« PreviousContinue »
certainly the idea which we commonly affix to romance; but
6 the valued file
That writes them all alike' If we were obliged to point out any discrimination between some of these histories more nearly resembling epics, and the epics themselves, it would be the conduct of the fory. The subject is a single one, and the conduct of it relates to that ly. The story is taken up at the middle, at the part which is connected with the design; and, when it is accomplished, suddenly breaks off. A modern performance, in its progress
resembling the epic, and in some of its events, the romance is De Solis' Conquest of Mexico:
Perhaps we have already staid too long on the threshold ; but our author's opinion came in a delulive quctionable shape. It was worth examining; and, if not true, worth refuting. In purfuing the subject, this fancied analogy seems to have milled the enquirer. We allow that there is often a striking resemblance between works of high and low estimation ; but the resemblance is in fome triffing points: those who have read the Odyssey, and the Adventures of Şinbad the Sailor, can. not certainly perceive it in any great degree. Both authors undoubtedly poffefs bold imaginations, the adventures of each are marvellous, and the characters various; but the same resemblance will occur between the Arabian Nights Entertaią. ments, and the plays of Shakspeare : should these very different kinds of composition be on this account confounded ?
The author begins with the early romances, which are prin.. cipally those of the modern Greeks, and continues her history through the middle ages, to the close of the year 1770. In many respects, this history is little more than a catalogue : the decisions are sometimes just and candid ; but we cannot observe in them any deep discernment, or very accurate discrimination. The catalogue is molt perfect in the earlier pe. riods. "The author is often deficient in determining even the moral tendency of different works; the frequently seems to de çide from common report.
We lhaļl insert a short defence of Cervantes, which we' fear
The passion for these books, (viz. romances,) was in some degree checked; but it was not eradicated. There is good reason to believe, that even Cervantes himself, was not cured of it.
• Hort. Nay, if you animadvert upon Cervantes, I know not what to say :--but I fall expect proofs of this assertion.
Euph. I shall produce them presently. Besides his Galatea (of which he speaks with pleasure, and rescues it from the condemned books in Don Quixote's library, and after he had written his novels upon a new plan,) he composed a serious ro mance, called Perfiles and Sigismonda, which remains extant, as a proof against him. It is said that he preferred this to all his other works ;-he compares it with the Æthiopics of Heli, odorus, being written in the same style and manner. What Mhall we say of the man, who had produced Don Quixote, and could afterwards write a book of the same kind as those he sa tyrized ? May we not conclude that he ftill loved them in his Heart
Hort. Permit me to offer a reason on his behalf, ---a reason that makes me sigh over the fate of genius.-Cervantes ! the gallant soldier !--the delightful companion !-the charming writer !--the pride and boast of his country!-Cervantes wanted bread.— he wrote this celebrated work in a prison, and knowing the taste and humour of his countryinen, composed such a book, as was most likely to please them, and procure relief to his miseries.'
We shall subjoin to this extract a judicious defence of the author of Eloisa.
Rousseau saw that the women on the continent, while maidens, paid due respect to their honour and character, but as foon as they were married they entertained all the world, and encouraged gallants ; of the two evils he thought a fingle perfon's indulging a criminal paflion, of lefs pernicious consequence to society, than a married woman who commits adul. tery :-upon this principle he wrote this book. He puts the character of a woman who encourages lovers after marriage, in opposition to one who having committed the greatest fault hefore marriage, repents, and recovers her principles.--He in forces the sanctity of the marriage vow, he sets the breach of it in a light to lock every confiderate mind, he shews that where it is broken, nothing but hatred and disgust succeeds; the confidence a man should place in his wife, the tenderness he should feel for his offspring, is destroyed, and nothing remains but infamy and misery.
• If Rousseau intended by this work to give a check to this fhameful intercourse of the fexes, fo frequently practised on the continent, under the specious name of gallantry, he is to be commended ; and if it produced effects he did not foresee, he ought to be excused'
On the subject of Richardson, we can allow for a little female partiality; but his works are exalted too extravagantly, and those of Fielding proportionably depressed. Yet, in this account of the Progress of Romance,' there is scarcely an attempt to delineate the literary character of these two great luminaries of the fyftem, from whose example the most strikiog variations have been produced. The author's talents seem to have been so much exhausted in attempting to prove the absurd romances of the middle ages, to be epic poems, that she cannot attend to a new creation in the literary world, the comic epos, of which Tom Jones was so brilliant an example. The supreme judge of romances speaks in this manner
of of its most finished ornaments, ? As I consider wit only as a secondary merit, I must beg leave 10 observe, that his writings are much inferior to Richardson's in morals and exemplary characters, as they are superior in wit
and learning.-Young men of warm paffions and not ftri& prin. ciples, are always delirous to shelter themselves under the fanction of mixed characters, wherein virtue is allowed to be predominant. In this light the character of Tom Jones is capable of doing much mischief; and for this reason a translation of this book was prohibited in France. -On the contrary, no barm can posibly arise from the imitation of a perfect character, though the attempt Mould fall short of the original.
