THE fugitive sketches of George Cable, collected under the attractive title of Old Creole Days,1 are as fresh in matter, as vivacious in treatment, and as full of wit as were The Luck of Roaring Camp and its audacious fellows when they came, while they are much more humane and delicate in feeling. The scene of all these seven sketches is laid in New Orleans ; and certainly no other city on this continent ever began to exhibit such bizarre conjunctions of race and lively clashings of race prejudice as did the Gulf city during the earlier half of the present century, —for a generation or so after the cession of Louisiana. Mr. Cable has availed himself specially of these contrasts to give animation to his legends and reminiscences. French and Spanish creoles, negroes, half-breed Indians, and Américains of every grade circulate gayly through his pages, meet and part with immense evoIution of electricity ; and “ we hear them speak each in his own tongue,” for the author’s mastery over mongrel dialects is something marvelous. Surely never before were such novel and varied vocal effects represented by the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet and a few italics and apostrophes. Mr. Cable draws powerfully upon his readers’ emotions also, touching rapidly and surely the stops of laughter and of tears. Some of his plots are better made than others, and occasionally he is almost over-dramatic, relying solely upon the action of his puppets, and hardly pausing or condescending to explain sufficiently, in his own person, to make his motive intelligible. But again, as in the smiling tale of Madame Delicieuse, the construction is perfect, — airy as gossamer, and yet firm as steel. The Belles Demoiselles Plantation is the most pathetic of the seven legends. Jean-ah Paquelin is darker and grimmer in its tragedy, but singularly impressive. Posson Jone’ is exquisitely droll. One and all have an ardor, a spontaneity, a grace of movement, a touch of fire, which are severally present as elements, and summed up in that rarest of endowments, an original and delightful style. Mr. Cable’s dialogues are so concise and complete that quotation cannot illustrate them. Each one is a dramatic whole, which to break is to mutilate. A short extract may, however, convey some slight notion of the energy and effectiveness of his descriptive style: —
“ The count’s grant had once been a long point, round which the Mississippi used to whirl and seethe and foam so that it was horrid to behold. Big whirlpools would open and wheel about in the savage eddies under the low bank, and close up again, and others open and spin and disappear. Great circles of muddy surface would boil up from hundreds of feet below, and gloss over, and seem to float away, — sink, come back again under water, and, with only a soft hiss, surge up again, and again drift off and vanish. Every few minutes the loamy bank would tip down a great load of earth upon its besieger, and fall back a foot, — sometimes a yard, — and the writhing river would press after, until at last the Points was quite swallowed up, and the great river glided by in a majestic curve, and asked no more. The bank stood fast, the ‘ caving ’ became a forgotten misfortune, and the diminished grant was a long, sweeping, willowy bend, rustling with miles of sugar-cane.”
Not even Mr. Cable, however, can be held to have won his double-first until he has acquitted himself of a long romance, and shown that he can suspend his reader’s attention, and sustain through at least three hundred pages the same sort of exhilarating interest with which he has so easily invested his detached pieces. Short of his high possibilities, there is a variety of gifts and methods, any one of which faithfully and skillfully employed is worthy of respect, and may succeed in producing even upon sophisticated minds a genuine, if transient, effect of novelty. The first and most legitimate of these methods prepense is an old and too much discredited one, — the resolute and patient search, namely, for an ingenious plot. This need not even be matter of invention, but only of watchfulness and memory. The permutations and combinations of actual human life are infinite. All the grimy circulating libraries in this land of common schools would not suffice to contain them. Any person who should have taken notes of all the “ ower true ” tales he ever heard — of all on which he ever felt impelled to make the new and striking commentary, “Truth is stranger than fiction ” — would possess plots enough, in the rough, to furnish a Dumas and all his workmen for a life-time. It is not every one, however, who can work up a provided plot, hut almost any one can learn to do so. It is mechanical dexterity that is needed here, — the fruit of hard practice backed by dogged determination. There are books, indeed, whose materials are excellent, which are made worthless and woful simply by the indolence of their writers; but there are a great many more in which the author naively relics on his own fancied fascinations, on the indirect revelation of a personality which is supremely self-interesting, to render attractive themes altogether too slight and trite. Just now, to be sure, the roman intime is not specially in fashion, and it had better, perhaps, be resigned to the Latins who invented it. But when a writer who has already won the affections of the public, and who has given abundant proof upon other occasions of some dramatic ability, is willing to lay self aside, and hunt the humble by-places of unrecorded fact for strange characters and fates perturbed and implicated by sinister and incalculable events, we have the second-best reason possible for expecting an engrossing result.
