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erudition even of a marchande des modes; and that perience; in “ Shirley” that standing point is simply because we knew that there were women frequently abandoned, and the artist paints only a profoundly ignorant of the mysteries of the toil- panorama of which she, as well as you, are but ette, and the terminology of fashion, (independent spectators. Hence the unity of “ Jane Eyre,” in of the obvious solution, that such ignorance might spite of its clumsy and improbable contrivances, be counterfeited, to mislead,) and felt that there was great and effective ; the fire of one passion, was no man who could so have delineated a woman fused the discordant materials into one mould. or would so have delineated a man. The fair But in “Shirley" all unity, in consequence of and ingenious critic was misled by her own acute- defective art, is wanting. There is no passionate, ness in the perception of details ; and misled also link; nor is there any artistic fusion, or interin some other way, and more uncharitably, in con- growth, by which one part evolves itself from cluding that the author of “ Jane Eyre' was a another. Hence its falling-off in interest, coherent heathen educated among heathens—the fact being, movement, and life. The book may be laid down that the authoress is the daughter of a clergyman! at any chapter, and almost any chapter might be.
This question of authorship, which was some- omitted. The various scenes are gathered up into what hotly debated a little while ago, helped to three volumes—they have not grown into a work. keep up the excitement about “ Jane Eyre ;” but, | The characters often need a justification for their independently of that title to notoriety, it is certain introduction ; as in the case of the three cuthat, for many years, there had been no work of rates, who are offensive, uninstructive, and unasuch power, piquancy, and originality. Its very musing. That they are not inventions, however, faults were faults on the side of vigor; and its we feel persuaded. For nothing but a strong beauties were all original. The grand secret of sense of their reality could have seduced the author-, its success, however—as of all genuine and last- ess into such a mistake as admitting them at all. ing success—was it reality. From out of the We are confident she has seen them, known them, depths of a sorrowing experience, here was a voice despised them; and therefore she paints them! speaking to the experience of thousands. The although they have no relation with the story, aspects of external nature, too, were painted with have no interest in themselves, and cannot be acequal fidelity—the long, cheerless winter days, cepted as types of a class—for they are not cu-, chilled with rolling mists occasionally gathering rates but boors; and although not inventions, we into the strength of rains—the bright spring must be permitted to say that they are nol true. mornings—the clear solemn nights—were all Some such objection the authoress seems indeed to painted to your soul as well as to your eye, by a have anticipated ; and thus towards the close of her pencil dipped into a soul's experience for its work defends herself against it. “ Note well ! colors. Faults enough the book has undoubtedly: wherever you present the actual simple truth, it is faults of conception, faults of taste, faults of igno- somehow always denounced as a lie: they disown it, rance, but, in spite of all, it remains a book of sin- cast it off, throw it on the parish ; whereas the gular fascination. A more masculine book, in the product of your imagination, the mere figment, the sense of vigor, was never written. Indeed, that sheer fiction, is adopted, petted, termed pretty, vigor often amounts to coarseness—and is cer- proper, sweetly natural.” Now Currer Bell, we tainly the very antipode to “ lady-like."
