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dashers-whose names were forgotten amid their daily haunts and ancient neighbourhood, except in the defaulter-lists of the clubs. Some were showing their withered faces and knocking knees at Paris some at Naples-some concealing themselves in more obscure retreats."
The mention in this passage of the retreat to the Continent of the ruined Bucks reminds us of the vast amount of travelling which our fathers contrived to effect in the infancy of steam. To the majority of the characters in their Society novels France and Italy appear to have been a good deal more familiar than their own country. This may be partly due to the necessity of being in the fashion; but when nearly every family had one or more of its members permanently settled on the other side of the British Channel, for reasons connected with debts or duels, or other matters of equal weight, the severance between England and the Continent appears to have been much less wide than at present. Fashions, morals, and fiction from France ruled the taste of society; poetry and philosophy from Germany formed the mind of the scholar and enthusiast. Foreign travel was still as necessary a finish to a gentleman's education as in the days of Sir Charles Grandison, and Greville, Strathern, and Tancred set forth as a matter of course. "In our time, you know," we learn from an elderly speaker in 'Preferment,' "the grand tour meant Paris, Rome, Naples, and perhaps Vienna; now it appears to include Russia, Tartary, Persia, Asia Minor, Egypt, and who knows what!" Well, nowadays it means going round the world, and spending a cold season in India, so that the fin-de-siècle Briton is in no way behind his ancestor. In spite of
the wideness of these wanderings, Scotland and the English Lakes do not appear to have been even known to the aristocracy as touring-grounds, and Ireland and the Irish were regarded by all classes with a mingled antipathy and contempt not found at present, we believe, outside the servants' hall. Life within the United Kingdom and out of London seems to have been considered as scarcely worth living, if we may venture to quote again from 'The Banker's Wife':
"The noble owner of some fine mansion glories in making it almost as agreeable to his guests as a mansion in Grosvenor Square, by bringing down daily from town the freshest London fish and London scandal, the last new books and engravings, periodicals and caricatures. . . . With the thermometer below freezing-point, so as to neutralise the effect of any possible superiority of atmosphere, and imprison the weary guests within the over-stoved house, the captives continue to smile encouragingly upon each other's suffering, and though inexpressibly weary of themselves and each other, persist in congratulating their host on the superior sociatime, endeavouring by their laboured bility of a country party in wintervivacity to disguise the growing oppression of their spirits."
The English love of fresh air seems from this to be a plant of recent growth. Imagine a countryhouse party of to-day kept helplessly indoors by frosty weather, and reduced to find their sole recreation in the illustrated papers and 'Punch '-for to these, we conclude, do the "engravings and caricatures" of early Victorian days correspond! Even the solace of smoking, which is nowadays regarded as a necessary of life, was not generally available. It is true that one of Lytton's heroes, Ernest Maltravers, who has been educated at a German univer
sity, smokes a large meerschaum, thoughtfully adding to the tobacco a gilt pastille, which, as the author beautifully remarks, "adulterates the seductive weed with odours that pacify the repugnant censure of the fastidious"; but Lady Blessington's Strathern waxes eloquent in condemning the practice. Smoking is a filthy and unbearable habit-an abomination. The man who smokes shows a fixed disregard of the comfort of women, since whenever he approaches them he infects them with the noisome odour which clings to his raiment, and they, poor things! are forced to tolerate a habit from which they naturally recoil in disgust. Nothing stronger than this could be uttered by the Society moralist of the present day, and it may surprise those from whom we hear so much of the superiority of our fathers in the article of manners; but the imagination fails to conceive the terms in which our author would have scathed the tobacco-loving propensities of the modern man.
The whole position of women in society, in Lady Blessington's opinion, was capable of much improvement.