And this is precisely what Miss Ingelow has done in her latest prose romance, Sarah de Berenger.2 Her first, Off the Skelligs, was a novel of conversation and character purely ; the incidents, for the most part, simple and domestic, the sentiment mild. In Fated to be Free, still working with the same commonplace materials, she sought to heighten their effect by introducing a mystery, — a family secret, which the author herself respected so profoundly that she could not quite make up her mind to disclose it even at the end, and so its importance to the story was never made perfectly clear. In her third attempt, she has proceeded in a much more workman-like manner. She has discovered, or devised, a situation at once extremely new and curious, and not absolutely improbable. An English peasant woman, with an education somewhat above her rank in life, and a soul very much so, marries an exceedingly bad man, a lame cobbler, with a delicate, handsome face, who, after committing almost every crime in the decalogue, is convicted of burglary and sentenced to penal servitude for fourteen years. The woman — Hannah Dill by name — has an infant girl born after the father’s conviction, and another not quite two years old, and is left, of course, in abject poverty. But before she has regained her strength after her confinement, she falls heir to a little fortune from a far-away relative, — a thriving tradesman in a distant town. It is enough to place herself and her children beyond the reach of want, and she resolves that, at the cost of any sacrifice to herself, she will so use this money as to place them, at least, beyond the reach of shame. She therefore changes her own name and that of the children, taking a homely one herself, and adopting for the little girls, almost at random, the aristocratic De Berenger. She then quits the region where her husband’s story was known, and appears at a quiet watering-place on a distant part of the coast in the character of the children’s nurse. She dresses and treats them in all respects like the children of gentlefolks, who have been placed in her charge by parents in some foreign land, — presumably India; and her extremely respectable appearance and unremitting devotion to her little charges go far to justify the extraordinary confidence which seems to have been reposed in her. As time goes on, everything favors the success of her self-abnegating stratagem. She falls in with bona fide De Berengers, who are led by a singular succession of accidents to accept, and in some sort adopt, the little waifs as connections of their family. The rich and eccentric spinster for whom the book (mistakenly, we think) is named having resolved, with a characteristic contempt of evidence, that these are the children of a certain favorite nephew of her own, a scapegrace who died under a cloud in India, proceeds to prefer them to all her authentic heirs-atlaw, and in the end bequeaths them her wealth. The plot is really so very skillfully and up to a certain point strongly made that, like an ingenious machine, it seems for a while to go of itself, and to evolve strange incidents and complications without the perceptible interference of the author’s hand. The children, who have inherited the delicate personal beauty of their worthless father, grow up, in the refined atmosphere of the rural rectory which becomes their home, sweet-tempered, high-minded, and thorough-bred. The mother, having first managed legally to transfer her little competence to her girls, takes service in the same house, feeds her eyes upon their ripening loveliness, her heart by humble cares for them, and never once betrays her consanguinity. Just as they are blooming into early womanhood, the father is released from prison, having served out his full term. The wife tries for a time to keep herself hidden, but is at last seen and recognized by her husband. He is apparently a reformed man. The woman for whom he once forsook his wife is dead. He has heard, and fully believes, that his legitimate children are also dead, and his wife’s little legacy lost by an unfortunate investment; and she tacitly allows these impressions, but considers it a matter both of conscience and prudence to return to her husband, — quitting abruptly the happy place of service where she had her darlings constantly under her eye, and leaving there no clue to her whereabouts. From this point the story moves faster, and constantly gains in power and pathos. The tale of the cobbler’s conversion in prison, the strange explanation and agreement between husband and wife, the sad and stern reconcilement of the injured woman, the curious association in her simple soul of a mystical faith in the criminal’s “ forgiveness ” with an instinctive shrinking, which deepens into intense aversion, whenever he inclines to publish or parade his repentance, — all these are wonderfully well studied and poetically portrayed. The pathos of the story, which becomes extreme at its close, is very finely reserved. It is all in situation, as it should be, — never in phraseology. The mother sees her daughters, whom she had lifted up by her own selfannihilation, only once again before she leaves them in the lot to which they were not born. It is on the morning of the marriage of the elder and of her own death, and even then she is recognized only as the fond old servant, and her true story is never known.
