Sidor som bilder
PDF

in this respect, like the old French leaguers, with a Quand méme. The Pirate is not what we expected, nor is it new. We had looked for a prodigious row—landing and boarding, cut and thrust, blowing up of ships, and sacking of sea-ports, with the very devil to pay, and a noise to deafen clamour,

Guns, drums, trumpets, blunderbusses, and thunder.

We supposed that for the time “Hell itself would be empty, and all the devils be here.” There be land pirates and water pirates ; and we thought Sir Walter would be for kicking up just such a dust by sea, in the Buccaneers, (as it was to be called) as he has done by land in Old Mortality. Multum abludit imago. There is nothing or little of the sort. There is here ği. a sprinkling of twenty pages of roaring lads, who come on shore for no use but to get themselves hanged in the Orkneys,) only a single Pirate, a peaking sort of gentleman, spiteful, but not enterprizing; in love, and inclined to take up and reform, but very equiavocal in the sentiments he professes, and in those he inspires in others. Cleveland is the Pirate, who is wrecked on the coast of Zetland, is saved from destruction by young Mordaunt Mertoun, who had been so far the hero of the piece, and jilts him with his mistress, Minna, a grave sentimentalist, and the elder of two sisters, to whom Mertoun had felt a secret and undeclared passion. The interest of the novel hinges on this bizarre situation of the different parties. Sir Walter (for he has in the present work leisure on his hands to philosophize) here introduces a dissertation of some length, but not much depth, to show that the jilting of favoured, or half-favoured lovers, comes by the dispensation of Providence, and that the breed of honest men and bonny lasses would be spoiled if the fairest of the fair, the sentimental Miss, and the prude (contrary to all previous and common-place calculation), did not prefer the blackguard and the bravo, to the tender, meek,

uny, unpretending, heart-broken over. We do not think our novelist manages his argument well, or shines in his new Professor's chair of morality. Miss Polly Peachum, we do

indeed remember, the artless, soft, innocent Polly, fell in love with the bold Captain Macheath; but so did Miss Lucy Lockitt too, who was no chicken, and who, according to this new balance of power in the empire of love, ought to have tempered her fires with the phlegm of some young chaplain to the prison, or the soft insinuations of some dreaming poet. But as our author himself is not in a hurry to get on with his story, we will imitate him, and let him speak here in his super. fluous character of a casuist, or commentator on his own narrative.

[blocks in formation]