When the censor morum of her age is able to turn her attention from the vices of the great to the needs of the middle class, she betrays a keen good sense and a modernity of view which distinguish her honourably from the majority of her temporaries. French society was more punctilious than English, we learn, as regarded the behaviour of men to women; but our author does not for that reason advocate the general adoption of French customs. Her wish is to improve the status of the unmarried woman. Almost alone, she raises her voice on behalf of the old maid, who had hitherto been regarded with
pitying contempt, and urges the establishment of a system of what would now be called "dowries for daughters," in order that women may not be tempted to marry merely for a home. The outcome of the state of affairs then existing, by which marriage was regarded as the only possible course for every woman, whether poor or rich, is portrayed in her last book, Country Quarters,' in which the arrival of a regiment in an Irish garrison town is described. The young ladies of the place plunge immediately into a course of unblushing and unconcealed husbandhunting, per fas et nefas. This is only what is expected of them, and the officers respond with the utmost willingness, but with the avowed intention of loving and riding away. Another side of the shield is shown by Miss Catherine Sinclair in Modern Society,' in which we see an heiress beset by fortune-hunters, while she, not loving any of them, calculates, with the greatest nonchalance, which of them will be able to give her most in return for her money. To point the moral, the heiress is proved not to be an heiress at all, the fortune belonging in reality to her cousin, the type of modest merit, who has remained untouched by the excitement of the scramble for matrimony, and yet succeeds in carrying off the hero as well as the heritage. Like Lady Blessington, Miss Sinclair was in this matter a reformer born before her time, although not before she was needed. Another book of hers, 'Jane Bouverie,' which is dedicated to the single ladies of England, sets out boldly to tell the story of a woman who was never married, and whose life was nevertheless useful and happy. To her, even more than to the somewhat spasmodic efforts of Lady
Blessington, we owe the recognition of the truth, which Richardson among English novelists was the first to preach, that a woman may possess an individual, and not merely a complementary, personality.
With regard to the subject of female education, with which that just touched upon is so closely bound up, we obtain numerous details from these and other books. Modern Accomplishments,' the volume to which 'Modern Society' is a sequel, describes the diverse education of the two cousins, the one with a view to the manufacture of nets, as Swift would have said, the other for that of cages. Young ladies "educated to be married," as the phrase went, studied much the same subjects as their representatives nowadays; but their studies were carried on in a somewhat different manner. Once the girl had left school or the custody of her governess, she was continually on view, so to speak, in the parlour, engaged in drawing or embroidery. Any gentleman who happened to drop in was considered (such was the beautiful humility of the female mind at that epoch) to be qualified to suggest corrections or improvements in her handiwork. Whether these were accepted or not depended naturally on whether the gentleman in question was a desirable parti or the reverse; but when there were several eligible suitors in the case, the last state of that picture or piece of embroidery would appear to have been a confused one. More solid subjects were studied in a somewhat different manner. Says the author of 'Strathern': "Mrs Sydney had assiduously cultivated the fertile mind of her lovely daughter, no less by bestowing on her the best education, than by conversing with her ever since her girlhood,
on subjects selected for conveying instruction and instilling high principles." This method of teaching opens up interesting vistas of possibility. Did Mrs Sydney, in vulgar parlance, cram beforehand for these conversations on selected subjects? and what happened when her lovely daughter asked a question which was beyond the range of the maternal reading? Music, of course, was an important subject of study, and we gather that the young lady who played the harp was held to possess large advantages for the display of a fine figure, a shapely arm, and a good voice over her whose performance was confined to the piano. Donizetti, Bellini, and Mercadante were the favourite composers; Mozart was considered graceful, but shallow. In dancing, waltzing was held to be inexpedient, if not immoral, and there were some gentlemen who refused to allow their wives or fiancées to engage in it. On the whole, the period seems to us of to-day to have been a strange one, with many peculiarities in its conception of propriety. Gentlemen arranged their whiskers in public with a pocket-comb, and ladies put on lemon-coloured kid gloves to sit in their drawing-rooms and receive morning callers. The lady of whom we are specially told this (her gloves were new, which excited approving remark) was one of those who occupied their leisure with embroidery, which must have been worked under difficulties on this occasion. A gentleman meeting a young girl in society would address her as "Ma'am"; a peer's daughter called her father " "my lord" when relations were somewhat strained between them; a father of lower degree addressed his daughter as "Miss So-and-so" when any one else was present; and ladies called their husbands by
their surnames, either with or without, generally without, the prefix of Mr. But these eccentricities of nomenclature were few and simple when compared with those in which the authors of the period revelled when they left their own time and dabbled in history.