There are some artistic faults in Miss Ingelow’s romance. Sarah de Berenger herself must be pronounced a failure. She may very well have existed, or even have been selected from life, but she is not well “ taken.” There are plenty of absurd people in the world, and no end of inconsequent talk, but hers has not the ring of reality. The right note is never quite reached. Miss Ingelow seems to have reasoned that we have all known people queer and perverse enough to have assisted, out of their mere wrong-headedness, the unnatural consummation of her story ; and so we have. But queer characters are like extraordinary effects in nature,—it is extremely difficult to represent them artistically. When a particularly quaint or glaring object is introduced the whole picture must be toned up to it, or it remains a helpless monstrosity. Miss Austen may possibly not have known this, but she did it perfectly, in Mr. Collins, in Miss Bates, in all her preëminently delightful fools, whose effect she subdued by such fine gradations of folly in the minor characters. The other De Berengers do not so subdue Sarah, and her crowning freak, whereby the poor mother is enabled to complete and confirm her self-sacrifice, appears like a preposterous invention. The story is also marred by much fragmentary and futile discussion of the temperance question. It is not proven that a novel with a purpose can be, under any circumstances, a first-rate novel, but it is quite certain that he who would present his theories in a dramatic form must have the onesidedness of absolute conviction and be impelled by overmastering zeal. Idle and impartial considerations are only so much rubbish impeding the movement of the play. Just so the question of pauper emigration was dragged into Off the Skelligs, and dragged out again. It had no vital connection with the tale, and no more had temperance with the tragedy of Hannah Dill.
And still Sarah de Berenger is a marked book, more than ordinarily symmetrical and impressive. Indirectly, moreover, and quite independently of the temperance tirades, it suggests thought — as the work of so thoughtful and philanthropic a spirit could hardly fail to do — on more than one doubtful problem of morals and sociology: whether deception is ever justified by beneficent resuits, — for of course the first and last word of any honorable man of affairs on such a performance as poor Hannah’s would be that it was both virtually impossible and unpardonably wrong ; and again, is breeding really so much more than birth that the Dill children could possibly, even under circumstances happy as theirs became, have grown up into the dainty, tender, delicate-minded De Berengers ?
