The Hillyars and the Burtons/Christian's Mistake/Uncle Silas


1. A Tale of Two Families. By HENRY KINGSLEY. Boston : Ticknor & Fields.
2. By the Author of “John Halifax.” New York: Harper & Brothers.
3. A Tale of Bartram-Haugh. By J. S. LE FANU. New York: Harper & Brothers.
WHILE the American popularity of Charles Kingsley has been rather declining, the credit of his brother Henry has been gradually rising. Those who have complained of something rather shallow and sketchy in some of his former books will find far more solid and faithful work in this. Indeed, he undertakes rather more than he can carry through, and the capacious plot, well handled at first, gets into some confusion and ends in a rather feeble result. To deal with two large families, distributing part of each in England and part in Australia, to interlink them in the most complicated way in all genealogical and topographical relations, demands a structural genius like that of Eugène Sue ; and though Mr. Kingsley grapples stoutly with the load, he staggers under it. His descriptions of scenery are as vivid as his brother’s, and he exhibits far less arrogance and no theology. There are in the book single scenes of great power, and there has never, perhaps, been a more vivid portraiture of lower-middle-class life in England, or of the manner in which it has been galvanized into a semi-American development in Australia. The results of that expatriation upon more cultivated classes, however, appear such as we should be sorry to call even demi - semiAmerican. Fancy discovering in California a young lady in book-muslin, the daughter of cultivated parents, who remarks under excitement, — “ Well, if this don’t bang wattle-gum, I wish I may be buried in the bush in a sheet of bark ! Why, I feel all over centipedes and copper-lizards ! ” Still, there may be some confusion in the dialects used in the book, as there is hardly a person in it, patrician or plebeian, on either side of the equator, who does not address everybody else as “ old man” or “ old girl,” whenever the occasion calls for tenderness. It may be very expressive, but it implies a slight monotony in the language of British emotion.
There is rather a want of central unity to the book, but, so far as it has a main thread, it seems to be the self-devotion of a sister who prefers her brother to her lover. This furnishes a pleasant change from the recent favorite theme of ladies who prefer their lovers to their husbands.
To this latter class of novels, based on what may be called the centrifugal forces of wedlock, “Christian’s Mistake” perhaps belongs. Its clear and practised style is refreshing, after the comparative crudeness of some other recent treatises on the same theme ; the characters are human, not wooden, and the whole treatment healthful and noble.
“ Uncle Silas ” is the climax of the sensational, and goes as far beyond Mrs. Wood as she beyond Miss Braddon, or she beyond reason and comfortable daylight reading.