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imagined that we should find ourselves confined to a very narrow range of interests, but this is not the case. The Early Victorian era had much more affinity with our own as regards subjects and their treatment than has the succeeding period, and it even anticipated not a few of the crazes of to-day. It had its Celtic Renascence, to which, after the too famous Macpherson, Scott had given the first impulse by his studies of Highland character, and which was continued impartially by the Irish stories of Carleton and Lover, and gained new life from the publication (or should it be the republication?) of the 'Mabinogion.' It had its Kailyard School, which descended through Scott to Galt and to Wilson, whose 'Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life' portrays the Scottish peasant of the period as considerably more sentimental and less humorous than his modern representative. It had its realists, who are now our romanticists, and even, highly favoured age! its lady exponent of popular mysticism, its Marie Corelli, so to speak, of whom more hereafter. It possessed, moreover, its competing American literature (mostly pirated, it is to be feared), although the American novelist had as yet scarcely attained to the elaborate unconsciousness of the existence of any country but the United States, and any city but his own Orford or Hamilcar, let us say, which distinguishes him so pleasantly at this later day. It had even its lady journalists-not merely Harriet Martineau fulminating against Toryism and Protection in the columns of the 'Daily News,' but, as Mrs Gore tells us, misses in their teens, who had been inoculated with the virus of journalism by some mad editor, and
were allowed to contribute to the great dailies ferocious leading articles denouncing the Government of the day. In this respect the world fifty years ago seems to have been more advanced than it is now, or was the speedy promotion of these young ladies due to the fact that they worked without remuneration? And the age possessed also its New Woman in fiction, for the heroine of Mrs Trollope's 'Life and Adventures of a Clever Woman,' with her diary carefully written with a view to its being read by other eyes, and her insistence on being taken seriously, might be the prototype of Marie Baschkirtseff herself, while her calm calculation on
-or shall we say after?-marrying, that she had now a future before her, might have fitted her to appear in a novel by Mrs Andrew Dean.
But if the period has many points of likeness to our own, it is not without strong differences. It may seem almost a paradox to say that it was a far more literary age; but if we are to take as a test the effect produced by literature upon individuals and upon society, this was certainly the case, in spite of the far smaller number of readers, and the costliness of books. “In England," says Mrs Gore, in the 'Dean's Daughter,' "official men talk chiefly of Melton or Newmarket, ballet-dancers or cooks. Except on the day of publication of a new 'Edinburgh' or 'Quarterly,' or a crack pamphlet, or of the opening of the Session, or the downfall of a ministry, public measures are seldom canvassed among those who have enough to do in manufacturing them." The first and last charges may still be true (we will not venture to assert that this is so), but we doubt whether there is any public man nowadays
who could so much as name the day on which the Edinburgh' or the Quarterly' comes out, and even more whether there is any club at which the wealth of wisdom contained in their pages would be tolerated, though but for twentyfour hours, as the sole topic of conversation. And what young lady of to-day tries to model her personal appearance upon that of the heroine of the latest novel she has read, as did the Miss Rebecca Linnet of 'Scenes from Clerical Life'?
"Nothing but an acquaintance with the course of her studies," we are told, "could afford a clue to the rapid transitions in her dress, which were suggested by the style of beauty, whether sentimental, sprightly, or severe, possessed by the heroine of the three volumes actually in perusal. A piece of lace, which drooped round the edge of her white bonnet one week, had
been rejected by the next. The black velvet, meeting with a crystal clasp, which one evening encircled her head, had on another descended to her neck, and on a third to her wrist, suggesting to an active imagination either a magical contraction of the ornament, or a fearful ratio of expansion in Miss Rebecca's person."
In the case of certain heroines of recent fiction, flattery of this eminently sincere order would be unadvisable, if not in the English climate impossible; but it has not been our hap to meet with any young lady in the habit of practising it at all.
The fiction which exercised so powerful an influence over the minds of the gentler readers of the time may be divided into three groups the Society novel, the purely Romantic, and the novel of Adventure. The scope of these may be more clearly defined by saying that the Society novelists followed Richardson and Jane Austen (at a respectful distance, be it understood); the Romantic
writers Scott and Mrs Radcliffe, according as their tastes inclined to history or mystery; and the authors of Adventure-books, with which may be grouped the few humorous novels of the period, Fielding and Defoe. Some there were, like Disraeli, impossible to class, for their works generally united the first two elements, and occasionally included the third; while others, like Lytton, tried them all in turn, and later types as well.