Miss Ingelow’s answer to the latter query is radically democratic, and contrasts oddly with the depth and strength and deliberateness of proletarian conviction expressed in the work of a new American writer, bearing the significant if somewhat hackneyed title, A Man’s a Man for a’ That.3 The plot is as threadbare as the name is familiar, yet the book secures attention. Two young Americans travel in Europe and fall in love. Can the reader count the number of American tales of the last five years which may be thus epitomized ? The novelty in this case is to be found in a sort of inherent intensity, not to say animosity, of temper, which raises the power of quite ordinary feelings and experiences till they loom up almost epic. A man’s a man for a’ that here means a man’s a gentleman for a’ that, and the “a’ that” of vulgar origin, sordid fortunes, and a hideous environment is realized and set forth with a certain fierce ability and keen, caustic, bitter appreciation of the ludicrous. On this grim background is limned the figure of a hero, — a little too unnaturally knightly and perfect to be wholly attractive, and yet a breathing man, who interests us, and whom, on the whole, we admire. He is masterful, and yet gentle ; honorable and sincere. His one great weakness— that of being unduly sensitive about his social disadvantages — seems hardly to have been regarded as a blemish by his eulogistic biographer, while it is enough to make him possible in a fallen world. He is rather inconsequently and defiantly called Edel Schuyler, — a Knickerbocker name being just as cheap as another in a book, — and his development is traced with a species of fervor and unreserve, and there is a blending of pedantry and passion in the language of many parts of the narrative, which would once have been thought unfeminine, but which rather suffices, under the new régime, to render superfluous the author’s distinct profession of unfranchised sex. There is at least nothing weak or slow, and much which is truly and in the best sense of the word romantic, about the loves of Sir Edel and Agnes Condolet, the high-born damsel whom he wins to share his obscurity, but whose immense and abrupt social descent is surely overdrawn. Agnes was too distinguished to have parted with every atom of her prestige, even in lands of primogeniture and technical misalliance, while the utmost difference between gentility and humility of position in any known Lindenhurst could hardly have been great enough to involve tragic consequences. Nevertheless there are some plain truths racily told in the latter part of the book, and an artistic fitness, greater perhaps than the writer herself intended, in the final adjustment, whereby the hero shakes from his feet the dust of an ungrateful and uninviting country, offers the use of his wife’s money and his own unappreciated talents to the safest side of the least chivalric of causes, and ends his days in literature comfortably and congenially, as a pampered exile and the pet of the most bourgeois of living European monarches.
The title, Moondyne ; or, A Tale of the Under-World,4 is in itself so peculiar and grewsome that it seems fit to forestall any shock of surprise which might be received from the contents of the book. It is some relief to find that the under-world means Australia, and not either Hades or Skitzland; and when we have learned so much our inarticulate amaze at once begins to shape itself by memories of Geoffrey Hamlin, the Hilliars and Burtons, and It is Never too Late to Mend. There is evidently something about the life and landscape of Australia which powerfully stimulates the imagination. Fifteen or more years have not quite sufficed to bury in oblivion those fresh, early romances of the eccentric Henry Kingsley and the so greatly mutated Reade, and Mr. Boyle O’Reilly’s novel is wilder and more wonderful even than they. It is, in fact, furiously improbable, yet it wins the reader’s interest and a sort of provisional faith. It is a fable of Titans, having the consistency in absurdity of an exalted dream. A great and generous, if somewhat vague, idea gives it unity, — an idea thoroughly interfused, in this case, with the substance of the story, — that of the complete rehabilitation of condemned criminals by humane treatment. The hero, whose unearthly sobriquet gives the book its name, is a belated demigod, a convict, unjustly sentenced of course, who escapes from penal slavery and finds an asylum in the heart of the gold-hearing mountains of Australia, among savages as gentle and ideal as the Indians of Mr. Schurz’s perpetual dream. These are the true lords of the land and its incalculable treasure, and are living on in their golden fastness, defended by their position from the encroachments of penal civilization. How, precisely, the Moondyne was made free of that hoarded gold — compared with which the treasure of the Niebelungen was but a twopenny prize — is not explained ; but it is certain that when he reappears in the world he has full command of literally unlimited wealth, which he uses very beneficially. He shapes to his large and merciful views the policy, not of the convict colony merely, but of the home government. He unravels plots, navigates convict ships, quells mutinies, vindicates the oppressed ; himself superior to the tender passion, he favors virtuous attachments, and rewards them by bestowing palaces and principalities with a slight, grave smile; and he perishes in the burning bush in a vain attempt to save the life of his bitterest enemy. Mr. O'Reilly’s forte is all dramatic. He excels in the management of exciting incident, of which his tale is prolific, and death in the desert is twice portrayed with a sombre power which equals Blackmore and recalls Browning. In reflective and argumentative writing, on the contrary, he fails almost ludicrously, and his animated narrative is incessantly interrupted and marred by asides wonderful for weak sentiment and bad writing.