The historical knowledge of the Early Victorian era was sadly to seek. Historians professed to aim at accuracy, and not at picturesqueness they succeeded in in being dull, but they did not succeed in being accurate. The novelists, if it is permissible to make use of a slang phrase, "went one better," for they extended the range of inaccuracy, and in some cases attained the picturesque. Scott, with all his antiquarian lore, set the unprincipled example of rearranging history to suit the exigencies of romance, and was unfettered by any latter-day notions as to historical truth. Those were the times in which the average reader took his ideas of his tory from Scott's novels, and so, alas! did the average writer. We hope we do not malign these industrious novelists; but an examination of their work leads to the conclusion that their modus operandi was to fix upon some ancient building-it might be a church, a castle, or a mansion-inquire from the least trustworthy source available when and how it was connected with history, and having thus obtained the germ of a plot, to throw aside all appeal to authority, and plunge into a wild orgy of melodramatic fiction mingled with muddled facts, and narrated in the language known only too truly as Wardour-Street English. Words, names, costumes, "properties" generally (in the theatrical sense), were gathered from all quarters and added to
the confusion, and we find beards, whiskers, and trunk-hose alike mentioned as having been worn in the reign of the second George. The worst offender in this respect, among the authors whose writings have come down to us, was Harrison Ainsworth, whose power of falsifying, or, to use a milder term, caricaturing history, seems to have been inexhaustible. It is pleaded in his behalf that his books familiarised the multitude with the great personages and events of our island story; but it is to be feared that the familiarity was of a kind to breed contempt when the actual facts came to be studied. To learn that Edward Underhill, the Hot Gospeller, was not the sour fanatic depicted in 'The Tower of London,' but a cheerful person with a strong sense of humour, as is evidenced by his extant autobiography, and that he was not burnt at the stake in Mary's reign, but died a natural death at a good old age under Elizabeth, is calculated to cause confusion, if not indignation, in the youthful mind. The novelist of to-day who treated history in this fashion would become the target of every critical journal in the country; but so far were Ainsworth's contemporaries from resenting, or perhaps even recognising, his faults, that they congratulated themselves and him on the "stream of historical truth" which flowed through his fiction. The modern critic might also object to the insertion, in a prose work, of songs and ballads almost on every alternate page, introduced regardless of consistency or dramatic propriety, much in the manner of the famous serenade in Browning's 'Blot on the 'Scutcheon,' and to the truly wonderful nature of the characterisation. The personages fall in love
and out again, transfer their affections to other objects, wander in and out of vaults and similar unpleasant places, go mad, attack and kill one another, and appear as ghosts, for no reason whatever but that the author needs their assistance at the moment in a particular capacity. In his preface to 'Rookwood,' written in 1849, Ainsworth gives us some idea of his purpose in writing historical fiction.
"The chief object I had in view," he says, "in making the present essay, was to see how far the infusion
of a warmer and more genial current
into the veins of old Romance would succeed in reviving her fluttering and feeble pulses. The attempt has succeeded beyond my most sanguine expectations. Romance, if I am not mistaken, is destined slowly to undergo an important change. Modified by the French and German writers,
the structure commenced in our
own land by Horace Walpole, Monk Lewis, Mrs Radcliffe, and Maturin, but left imperfect and inharmonious, requires, now that the rubbish which choked up its approach is removed, only the hand of the skilful architect to its entire renovation and perfection."
The modesty of this design is as remarkable as its comprehensiveness, and it is noteworthy that Mrs Radcliffe, and not Scott, was the model that the author set himself to imitate. To her influence we may ascribe the secret panels, mechanical statues, sudden and violent deaths, charnel-houses, and other commonplaces of Ainsworth's world; but it would be unjust to visit upon the Salvator Rosa of British novelists the blame of her disciple's sins of language. We all know that " a little learning is a dangerous thing," and a slight acquaintance with the whole course of English history, concentrated upon a single period, pro
duces somewhat ludicrous results. Nothing is ever black in Ainsworth's writings, it is either raven, sable, or jet. A servant is a minion when he is addressed, a menial when he is spoken of. No one is ever told to go anywhere; the command is always, "Hie thee." A wedding is always alluded to delicately as nuptials, a girl is a maiden, a father's father is a grandsire. "What ho! without there," is the recognised mode of summoning your menials, and the wild "Ha! ha!" of the baffled villain or the sardonic hero echoes frequently through the pages.
A sinner also in respect of language is Bulwer Lytton, who in his earlier writings carries the style of Wardour Street into his novels of fashionable life. Like Ainsworth, he has left on record his views on the writing of fiction in the preface to 'The Last of the Barons.' Nowadays the author intrusts disclosures of this kind to his publishers, who contrive to indicate the purpose of the book and the method pursued in writing it in the dexterous puff preliminary which accompanies the advertisements, or else he induces a journalistic friend to give him a paragraph in his paper to the same end; but fifty or sixty years ago he unburdened himself in a preface, which was often long and substantial enough to serve as an apology for his life instead of merely for his book. "To my mind," says Lytton, "a writer should sit down to compose a fiction as a painter sits down to compose a picture. His first care should be the conception of a whole as lofty as his intellect can grasp -as harmonious and complete as his art can accomplish; his second care the character of the interest which the details are intended to sustain." Some ex