It may seem surprising to some of our readers, who entertain a vivid remembrance of the kind of fiction supplied to them in youth, that we have not allotted the didactic novel a class to itself. The reason is simple: all fiction, with the occasional exception of the humorous novel, was didactic — professedly and aggressively didactic. Considering the disfavour in which fiction was held by the educationists of the time, it can scarcely be said that the novelist was expected to moralise; but moralise he did, whether because it was the fashion of the day, or because he sought humbly to justify his existence to his stern censors, who shall say? We need not believe all that their detractors say against Bulwer Lytton or the Countess of Blessington, to feel surprised by the lofty moral tone expressed, if not always implied, in their works-a tone which was so prominent a feature in the books of the lady that, as we learn from her niece and biographer, "innumerable numbers of the clergy, with whom she had no personal acquaintance, addressed to her letters of compliment and approval." This must have proved extremely gratifying to the author, even if it strikes a later age as scarcely flattering to the discernment of her reverend cor
respondents, and we can hardly wonder that a spirit of pardonable emulation should have led the writer of an inoffensive, if somewhat involved, historical work called The White Mask' to end her book with a quotation from Butler's Analogy,' and the following sentence: "My endeavour has been to show in a Romance, in the course of which I have taken many liberties with the muse of history, that there is a retribution even here." This assurance, which seems unnecessary if the endeavour was successful, recalls the conclusion of one of Artemus Ward's most delightful pieces of absurdity: "This is my 1st attempt at writin a Tail and it is far from bein perfeck, but if I have indoosed folks to see that in 9 cases out of 10 they can either make Life as barren as the Dessert of Sarah, or as joyyus as a flower garding, my objeck will have bin accomplished, and more too." It is evident that the clergy were not always to be trusted to find out the moral for themselves. Sometimes, however, they were good enough to point it out to the general reader, by means of a preface contributed to a book, as was the case with the Rev. G. R. Gleig, who is remembered to this day chiefly as author of that delightful book, 'The Subaltern,' but who was also known to his own generation as a novelist and an editor of the works of others. In the preface to a posthumous novel by a Miss Campbell, he apologises for the comparatively un-didactic character of the book, when contrasted with an earlier one, in terms which awaken wonder, not unmingled with awe, as to the nature of the latter. "Harriette Campbell never, indeed, wrote a line, of which the tendency was not to improve the moral feeling, as well as to amuse
the fancy of the reader. But in 'The Cardinal Virtues' the inculcation of pure and righteous principles constitutes the staple or main ingredient of the work; to which the story serves no other purpose than that of ornament-the setting which surrounds the jewel-full of taste and beauty, yet, as compared with the jewel itself, utterly valueless." Surely the force of vicarious self-abnegation on the part of an author could no further go.
In spite, however, of all the moralising of all the novelists, the taste of the age continued to be corrupt-in fact, if we may trust Lady Blessington, who in 'Victims of Society' doubles the rôles of Juvenal and Cassandra, it deteriorated steadily. "We live," laments one of the characters, "in an age . . . when none but exciting subjects have any interest. Tears are now only shed when great crimes are their source; domestic feelings are passés de mode; and those who would awaken sympathy must dare guilt." This denunciation, which seems oddly to echo the diatribes of certain lady novelists not unknown at the present day, is supported by a scathing review of the manners and morals of the the upper classes in England. If we are to credit our author, who undoubtedly possessed the advantage of an intimate acquaintance with the life she described, to have used the words "decent society" at this epoch would have been to utter a contradiction in terms. As with the Spartans of old, it was not guilt, but its discovery, that was held to merit punishment. With the laudable object of stemming the tide of corruption, Lady Blessington depicts a series of incidents in aristocratic life, both in France and England, which read like
nothing so much as selections from Sue and De Kock, related by a member of the Vigilance Society. All the unsavoury details are there, but the narrator raises his hands and turns away his face in horror. No doubt the lady wrote her novel in the same spirit as that in which she advocated the publication by the Press of Divorce Court reports, thinking that the publicity and the revolting details would tend to deter others from sinning; but we can scarcely wonder that the French, forming their judgment on this and similar instances, should consider us a nation of hypocrites. The good people in the book (for there were some good people even among the English aristocracy) might have stepped out of the pages of 'Sir Charles Grandison'-an idea which has evidently suggested itself to the author. Like the little girl of nursery story, the characters when they are good are very, very good, but when they are bad they are horrid.
