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pervades its whole continuity, but there is not a syllable of misplaced theological discussion, and where a religious spirit predominates it is unobtrusive, and good taste modifies its expression.
We hesitate not to say that its freedom of sketch, warmth of color, and accuracy of detail place "Retribution" (a mere tale, as it is unpretendingly called,) among the first ranks of attractive fiction; and that, with far less assumption, it exhibits a power of imagination and delineation not inferior to "Jane Eyre." It will not become so popular, for though the interest of the story is equal, the individuality of character as striking,-though it is less extravagant and in better taste, it is of the school, and not its originator. The pupil who equals, or even surpasses his master, can never bear the like sway, owing to the difference of position.
The book is perfectly American, and the author has (we thank her) not considered it necessary, in order to make it so, to crowd an Indian warrior or his squaw upon the canvass. In as far as they go, the representations of Virginian manners and mode of life are graphic and true. The whole, indeed, bears the impress of being taken from life. The "Legend of the Vale" is professedly so; and allusions to the fate of the Nozzalini, impel the belief, that the scenes of which Juliette forms the prominent interest, are not entirely creations of the imagination. We are well pleased to remember that "La Circe Américaine" was in fact no country woman of ours. The whole highly-wrought portrait is diabolically Italian. In this character, as well as in that of Ernest Dent, the author has attempted to show forth "intangible crimes," not amenable to human laws, as deserving of punishment, and as sure to receive it, as are those which can be legally arrested;-crimes for which no punishment can be imagined more terrible than arises from the operation of their own spirit carried out to its utmost development. To spiritual pride in the hero, and vanity in the heroine, are traced back the great misery and sin of their lives. In Ernest Dent's fall from the high estate of his rigid virtue, the former is amply illustrated; but in Juliette, the agent is insufficient, inordinate though it be, to produce such overwhelming consequences. Vanity may, and for the most part does, destroy the healthful action of the soul that harIn comparing the spirit and interest of bors it-that deadly upas tree may kill "Retribution" to that of "Jane Eyre," we the verdure and beauty of the fair isle in must not withhold that the defects of that which it springs, but its poisonous influremarkable production are not altogether ence extends not beyond that soil. The avoided. Some of the incidents are too widely destructive guilt, the shame and evidently contrived to bring out traits of misery that mark the course of Juliette, character, and with the characters the dia- even as the pestilence followed in the path logue, though spirited and well sustained, of the "Wandering Jew," were the result is not always consistent. We instance the of stronger and more violent passions. We eccentric and coarse manner in which would not detract from the evil of vanity— Col. Dent accuses the timid Hester of lov- we acknowledge its baneful power; but the ing him, and offers to make her his wife. seeds of other and baser passions were of This is too much after the style of Roches-native growth in this demoniac character. ter, and in keeping with that rough and absolute genius, rather than with the polite dignity of Col. Dent. Descriptions are often marred by too liberal use of epithet, and incidents lose force by too immediate a suggestion of their moral.
When Jane Eyre" first appeared it was attributed to the female pen, partly from a doubt whether one of the other sex could so understandingly have depicted the finer workings of a woman's heart under such diversity of influences. A similar doubt might be suggested whether any woman, looking into the heart of such a man as Ernest Dent, could have discovered, and brought out from its great depth, all its mingled sternness and tenderness, weakness and strength, humiliation and pride, passion and magnanimity. This doubt is silenced by a glance at the dedication, "To Mrs. J. Laurens Henshaw, from her DAUGHTER."
VOL. IV. NO. IV. NEW SERIES.
If there was a time "when Juliette Summers had been innocent, guiltless and disinterested," it is not set forth in her history; pride, selfishness, ambition, the love of luxury and of sway,-traits like these, relieved by no softer shade, unless it be
that short-lived but intense love for her husband, which reduced the haughty woman to the subdued and pleading child, were the groundworks of her character.