fear, has here fallen into a vulgar error. This same over-masculine vigor is even more indeed, into which even Miss Edgeworth has also prominent in “ Shirley," and does not increase the fallen ; who conceived that she justified the intropleasantness of the book. A pleasant book, in- duction of an improbable anecdote in her text, by deed, we are not sure that we can style it. Power averring in a note that it was a “ fact.” But the it has unquestionably, and interest too, of a pecu- intrusion is not less an error for all that. Truth liar sort; but not the agreeableness of a work of is never rejected, unless it be truth so exceptional
Through its pages we are carried as over a as to stagger our belief; and in that case the arwild and desolate heath, with a sharp east wind tist is wrong to employ it, without so preparing blowing the hair into our eyes, and making the our minds that we might receive it unquestioned. blood tingle in our veins. There is health per- The coinage of imagination, on the other hand, is haps in the drive ; but not much pleasantness. not accepted because it departs from the actual Nature speaks to us distinctly enough, but she truth, but only because it presents the recognized does not speak sweetly. She is in her stern and attributes of our nature in new and striking comsombre mood, and we see only her dreary aspects. binations. If it falsify these attributes, or the
"Shirley” is inferior to “ Jane Eyre" in sev- known laws of their associations, the fiction is at eral important points. It is not quite so true; and once pronounced to be monstrous, and is rejected. it is not so fascinating. It does not so rivet the read- Art, in short, deals with the broad principles of er's attention, nor hurry him through all obstacles human nature, not with idiosyncracies : and,', of improbability with so keen a sympathy in its although it requires an experience of life both reality. It is even coarser in texture, too, and comprehensive and profound, to enable us to say not unfrequently flippant; while the characters are with confidence, that “this motive is unnatural," almost all disagreeable, and exhibit intolerable or " that passion is untrue,” it requires no great rudeness of manner. In " Jane Eyre” life was experience to say “this character has not the air viewed from the standing point of individual ex- of reality; it may be copied from nature, but it
It is one,
does not look so." Were Currer Bell's defence and rudeness is something which startles on a first allowable, all criticism must be silenced at once. reading, and, on a second, is quite inexplicable. An author has only to say that his characters Is this correct as regards Yorkshire, or is the are copied from nature, and the discussion is fault with the artist? In one place she speaks closed. But though the portraits may be like the with indignant scorn of those who find fault with oddities from whom they are copied, they are Yorkshire manners; and defies the "most refined faulty as works of art, if they strike all who never of cockneys to presume” to do such a thing. met with these oddities as unnatural. The curi- " Taken as they ought to be," she assures us, ous anomalias of life, which find their proper “ the majority of the lads and lasses of the West niches in Southey's “ Omniana, or Commonplace Riding are gentlemen and ladies, every inch of Book," are not suitable to a novel. It is the same them; and it is only against the weak affectation with incidents.
and futile pomposity of a would-be aristocrat that Again we say that “Shirley" cannot be re- they even turn mutinous.” This is very possiceived as a work of art. It is not a picture ; but ble; but we must in that case strongly protest a portfolio of random sketches for one or more against Currer Bell's portraits being understood to pictures. The authoress never seems distinctly be resemblances; for they are, one and all, given to have made up her mind as to what she was to to break out and misbehave themselves upon very do ; whether to describe the habits and manners small provocation. The manner and language of of Yorkshire and its social aspects in the days of Shirley towards her guardian passes all permission. King Lud, or to paint character, or to tell a love Even the gentle, timid, shrinking Caroline enters story. All are by turns attempted and aban- the lists with the odious Mrs. Yorke, and the two doned ; and the book consequently moves slowly ladies talk at each other, in a style which, to and by starts—leaving behind it no distinct or southern ears, sounds both marvellous and alarm satisfactory impression. Power is stamped on ing. But, to quit this tone of remonstrancevarious parts of it; power unmistakable, but which after all is a cornpliment, for it shows how often misapplied. Currer Bell has much yet to seriously we treat the great talents of the writer learn-and, especially, the discipline of her own let us cordially praise the real freshness, vividtumultuous energies. She must learn also to ness, and fidelity, with which most of the charsacrifice a little of her Yorkshire roughness to the acters and scenes are depicted. There is, perdemands of good taste ; neither saturating her haps, no single picture representing one broad writings with such rudeness and offensive harsh- aspect of nature which can be hung beside two or ness, nor suffering her style to wander into such three in “ Jane Eyre ;' but the same piercing and vulgarities as would be inexcusable-even in a loving eye, and the same bold and poetic imagery, man. No good critic will object to the homeli- are here exhibited. ness of natural diction, or to the racy flavor of How happy, for example, is this :conversational idiom ; but every one must object The evening was pitch dark: star and moon to such phrases as “Miss Mary, gelting up the were quenched in gray rain-clouds-gray they steam in her turn, now asked," &c., or as “mak- would have been by day; by night they looked ing hard-handed worsted spinners cash up to the sable. Malone was not a man given to close obsertunc of four or five hundred per cent.,'
vation of nature; her changes passed for the most “Malone much chagrined at hearing him pipe up part unnoticed by him; he could walk miles on the in most superior style ;" all which phrases occur ful dallying of earth and heaven-never mark
most varying April day, and never see the beautiwithin the space of about a dozen pages, and that when a sunbeam kissed the hill-tops, making them not in dialogue, but in the authoress' own nar- smile clear in green light, or when a shower wept rative. And while touching on this minor, yet over them, hiding their crests with the low hanging not trivial point, we may also venture a word of dishevelled tresses of a cloud. quiet remonstrance against a most inappropriate How pictorial, again, is her notion of the obtrusion of French phrases. When Gerard Moore and his sister talk in French, which the
I long to hear the sound of the waves-ocean authoress translates, it surely is not allowable to waves ! --and to see them as I have imagined them leave scraps of French in the translation. A in dreams, like tossing banks of green light, strewed French word or two may be introduced now and with vanishing and reäppearing wreaths of foam, then, on account of some peculiar fitness, but whiter than lilies. Currer Bell's use of the language is little better But one may remark how little the placid smile than that of the “ fashionable" novelists. To that rests on the grand calm face of nature in the speak of a grandmother as une grandmère, and fulness of life and abounding power, attracts the of treacle as mélasse, or of a young lady being attention of the writer; and how much more angry as courroucée, gives an air of affectation to readily the scenes of a dispiriting gloom, of stern, che style strangely at variance with the frankness savage energy, or of wailing sadness, rivet her of its general tone.
