Page images
PDF
EPUB

and Mr Bright, and Mr Beales and objects, more than justify the worst Mr Potter, are to go in for a fresh fears to which Lord Cranborne redistribution of seats, and for the and Mr Lowe appear to have given abolition of those clauses which themselves up. Besides, the tradesrequire that the exercise of the unions are at this moment in a defranchise shall be dependent on cided minority, so far as English the payment of rates. This is workmen are concerned ; and nonextremely probable ; indeed, any unionist men are very little likely other line of conduct would be at hereafter to submit to a tyranny variance with the principle by which has ceased to be secret, and which the Liberal party has here- therefore lost half its terrors. Nor tofore been guided. The chiefs of is this all. The old Whigs, the rethat party have never used the presentatives and adherents of the people except as instruments for Revolution houses, have no tastes their own aggrandisement. It in common with the men who now is very little likely that they will stand forward as leaders of the now change their tactics. We Liberal party. Mr Bright and Mr doubt, however, whether such tac- Beales are as little in favour with tics will succeed. The Liberal them as they are with the Tories; party is not what it once was. If and even Mr Gladstone has contrivthe democracy gain something in ed, by his intemperance, to shake one direction by the changes which whatever confidence they might have are impending, it will lose much heretofore reposed in him. They more in another; for whatever disapproved of his attack upon Lord dissatisfied Whig lawyers may say Grosvenor and Lord Stanley last to the contrary, the people of Eng- year at Liverpool, and they are land look up with respect to the more than disappointed in finding aristocracy and the crown, and are that, so far from winning back the from habit as well as conviction at- ground which was lost on that tached to the Constitution under occasion, he has never fought one which they live. The Prætorian battle since except to lose it. To Guard, as Mr Disraeli calls them use the words of a Liberal writer --the petted, pampered leaders of in the Saturday Review,' “Mr the trades-unions-hate everybody Gladstone has helped to pass the and everything which they cannot Bill by alienating his followers, bend to their own purposes. They losing his command over his parare quite prepared to take up the ty, and showing that he had no cry for manhood suffrage and elec- alternative plan worthy of contoral districts, because they ima- sideration.” That the great Whig gine that, with such a lever, to be houses will put themselves under wielded by themselves, it will be his guidance again, and be hureasy to Americanise the institutions ried by him or by anybody else of the country, and in due time to into a crusade against their own set up a republic. But their ability most cherished traditions, we ento bring all this about we entirely tirely disbelieve. Agitation will discredit, especially since those doubtless come, just as it would frightful revelations have been have come had Lord Russell carried made, which show to what extent his Bill in 1866, or Mr Disraeli they abuse power of any kind as his in 1859; but it must be met, soon as they acquire it. Such lead- and will, we are confident, be met ers the people will not follow : in- and overcome by the good sense of deed, we anticipate from recent oc- the country. We are no believers currences a speedy break-up of the either in Mr Lowe or Lord Cransystem which has thus far done so borne, when they appear before us much damage to trade, and wonld, in the character of prophets of evil, if it could be applied to political uttering words which, if they have any effect at all, can only tend to have hitherto opposed. Well, if we promote the evil which they dread; disapproved of the measure which we still less can we assent to the are recommending the House to accept charges which they bring against deed, would be objectionable. If we the statesmen from whom they have did not from the bottom of our

our hearts separated in anger. Lord Cran- believe that the measure which we are borne we can understand. He is now requesting you to sanction is upon at all events consistent with him- the whole the wisest and most neces. self. He blundered in assenting sary measure that can be passed under at all to a Tory Reform Bill. He the circumstances, I would even say

that our conduct is infamous. But I cannot excuse this blunder to him- want to know what the right hon. gen. self, except by misstating, because tleman thinks of his own conduct, when, he misunderstands, the proceedings having assisted in turning out Lord of his late colleagues. But Mr Derby in 1859, because the then Gov. Lowe is without excuse on the ernment would not reduce the borough score either of honesty or prudence. he was one of the most active managers

franchise I have reason to believe that We leave him in the hands of Mr of the intrigue (cheers)—when, having Disraeli, with the peroration of done that, the right hon. gentleman whose speech on the third reading accepts office in the year 1860, and we entirely agree. Here it is :- Lord Palmerston brings forward a mea