And this brings us to consider a curious tendency observable, so far as we have been able to remark, in almost all the Society novels of the time-and surviving to our own days in the writings of the author of 'Nobly Born,' a work which is still, we believe, regarded as a classic by factorygirls and the pupils in some young ladies' schools - the tendency to depreciate the upper classes and exalt the virtuous of lower rank. Not the poor, be it understood; the poor are cleanly and excellent people, who exist merely in order to receive charity at the hands of the rich, and to accentuate the difference between the good heroine who remembers this peculiarity of their position and the bad one who neglects to do so. The earli
est attempts at what we may call realistic treatment of poverty in the era under discussion are to be found in Mrs Trollope's Michael Armstrong' and Disraeli's 'Sybil '; but in spite of this new light the Society novelists remained shut up in their enchanted world. They were the heralds of the virtues and triumphs of that depositary of British excellence, the middle class. A peer's younger son, who has made an imprudent marriage, and been cast off by his family, may be welcomed with open arms; but to be a peer or peeress actually in the enjoyment of a title and estates is to forfeit immediately the sympathies of the author. The aristocracy are proud, extravagant, mean, profligate, prone to marry in their own circle, and to give any gifts in their power to their own near relations. Hence it is only natural that the mere mention of a peer should freeze up all the milk of human kindness in the bosom of the chronicler, for he belongs to a different order of creation; and if it is not allowable to contemn and censure those who possess what you have not, and who profess to be unaware of your existence, what comfort have you? The philosophic Liberal, nurtured in the demi-semi - revolutionary doctrines which represented in England the most permanent result of the great French upheaval, held it as an article of faith to dislike the aristocracy as strongly as he despised the "hands" who were demanding remedial legislation in factories and mines. And yet, with an inconsistency only to be found in perfection in your true republican, his great desire was to force his own way into the society which considered itself so far above him an inconsistency which was but intensified by the hatred he felt to any member of his own
class who succeeded in the attempt. In Mrs Gore's novel, 'The Banker's Wife,' it is difficult to say whether the author or the aristocratic neighbours of the banker, among whom he wishes to establish himself, regard his presumptuous efforts with the greater disfavour. It only adds to the unhappy man's tribulations to find that the old Indian officer, whose acquaintance, formed through a business connection, he has cultivated from motives of policy, succeeds where he has failed. The Colonel, who went out to India at the age of fifteen, and has never revisited England until he retires with a fortune, is not only ignorant of the usages of social life, but speaks vulgarly and ungrammatically, and yet he is taken up, owing rather, we fear, to curiosity than to appreciation of his good heart and kind intentions towards every one, by the noble family in whom the banker is particularly interested. To add that the banker, after almost attaining the object of his ambition, speculates, ruins himself and his family, and finally commits suicide, is merely to show that in the Early Victorian era, as now, the introduction into a novel of a successful business man was merely a prelude to his financial destruction.
Of the aristocratic society which presented the aspect of a guarded paradise to the banker and his like, we have no picture that can be called sympathetic, with the exception of Samuel Warren's sketch of the De la Zouch family and their intimates in Ten Thousand a Year.' Rather are given to understand that the manners of the aristocracy towards one another were as disagreeable as the lack of expansiveness they displayed towards those below them. In another novel of Mrs Gore's,
'Preferment,' the hero is endowed with an uncle, who, like the Sir Charles Tregellis of a later author, is unrivalled as the judge of a racehorse or as the arbiter of a disputed bet, ruling as "a sort of Lord Chancellor of the realms of vice and folly." This gentleman remonstrates with another nephew on the subject of his having been seen in Pall Mall or Piccadilly speaking to his country cousin, who added to his guilt by wearing a coat made by a country tailor. "The moment you have explanations to make about people," says the careful uncle, "they are not fit for your society." He has himself laboured under a somewhat similar incubus, the possession as a brother of an Irish Peer, who expected his companionship and countenance occasionally on his visits to London. "There was a vulgar domesticity about him," says this affectionate relative—“ a family coach sort of way of going on, which often made him inconvenient and ridiculous." As we have touched already upon a present-day novel, we offer no apology for quoting from 'Preferment' another passage dealing with the latter end of "the illustrious group which had emerged from obscurity in the days when George IV. was Regent "-the Bucks of whom Dr Doyle writes with such affectionate enthusiasm.
"Some," says Mrs Gore, writing thirty or forty years after the Corinthian era, 66 were in exile - some in the grave; some at Calais-some at Coventry; some married to divorcées, and estranged from female societysome to country heiresses, and lost to male society. George Robins had disposed of the paraphernalia of a dozen or so, whose place remembered them no longer-whose snuff-boxes were dispersed among the curiosityshops-whose travelling-carriages had been bought cheap by retired haber