eye and solicit her pencil. The very force with We scarcely know what to say to the imper- which she depicts such scenes reveals her symcinence which has been allowed to mingle 80 pathies. largely with the manners, even of the favorite
There is only one cloud in the sky; but it curactors in this drama. Their frequent harshness | tains it from polo to pole. The wind cannot rest;
it hurries sobbing over hills of snllen outline, The two heroes of the book, however-for colorless with twilight and mist. Rain has beat there are two-are not agreeable characters ; nor all day on that church tower: it rises dark from the stony enclosure of its graveyard; the nettles, the
are they felicitously drawn. They have both long grass, and the tombs all drip with wet.
something sordid in their minds, and repulsive in
their demeanor. Louis Moore is talked about as It gives one a chill to read such a passage! if he were something greater than our ordinary Here is another bit of storm landscape, worthy humanity ; but, when he shows himself, turns out of a Backhuysen :
to be a very small person indeed. Robert, more The thunder muttered distant peals ; but the energetic, and more decisively standing out from storm did not break till evening, after we had the canvas, is disgraced by a sordid love of money, reached our inn ; that inn being an isolated house and a shameless setting aside of an affection for at the foot of a range of mountains. I stood at the Caroline in favor of the rich heiress. He will be window an hour, watching the clouds come down universally condemned ; for all our better instincts over the mountains. The hills seemed rolled in rebel against him. The authoress will appeal in sullen mist, and when the rain fell in whitening vain here to the truth of such sordidness-the sheets, suddenly they were blotted from the pros- truth of thus discarding a real passion in favor of pect; they were washed from the world.
an ambitious project. True it is : true of many The following interior is singularly graphic :- men ; but not true of noble natures—not true of
an ideal of manhood. In a subordinate character They had passed a long wet day together with such a lapse from the elevation of moral rectitude, out ennui; it was now in the edge of dark ; but candles were not yet brought in. Both, as'twi- might have been pardoned; but in a hero—in the light deepened, grew meditative and silent. A man for whom our sympathies and admiration are western wind roared high round the hall, driving almost exclusively claimed—to imagine it poswild clouds and stormy rain up from the far-remote sible, is a decided blunder in art, as well as an ocean : all was tempest outside the antique lattices, inconsistency in nature. A hero may be faulty, all deep peace within. Shirley sat at the window erring, imperfect; but he must not be sordid, watching the rack in heaven, the mist on earthlistening to certain notes of the gale that plained mean, wanting in the statelier virtues of our kind. like restless spirits-notes which, had she not been Rochester was far more to be respected than this 80 young, gay, and healthy, would have swept her Robert Moore! Nor is Louis Moore much better. trembling nerves like some omen, some anticipatory On any generous view of life there is almost as dirge: in this, her prime of existence and bloom much sordidness in his exaggerated notions of of beauty, they but subdued vivacity to pensive- Shirley's wealth, and of the distance it creates be
Snatches of sweet ballads haunted her ear: tween his soul and hers, as there is in Robert's now and then she sang a stanza ; and her accents direct and positive greed of the money. That obeyed the fitfiel impulse of the wind; they swelled as its gusts rushed on, and died as they wandered Louis, as a tutor, should be sensitive to any peraway. Caroline, withdrawn to the farthest and sonal slight, should deeply feel that he was no darkest end of the room, her figure just discernible “match” for the heiress, we can readily underby the ruby shine of the flameless fire, was pacing to stand ; but if he thought so meanly of her as to and fro, murmuring to herself fragments of well-suppose that her wealth was any barrier to her remembered poetry.
