Page images

The story of Sir Harry Melford does not contradict, but rather confirms this, as it was bis pride as much as bis affection that was so wounded.*

All this, however, at once stamps on the work the character of a novel, and throws on the author the responsibility of a novelist.

What that responsibility is, I am not going to examine; in this novel-writing age, when it must long ago have been settled ; especially as I find it done to my hand, by a shrewd and able critic, in a manner so concentrated, and yet so compre-hensive, that nothing is wanting to make it complete.

“ These features," says the critic, referring to manners and description of scenery, “though necessary in a fiction, are not its main essentials,—which consist in the power to construct a story at once surprising and congruous, and of creating characters consistent with nature, themselves, and the cireumstances of their lives, as well as of truly developing them in .conduct, narrative, and dialogue,"'+

Nothing can be inore lucid than this direction, and I will only add, that in the following pages I have endeavored to .construct a story at once surprising and congruous, and to create characters consistent with nature, themselves, and the circumstances in which they are placed.

My chief object, however, being a view of motives to action, as well as the more tender motions of the heart, I am aware that there are in the book, as I think there ought to be many didactic digressions and episodes.

For these I shall not offer the least apology to any body who chooses 10 quarrel with them. All may not have the same taste; but for myself, I see not how a novel wbich has for its object something more than the merg pictures of a magic-lanthorn, and aims at a knowledge of the springs of human nature, as well as amusement, can possibly realiza that object without partaking of the didactic character.

Those who differ from me are welcome to their opinionI pursue mine till I have met with better reasons than I have hiiherto heard, ayainst the ningling of didactic digression with anwsing narrative.

* See Vol. III.

+ Review of “Greyslaer," in the Spectator of July 11th, 1840.

The discussions indeed here presented are, from the inexperience of the youthful De Clifford, absolutely called for as a part of his first initiation into life. I only wish that I were as sure of the merit of their execution as I am of the propria ety of their introduction.



Want has prompted me, in my old age, to conceive the notable design of writing any part of iny history, much more to publish it, will, I have no doubt, be indifferent to the world. Bilt that world is gone by me, and I have nothing left but reminiscences of the past for my mind to rest upon; and perhaps it is better to indulye them than to go to sleep before my time.

This, however, only concerns myself. What is it to otbers ?

Why, somethiny ; for it will shew a good deal of what is of consequence to a human creature the knowledge of his own heart, and something of that of others. Upon this subject I will translate some passages of a French letter now before me, which will perhaps explain what I would say, as to the scope and end of the following pages, better than I could myself.

“ You put me at ease Sir, in dispensing with the necessity of telling you the news of the day, which you rightly call a second edition of the days that have gone before ; the only difference being the names of the actors who appear on the

There are the same intrigues, the same changes. Nothing resembles current news more than the news which is past. But when our study is the heart, we need not go out of ourselves (if we chose to think so) to get an endless diversity. And yet what a spectacle is our soul, when we leave the contemplation of it for the frivolities which engage us ! For we then seem to abandon the study of our own hearts and un

[ocr errors]


derstandings, to be the confidants of all the rest of the world. Thus we know everybody's mind but our own. Don't talk to me of a man whose soul preserves an incognito to himself. Yet, when plunged in luxury and pleasure, how can it be otherwise ? Mallebranche got out of fashion because people preferred a search for pleasure to a search after truth. But recal a man to an inquiry after his duty, or the nature of his being as it appears in his life, and the 'Rechechre de la Verite' will again be the mode."*

To all this I agree, and if in relating what I have felt myself, and witnessed in others," I wind me into the easy-hearted man,” and set him before himself, shall it be said that the attempt is useless ? I trust not, and therefore hasten to begin, though far from certain whether, after beginning, I shall proceed far with my notable undertaking.

Let me add, that I have no wish to disguise the many weaknesses that will appear in this memoir. Who, that is buman, is without them? Besides, as one of my chief objects is, if possible, to be a beacon to others who may be pursuing the same path, I should ill perform my task if I did not set myself down exactly as I was.

What I attempt is a history of heart; and I hope I shall

not fail.

[merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Though my estate be fallen, yet I was well born.

SHAKSPEARE.-All's Well that Ends Well.
What are you?
Your name? Your quality ?-

-My name is lost.-
Yet am I noble.-Lear.

What shall I say you are ?
Tell the Earl,
That the Lord Bardolfe doth attend him here.--2 Hon. IV.

As an autobiographer generally commences with his birth, parentage, and educatiou, I will, in this outset of my bistory, say something of mine.

Though (particularly in the early part of my life) I was little known to fame or fortune, I derive my lineage from remote, and even illustrious antiquity. My name is De Clifford, and I trace myself, in a direct line, froin the renowned feudal barons of that name, though so bigb up, that (and

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »