Page images

desire to see its inviolability assailed, so long will the richest class be the limited and the most refined—so long will they associate exclusively among themselves. But the rest of the community can have no right, and they will have no disposition, to complain of this, when a more perfect equality in political privileges shall be given to all classes-not by abolishing the Peerage—but by confining the Peers to their proper constitutional functions, and reducing their usurped power.

The subject of this tract is of infinite importance, and deserves a far more extensive and detailed discussion than is bestowed upon it by its writer, or than we have room for here. In truth, the country is now in a great crisis, which, after having been prepared by the course of events, was at length brought on by the Reform Bill. That great measure restored the Constitution, stripping the aristocracy of its usurped power and influence. But the latter body has been very far from yielding ; instead of submission, it meditates revolt, and is now making a last effort to regain its ascendency. No man doubts that it will be defeated,

But, then, the people must be enabled to enjoy some of the substantial benefits which they have so well earned. The blessing of cheap government is yet withheld, and it is the people's right. A monarchy, with all the splendour which the sovereign should have, never will be unpopular in this country, nor will the cost of that just dignity ever be grudged by the people. But the people will grudge all that needless addition to this necessary expense—all that extra charge which they pay for the aristocracy and not for the Crown—an expensive and aristocratic church, when a reformed one would be enough——a large pension-list and numberless useless places, for the wives and daughters, the sons and the sons-in-law, of the nobility-above all, an expensive colonial establishment, to make places for the Peers and their connexions-foreign missions to serve the like end-and a large army only wanted for protecting those colonies, and adding military to the clerical and civil patronage of the favoured orderall this the people does sorely grudge-all this it will more and more grudge—all this it has a good right to grudge, and to try every lawful means for shaking off, as a burden which bears down the industry of the country to the very ground. Our representatives may flatter themselves that lesser reforms than this real and substantial relief will satisfy the community—they are grievously mistaken. Constitutional improvements and law amendments are of admirable merit; but the main end of all laws and of every constitution is the solid happiness of the peopleand for this end, the people must now have cheap government, and a limited monarchy, on the scale fitted for and sufficing to a "imited monarchy, which the English people love, not a haughty

extravagant aristocracy, which they detest.

Art. VI.-The Natural Son: a German Tale, descriptive of

the Age of the Emperor Rudolph II. Translated from Spindler. By Lord ALBERT CONYNGHAM. 3 vols. Svo : London, 1835.

SPINDLER has been a fortunate man in his generation. He has

poured out romance after romance; and though all of them are written in what may be called the least labour possible' principle, they have all enjoyed a considerable share of popularity and success. Booksellers have been sometimes said to drink their wine out of the skulls of authors; but Spindler has reversed the case ; he has levied a steady contribution on the pockets of these functionaries, and lives most comfortably at Baden, if report speak truly, on the amount of the tribute money. Already the collected edition of his works has reached the twentieth volume. And as the earliest of his Tales, Eugen von Kronstein, only made its appearance in 1824, the probability is that, at the same rate, at least other thirty volumes will be added to the collection before death puts the colophon to the edition. Several of his romances have been translated into French. The Jew' was * done into English' some years since. “The Jesuit' made its appearance the other day in the Library of Romance ; * and now Lord Albert Conyngham has introduced to English readers his earlier work - The Natural Son.'

If we speak with no great admiration of the work to which his lordship has thought it worth while to devote his time and talents, we have no fault at least to find with the translator. He has executed his task with spirit and judgment; often condensing into easy and idiomatic English very diffuse, mannered, and even ungrammatical German ; while, by softening some incidents, and abridging some descriptions, he has contrived to veil, though not entirely to hide, some of the objectionable features of the original. But we confess we cannot but feel surprised, that, with the knowledge of the German language and German literature which Lord Albert Conyngham evidently possesses, he should ever have thought of devoting a moment to productions so utterly destitute of all the higher qualities of fiction ;-of every thing calculated to elevate the feelings, to improve the heart, or to refine the taste as these chaotic romances of Spindler. While so many of Tieck's most charming Tales, either of wonder or familiar life, still

* Vol. XII.

remain shut up as with seven seals from the English reader ; while not a single novel of Leopold Schefer, instinct as they are with tenderness or playful humour, nor any of Zhokke's interesting legends, have found an English translator ; we cannot but regret that Lord Albert's choice should have been so ill-directed. Even the Romances of Steffens,— Malcolm,' and · The Fami• lies of Walseth and Leith,'—though confused in plot and over crowded with incidents, would, in the hands of a judicious translator and redacteur, have afforded better materials to work upon ; enlivened as they often are by the most picturesque descriptions of the wild scenery of the north, by scenes of great power and pathos, and, above all, animated by that moral principle of which Spindler's writings are so utterly destitute.

We do not pretend to be acquainted with the contents of the whole twenty volumes which are before us, containing as they do not only the longer works of the author, but his contributions, without number, to the various Pocketbooks' which he delights to honour ; and of one of which, the Vergiss-mein-nicht (Forget me not), he has, since 1830, been the editor and sole writer. But we have read his · Natural Son,' the Jew,' the Jesuit,' • the Invalid,' and the . Nun of Guadenzell,' forming about fifteen volumes of the collection ; and may assume, we think, with tolerable certainty, that they afford a sufficient idea both of his strength and weakness. Of these we would say that the Jew' and the Natural Son’ are the best, so far as regards the interest of individual scenes ; that the Invalid' is superior to the others in point of order and consistency of plot; and that the “Jesuit'is in every respect the poorest and the worst.