Moondyne has a certain careless merit, but it is an uncomfortably loud book, and The Felmeres 5 is also loud and startling, though differing as widely as possible in pitch and quality of tone from the other. The former is a lusty bass roar, the latter a piercing cry. One wonders at the temerity of the Christian believer who should dare tell at all, much less dream of telling for edification, a story like the following: A girl of the rarest personal and mental gifts is carefully educated by a father whom she passionately reveres in complete scientific atheism. The father is a recluse, driven by great wrongs and sorrows from the world of men, and thus enabled the more triumphantly to carry out the stern and sorry plan of education which he has devised for his child ; and the author has succeeded only too well for what we may suppose to have been her own purpose in depicting a noble character, upright, loyal, affectionate, and transparently true, from which every trace of Christian motive and association has been eliminated. From a merely critical point of view, the fine and, as one may say, unsullied paganism of Helen Felmere is astonishingly well realized, and we respect the power and intrepidity of the artist who has done it. But over and above this lavish endowment of her creature with every endearing and commanding charm, the author proceeds to contrast her with persecutors of high religious pretensions and honor in the churches, whom she makes cruel, sordid, hypocritical, revengeful,— all which the high-minded heathen whom they rob of joy in life, and finally drive to suicide, is not. And yet the reader is asked — hurriedly and incidentally, indeed, but as if his assent were expected, — to revere the truth which these inquisitors dishonor, and condemn the error which their victim glorifies. It is too much. We pity the tragedy of the tale; we are constrained to approve its execution, but we utterly repudiate its practical application. We cannot help fancying that the author herself lost her bearings a little under the stress of an uncommonly potent story, and was swept aside from her intended course by her own overmastering sympathy with the consistent and heroic spirit whom she had conjured up. It is in vain that she endeavors to right herself by bringing in, near the painful end of the story, a long-lost brother of the heroine, whom she makes a sincere Christian, — a humble and devoted priest. His imperious pleadings, his agonized rehearsal of points of doctrine, have as little effect upon the reader as they had upon the extraordinary woman, foredoomed by the very grandeur of her nature, whom he could by no means shake in her adhesion to the terrible vow once made to stand firm in life and in death by the dearly beloved father who had begotten her fearless spirit, and trained her to such unflinching austerities of mind. The whole conception is atonce exceptionally strong and mournfully futile. The book is a failure, — yet not by any means in the way of belittling or insulting the awful mysteries with which it assumes to deal. It is a failure on so high a level and on so nearly sublime a scale that it recalls irresistibly some of the greatest achievements of the human imagination, and sets the thought wandering in those dim arcana of our nature out of which came the heroic Satan of Milton and the Prometheus of a far elder day.
