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ARCHÆOLOGICAL romance being fancy the life, habits, speech, and on the order of the day, the Old thoughts of our great-grandfathers Saloon tables are encumbered with and mothers, how very much volumes in which we are summoned harder is it not to do the same to take interest in the food of a for persons separated from us by a Pharaoh or the foot - bath of a score of centuries or more ? Cleopatra—a result for which we Where all are ignorant there are doubtless indebted to Dr Schlie- can be none to criticise, may have man and some of his learned col- been the device of some who, with leagues. When the illustrious Ger- the admirable audacity of a Rider man antiquarian began to rake up Haggard, undertook to revive the the dust of vanished generations, figure of Antony and Cæsar's imto open up unknown tombs and mortal mistress. Criticism, howlay bare the site of forgotten cities, ever, may as often be based upon he was unconsciously evolving the instinct as' upon knowledge, and forms of countless novels, good, a comparatively ignorant bad, and indifferent, which ever reader is able to distinguish since have been haunting us like a whether the figures placed before perfect Egyptian plague.
him are illumined by the feu sacré It could not be otherwise : the of the true artist or by a trumpery task of reconstructing those shat- rushlight. tered temples and palaces, of fit- Far be it from me to condemn ting warm flesh on to those old wholesale all antiquarian romances brittle bones, and of replacing – I would only maintain the task those glittering gems or cunning of constructing a successful one orfévrerie on fair or dusky necks to be no easy matter, requiring no and arms, was too seductive to be common combination of talents. resisted. Many imaginations took An exceptionally ardent and fire, and many hands undertook powerful imagination, which is the gigantic task of attempting the primary condition, must here to resuscitate a whole defunct be necessarily curbed by, and made world. But the task, though al- subservient to, the stern exigencies luring, is also ungrateful; for if of history, while something akin it be difficult faithfully to depict to the inspiration of poetical genius the living men and women we see is required to bridge over the vast around us, how much more so is chasm separating the author from it to invest with a semblance of his figures-a result achieved, in probability those of whom we in our humble opinion, neither by Mr reality know next to nothing ? To Wallace in ‘Ben Hur,' by Rider be entirely just in our estimate of Haggard in “Cleopatra,'nor by other ages is not difficult—it is Herr Ebers in his latest Egyptian impossible, says Froude; and if novel, “ Josua.'1 we find it hard to reconstruct in Of Rider Haggard, indeed, it
1 Josua : Eine Erzählung aus Biblischer zeit, von Georg Ebers. Verlags Anstalt: 1890.
would not be fair to use the word dramatic effect and interest of failure with regard to his work, character, stands far behind the which would imply an unsuccessful author's previous works. straining after unrealised ideals, The subject, the deliverance of whereas, unless we do him gross the Hebrews from Egyptian bondinjustice, Mr Haggard had nothing age, and their passage through the so preposterous in view as an ideal Red Sea, is a grand one, affording when he set to work. He amuses endless chances of success, but likehimself by fooling others, but is wise of failure. Herr Ebers informs far too clever to fool himself. us that the idea of depicting in a Knowing his audience, he treats it novel the wandering forth of the accordingly, and if we have any Hebrews occurred to him during a cause to fall foul of him, it is not journey in Egypt, apparently some because he thinks too highly of his twenty years ago. To this idea was own workmanship, but too meanly subsequently joined that of repreof his readers, by offering them senting the event from an Egyptian such mental food as • She' or point of view—an aspect which Cleopatra.'