sure of Parliamentary Reform which the “The right hon. gentleman has con- right hon. gentleman utterly disapcluded his attack upon us, accusing us proved of; which he more than disapof treachery, by informing us that he is roved of, because he asked his political going to act in favour of all the measures opponents to defeat it. This is the which he has hitherto opposed in this gentleman, the right hon. gentleman, House, though I believe he supported who talks to us of infamy. (Loud them in another place, and will recur cheers.) The prognostications of evil to those Australian politics that ren- of the noble lord I can respect, because dered him first so famous. (A laugh.) I know that they are sincere; but the The right honourable gentleman told warnings and prophecies of the right me that in the conduct we were pursu- hon. gentleman I treat in another ing there was infamy. The expression spirit. I do not think myself that the was strong (laughter), but I never country is in danger. I think England quarrel with this sort of thing. (Laugh- is safe in the race of men who inhabit ter.) I never disturb on that ground a her; that she is safe in something much gentleman, especially when he is ap- more precious than her accumulated proaching his peroration. (Laughter capital - her accumulated experience. and cheers.) But according to the (Cheers.) She is safe in her national right hon. gentleman our conduct is in- character, in her fame, in the tradi. famous—that is his own statement- tions of a thousand years, and in that because in office we are supporting glorious future which I believe awaits measures of Parliamentary Reform of her. (The right hon. gentleman sat which we disapproved, and which we down amidst loud cheering.)

Printed by William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.

[blocks in formation]

ENGLISH novels have for a long lish writers have agreed to leave time—from the days of Sir Walter those subjects in their fit place. Scott at least—held a very high re- The novel, which is the favourite putation in the world, not so much reading of the young—which is one perhaps for what critics would call of the chief amusements of all the highest development of art, as secluded and most suffering people for a certain sanity, wholesomeness, which is precious to women and and cleanness unknown to other unoccupied persons—has been kept literature of the same class. This by this understanding, or by a peculiarity has had its effect, no natural impulse better than any doubt, upon those very qualities of understanding, to a great degree the national mind which produced pure from all noxious topics. That it. It has increased that perfect corruption which has so fatally inliberty of reading which is the rule jured the French school of fiction in most cultivated English houses; has, it has been our boast, scrupuit has abolished the domestic In- lously kept away from ours. It was dex Expurgatorius as well as all something to boast of. We might public censorship; it has made us not produce the same startling efsecure and unsuspicious in our re- fects; we might not reach the same ception of everything, or almost perfection in art, which a craftsman everything, that comes to us in the utterly freed of all restraints, and form of print. This noble confi- treating vice and virtue with equal dence has been good for everybody impartiality, may aspire to; but concerned. It has put writers on we had this supreme advantage, their honour, and saved readers from that we were free to all classes that wounding consciousness of re- and feared by none. Men did not straint or of danger which destroys snatch the guilty volume out of all delicate appreciation. There are sight when any innocent creature other kinds of literature in which drew nigh, or mature women lock the darker problems of the time up the book with which they concan be fitly discussed, and, with a descended to amuse themselves, as tolerably unanimous consent, Eng- they do in France. Our novels VOL. CII.—NO. DCXXIII.

R

were family reading; and the result against the conventionalities in has been a sense of freedom, an which the world clothes itself. We absence of all suggestion of evil, in have had many “protests” since the superficial studies of ordinary that time, but it is to be doubted society, which it is impossible to how far they have been to our adoverestimate. “ Nous sommes tous vantage. The point to which we d'un age mûr,said an irreproach- have now arrived is certainly very able French matron to the English far from satisfactory. The English acquaintance whose eyes expressed mind is still so far borné that we a certain amazement at the frank- do not discuss the seventh comness of some drawing-room narra- mandment with all that effusion tive; "j'espére que vous ne pensez and fulness of detail which is pas que je parlerais comme ça devant common on the other side of the des jeunes gens." This idea, which Channel, though even in that reis the very heart of French ideas spect progress is daily being made; on the subject, is quite foreign to but there are points in which we our insular habits. We are ac- altogether outdo our French neighcustomed both to read and to speak bours. To a French girl fresh from everything that comes in our way her convent the novels of her own in the presence of jeunes gens. The language are rigorously tabooed; habit has so grown upon us that to whereas we are all aware that they change it would involve a revolu- are the favourite reading of her tion in all our domestic arrange- contemporary in this country, and ments. It would involve us in an are not unfrequently even the proamount of trouble which very few duction, with all their unseemly could face. We should require references and exhibitions of forthree or four packets from the bidden knowledge, of young wolibrary instead of one. We should men, moved either by the wild have the nuisance of separating our foolhardiness of inexperience, or children and dependants from our by ignorance of everything that is own amusements. We should no natural and becoming to their conlonger be able to discuss, as we do dition. It is painful to inquire now continually, the books that we where it is that all those stories of are reading and the thoughts we bigamy and seduction, those soiare thinking. This is a necessity disant revelations of things that from which we have been altogether lie below the surface of life, come free in the tranquil past; but it is from. Such tales might flow here an indulgence which only habit and there from one morbid imaand the long use and wont of public gination, and present themselves security preserve to us now. to us as moral phenomena, without