VOL. XLV. - NO. 267. 4
Miss Elliott, the unquestionably accomplished author of The Felmeres, is said to be a daughter of the Bishop of Georgia, and it may be in part the clerical traditions and familiarities which she reveals, as well as her high susceptibility to tragic emotion, which cause her to remind us of Miss Phelps. But she is a far more collected writer than Miss Phelps, though a less practiced one, and the commonplaces which must needs make the fitting of her romance, the talk, the concatenation of events, and the movement from day to day, are managed with an ease and sobriety by which Miss Phelps might well take pattern. We have an opportunity for fresh comparison afforded by the republication, under the title of Sealed Orders,6 of seventeen fugitive sketches by the author of The Gates Ajar. Thus collected, they fairly represent the entire range of her power. There is something of her worst in this book, in the way of morbidness of temper and grievous affectations in language, but more of her very best, of impassioned human sympathy, of a noble familiarity with the sorrows and speech of the lowly, of pure pathos and native humor. Miss Phelps excels in short stories and occasional —very occasional — poems. A single thought, or. more correctly, a single emotion, animates every sketch, seizes her mightily as it would seem, and tyrannizes over her until she has dramatized and proclaimed it, when she is ready to receive and transmit another impulse. It is of the nature of inspirations of this order that they come and are spent quickly, and strike one fully where they strike one first. They will not bear being detained, examined, analyzed, tortured, and drawn out into a protracted agony, like that of Avis. In these short pieces, as in her more elaborate works, we have to lament a something faulty, unnatural, — shall we say at once, — unsound, in all Miss Phelps’s treatment of the important themes of love and marriage, and also, or perhaps, as the Germans say, thereby, an obstinate preference for the gloomy side of life. Here are a few specimen themes: a hunted creature, the victim of cruel chance and his own meek goodness, driven to hard exile and feigned death, that those who have most hurt him might tranquilly enjoy his place and his goods; a vessel drifting rudderless almost within cannon range of its port, week after week, unseen and unspoken, till the crew are starved or hopelessly stricken and aged, and watchers for their coming die of grief upon the shore; another wrecked in full view of home; the soul of one dead trying distressfully, but to no purpose, to make its promised presence felt by a distracted mourner; a Puritan maid en withheld by the savage proprieties of her town and time from ministering to her lover while he dies a lingering death. Surely the ability which Miss Phelps undeniably has to win and hold our softened attention to themes so monotonously dreary and uncanny must more than border upon genius.
Nevertheless, the writers who make our hearts bleed, and those others who make our nerves quiver, though these are mostly they who now succeed in fiction, and their effect is quite en règle, are alike wearing if we hearken to them too long; and it is in the sad and jaded mood which an overdose of such pungent stuff is well fitted to induce that we are apt wistfully to recall certain slow and dulcet words of the great master of modern criticism : “ What we lack is calm and freshness, — a little pure cold water with which to cool our burning palates. This quality of freshness and delicacy, this limpidity in emotion and sobriety in speech, this soft and quiet shading, as they disappear on all hands from actual life and the works of imagination now produced, become all the more precious when we encounter them in obscurity and in those pleasing compositions where they were last reflected. It would be a mistake to suppose that there is aught of weakness or degeneracy in regretting these vanished charms, these flowers which apparently could only blow in the very last days of an order of society now passed away. . . . In stirring times, in moments of incoherent and confused imagination like the present, it is natural to make for the most important point, to busy one’s self with the general working, and everywhere, even in literature, to strike boldly, aim high, and shout through trumpets and speaking-tubes. The modest graces will perhaps come back after a while, — and come with an expression appropriate to their new surroundings. I would fain believe it; but while hoping for the best, I feel sure that it will not be to-morrow that their sentiments and their speech will once more prevail.”
Many a to-morrow has come and gone since these patient words were written, and the “ modest graces ” are as slow in their coming up this way as the Northern spring; and yet, at long intervals, a swallow sings, — a book may be distinguished amid the keen-voiced, gaudily-clad crowd of claimants which SainteBeuve himself might possibly have considered hopeful. We think he would so have considered Delicia 7 for its delicate truthfulness, its moderation and simplicity, its occasional wit, naïve and irresistible, and thoroughly refined above all; for a certain quaint but high-bred plainness of manner, a blending of perfect polish with utter absence of parade. It is an English novel, the scene of which is laid in the almost unvisited middle class, and it shows as conclusively as ten of Mr. Matthew Arnold’s most persuasive essays could do that the middle class in England are not all Philistines. It has neither a duke nor a navvy ; the scene is laid in London, yet it never trespasses either upon Belgravia or Tom-all-alone’s. The characters are very deftly balanced and discriminated, their destinies most naturally intertwined. There is not a melodramatic situation in the whole book, hardly, one would say, a dramatic one, until it is remembered how seldom the retiring author speaks in her own person, how entirely and with what entire clearness the tale is told by the dramatis persoæ.