he believes will be novel and surBut with Herr Ebers the case prising. is very different. He takes him- But there is, as Ben Akiba tells self seriously, as all Germans do, us, no new thing under the sun, and evidently regards his work as not even the novels of a Rider an important service rendered to Haggard or an Ebers; and, curioushumanity. With toil and labour ly enough, we were reminded of unspeakable --- as he himself in both these authors the other day forms us in the preface—has he pro- when glancing through Le Roman duced this latest oflspring of his de la Momie,' written about forty brain. Ile has pondered over reams years ago by Théophile Gautier. of ancient Egyptian papyrus, de- That alike the English as the ciphered hundreds of hieroglyphic German author are innocent of inscriptions, and wandered through intentional plagiarism we are conmiles of deserted ruins, in order vinced; for had they chosen to cull to collect material for his story. from the leaves of an almost forThere can be no doubt that he has gotten French novel, they might worked exceedingly hard, and we surely have done so to better purare very sorry for him ; our most pose. The resemblance, which can prominent sensation on closing the only be purely accidental, is in the second volume being the thought case of Rider Haggard confined to of how tired the poor author must the opening of an old Egyptian have felt on laying down his pen tomb, and the discovery inside the at the end of page 426. He has mummy's coflin of a written scroll enlisted our most sincere compas- containing the story related by the sion, though we are unfortunately author. The German novel chalcompelled to refuse our admira- lenges a closer comparison, for the tion. This is a hard world, in Frenchman's book treats the selfwhich, whatever moralists
may same subject, and from an almost say, merit is rarely its own re- identical point of view. ward; and it is positively melan- Miriam, sister of Moses, is the choly to reflect that such an amount heroine of Herr Ebers's novel, and of patient toil, conscientious re- Josua, or Hosea (as he was first search, and painfully acquired eru- called), its hero. Miriam is bedition, should only have resulted trothed to IIosea-a circumstance in a very inferior novel, which, for for which we have no Scriptural basis ; neither does there seem to on the magician Moses who has be any historical authority for the caused the death of their firststatement that Hosea first served born. Old Nun has fled with the in the Egyptian army under rest, conducted by Moses out of Pharaoh, where he acquired the Pharaoh's reach. military- knowledge which subse- Then comes to him Ephraim his quently enabled him to lead his nephew, and speaks as follows :people to their promised land. When the story opens, Hosea Jochebeth, sends greeting to the son
"Miriam, daughter of Amram and is returning from an expedition of Nun the Ephraite. Hosea [Help] against the Lybian rebels, which art thou called, and as the helper of has occupied him for a year and thy people art thou chosen by the a half. For ten whole months he
Lord Josua—that is, he whose help
is Jehovah — shalt thou henceforth has had no news of his people, and
be called by His order; for through his heart leaps up at sight of the Miriam His handmaid doth the God obelisks of Tamis when he espies of thy fathers, who is likewise thine, them in the distance. Soon he command thee to be the sword and will see again his aged father Nun, shield of thy people. In Him is all to whom he clings with filial affec- strength, and He will fortify thine tion, and Miriam his beloved,
arm that it may annihilate all foes.” whose image has always accom- On hearing this message, Josua's panied him in his wanderings. soul is torn by a sense of conflictMiriam is not only a beautiful ing duties. On one side he bewoman but a prophetess as well, longed to the Hebrew race, and by whose lips the God of Israel the misfortunes of his people are has chosen to speak to His people. his own. He shares the blood of Strong and serious as she was, no Nun, of Miriam. But on the more fitting mate could Hosea other hand has he not sworn alfind, and her powerful individu- legiance to Pharaoh ? and how can ality had thrown into the shade he break his oath to become the another vision which formerly had leader of a people who are now captivated his imagination. Since the enemies of the king he serves ? her childhood he had loved and As a loyal soldier he is bound to admired Kasana, daughter of despise every deserter. How, then, Hornecht, the chief of Pharaoh's can he himself be guilty of that archers, and for a time had dreamt which he has so often punished of making her his wife. Then with death in his subordinates ? Kasana had wedded another, only, In Pharaoh's army he has risen however, to return to her father's to high honour and fame. Shall home within a year a young widow; he now renounce these in order to and Miriam's appearance had command an undisciplined horde quickly dispelled any disappoint- of workmen and shepherds ? Shall ment which Hosea may have felt, he renounce everything, change his when given to understand that whole life and his very name, Kasana could never have married merely at a woman's biddinga Hebrew,
even though she be beautiful, and But the news which meets the he loves her ? returning warrior is not joyful. Josua feels such resignation to He finds his father's house an be impossible, and has almost deempty ruin, like the other Hebrew cided to abide by his allegiance to dwellings, plundered and laid bare Pharaoh when he is called to an by the incensed Egyptians, who old dying man, a former slave of thus seek to revenge themselves Nun, who has charged him with
an order for his son. This order, wooed by another suitor, Hur, a whose purport is identical with man of the ripe age of fifty, who, Miriam's summons, cannot, how- though with silver threads streakever, as lightly be set aside. As ing his dark hair, and with chila son, Josua feels bound to obey dren and grandchildren of his own, his father, and henceforth his is yet erect, and in full possession mind is made up—or he believes of his manly vigour. it to be so. He will join his Miriam has just refused his offer, people, and become their leader. confessing that she loves another,
But alas for Josua's vacillating when the sound of an approaching character ! Scarcely has he re- horseman is heard in the dark gained his tent after the interview night, and Josua appears, having with the old slave, when other ridden fast and far in order to messengers appear.