In the conception and development of the character of Ernest Dent great skill and knowledge of human nature are united. His great qualities are not permitted to blind us to his faults. When he falls from the lofty pinnacle of his stern integrity, we see no cause, and feel no desire to excuse his offences. He is degraded in our eyes as in his own, and our interest only revives as he becomes again more worthy of it. The free, warm-hearted, wild-brained young Southerner, Marcus Derby, is one of the most natural personages that ever figured in fiction. His devoted love for Hester; his hasty, imaginative, shortlived passion for Juliette; and his true affection for Fanny, are all perfectly in character. The mixture of courage, conceit, and fickleness, with true, staunch integrity, renders him welcome whenever he appears, and relieves the sombre hue of the surrounding moral atmosphere. But the most interesting character is that of Hester. In her dove-like simplicity and abused good faith she is another Clarissa Harlowe; and to this is added a serene unconsciousness, which is her chief charmunconsciousness of the wrong that is done to her love-unconsciousness of the frailty of the reed which she has mistaken for friendship-unconsciousness of the approach of death. Her quick and feeling appreciation, the timidity of judgment, the purity of sentiment, and tenderness of heart, are beautifully and strikingly feminine. It is faith that seems ever to bear her up, floating like an angel above the strife of passion that is working harm around her; and it is faith that gives her an unconsciousness so child-like and simple, that the heart bleeds even while rejoicing in it. It was through faith and love, that while sacrificing everything to its object, she could not, by the broadest insinuations, the most startling suggestions, be awakened to the slightest passing suspicion of wrong. Had Hester known her misfortune, had the faintest dream of her injuries dawned upon the placid purity of her soul, it might have lessened the intensity of our indignant sympathy, and detracted from her exquisite loveliness.
From the very outset of the story we are haunted with a presentiment of its sad termination. We hear, in the distance, even while the scene is bright with sunshine, the low warning of the storm, and all the events, characters, and conversations are skilfully made throughout to converge towards the inevitable catastrophe.
Hester Grey, an orphan heiress to an immense estate in Virginia, is first introduced to us at a boarding school, where she has been placed by her guardian, Gen. Dent. From her peculiar temperament, and from her isolated position, having no near connexions, she feels keenly the necessity of a friend; and she forms a strong attachment to a fascinating but unprincipled girl, who like herself is friendless and an orphan, but unlike herself is pennyless and a foreigner; misfortunes which are the strongest claims upon the generous and lovely disposition of the young heiress. Juliette is of the Italian family of Nozzalini: the name of Summers was given to her by adoption, when left, a child, upon the charity of Gen. Summers, reduced circumstances in whose family obliged the beautiful orphan to make an effort for her own subsistence, and through the influence of one of the teachers she has obtained admission into the seminary to prepare herself for becoming a governess. Hester, delighted at the opportunity of conferring happiness, devises the plan, afterwards carried into execution, of relieving the pecuniary wants and averting the hardships impending over the future of her chosen friend. The enthusiastic unselfishness of a romantic girl of sixteen is exhibited in soliloquy after hearing that the new comer was to share her room. "Juliette shall not go out governessing; I have heard that it is a hard and trying life: Juliette shall be my own sister; she shall come and live with me when she completes her education: I shall never marry; no man will ever love me.-I will throw myself into Juliette's welfare for happiness:Juliette, and Juliette's family, when she marries, shall be my care."
The arrival of the young lady produces a slight disappointment; she is less serious, gentle and timorous, than, from her misfortunes, Hester had anticipated: but at six
teen one is not far-sighted, and Hester least | spirit of active benevolence, taking an inof all she is fascinated by the princess-terest in the management of her farm, and like bearing of the superb beauty, and happy in having found "a channel and reservoir for the flow and deposit of her love and benevolence."
At the demise of Gen. Dent, Hester is summoned to take possession of her own estate at the "Vale," and wanting yet three years of being of age, the guardianship is transferred to Col. Dent, the son of the late General, who, somewhat contrary to customary proprieties, continues a resident in her house, with no other society than Mrs. Wimsat, the housekeeper, and a young man, the Colonel's nephew. At parting, Hester arranges for Juliette to remain at the seminary another year to complete her studies, and thenceforth
to share her own home and fortune: an arrangement to which the finesse of some slight, delicate objection is opposed, but which is determined upon, to the perfect satisfaction of both.
