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materials, whether collected by the artist or by other hands. It may be remarked, that Mrs Smith not only preserves in her landscapes the truth and precision of a painter, but that they sometimes evince marks of her own favourite pursuits and stu. dies. The plants and flowers are described by their Linnæan names, as well as by their vulgar epithets; and in speaking of the denizens of air, the terms of natural history are often introduced. Something like this may be observed in Mr Crabbe's poems ; but neither in these nor in Mrs Smith's novels does it strike the reader that there is pedantry in such details ; an objection which certainly would occur, were such scientific ornaments to be used by a meaner hand.
The most deficient part of Mrs Smith's novels, is unquestionably the plot, or narrative, which, in general, bears the appearance of having been hastily run up, as the phrase goes, without much attention to probability or accuracy of combination. This was not owing to any deficiency in invention; for when Charlotte Smith had leisure, and chose to employ it to the purpose, her story, as in the Orphan of the Castle, is conducted with unexceptionable ingenuity. But she was too often summoned to her literary labours by the inexorable voice of necessity, which obliged her to write for the daily supply of the press, without having previously adjusted, perhaps without having even rough-hewn the course of incidents which she intended to detail. Hence the hurry and want of connexion which may be observed in some of her stories, and hence, too, instances, in which we can see that the character of the tale has changed while it was yet in the author's imagination, and has in the end become different from what she herself had originally proposed. This is apt to arise either from the author having forgotten the thread of the story, or her having, in the progress of the narrative, found it more difficult to dis. entangle it skilfully than her first concoction of the tale had induced her to hope. This desertion of the story is, no doubt, an imperfection ; for few of the merits which a novel usually boasts are to be preferred to an interesting and well-arranged story. But then this merit, howevergreat, has never been considered as indispensable to fictitious narrative. On the contrary, in many of the best specimens of that class of composition-Gil Blas, for example, Peregrine Pickle, Roderick Random, and many others of the first eminence-no effort whatever is made to attain the praise belonging to a compact system of adventures, in which the volumes which succeed the first, like the months of summer maturing the flowers and fruit which have germinated in spring, slowly conduct the tale to the maturity at which it arrives upon its conclusion, as autumn gathers in the produce of the year. On the contrary, the adventures, however delightful in themselves, are but
Like orient pearls at random strung,
and are not connected together, otherwise than as having occurred to one individual, and in the course of one man's life. In fine, whatever may be the vote of the severer critics, we are afraid that many of the labourers in this walk of literature will conclude with Bayes, by asking, “ What is the use of the plot but to bring in fine things ?” And, truly, if the fine things really deserve the name, we think there is pedantry in censuring the works where they occur, merely because productions of genius are not also adorned with a regularity of conception, carrying skilfully forward the conclusion of the story, which we may safely pronounce one of the rarest attainments of art.
The characters of Mrs Smith are conceived with truth and force, though we do not recollect any one which bears the stamp of actual novelty ; and indeed, an effort at introducing such, unless the author is powerfully gifted with the inventive faculty, is more likely to produce monsters
than models of composition. She is uniformly happy in supplying them with language fitted to their station in life ; nor are there many dialogues to be found which are at once so entertaining, and approach so nearly to truth and reality. The evanescent tone of the highest fashionable society is not easily caught, nor perhaps is it desirable it should be, considering the care which is taken in these elevated regions to deprive conversation of everything approaching to the emphasis of passion, or even of serious interest. But of every other species of dialogue, from the higher to the lower classes of her countrymen, Mrs Smith's works exhibit happy specimens; and her portraits of foreigners, owing to her long residence abroad are not less striking than those of Britons.
There is yet another attribute of Mrs Smith's fictitious narratives, which may be a recommendation, or the contrary, as it affects readers of various temperaments, or the same reader in a different mood of mind. We allude to the general tone of melancholy which pervades her composition, and of which every one who has read the preceding Memoir can no longer be at a loss to assign the cause. The conclusions of her novels, it is true, are generally fortunate, and she has spared her readers who have probably enough arising out of their own concerns to make them anxious and un. happy, the uncomfortable feeling of having wasted their hour of leisure upon making themselves yet more sad and uncomfortable than before, by the unpleasant conclusion of a tale which they had taken up for amusement. The sky, though it uniformly lours upon us through Mrs Smith's narrations, breaks forth on the conclusion, and cheers the scene when we are about to part from it. Still, however, we long for a few sunny glimpses to enliven the landscape in the course of the story, and with these we are rarely supplied ; so that the ge neral influence of melancholy can scarce be removed by the assurance, that our favourites are at length married and prosperous. The hasty and happy catastrophe seems so inconsistent with the uniform persecutions of Fortune, through the course of the story, that we cannot help doubting whether adversity had exhausted her vial, or whether she had not farther misfortunes in store for them after the curtain was dropped by the Authoress. Those who have few sorrows of their own, as Coleridge beautifully expresses it,* love the tales which call forth a