A royal catch up his flying countrymen. chariot with fiery steeds has Hur discreetly retires, leaving the halted at the entrance, and in its lovers standing alone beneath a occupants Josua has recognised huge' sycamore - tree, with stars the Lord Chamberlain and chief shining all around them; but Privy Councillor of the king, come having detected the vacillating hither to summon him to bis nature of Josua's resolve, before majesty's presence.
going, he reminds Miriam of his The scene in which Josua appears offer, telling her that she may before Pharaoh is not without a always count on him should she reflection of the author's former want a protector. power, and the portraits of Rui The explanation between the the old high priest with his rugged lovers does not take a satisfactory wrinkled face and shrewd gleam- turn, and is intensely wearisome. ing eyes, as well as that of the Josua wants to speak first, and exqueen seated by Pharaoh's side, plain why he has come, but Miriam her lap full of flowers, with which interrupts him, and insists first on she is weaving funeral wreaths for relating to him the story of her the corpse of her first-born, are life (which we suppose he knows vivid and picturesque.
already), and upon analysing the Rejoiced and encouraged by the nature and development of her benignant reception he meets, feelings towards him. Josua grows Josua ventures to bring forward impatient, and so does the reader. his petition of being released from Love conquers at last. Miriam his oath of allegiance.
sinks into his arms, and for one quest is granted conditionally ; brief moment the prophetess is Pharaoh orders him to hasten after sunk in the woman. Then comes the fugitives and induce them to the reaction, when Josua begins return. When he shall have ac- to unfold his plans for the weal complished his mission he shall be of his people. Not to follow them free to do as he chooses. The pros- into the wilderness has he come pect of yet higher honour is, how- hither, but to lead them back into ever, held out to him as a bait, Egypt, where a new and happier and the queen adds her gentle life awaits them. United to her, voice to Pharaoh's request that and happy in her love, he will Josua will take upon himself rise to power and dignity, and the office of mediator between together they will preside over Hebrews and Egyptians.
the welfare of their countrymen. Miriam, meanwhile, has been Miriam, who has listened to
him with growing distress, now him to the camp with the army breaks loose from his embrace, and sent to pursue the flying Hebrews. tears her hand out of his. In When the Egyptian host is drowned words of inspired passion she in attempting to cross the Red Sea, upbraids him for being false to the chariot containing Kasana is the call of the Almighty.
He washed ashore almost at the very answers hotly, and beginning ap- feet of Ephraim, her boy-lover, and parently to discover how very Miriam, her former rival in Josua's unsatisfactory and complicated a love. She is still alive, but is matter it is to make love to a quickly laid hold of by furious prophetess, he accuses her of being Hebrew women, one of whom incold and hard.
flicts a mortal wound with a dagMiriam throws herself on the ger on the helpless Egyptian ere ground beneath the sycamore-tree Ephraim has time to interfere. Kaand prays for guidance, while sana, though dying, has yet strength around her the camp is beginning enough left to relate her story to to wake up, and dawn is breaking. Nun and Ephraim, and to taunt When she rises again, her resolve Miriam with her faithlessness to is fixed. She can never belong to Josua. Only she, Kasana, has a man who is deaf to the voice of loved him truly, she says triumGod. Josua on his side refuses phantly, since for his sake she had to break his oath to Pharaoh. So sold herself to a man she hated. they part in anger and bitterness; Her sacrifice has, however, been and Miriam, hurrying to meet the a needless one, and she might have approaching Hur, lays her hand economised both honour and life in his, and promises to be his as far as any advantage to Josua wife.
is derived from the proceeding. Five days later, Josua, loaded At the time she dies he is still with chains, is on his way to the pursuing his weary march towards mines on the Sinaïc peninsula. the mines: the convicts have nearly A sudden turn of fortune's wheel reached their goal, and are trahas brought about his downfall. versing the last mountain that The old high priest is dead; separates them from their destiand his successor, an implacable nation, when from the valley below enemy of the Hebrews, has turned are heard the sounds of clanking Pharaoh's heart against him. Hor- arms and fierce war-cries. Josua necht, father of Kasana, incensed pricks up his ears at the welcome by Josua's refusal to remain in sound, and presently has recognised Egypt and wed his daughter, has among the combatants the veneralso become his enemy; and the able figure of his old father. To dissolute Prince Siptah, who seeks overpower his Egyptian guards is to seduce Kasana as well as to apparently an easy matter, and rob Pharaoh of his crown, has his five minutes later Josua has joined own reasons for wishing to get rid his people and assumed the comof an inconvenient rival.
mand of the Hebrew army, which, Kasana, broken-hearted on learn- under his directions, gains a splening the fate of the man she loves: did victory over the Egyptians. sacrifices her honour in hopes of Josua is loudly welcomed by his obtaining Josua's release from people as their most natural and Siptah, when the latter shall have suitable leader; and even Hur, become King of Egypt. She be- who had hitherto commanded comes his mistress, and follows them, is willing, now that he is
VOL. CXLIX.NO. DCCCCIII.