Through a series of letters from Hester to her friend the thread of the narrative is now continued, in the course of which the character of her guardian comes strikingly into the light. He imparts to his ward the long-cherished plan of his father and himself for the emancipation of her slaves, which she readily engages, at her coming of age, to carry into execution. Her slaves, setting aside their bondage, have already received monthly wages, an experiment, thus far, productive of good results. The farm is described occupying a circular valley surrounded by hills, and again, beyond these, by mountains, with groups of forest trees between, and watered by a clear stream. In its centre is the homestead, with its slanting roof and long piazzas, according to the usual taste and expediency of Virginian architecture, and scattered around it are the white huts of the negroes. Miss Grey takes long rides over her plantation, and the adjacent country, with her guardian and his nephew, whose combustible, Southern heart takes fire, as a matter of course, under the circumstances, while Col. Dent appears far less regardful of the person of his ward than of the business matters of her estate, and thinks more of duty than of love and gallantry. Hester also is impressed with the
a decided position as mistress of all domestic affairs. An incipient affection is evidently making progress towards her "dear guardian," her "honored guardian."
"No, I will never leave him; I will never marry; for now that his brother-father is dead, he has no companion but his ward, his pupil, who thanks God and her parents for leaving her in his care, and investing him with authority to guard and guide her. And I have no one on earth but my heaven-appointed guardian to look up to. My veneration is undivided-is concentrated upon the wisdom and goodness of my guardian. I am his child; my eyes wait and learn; I am happy when he makes me a on him all day; I could sit at his feet forever suggestion-happier if his suggestion involves a self-sacrifice on my part-happiest of all when my compliance wins his grave, beautiful smile of approval. His slightest intimation has for me a divine authority; it is happiness, enthusiasm, religion, to obey it."
Her description of their daily life and of the internal arrangement of the house is perfectly Virginian.
I said that it was a triangular buildingthat is, it consists of two long wings, that meet in a triangle-they have long piazzas that meet at a central portico, through which is the principal entrance to the house. Immediately over this portico, in the second story, is Colonel Dent's study, a small but pleasant room. At the front end of these two long wings are two large bow windows; in front of these two windows grow two large elm trees, and old forest for the interior of the house. The south wing trees are left standing all about the yard. Now is always shut up to keep nice for company, and state occasions of that sort. We do not live in it, and therefore I will not give you a minute description of it. On the first floor is the saloon, drawing-room, &c., and above, the spare bed-rooms (guest-chambers, as Mrs. these are furnished in a grand, old-fashioned, Wimsat grandiloquently styles them.) very inconvenient style. But our wing, where we live, I must introduce you to that. There are three rooms on the first floor, all in a line. The room at the end of the wing is our parlor ; it has windows on three sides-that is, windows opening on the piazza, a large bow-window in the end, and windows opening on the garden; so it ought to be very light, but it is not; for the elm tree in front of the bow-window, and the shadow of the east mountain in the morning, and the shed of the piazza, and the locust
now (entre nous, you shall have it, Juliette, for your room, when you come home; I love my mother's old brown carpet best, because it was hers.) They are also making some beautiful counterpanes to match the carpet; you shall have them all in your room. I should like to pass much of my time in this still-room if I might, for I love housekeeping, but Mrs. Wimsat will not permit it. For instance, after the preserving season was over, when they got regularly to work of evenings with the looms, cards, and spinning-wheels, one night, as we all arose from tea, I followed Mrs. Wimsat into the room; but the women and girls all suspended their labor, and Mrs. Wimsat, observing me, gravely inquired whether I wished" to inspect their work." I smiled assent. After she had shown it all to me she remained standing, as if in readiness to attend me from the room. I seated myself without an invitation, telling her that I preferred passing the evening with her. She said nothing, and the people went on with their work; and the clatter of two looms, and the whirr of two spinning-wheels, prevented conversation. This happened to be Saturday evening, and so she suspended work at eight o'clock, and called up all the children to say their catechism. This is her custom every Saturday night. I thought she disapproved of my presence; nevertheless, I wished that she should get used to it in time, for I want to keep my own house, Juliette. However, some one else had an opinion about the propriety of my spending evenings in the stillroom. Monday, as we arose from tea, I prepared to follow Mrs. Wimsat, but Colonel Dent, taking my hand, said, "The parlor is comfortably warmed and lighted, let me lead you thither, Miss Grey." I went, (that was last winter, and I have regularly repaired to the parlor every evening after tea, since then.)