remembrance of former and more friendly

times;, while Minna was exclusively engrossed by the attentions of her neighbour; and that it should be so, filled Mordaunt with surprise and resentment. Minna, the serious, the prudent, the reserved, whose countenance and manners indicated so much elevation of character—Minna, the lover of solitude, and of those paths of knowledge in which men walk best without company—the enemy of light mirth, the friend of musing me. lancholy, and the frequenter of fountainheads and pathless glens—she whose character seemed, in short, the very reverse of that which might be captivated by the bold, coarse, and daring gallantry of such a man as this Captain Cleveland, gave, nevertheless, her eye and ear to him, as he sate beside her at table, with an interest and a graciousness of attention, which to Mordaunt, who well knew how to judge of her feelings by her manner, intimated a degree of the highest favour. He observed this, and his heart rose against the favourite by whom he had been thus superseded, as well as against Minna's indiscreet departure from her own character. “What is there about the man,” he said within himself, “more than the bold and daring assumption of importance which is derived from success in petty enterprises, and the exercise of petty despotism over a ship's crew 2–his very language is more professional than is used by the superior officers of the British navy; and the wit which has excited so many smiles, seems to me such as Minna would not formerly have endured for an instant. Even Brenda seems less taken with his gallantry than Minna, whom it should have suited so little.” Mordaunt was doubly mistaken in these his angry speculations. In the first place, with an eye which was, in some respects, that of a rival, he criticised far too severely the manners and behaviour of Captain Cleveland. They were unpolished, certainly; which was the less consequence in a country inhabited by so plain and simple a race as the ancient Zetlanders. On the other hand, there was an open, naval frankness in Cleveland's manners—much natural shrewdness—some appropriate humour—an undoubting confidence in himself—and that enterprising hardihood of disposition, which, without any other recommendable quality, very often leads to success with the fair sex. But Mordaunt was farther mistaken, in supposing that Cleveland was likely to be disagreeable to Minna Troil, on account of the opposition of their characters in so many material particulars. Had his knowledge of the world been a little more extensive, he might have observed, that as unions are often formed betwixt couples differing in complexion and stature, they take place still more frequently betwixt persons totally differing in feelings, in taste, in pursuits, and in understanding; and it would not be saying, perhaps, too much, to aver, that two-thirds of the marriages around us have been contracted betwixt persons, who, judging a priori, we should have thought had scarce any charms for each other. A moral and primary cause might be easily assigned for these anomalies, in the wise dispensations of Providence, that the general balance of wit, wisdom, and amiable qualities of all kinds, should be kept up through society at large. For, what a world were it, if the wise were to intermarry only with the wise, the learned with the learned, the amiable with the amiable, nay, even the handsome with the handsome 2 and, is it not evident, that the degraded castes of the foolish, the ignorant, the brutal, and the deformed, (comprehending, by the way, far the greater portion of mankind,) must, when condemned to exclusive intercourse with each other, become gradually as much brutalized in person and disposition as so many ouranoutangs? When, therefore, we see the “gentle joined to the rude,” we may lament the fate of the suffering individual, but we must not the less admire the mysterious disposition of that wise Providence which thus balances the moral good and evil of life —which secures for a family, unhappy in the dispositions of one parent, n share of better and sweeter blood, transmitted from the other, and preserves to

‘see to be unsuitable to them.

