A Society Novel. By MRS. Roberts Brothers.. Boston:
MRS. STOWE fairly warns her readers at the outset that her story is but a sermon in disguise ; and no one has a right to complain if it falls below her other novels in the proper interest of a fiction. Of course one may doubt if a little more lifelikeness in some of the people doing duty for firstly, fifthly, and fourteenthly, and the other heads, might not have helped the effect of the discourse ; and for our own part, we feel that the declared moral is rather forced out of it than naturally evolved ; but Mrs. Stowe could not make a dull or meaningless sermon, and this, even as a story, can be read with profit tempered in high degree by pleasure.
The story is simply that of a commonish young lady, very pretty and very stylish, with little heart and little brain, who marries good, kind, earnest, loving John Seymour, the only son of a rich old New England family, and the head of a large New England manufacturing house. He takes Lillie home from whatever city she lives in to the family mansion in the quiet town where the Seymours have always lived ; and what remains is the history of how Lillie, who has never loved him, and has a soul only for the delights of Newport in summer and New York in winter, transforms his house into a French palace in the Pompadour taste, forces into the retirement of a small cottage his sister Grace, with whom he has always lived in a tender, almost romantic friendship, horrifies all his old friends to whom she introduces her own fast, vulgar set, skirts the ruinous brink of an intrigue, tries to shun maternity by excesses that wreck her health, pleads with her husband to retrieve his financial failure by tricks with which the history of many successful bankruptcies has familiarized her, and dies at last with some light of conscience breaking in upon her little heathenish soul. She is throughout as unlovely a person as it has been our fortune to know in a novel; and the reader is never tempted to share her husband’s weak fondness for her. On the contrary, he feels, — or if the reader is a woman, all the more intensely, no doubt, she feels, that she would have very soon put an end to Lillie’s selfish disorders, and reduced her to some sense of her entire worthlessness. John does not, and perhaps Mrs. Stowe is right, and Americans do abominably indulge and spoil their wives ; but it does not appear to us, for all this, that the chief moral of the story is that there should not be any greater freedom of divorce, or else men will put away such wives as Lillie, and let them go wherever their bad instincts lead them.
Much weightier lessons than this enforce themselves in “ Pink and White Tryanny,” which we should commend more for the good purpose characteristic of it all, than for its strength of exegesis or for the dramatic impersonation of its ideas. Many of the characters are overcharged with the peculiar qualities they are intended to present to our admiration or abhorrence, and this, as we have hinted, weakens the ethical effect ; but enough of truth and force remain to make the book a most useful one to the Lillies and the Follingsbees and Ferrolas, — if they will read it. Yes, even the Seymours and the Fergusons, who will probably read it, may be benefited by it; for they owe it to society, as rich, well-educated people, to keep on living simply and sanely in the tradition of their ancestry. They may be a thought dull, if they must; they may be as exclusive as they like, if only they will impress the fact that the highest social position implies virtue, sobriety, and culture.
The pictures in the book are rather droll. On one page Mr. Carryl Etheridge is represented with a mustache only. Ten minutes afterwards he appears in the next illustration with a goatee. The artist has made him look twenty years older, but still we feel it is too sudden for the additional beard.