affection, then he was unworthy of her. Similar power is manifested in the delineation
The heroines are more lovable. Shirley, if of character : her eye is quick, her hand certain. she did not occasionally use language one would With a few brief vigorous touches the picture rather not hear from the lips of a lady, and did starts into distinctness. Old Helstone, the cop- not occasionally display something in her behavior, per.faced little Cossack parson, straight as a ram- which, with every allowance for Yorkshire plainrod, keen as a kite; Yorke, the hard, queer, ness, does imply want of breeding --Shirley, we clever, parson-hating, radical-gentleman ; the say, would be irresistible. So buoyant, free, benevolent Hall; the fluttering, good, irresolute airy, and healthy in her nature, so fascinating in Mrs. Pryor; the patient, frugal, beneficent old her manner, she is prettily enough described by maid, Miss Ainley ; Hortense and Moore, and her lover as a “Peri too mutinous for heaven, too the Sympson family—are all set with so much innocent for hell.” But if Shirley is, on the life before us, that we seem to see them moving whole, a happy creation, Caroline Helstone, through the rooms and across the moor. As a though sometimes remarkably sweet and engaging, specimen of the nervous, compact writing, which is-if we may venture to say so—a failure. Curnot unfrequently occurs to relieve the questionable rer Bell is exceedingly scornful on the chapter taste of the rest, take the sentence describing the of heroines drawn by men. The cleverest and Sympsons :
acutest of our sex, she says, are often under the
strangest illusions about women-we do not read Mr. Sympson proved to be a man of spotless them in their true light; we constantly misappre. respectability, worrying temper, pious principles, hend them, both for good and evil. Very pos and worldly views. His lady was a very good woman, patient, kind, well-bred. She had been sibly. But we suspect that female artists are by brought up on a narrow system of views-starved no means exempt from mistakes quite as egregion, on a few prejudices; a mere handful of bitter when they delineate their sex; nay, we venture herbs.
to say, that Mrs. Pryor and Caroline Helstone are
" as untrue to the universal laws of our common | as a work of art, must be struck with want of nature as if they had been drawn by the clumsy keeping in making the gentle, shy, not highly hand of a male ; though we willingly admit that cultivated Caroline talk from time to time in the in both there are little touches which at once be- strain of Currer Bell herself rather than in the tray the more exquisite workmanship of a woman's strain of Helstone's little niece. We could cite lighter pencil.
several examples ; the most striking, perhaps, is Mrs. Pryor, in the capital event of her life that long soliloquy at pages 269–274, of the at least as far as regards this story-bеlies the second volume, upon the condition of women-in most indisputable laws of our nature, in becoming which Caroline takes a leaf out of Miss Mar an unnatural mother—from some absurd prepos- tineau's book. The whole passage, though full session that her child must be bad, wicked, and both of thought and of eloquence, is almost ludithe cause of anguish to her, because it is pretty! crously out of place. The apostrophes to the The case is this. She marries a very handsome King of Israel, in the fathers of Yorkshire, and man, who ill-treats her; the fine genileman turns to the men of England, might have rounded a out a brute. A child is born. This child, period in one of the authoress' owa perorations; which universal experience forces us to exclaim but to introduce them into a soliloquy hy Caroline must have been the darling consolation of its Helstone is an ofience at once against art and miserable mother; this child, over whom the against nature. mother would have wept scalding tears in secret, This, however, is but one point in the faulty hugging it closer to her bosom to assure her flut- treatment of the character. A graver error-one tering heart, that in the midst of all her wretch- implying greater forgelfulness of dramatic reality odness, this joy remained, that in the midst of all and probability—is the conduct of Caroline in her the desolation of home, this exquisite comfort was love for Moore. The mystery kept up between not denied her :-yet this child, we are informed, the two girls is the trick of a vulgar novelist. she parts with because it is pretty! “I feared Shirley must have set Caroline's mind at rest ; your loveliness, deeming it the sign of perversity. must have said, “ Don't be unhappy about Moore They sent me your portrait, taken at eight years and me; I have no love for him-nor be for me." old ; that portrait confirmed my fears. Had it Instead of this, she is allowed to encourage the shown me a sunburnt little rustic—a heavy, blunt- delusion which she cannot but perceive in Carofeatured, commonplace child— I should have has- line's mind. But what is more incredible still, tened to claim you ; but there, under the silver Caroline—who believes that Moore loves Shirley paper, I saw blooming the delicacy of an aristo- and will marry her-never once feels the sharp „cratic flower : little lady' was written on every and terrible pang of jealousy! Now, unless we trait.