For there can be no doubt that a casting any stigma upon society in singular change has passed upon general; but this is not how they our light literature. It is not that appear. They have taken, as it its power has failed or its popu- would seem, permanent possession larity diminished

much the re- of all the lower strata of light verse; it is because a new impulse literature. Above there still rehas been given and a new current mains, it is true, a purer atmoset in the flood of contemporary sphere, for which we may be thankstory-telling We will not ask ful; but all our minor novelists, whence or from whom the influ- almost without exception, are of the ence is derived. It has been school called sensational. Writers brought into being by society, and who have no genius and little it naturally reacts upon society. talent, make up for it by displayThe change perhaps began at the ing their acquaintance with the actime when Jane Eyre made what cessories and surroundings of vice, advanced critics call her “protest" with the means of seduction, and with what they set forth as the was once the motto of a simple but secret tendencies of the heart— perennial story, with which every tendencies which, according to this human creature had a certain syminterpretation, all point one way. pathy - the romance that ended When the curate's daughter in pleasantly in a wholesome wedding, 'Shirley' burst forth into passion- or pathetically in a violet-covered ate lamentation over her own posi- grave. But the meaning has changtion and the absence of any man ed nowadays. Now it is no knight whom she could marry, it was a of romance riding down the forest new sensation to the world in gen- glades, ready for the defence and eral. That men and women should succour of all the oppressed, for marry we had all of us acknow- whom the dreaming maiden waits. ledged as one of the laws of hu- She waits now for flesh and musmanity; but up to the present gen- cles, for strong arms that seize her, eration most young women had been and warm breath that thrills her brought up in the belief that their through, and a host of other physiown feelings on this subject should cal attractions, which she indicates be religiously kept to themselves. to the world with a charming frank. No doubt this was a convention- ness. On the other side of the picalism; and if a girl in a secluded ture it is, of course, the amber hair parsonage is very much in ear- and undulating form, the warm nest about a husband, there is no flesh and glowing colour, for which effectual reason we know of wby the youth sighs in his turn; but she should not lift up her“ pro- were the sketch made from the test” against circumstances. But man's point of view, its openness things have gone very much fur- would at least be less repulsive. ther since the days of 'Shirley.' The peculiarity of it in England is, We have grown accustomed to the that it is oftenest made from the reproduction, not only of wails woman's side — that it is women over female loneliness and the who describe those sensuous raptures impossibility of finding anybody that this intense appreciation of to marry, but to the narrative of flesh and blood, this eagerness of many thrills of feeling much more physical sensation, is represented as practical and conclusive. What is the natural sentiment of English held up to us as the story of the girls, and is offered to them not feminine soul as it really exists only as the portrait of their own underneath its conventional cov- state of mind, but as their amuseerings, is a very fleshly and un- ment and mental food.

Such a lovely record. Women driven wild wonderful phenomenon might exist, with love for the man who leads and yet society might be innocent them on to desperation before he of it. It might be the fault of accords that word of encouragement one, or of a limited school, and which carries them into the seventh the mere fact that such ravings are heaven; women who marry their found in print might be no great grooms in fits of sensual passion; argument against the purity of the women who pray their lovers to age. But when it is added that carry them off from husbands and the class thus represented does homes they hate; women, at the not disown the picture-that, on very least of it, who give and re- the contrary, it hangs it up in ceive burning kisses and frantic boudoir and drawing-room — that embraces, and live in a voluptuous the books which contain it circulate dream, either waiting for or brood- everywhere, and are read everying over the inevitable lover,—such where, and are not contradicted are the heroines who have been im- then the case becomes much more ported into modern fiction. “All serious. For our own part we do for love and the world well lost,” not believe, as some people do, that

« PreviousContinue »