presented to the House, exhibit as amusing a case of hair-splitting as ever occupied the lawyers of Westminster Hall or the Doctors of the Sorbonne : their promoters are all agreed as to the fact which forms the basis of each, and no one can say that the declarations of Lord Derby and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with respect to the abandonment of "Protection," have not been as candid and unreserved as possible; but it suits the "Freetraders" to doubt assertions, made—we believe-in the utmost sincerity; and Mr. Villiers, with an incredulity that would do credit to St. Thomas, persists in disbelieving that ministers mean what they continue to reiterate, and thrusts into his resolution obnoxious words, which those who know what "injustice" means, naturally refuse to swallow. Unless the very "base-string of humility" be sounded-unless ministers go down on their knees and, in language more abject than ever Bobadil used, confess their sins, and humbly sue for forgiveness, the honourable member for Wolverhampton announces his determination to persist in fostering a resolution, the paternity of which he is as fain as Mr. Cobden to disavow; a resolution which appears, however, to have had as many putative fathers as the bastard of Ninon de l'Enclos. After all, we trust we shall have a different issue to announce, before these lines are in type, than that which has been predicated by the Free-traders; so for the present we will say no more about politics, home or external.

What else has happened in 1852 that is worth recalling?

Public faith has been kept in the matter of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park; the great glass-house, which held so many blooming exotics, has been swept away, and another, grander, more ornamental, and, we trust, more useful even, is now rising to replace it. That it is in a fair way of doing well we may safely infer, from the fact that his Royal Highness Prince Albert has manifested the greatest interest in the undertaking, and given his warmest support to the arrangements in progress, particularly to those which have reference to the moral elevation and artistic education of the people.

We are not of those who imagine that the Sabbath must of necessity be desecrated because the new Crystal Palace offers the prospect of a Sunday afternoon's innocent amusement to those who must seek a relaxation from their weekly toils in some shape or other. Forbid the public to enter the grounds at Sydenham on the Sunday, proscribe an enjoyment whose tendency is to elevate their minds, and what have you gained by doing so? Will fewer people crowd the steam-boats, or cover the railroads on pleasure excursions? Will their amusements be more

moral, or their pursuits more healthful, because you prevent them from gazing upon works of art, or deriving satisfaction from the labours of science, conjoined with the highest development of cultivated nature? Let us rather imitate, in this particular, the example so well set on the Continent, where, with no lack of observance of what is due to the day, according to the Faith which is severally held, the public museums and galleries, the royal parks, and most attractive buildings, are offered without restriction to the public, and are enjoyed without abuse.

Without having absolute novelty to make its accomplishment the special triumph of 1852, we may yet advert to the present year as the one in which the project of the submarine telegraph between France and England has become a fait accompli. A speaking-trumpet is not necessarily an organ of friendly communication between neighbours, nor can it be expected that an electric wire shall become the indissoluble bond of union between nations; but this much is certain, that the more frequent and the more rapid our intercourse with foreign countries, the closer will be the tie of thought which unites us with the rest of the world. Add to this the success of the Ocean penny-postage scheme, which is now being widely agitated, and the objects of the Peace Society will be far nearer of attainment than the speeches of its members have hitherto led us to anticipate.

The cause of education has made progress, too, this year, notwithstanding the unwillingness of the Whigs to legislate on the general question; but its advancement has been owing to local efforts and individual exertion. Manchester and Liverpool have set the example, by the establishment of Free Libraries; and that the system works well we need not doubt, when we see that it is about to be adopted in the metropolis, the extensive parish of Marylebone-a petty kingdom for its numbers -having taken the initiative in the desirable enterprise.

So much for matters of serious import: a word or two upon lighter themes.

Among the events which have not taken place this year, is to be numbered, first and foremost, the usual Lord Mayor's Procession. Why it was omitted from the annual festivities of London we all of us have ample reason for remembering. But what has been the state of mind of the functionaries who are supposed to live for no other purpose than to swell the accustomed pageant, who are never seen or heard of but on that occasion? Whither has "the man in armour" fled? What has become of the City Marshal? Have they gone to the diggings in disgust, to solace themselves with gold in the absence of glitter? But, more than all, what did the Aldermen and Common Councilmen do with their appetites on the evening of the 9th of November? How grimly must Gog and Magog have smiled when they stood alone in the festive hall, with no loving cup to go round, no barons of beef to be sliced, no turtle to be lapped, "no nothing" to be done in the way of eating or drinking! Did they believe in their wooden senses, and was the Lord Mayor's dinner no better than the unsubstantial fabric of a vision? But, we shall be told "un plaisir différé n'est pas perdu;" the feast is only postponed. That is nothing to the purpose. Even an Alderman can only eat 365 dinners in the course of the year, and of the very best of

these he has already been deprived. That is a fact which no argument can alter.

Do you think that the appetite which he has nursed for nearly a year, and which has been so suddenly baulked, can be got up again at only a month's notice? If there were any process by which two appetites could be rolled into one, and the alderman knew of it-having, of course, paid a large reward to the discoverer-he might feel something like consolation in the prospect of outdoing all his former endeavours. But, as the matter stands, he has only a single day's work before him, and one or the other, the past or the future, must be a day lost.

But we have been wrong to include an alderman's dinner amongst topics that are called light. Balloons are more to the purpose. We have had plenty of them this year, and their uses (?) have been applied to the utmost stretch of invention. Of the experiences of human aëronauts we know somewhat it would be curious to ascertain what were the sensations of Madame Poitevin's pony, or the ruminations of the bull, on whose back she performed the part of Europa. But the door to the acquirement of such knowledge is closed upon us; the magistrates have interdicted further experiment in England, and Madame Poitevin and her four-footed companions are gone to a land where people may do anything-out of reason.

We had jotted down several other things to mention in our Epilogue, but time presses; perhaps we may include them in a Prologue for 1853. Meantime we find that the lobbies of the House of Commons have twice been cleared, and these are the results:

Mr. Villiers's attempt to bully the Ministry has been rejected by a majority of 80 in a house of 592 members.

Lord Palmerston's amendment has been carried by a majority of 415

in a house of 521 members.

The sincerity of Ministers on the question of Free-trade has, therefore, been fairly tested, and we trust that that cry is now silenced.



« PreviousContinue »