tection of at least one of those from whom it is naturally due. Without the frequent occurrence of such alliances and unions— missorted as they seem at first sight—the world could not be that for which Eternal Wisdom has designed it—a place of mixed good and evil—a place of trial at once, and of suffering, where even the worst ills are chequered with something that renders them tolerable to humble and patient minds, and where the best blessings carry with them a necessary alloy of embittering depreciation. When, indeed, we look a little closer on the causes of those unexpected and illsuited attachments, we have occasion to acknowledge, that the means by which they are produced do not infer that complete departure from, or inconsistency with, the character of the parties, which we might expect when the result alone is contemplated. The wise purposes which Providence appears to have had in view, in permitting such intermixture of dispositions, tempers, and understandings, in the married state, are not accomplished by any mysterious impulse by which, in contradiction to the ordinary laws of nature, men or women are urged to an union with those whom the world The freedom of will is permitted to us in the occurrences of ordinary life, as in our moral conduct ; and in the former, as well as the latter case, is often the means of misguiding those who possess it. Thus it usually happens, more especially to the enthusiastic and imaginative, that, having formed a picture of admiration in their own mind, they too often deceive themselves by some faint resemblance in some existing being, whom their fancy as speedily as gratuitously invests with all the attributes necessary to complete the beau ideal of mental perfection. No one, perhaps, even in the happiest marriage, with an object really beloved, ever found all the qualities he expected to possess; but in far too many cases, he finds he has practised a much higher degree of mental deception, and has erected his airy castle of felicity upon some rainbow, which owed its very existence only to the peculiar state of the atmosphere. Thus Mordaunt, if better acquainted with life, and with the course of human things, would have been little surprised that such a man as Cleveland, handsome, bold, and animated,—a man who had obviously lived in danger, and who spoke of it as sport, should have been invested, by a girl of Minna's fanciful character, with an extensive share of those qualities, which in her active imagination, were held to fill up the accomplishments of a heroic chaacter. The plain bluntness of his manner, if remote from courtesy, appeared, at least, fashioned as he seemed by forms, he had enough both of natural sense, and natural good-breeding, to support the delusion he had created, at least so far as externals were concerned. It is scarce necessary to add, that these observations apply exclusively to what are called love-matches : for when either party fix their attachment upon the substantial comforts of a rental, or a jointure, they cannot be disappointed in the acquisition, although they may be cruelly so in their over-estimation of the happiness it was to afford, or in having too slightly anticipated the disadvantages with which it was to be attended. Having a certain partiality for the dark Beauty whom we have described, we have willingly dedicated this digression, in order to account for a line of conduct which we allow to seem absolutely unnatural in such a narrative as the present, though the most common event in ordinary life; namely, in Minna's appearing to have over-estimated the taste, talent, and ability of a handsome young man, who was dedicating to her his whole time and attention, and whose homage rendered her the envy of almost all the other young women of that numerous party. Perhaps, if our fair readers will take the trouble to consult their own bosoms, they will be disposed to allow, that the distinguished good taste exhibited by any individual, who, when his attentions would be agreeable to a whole circle of rivals, selects one as their individual object, entitles him, on the footing of reciprocity, if on no other, to a large share of that one's favourable, and even partial esteem. At any rate, if the character shall, after all, be deemed inconsistent and unnatural, it concerns not us, who record the facts as we find them, and pretend no privilege for bringing closer to nature those incidents which may seem to diverge from it; or for reducing to consistence that most inconsistent of all created things—the heart of a beautiful and admired female. Suffice it to say, that we differ from this solution of the difficulty, ingenious and old as it is ; and to justify that opinion, ask only whether such a man as Cleveland would not be a general favourite with women, instead of being so merely with those of a particularly retired and fantastic character, which destroys the author's balance of qualities in love? Indeed, his own story is a very bad illustration of his doctrine; for this romantic and imprudent attachment of the gentle and sensitive Minna to the bold and profligate Captain Cleveland leads to nothing but the most disastrous consequences; and the €pposition between their sentiments

