Love Me Little, Love Me Long
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
By BY Harper & Brothers. 1859.Author of “ It is Never too Late to Mend,” “ White Lies,” etc. New York :
THIS is the last, and in many respects the best, of Mr. Charles Reade's literary achievements. Its popularity, we are informed, exceeds that of any of his former works, excepting the first two published by him, “Peg Woffington,” and “ Christie Johnstone," which a few years ago startled the novel-reading world by their eccentricity of style, their ingenious novelty of construction, and also by their freshness of sentiment,—comet-books, pursuing one another in erratic orbits of thought, now close upon the central light of Truth, now distantly remote from it, but always brilliant, and generally leaving a sparkling train of recollection behind. The author's subsequent productions, until the present, have been less successful; some by reason of their positive inferiority ; some because of their extraordinary affectations of expression, repelling the multitude, who do not choose to risk their brains through unlimited pages of labyrinthine rhetoric ; some, perhaps, because of their doubtful paternity, evidences of French Origin being in many places discernible. Here, however, there appears a manifest improvement. This story is exquisitely simple in conception, and the narration is mostly full of ease and grace, although the unfolding of the plot is less direct than might have been expected from an author who professes so deep a regard for the dramatic order of development. There is, for instance, an episodical chapter of upwards of thirty pages, describing commercial England in a state of panic, which is very nearly as appropriate as a disquisition on the Primary Rocks, or an inquiry into the origin of the Cabala would be, but which is so palpably introduced for the purpose of displaying the author’s financial erudition, that lie feels himself called upon to apologize in a brief preface for its intrusion. In the concluding chapters, too, the various threads of interest are gathered together with very little artistic compactness. The reader is disappointed at the tameness of the culmination, compared with the vigor of the approach thereto. But otherwise there is much to be charmed with, and not a little to admire.
Mr. Reade has renounced a good number of the odd fancies which at one time pervaded him. We find no traces of the στιγματοϕοβία with which he was formerly afflicted. Nouns are wedded to obedient adjectives, adverbs to their willing verbs, by the lawful mediation of the recognized authorities of punctuation, the illegitimate and licentious disregard of which, as recklessly manifested in “ It is Never too Late to Mend,” indicated a disposition to entirely subvert the established morals of the language. It is pleasant to see how unreservedly Mr. Reade has abandoned his functions as apostle of grammatical free-love. Of tricks of typography there are also fewer, although these yet remain in an excess which good taste can hardly sanction. We often find whole platoons of admiration-points stretching out in line, to give extraordinary emphasis to sentences already sufficiently forcible. We sometimes encounter extravagant varieties of type, humorously intended, but the use of which seems a game hardly worth Mr. Reade’s candle, which certainly possesses enough illuminating power of its own, without seeking additional refulgence by such commonplace expedients.
In one of his pet peculiarities, the selection of a name for his work, the author has surpassed himself. It is a good thing to have an imposing name. In literature, as in society, a sounding title makes its way with delicious freedom. But it is also well to see to it, that, in the matter of title, some connection with the book to which it is applied shall be maintained. We are accustomed to approach a title somewhat as we do a finger-post,—not hoping that it will reveal the nature of the road we are to follow, the character of the scenery we are to gaze upon, or the general disposition of the impending population, but anticipating that it will at least enable us to start in the right direction. Now every reader of “ Love me Little, Love me Long” is apt to consider himself or herself justified in entertaining acrimonious sentiments towards Mr. Reade for the non-fulfilment of his titular hint. If, in the process of binding, the leaves of this story had accidentally found their way into covers bearing other and various appellations, we imagine that very little injury would have been done to the author’s meaning or the purchaser’s understanding. It is, indeed, interesting to look forward to the progress of Mr. Reade ideas on the subject of titles. We have already enjoyed a couple of pleasing nursery platitudes ; perhaps it would not be altogether out of order to expect in future a series something like the following :—
“ Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be !! ?? ! ?! ”
" One, Two, Buckle My Shoe! ”
“ Sing a Song of Sixpence, a Bag Full of Rye! ”
“ Hiccory, Diccory, Dock !!! ”
Let us not forget, in laughing at the author’s weaknesses, to acknowledge his strength. He shows in this work an inventive fancy equal to that of any writer of light fiction in the English language, and hardly surpassed by those of the French, — from which latter, it is fair to suppose, much of his inspiration is drawn, since his style is undisguisedly that of modern French romancers, though often made the vehicle of thoughts far nobler than any they are wont to convey. His portraits of character are capital, especially those of feminine character, which are peculiarly vivid and spirituels. He represents infantile imagination with Pre-Raphaelitic accuracy. And his descriptions are frequently of enormous power. A story of a sailor’s perils on a whaling voyage is told in a manner almost as forcible as that of the “frigate fight,” by Walt. Whitman, and in a manner strikingly similar, too. A night adventure in the English channel — a pleasure excursion diverted by a storm from its original intention into a life-anddeath struggle — is related with unsurpassed effect. The whole work is as sprightly and agreeable a love-story as any English writer has produced, — always amusing, often flashing with genuine wit, sometimes inspiring in its eloquent energy. And this ought to be sufficient to secure the abundant success of any book of its class, and to cause its successor to be awaited with interest.