• Soph. This is an indisputable truth, there are many objectionable scenes in Fielding's works, which I think Hortensius will not defend.
• Hort. My objections were in character, and your's are fo likewise; as you have defended Richardson, so I will defend Fielding. I allow there is some foundation for your remarks, nevertheless in all Fielding's works, virtue has always the superiority fhe ought to have, and challenges the honours that are jully due to her, the general tenor of them is in her favour, and it were happy for us, if our language had no greater cause of complaint in her behalf,
Euph. There we will agree with you.-Have you any further obfervations to make upon Fielding's writings?
• Hort. Since you refer this part of your talk to me, I will offer a few more remarks.Fielding's Amelia is in much lower estimation than his Joseph Andrews, or Tom Jones; which have both received the stamp of public applause.'
To Dr. Smollett, the fair critic is somewhat more complailant; but her account of his novels is so very triling, that we are almost ready to suspect that she has not yet read them.
Dr. Smollet's novels abound with wit and humour, which fome critics think is carried beyond the limits of probability; all his characters are over charged, and he has exhibited somę scenes that are not proper for all readers; but upon the whole, his works are of a moral tendency, - their titles are, Roderick Random - Peregrine Pickle-Sir Lancelot Greaves-Ferdinand Count Fathom-Adventures of an Atom.-Many years after these he gave the public another, in no respect inferior, and in fome fuperior to them all, called Humphrey Clinker.'
We have given extracts of various merit, that the reader may judge for himself. If the decifion is not in favour of the work, we are at least confident that it has not been influenced by a partiality in the selection. Its form is that of dialogue ; but, as it is conducted, it has all the inconveniencies, without the authority, which would have arisen from the sentiments having been attributed to men of character and learning. We have, however, examined this subject at sufficient length in a former Review. In the present instance, the ceremonies at meeting and taking leave, the numerous compliments very freely befowed, interrupt the subject, and cannot fail to disgust the
reader. Perhaps we are within bounds when we remark, that one half of either little volume would have held every thing which the most complaisant reader might have thought important.
The Egyptian romance at the end is entitled the History of Charoba Queen of Egypt, and is truly a literary curiolity.
• It is extracted from a book calledThe History of Ancient Egypt, according to the Traditions of the Arabians.-- \Vritten in Arabic, by the Reverend Doctor Murtadi, the Son of Ga. piphus, the ion of Chatem, the Son of Molfem the Macdelian.-'Translated into French by M. Vattier, Arabic Professor to Louis 14th King of France.'
If the author could find more of these early romances, we Mould more readily acknowledge our obligation to her than for her imperfect delineation of the progress of the subject.
Esay on the Life and Character of Petrarch. To which ara
added, Seven of bis Sonnets, translated from the Italian. 8vo.
Is. 6d. Cadell. THIS very elegant Essay contains a concise relation of the
events of the poet's life ; cf & life not interesting by a display of splendid actions, or important negociations, but from one circumstance, viz. a violent and lasting passion.
Though Petrarch was an ecclesiastic and a statesman, yet we only look on the lover of Laura, and the poet. Concerning this famous lady we have the following information.
Although in the innumerable verses which he composed in the ardour of his passion, he has expatiated on every feature of his lovely mistress, it is perhaps impossible thence to describe accurately either her person or her face ; for the rapturous defcriptions of a poet feldom convey accurate or distinct ideas. The idea which painting conveys of a beautiful form, is much Atronger and more complete. By those pi&tures of Laura, which are said to be genuine, he is reprelented as of a fais complexion, her hair of a light colour, her face round, with a small forehead, her cheeks rather full. She is painted with her eyes yery much cast down, so as to appear almost fbut. The expression of the whole countenance is that of a very young girl, of amiable simplicity of manners, of much sweetness of diso position, and extreme bashfulness. The most exceflive modesty and reserve in her demeanour, seems indeed to have been the strongest characteristic of the mistress of Petrarch. It was this muality, which, in the eyes of her lover, heightened every
charm of her person, and every accomplithment of her mind; and it is not improbable, that to this fingular and striking attribute were owing, both the ardor and duration of his af. fe&ion,