trees on the garden side, throw the room into deep shade, rendering Mrs. Wimsat's paper blinds and dark chintz curtains worse than useless. The floor is covered with a home-made, red and green plaid carpet. And straight, tall, high-backed old chairs made of carved oak, black with age, and covered with leather, and stuffed-with pebbles, I think, they are hard-are formally ranged round the room. There is an old-fashioned settle, that is, a sort of short sofa, with an exaggerated high back. This has been stuffed with shucks, and covered with blue cloth, by our thrifty housekeeper. And then there is an old-fashioned family work-table, invented by my great-great-grand- | mother, for the use of herself and her seven daughters; it is octagon-shaped, and each division of the octagon contains a little drawer that goes off in a point towards the centre of the table, so that all the little drawers meet at the centre, like the spokes of a cart-wheel. Each little drawer was labelled with the name of its owner, and had a lock and key. On the centre of this table stood a tall lamp; around it of an evening the lady and her daughters would gather to sew patch-work, embroider aprons, or knit. This table is still wheeled up in front of the ample fire-place, and the tall old grenadier of a lamp is still lighted, at night; but now a solitary girl sits at the table, plying her needle, or wielding her pen. Opening from this room towards the centre of the building, is our diningroom, and behind that, the still-room. This room, in all our old Virginia houses, is as indispensable as pantry or kitchen, and takes its name from being the place where all domestic perfumeries and essences are distilled; where cordials, and the like, are prepared, and preserves and jellies are put up. What his library is to the student, what her bower is to the bride, is this still-room to our housekeeperher sanctum-sanctorum, her heaven of heavens. Though pickling, preserving, and distilling days last only a few weeks in summer After a while, it appears that the serious and fall, yet this room is never vacant. Every and dignified Colonel had not been so enwinter Mrs. Wimsat has two looms, a cotton cased in his gravity but that a vulnerable and a woollen one, brought into this room, and spot was to be reached; and he acknowset going under her own eye. Here, of an ledges himself guilty of having covertly evening, when the house-servants have eaten worn in his bosom a certain little lost their supper, she brings them, and sets them to work, spinning and weaving the family cloth; have written the name of its owner, coupglove, and on various scraps of paper to and here she brings fifteen or twenty of the negro children to pick cotton-that is, to separate led with his own. This naturally results the cotton seed from the cotton wool. Though in a union between the artless, unsophisticotton is not named among the products of Vir-cated girl of eighteen, and the high-soulginia soil, yet, here in the Valley every thrifty ed, intellectual man of forty; some ridicuhousekeeper has her patch of cotton, yielding, lous, yet startling objections to which are with careful cultivation, enough for home conraised, from time to time, by the nephew, Marcus Derby.
sumption, and the children on the plantation pick it, and the housese-rvants card, spin, and weave it. You should see Mrs. Wimsat, of evenings, sitting among her industrious handmaidens. They are spinning and weaving a nice blue and white carpet for my chamber,
While we paused on the staircase until some guests, who had just arrived, entered the drawing-room, I felt my arm grasped tightly
from behind, and Marcus, who stood with Alice | graceful episode, and who is, at a later pebehind me, put down his lips close to my ear, and said, in a thrilling whisper
"Hester, I tremble for you. Hester, at this moment I am tempted to take you up bodily, and run off with you! He is not-this demigod of yours--what you take him to be. He is a cold, hard, black, marble Colossus, whose altitude will intercept the dear sunlight of heaven itself from your life, and in whose damping shadow you will wilt, and wither, and die. Oh, Hester, pause! It is not too late yet. Make a scene, rather than make your misery. Create a nine days' wonder, rather than a nine years' torture. Oh, Hester! say the word, and I'll kick up a row here directly."