Two features appear to be characteristic of all the tales of Spindler, and these are not without a certain natural connexion with each other. What probably strikes the reader first is the planless and undigested character of the plot. The tales generally open well, for we do not deny to Spindler the power of awakening attention ; some striking incident, for the most part accompanied with mystery and doubt, takes hold of the imagination, and we prepare, with interest, to follow the gradual complication and evolution of an ingenious and well-connected plan. But soon we begin to perceive that we are involved in an inextricable labyrinth, in which all traces, and even all hopes of order, vanish, and to which the author himself is just as little in possession of the clue as ourselves. The incidents flow from no internal necessity arising out of the design, but are huddled together under the operation of a blind chance; or from no more refined principle of composition than that of affording to the author an opportunity of

wishing the reader by the rapidity and unexpected change of scenes and actors, or of harrowing the feelings by some display of physical loathsomeness or moral atrocity. The characters, of course, in the same manner, develope themselves according to Do conceivable moral laws; they influence each other, or are infieenced by events, in a manner so arbitrary, so unespected and incalculable, that the puzzled reader soon gives up the attempt to form any conjecture as to their probable conduet: and persies their movements with something of that uneasy feeling of confusion and discomfort of which we are conscious during the strange transformations and unconnected incidents by which we are haunted in dreams. The whole becomes “a mighty maze,' and so completely without a plan,' that we verily believe that if the first volume of the Natural Son' were to be tacked to the secondo the Jew and the third of the Jesuit,' and the passage merely bridged over by a connecting chapter, the compound work would hardly appear more startling, improbable, or inartificial than the component parts do at this moment.

Strange as it may seem, however, this very feature has been more than once insisted on by Spindler's German admirers, and, if we recollect rightly, by himself in one of his preface, as a proof of the exuberance of his faney! His genius, forsooth. is too great and too varied, to submit to the ordinary restraints of Sctice; he must have room and verge for the display of his phantasmagoria of assassinations, poisonings, incantations, incests, and adulteries, to say nothing of minor offences. With so much on his hands, he has no time to devote to the natural esposition o sentiments—to the gradual preparation of incidents to the growth and developement of character; every thing must be done pe saltum ; and it is the reader's fault, not the writer's, if they are unable to follow the rapid and eccentric movements de bis flight. Whether Spindler really deceives himself in this manner as to the character of his mind, we know not; but never did we perose any compositions which less impressed us with the idea of an exuberance of fancy. Doubtless we stumble at every step ore huge heaps of undigested incidents,

lose our way in dark passages, where, in every corner, some deed of dreadful note' iš a-king —are haunted by many an apparition bearing a human same, but whose features, as we gaze at them, lose all traces of huma nity, and change into those of demons; but in all this will farrago we look in vain for one spark of poetical faney: every thing is cold blooded, and prosaic to the last degree - dreary dead level, unwarmed by a spark of natural feeling, uncheated by a single ray of imagination. Incapable of disguising the native poverty of his mind, in subjects where the simplicity of the design would render the careful finish and proportion of perts necessary, he endeavours to escape observation by the exhibition of a hasty and incoherent pageant, vanishing like Prospero's from our view, before we have had time to pause upon its inconsistencies, or deteot its hollowness.


If the aimlessness and chaotic nature of plot in the romances of Spindler render their perusal a task, the singular absence of all moral soul of all sensibility to every thing virtuous or elevated-which they exhibit, is not less painfully conspicuous. In this they are really quite peculiar in their way. The modern Frenoh school of novel-writing certainly furnishes us with abundance of works in which the most dangerous principles are advooutod, and the most questionable descriptions ventured upon, with a oynical disregard to decency or good feeling. But even in these, as, for instance, in the extraordinary productions of Madame Dudedant-certainly among the most singular compositions of a female pen-there is no such utter negation of morality, no such passive indifference to good or bad, as characterises these romances of Spindler. The doctrines which they labour to propayate are hostile to morality, the scenes which they exhibit, often revolting to propriety; but there is still a striving after an ideal of virtue, perverted though its direction may be—still an acknowledgment, that over this theatre of the world, with all its strange masques of misery and meanness—with all its guilty and tragic catastrophes—there reigns an overruling power, which shall ultimately bring order out of these confused and jarring elements; there is still a recognition of something divine in the human character, enabling it to look beyond the present into the future, and to guide its steps through the perplexities of life, by some better light than the flickering and unsteady flame of the senses. But, in the troubled scenes of Spindler, we look in vain for any indication of a higher principle. It is not that he indulges in licentious descriptions; his madness does not that way tend; and the rapidity with which one event jostles the other out of the field, prevents his dwelling long on any description whatever: it is the miserably low standard of virtue which he proposes to himself—the indifference with which he parades his monotonous exhibitions of guilt, misery, and meanness—of all things physically and morally revolting, that, to our minds, give to his volumes so peculiarly disagreeable a character. As the prompter on the stage reads with the same unmeaning and unvarying tones the coldest or the most impassioned scenes, so with equal indifference does Spindler seem to regard the exhibition of virtue and vice ;-with equal insensibility to the moral beauty of the one, and the hideousness of the other. He does not write, as we have already said, with the view of exciting the passions; but the most

« PreviousContinue »