the offspring the affectionate care and pro- as widely different from deceit; and, un

and characters, which was to make them fit partners for life, only prevents the possibility of their union, and renders both parties permanently miserable. Besides, the whole perplexity is, after all, gratuitous. The enmity between Cleveland and young Mertoun (the chief subject of the plot) is founded on their jealousy of each other in regard to Minna, and yet there had been no positive emgagement between her and Mertoun, who, like Edmund in Lear, is equally betrothed to both sisters—in the end marrying the one that he as well as the reader likes least. Afterwards, when the real character of this gay rover of the seas is more fully developed, and he gets into scrapes with the police of Orkney, the grave, romantic Minna, like a true Northern lass, deserts him, and plays off a little old-fashioned, unavailing, but discreet morality upon him. When the reader begins to sympathise with “a brave man in distress,” then is the time for his mistress with “the pale

face and raven locks” to look to her

own character. We like the theory of the Beggar's Opera better than this: the ladies there followed their

supposed hero, their beau ideal of a

lover, to prison, instead of leaving him to his untoward fate. Minna is no Nut-brow N MAID, though she has a passion for outlaws, between whose minds and those of the graver and more reflecting of the fair sex. there is, according to the opinion of our GREAt UNKNowN, a secret and pre-established harmony. What is still more extraordinary and unsatisfactory in the progress of the story is this—all the pretended preternatural influence of Norma P the Fitful-Head, the most potent and impressive personage in the drama, is exerted to defeat Cleveland's views, and to give Minna to Mordaunt Mertoun, for whom she conceives an instinctive and anxious attachment as her long-lost son ; and yet in the end the whole force of this delusion, and the reader's sympathies, are destroyed by the discovery that Cleveland, not Mertoun, is her real offspring, and that she has been equally led astray by her maternal affection and preternatural pretensions. Does this great writer of romances, this profound historiographer of the land of visions and of second sight, thus mean to qualify his thrilling mysteries—to back out of his thrice-hallowed prejudices, and to turn the tables upon us with modern cant and hilosophic scepticism P. That is the F. thing we could forgive him We have said that the characters in the Pirate are not altogether new. Norna, the enchantress, whom he is “so fond" at last to depose from her ideal cloudy throne of spells and mystic power, is the Meg Merrilies of the scene. She passes over it with vast strides, is at hand whenever she is wanted, sits hatching fate on the topmost tower that overlooks the wilderness of waves, or glides suddenly from a subterraneous passage, and in either case moulds the elements of nature, and the unruly passions of men, to her purposes. She has “ strange power of speech,” weaves events with words, is present wherever she pleases, and performs what she wills, and yet she doubts her own power, and criticises her own pretensions. Meg Merrilies was an honester witch. She at least stuck true to herself. We hate an thing by halves; and most of all, imagination and superstition piecemeal. Cleveland, again, is a sort of inferior Gentle Geordie, and Minna lags after Effic Deans, the victim of misplaced affection, but far, far behind. Wert thou to live a thousand years, and write a thousand romances, thou wouldst never, old True-penny, beat thy own Heart of Mid I, othian / It is for that we can forgive thee all that thou didst mean to write in the BEAcon, or hast written elsewhere, beneath the dignity of thy genius and knowledge of man's weaknesses, as well as bettermiature | Magnus Troil is a great name, a striking name; but we ken his person before; he is of the same nealogy as the Bailie Braidwarine, and other representatives of old Scottish hospitality: the dwarf Nick Strumpfer is of a like familiar breed, only uglier and more useless than any former one: we have even traces, previous to the Pirate, of the extraordinary agriculturist and projector, Mr. Timothy Yellowley, and his sister, Miss Barbara Yellowley, with pinched nose and grey eyes; but we confess we have one individual who was before a stranger to us, at least in these parts, namely, Claud Halcro, the

poet, and friend of “Glorious John.” We do not think him in his place amidst dwarfs, witches, pirates, and Udallers; and his stories of the Wits.” Coffee-house and Dryden's poetry are as tedious to the critical reader as they were to his Zetland patron and hearers. We might confirm this opinion by a quotation, but we should be thought too tedious. He fills up, we will venture to say, a hundred pages of the work with sheer impertinence, with pribble prabble. Whenever any serious matter is to be attended to, Claud Halcro pulls out his fiddle and draws the long bow, and repeats some verses of Glorious John.” Bunce, the friend of Cleveland, is much better; for we can conceive how a strolling-player should turn gentleman-rover in a time of need, and the foppery and finery of the itinerant stage-hero become the quarter-deck exceedingly well. In general, however, our author's humour requires the aid of costume and dialect to set it off to advantage: his wit is Scotch, not English wit. It must have the twang of the uncouth pronunciation and peculiar manners of the country in it. The elder Mertoun , is a striking misanthropic sketch; but it is not very well made out in what his misanthropy origimates, nor to what it tends. He is merely a part of the machinery: neither is he the first gentleman in these Novels who lands without an introduction on the remote shores of Scotland, and shuts himself u (for reasons best known to himself in inaccessible and solitary confinement. We had meant to give the outline of the story of the Pirate, but we are ill at a plot, and do not care to blunt the edge ofthe reader's curiosity by anticipating each particular. As far, however, as relates to the historical foundation of the narrative, the author has done it to our hands, and we give his words as they stand in the Advertisement.