In my experience I had are to be put out of court as men, and consenot met with truth, modesty, good principle, as quently incompelent to apprehend the true nature the concomitants of beauty. A form su straight of woman, we should say that this entire absence and fine, I argued, must conceal a mind warped of jealous feelings on Caroline's pari, is an omisand cruel !” Really this is midsummer madness! sion, which, conscious or unconscious, we cannot Before the child had shown whether its beauty did reconcile with anything we have ever seen. conceal perversity, the mother shuts her heart beard, or read of, about the sex. That a girl against it! Currer Bell! if under your heart like Caroline might be willing to resign her claims, had ever stirred a child, if to your bosom a babe might be willing even to submit in silence to the had ever been pressed—that mysterious part of torture of her disappointment, is conceivable your being, towards which all the rest of it was enough ; and a fine theme might this have afforded drawn, in which your whole soul was transported for some profound psychological probings, laying and absorbed-never could you have imagined open the terrible conflict of irrepressible instincts such a falsehood as that! It is indeed conceiv- with more generous feelings—the confliet of jealable-under some peculiar circumstances, and ousy with reason. But Caroline Helstone merely with peculiar dispositions—that the loathing of bows her head in meekness, and loves and clings the wife for the husband might extend w the child, to Shirley all the more ; never has even a mobecause it was the husband's child ; the horror ment's rebellion against her, and behaves like and hate being so intense as to turn back the nat- pattern young ladies in “good” books! ural current of maternal instincts; but to suppose We have been more than once disturbed by that the mere beauty and “ aristocratic" air of an what looked like wilful departures from probainfant could so wrest out of its place a woman's bility in this novel. We are by no means righeart-supposing her not irretrievably insane- orous in expecting that the story is to move and for eighteen years keep a mother from her along the highway of every-day life. On the child, is to outrage all that we know of human contrary, we are willing to allow the imagination nature.
full sweep; but we demand, that into whatever Not quite so glaring, and yet very glaring, is region it carry us, it must be at least consistent: the want of truth in Caroline. There are trails if we are to travel into fairy land, it must be in a about this character quite charming; and we fairy equipage, not in a Hansom's cab. Now doubt not she will be a favorite with the majority there are many regions in “ Shirley" where we of readers. But any one examining “ Shirley” are glad enough to find ourselves ; it is against
"the method by which we are transported to them “I saw, I now see, a Woman-Titan! Her that we protest. Thus, in the second volume robe of blue air spreads to the outskirts of the there is a really remarkable tirade about Milton's heath, where yonder flock is grazing ; a veil, white Eve : as an eloquent rhapsody we can scarcely and arabesques of lightning flame on its borders.
as an avalanche, sweeps from her head to her feet, admire it too much ; but to be asked to believe Under her breast I see her zone, purple like that that it was ultered in a quiet conversation between horizon ; through its blush shines the star of eventwo young ladies, destroys half our pleasure. ing. Her steady eyes I cannot picture; they are Let the reader judge for himself :
clear—they are deep as lakes—they are lifted and
full of worship—they tremble with the softness of “ The gray church and grayer tombs look divine love and the lustre of prayer! Her forehead has with this crimson gleam upon them. Nature is the expanse of a cloud, and is paler than the early now at her evening prayers; she is kneeling before moon, risen long before dark gathers; she reclines those red hills. I see her prostrate on the great her bosom on the ridge of Stillbro' Moor; her steps of her altar, praying for a fair night for mar- mighty hands are joined beneath it. So kneeling iners at sea, for travellers in deserts, for lambs on face to face she speaks with God! That Eve is moors, and unfledged birds in woods. Caroline, I Jehovah's daughter, as Adam was his son." see her! and I will tell you what she is like ;- “ She is very vague and visionary! Come, she is like what Eve was when she and Adam Shirley, we ought to go into church.” stood alone on earth.”