"Marcus! child!" said I, "I will marry Ernest now! though he should eat me up next week-there!"
"Go to Old Nick, then, for a fool! He'll pay you for it—that's a blessing-the self-righteous
And our little party moved on.
Marcus Derby left us this very morning; so now we are at last alone. He almost took my breath away by a caper he cut just before he left us. He came into my room to bid me goodbye; and not seeing, or not caring to see Colonel Dent, he delivered himself in the following
"Good-bye, Hester! Yes, I am going, Mrs. Dent. Yet, deeply injured as I have been, if ever you should need a friend, call upon me. You have no father or brother, Hester! no, not even a mother, to take your part, or a sister to quarrel for you. Nevertheless, Hester, bad as you have used me, if you ever should need a protector-if that old Jephtha should take it into his head to offer you a living sacrifice upon some altar of his fanaticism, call upon me, and I'll shoot him! I will, if I'm hung for it the next day! I will, so help me--"
"Hold your tongue, Marcus! How dare you? You're mad! I'll give you a few hours to recover your senses, and if at the end of that time you don't ask Colonel Dent's pardon, I'll never speak to you again. Leave the room," said I.
"Let him alone, Hester. If his cure were possible, I should undertake it myself. His attack must work itself off, and then he'll feel thoroughly ashamed of himself. Leave him to the action of his own mind."
Before this speech was concluded, Marcus had obeyed me, and left the room.
Shortly after their marriage, Colonel Dent purchases, while absent from home, a young girl, a quadroon, whose romantic and improbable story makes rather a
riod, the innocent occasion of one of the of contention between Colonel Dent and most exciting and highly-wrought scenes Juliette.
Hester becomes a mother; but previously to the birth of her child, is smitten with the calamity, hereditary in her family, of sudden blindness. The first perception of her misfortune is overwhelming-not so much in the darkness that had shut out the light of Heaven, and the deprivations thus involved, as in the reflection that she should become a burden to her husband, and lose the dear privilege of creating his happiness. This is true to nature, but her tenderness of conscience goes beyond warrant, in the conclusoin
that this and unselfish love is the sin which it had been necessary, by a descending fire from heaven, to exterminate. By meek submission, by earnest contest with her own rebellious heart, she doubtless blunted the edge of this terrible affliction; but it is going too far to say either that the affliction was a judgment upon her idolatry, or its removal the reward of her penitence. Hester's sight is restored as suddenly as it was withdrawn. The little domestic scene which follows is one among the many from which we are permitted to draw our own inference of character, without the aid of hint or description.
Judging by the lapse of time, I thought it was near day when I awoke out of my first sleep, after the birth of my infant. Some one has said, "How dreadful is the first awaking after a great sorrow!" True; but then how exquisite is the first awakening after a great joy. I awoke to a joy that I could scarcely believe in, until I had felt about, and found my little child, to assure myself that it was no dream. Yes, there she was indeed-the dear, wonderful little creature-it was no dream, and neither had she been spirited away while I slept; my hand was on her soft cheek, as she lay in her crib by my couch. I was almost afraid to touch her, so I drew my hand away. As I raised my head, two oblong squares of dim light appeared where the windows should be! A hope, like a sharp pain, so mixed with intense desire and fear was it, darted into my then opened them again; there were the dim heart. I placed my hands over my eyes, and lights still. Oh, that I might not be mocked with an optical illusion!
"Minny! Minny!" cried I, "get up; get