Beside the simplicity, the shapeliness, and the excellent workmanship of Delicia, the almost inevitable faults of a first book like the Earnest Trifler8 are especially conspicuous. To say of a young man and woman having a tête-à-tête that “ he looked at his boots, and his averted attention seemed to relieve her from words that were suggested and vocalized only through his appealing amiability ; ” to describe an arm-chair as “a comfortable and reverie-breeding receptacle for the person ; ” to confuse would and should and will and shall, — these are things which the apt and clever new writer under discussion will not do in her next book (perhaps), which, in fact, she often amiably forgets to do in the latter half of this one. The new writer is all of clever, and needs, we think, only experience and a more assured and independent, command of her capabilities to be highly agreeable. She prepares her entertainment upon a tiny stage, and with a company consisting of two young men of leisure and one young woman in suspense. She has achieved the art of making these three actors converse together at wondrous length, all in the same light, allusive, ingeniously suggestive, and mysteriously facetious manner, breathing many jokes which they do not stay to point, and potential epigrams which they seem too languid to elaborate. But there cannot be a constant smoke of wit without some little fire ; and accordingly, on various occasions, each one of these interlocutors, the earnest trifler himself, and the trifling censor, and the capricious being with whom they trifle or are stern, emit very pretty flashes, as when one says that a certain person was “ as homely as if Thomas Nast had made and presented him to his parents.” The scenery of the piece is new, and effectively painted. Of the old grave-yard, where one of the most graceful scenes of the little drama passes, it is picturesquely said, “It was drearily old. Time was over and eternity had set in. The gravestones had ceased to be painstaking and elegant, and had fallen into shiftless attitudes. The very ghosts were taking their ease, and the grief, the anguish, the joy, the sense which afflict mankind seemed distilled into mellow humor and overhanging sunshine. Its manifest disuse ; its sunny neglect; its evident desire to bury its own remains under the sods and creepers; its tottering monuments, once upright and firm as the low-lying Christians; its baby-stones, sunken like mumble-the-pegs, all gave the impression that death itself was so old and so obsolete as to have lost its sting.” And again: —
“ He listened to the swallows and tree-toads; he looked at the pines on the mountains. How sweet the hay was ! And a cloud on the horizon had a wonderful complexion ! Yet in the gray depths of the evening, and in the blankness of space, an equilibrium like death.” (There is a touch of vertigo here ; but notice the fine poetic truth of what follows.) “How patient the hills were! What were they waiting for ? How breathless the valley ! What suspension ! What great, what divine indifference! What negation, what sleep! It depressed him ; it had in it a species of anguish. If the world were made out of nothing, there seemed plenty of material left, around, above, within him, for another effort, — something better yet.”
More and more, certainly, as the tale unfolds, the author drops her docile mannerisms, and yields to an impulse from within. Her young men are differentiated. Her heroine arises out of the haze of piquant inconsistencies in which she has been conventionally smothered, becomes a free agent, and acts spiritedly and well. We like the author none the less, for this time at least, that she swerves from the point at which her tale might have become more intense and sensational, and would probably have done so had her early studies been less guileless. She moves with an accelerating but always circumspect pace to an end which we recognize as both morally fit and poetically just, and we lay her book aside full of the candid wish to meet her again at no very distant day.
- Old Creole Days. By GEORGE CABLE. New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1879.↩
- Sarah de Berenger. A novel. By JEAN INGELOW. Boston: Roberts Brothers. 1879.↩
- A Man’s a Man for a' That. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1879.↩
- Moondyne. A Story from the Under-World. By JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY. Boston: Pilot Publishing Company. 1879.↩
- The Felmeres. A Novel. By S. B. ELLIOTT. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1879.↩
- Sealed Orders. By ELIZABETH STUART PHELPS. Boston: Houghton. Osgood & Co. 1879.↩
- Deiicia. By B. M. BUTT. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 1879.↩
- An Earnest Trifler. Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co. 1880.↩