“ Caroline, I will not ; I will stay out here with “ And that is not Milton's Eve, Shirley." my mother, Eve, in these days called Nature. I
“ Milton's Eve! Milton's Eve! I repeat. No, love her-undying, mighty being! Heaven may by the pure mother of God, she is not ! Cary, we have faded from her brow, when she fell in Paraare alone ; we may speak what we think. Milton dise; but all that is glorious on earth shines there was great ; but was he good ? His brain was still. She is taking me to her bosom, and showing right; how was his heart? He saw heaven ; he me her heart. Hush, Caroline ! you will see her looked down on hell. He saw Satan, and Sin his and feel as I do, if we are both silent.” daughter, and Death their horrible offspring. An
Then, again, there is Louis Moore writing long gels serried before him their battalions : the long
What he writes is lines of adamantine shields flashed back on his narratives in his note-book. blind eyeballs the unutterable daylight of heaven. often striking; and had the authoress only thought Devils gathered their legions in his sight—their of making him keep a journal, probability would dim, discrowned, and tarnished armies passed rank have been sufficiently saved. But, instead of that, and file before him. Milton tried, too, to see the she obliges him to sit down in Shirley's room, first woman; but, Cary, he saw her not."
draw out a note-book, and proceed to write very “ You are bold to say so, Shirley.
“ Not more bold than faithful. It was his cook circumstantially, for our benefit, what every one that he saw !or it was Mrs. Gill, as I have seen feels he would never have written at all. And her, making custards. In the heat of summer, in while writing he is so intensely conscious of being the cool dairy, with rose-trees and nasturtiums read, that he says, “ I confess it—to this mute about the latticed window, preparing a cold colla- page I may confess it-I have waited an hour in tion for the rector's preserves and • dulcet creams,' the court for the chance of seeing her. I have -puzzled • what choice to choose for delicacy noticed (again, it is to this page only I would make best—what order so contrived as not to mix tastes, the remark) that she will never permit any one but not well-joined, inelegant; but bring taste after taste, upheld with kindliest change."
myself to render her assistance !" It is remark“ All very well too, Shirley.
able, too, that nothing whatever is gained by tell“ I would beg to remind him that the first men ing the story in this way. All that Louis Moore of the earth were Titans, and that Eve was their writes might have been better told by the aumother! From her sprang Saturn, Hyperion, thoress, without subterfuge. We may make the Oceanus-she bore Prometheus."
same remark as to Robert Moore's confession of Pagan that you are !—what does that sig- his scene with Shirley. Its effect would be far “I say, there were giants on the earth in those truer. The attack on the Mill, too, instead of days-giants that strove to scale heaven! The being described in the natural course of the narfirst woman's breast that heaved with life on this rative, is told us in snatches of dialogue between world nursed the daring which could contend with the two girls ; who, in ulter defiance of all vrai. Omni potence—the strength which could bear a semblance, are calm spectators of that which they thousand years of bondage—the vitality which could not have seen. could feed that vulture, Death, through uncounted
It is scarcely worth while ages—the unexhausted life, and uncorrupted excel- to point out the several details in this scene, lence, sisters to Immortality, which, after millena- which betray a female and inexperienced hand. riums of crimes, struggles, and woes, could con- Incident is not the forte of Currer Bell. If her ceive and bring forth a Messiah. The first woman invention were in any degree equal to her powers was heaven-born-vast was the heart whence of execution, (with a little more judgment and gushed the well-spring of the blood of nations, and practice,) she would stand alone among novelists ; grand the undegenerate head where rested the but in invention she is as yet only an artisan, not Consort Crown of creation." “She coveted an apple, and was directed by a
an artist. snake; but you have got such a hash of Scripture
As a proof of this poverty of invention, we and mythology into your head, that there is no may refer again to the singular awkwardness of making any sense of you. You have not yet told making Moore confess to Yorke the interview he me what you saw kneeling on those hills." had had with Shirley, and the terms on which he