In the month of January 1724-5 a vessel, called the Revenge, bearing twenty large guns, and six smaller, commanded by John Gow, or Goffe, or Smith, came to the Orkney Islands, and was discovered to be a pirate, by various acts of insolence and villainy committed by the crew. These were for some time submitted to, the inhabitants of these remote islands not possessing arms nor means of resistance; and so bold was the captain of these banditti, that he not only came ashore, and gave dancing parties in the village of Stromness, but, before his real character was discovered, engaged the affections and received the troth-plight of a young lady, possessed of some property. A patriotic individual, James Fea, younger, of Clestron, formed the plan of securing the buccaneer, which he effected by a mixture of courage and address, in consequence chiefly of Gow's vessel having gone on shore near the harbour of Calfsound, on the Island of Eda, not far distant from a house then inhabited by Mr. Fea. In the various stratagenis by which Mr. Fea contrived finally, at the peril of his life, they being well armed and desperate, to make the whole pirates his prisoners, he was much aided by Mr. James Laing, the grandfather of the late Malcolm Laing, Esq. the acute and ingenious historian of Scotland during the 17th century. Gow, and others of his crew, suffered, by sentence of the High Court of Admiralty, the punishment their crimes had long deserved. He conducted himself with great audacity when before the Court; and, from an account of the matter, by an eye-witness, seems to have been subjected to some unusual severities, in order to compel him to plead. The words are these : “John Gow would not plead, for which he was brought to the bar, and the Judge ordered that his thumbs should be squeezed by two men, with a whip-cord, till it did break; and then it should be doubled, till it did again break, and then laid threefold, and that the executioners should pull with their whole strength; which sentence Gow endured with a great deal of boldness.” The next morning, (27th May, 1725,) when he had seen the preparations for pressing him to death, his courage gave way, and he told the Marshal of Court, that he would not have given so much trouble, had he been assured of not being han in chains. He was then tried, condemned, and executed, with others of his crew. It is said, that the lady whose affections Gow had engaged, went up to London to see him before his death, and that, arriving too late, she had the courage to request a sight of his dead body; and then touching the hand of the corpse, she formally resumed the troth-plight which she had bestowed. Without going through this ceremony, she could not, according to the superstition of the country, have escaped a visit from the ghost of her departed lover, in the event of her bestowing upon any living suitor, the faith which she had plighted to the dead. This part of the legend may serve as a curious commentary on the beautiful tale of the fine Scottish ballad, which begins,

There came a ghost to Margaret's door, &c. Vol. V.

The common account of this incident farther bears, that Mr. Fea, the spirited individual, by whose exertions Gow's career of iniquity was cut short, was so far from receiving any reward from Government, that he could not obtain even countenance enough to protect him against a variety of sham suits, raised against him by Newgate solicitors, who acted in the name of Gow, and others of the pirate crew ; and the avrious expences, vexatious prosecutions, and other legal consequences, in which his gallantry involved him, utterly ruined his fortune and his family ; making his memory a notable example to all who shall in future take pirates on their own authority.

Of the execution of these volumes we need hardly speak. It is inferior, but it is only inferior to some of his former works. Whatever he touches, we see the hand of a master. He has only to describe actions, thoughts, scenes, and they everywhere speak, breathe, and live. It matters not whether it be a calm sea-shore, a mountaintempest, a drunken brawl, “the Cathedral's choir and gloom,” the Sybil's watch-tower, or the smuggler's cave; the things are immediately there that we should see, hear, and feel. He is Nature's Secretary. He neither adds to, nor takes away from, her book; and that makes him what he is, the most popular writer living. We might give various instances of his unrivalled undecaying power, but shall select only one or two with which we were most struck and delighted in the perusal. The characters of the two sisters, daughters of Magnus Troil, and the heroines of the tale, are thus beautifully drawn:

From her mother, Minna inherited the stately form and dark eyes, the raven locks and finely pencilled brows, which showed she was, on one side, at least, a stranger to the blood of Thule. Her cheek,

O call it fair, not pale,

was so slightly and delicately tinged with the rose, that many thought the lily had an undue proportion in her complexion. But in that predominance of the paler flower, there was nothing sickly or languid; it was the true natural complexion of health, and corresponded in a peculiar degree with features which seemed calculated to express a contemplative and high-mindcd character. When Minna Troil heard a tale of woe, or of injustice, it was then her blood rushed to her checks, a d showed plainly how warm it beat, notwithstanding the generally serious, composed, and retiring disposition, which her countenance

« FöregåendeFortsätt »