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and may prove useful; although it is to be regretted that Miss Pickering depends for the development of a story much more on worn-out melodramatic incidents, however iinprobable, and on romantic surprises of the nick-of-time kind, than on that of natural character, or as that character is influenced and moulded by circumstances. We have alluded to her knowledge, and may instance as a proof of her observation and skill in delineation, the sketch of a baronet, which may be hung up in the same gallery with that of Sir Michael Mixen :
The talkative Baronet, by dint of thrusting a finger into every body's loaf, had at length succeeded in establishing his right to insert his whole hand into the county pie; so that nothing could be done throughout all -shire, from a meeting of the nobility, gentry, and freeholders, down to a meeting of flirts, fiddlers, and dandies, in which Sir Thomas did not usurp the rule. A poacher could not be committed, a burglar tried, a road turned, a rate imposed, an election carried, without his having the greatest art and part in all. Even in cricket-matches he sought to name the two elevens and the umpires, besides bestowing gratis - for nothing--an infinitude of advice touching bats and balls, bowling and fielding, to which said advice, according to him, the cricketing excellence of --shire was solely to be attributed; whilst if a hop were but hinted at, he took upon himself to determine the day, the place, the terms, the musicians; nay, he would even have drawn out a list of the quadrilles, valses, and galopes, as he did the toasts at the public dinners, had not the dancers and fiddlers rebelled so stoutly against his rule, and laughed so immoderately at his jumbling of tunes and jumbling of names, which his English tongue, as he called it, found quite unpronounceable, that he deemed it most prudent to leave that one matter to the adjustment of others, covering his vexation by a laughing assertion, that the musicians took him for a flat, but he might prove too sharp for them yet. Having had a grandfather who might be talked of, (his great-grandfather was never alluded to,) he counted himself of an ancient family; and possessing a middling estate, whereon stood a handsome modern mansion, he considered himself, and thanks to his busy meddling and readiness to aid all possessed of rank or wealth, was considered by many, one of the leading men of the county.
It is certainly not from an incapacity to observe, or to describe, or even to dramatise that which she wishes to embody, that Miss Pickering fails of reaching the highest rank of our living novelists. Neither is it for want of feminine grace, lively conceptions, strong emotions, or of sound and clear judgment in the working out of that which she intends. She is very clever in dialogue, and appears to find no difficulty in making her characters tell, with good keeping, their own story. But still there is about her fictions something that mars the satisfaction we are always longing and eren trusting to meet with. It is not so much nature and real life that we find in the construction of her plots as melodramatic acci
dents, as has already been hinted; while in the sentiments there is far too often the adherence to the conventionalities of society, when freshness, independence, and truth, should be the essence of the thought, feeling, and sympathy.
To haste and the consequent rawness of the materials as well as immaturity of plan, considerable faults and deficiencies must be set down. But the great oversight and error we take to be in this, that having fallen upon some impressive incident in life, or opportune idea, such as that of a young man of excellent parts, of a high-souled nature, amiable and generous, heir-apparent to a magnificent estate, and quite an “expectant,”—and learning or fancying that such a youth of promise and of hope, has been doomed to experience bitter disappointment, and obliged, after an up-bringing of indulgence and brilliant ease, to tread the path that is planted with thorns ;-she does not think of the moral vicissitudes and results, or of tracing these in relation to such a character and mind, so much as by what number and kind of romantic accidents, escapes, and singular freaks of fortune, she is to astonish and excite the reader, as will take three volumes to narrate; the said reader all the while forseeing that the hero is to be as surprisingly brought back to his proper sphere as he has been driven from it. In all such tales there is no more reason for three volumes than there would be for nine; for it is quite clear that the fictionist can at any time, by a sudden death, the remorse of a villain, or some such event as finding a door ajar, put every thing to rights, and so there is an end of it.
Our opinion, therefore, is, that Miss Pickering does not attend to the high purposes, nor consider the undoubted capabilities of the legitimate novel. Having said this much, we dismiss “ The Expectant,” after inserting a passage which shows that the lady could, if she would, develope in a truthful manner, and so as to ericit as well as to engage thought, the moral vicissitudes of what has been called a spoiled man in adversity and under disappointment.
To sleep seemed to him impossible ; so, closing the window, he seated hiinself in an antique chair beside it. And there sat the pampered minion of fortune, fretting, rebelling at his first cross, making it more intolerable by this very rebelling, and deepening the gloom of the present by fearful forebodings of the future ; a future which it was not in his power to foresee or control, and which, if he even had might to rule, in man's finite folly he might have ruled to his own misery, not happiness. His wealth and amiable disposition had failed to save him from trial. Why not? They were blessings to be received with thanks, and used carefully by the guidance of God's Spirit, not carnests of an exemption from the lot of sinful man, who needs to pass through much tribulation to wean his heart from earth.
He thought not of the many who are born to pain and trouble; who know nothing of the joys of a happy childhood ; who, pinched by poverty and surrounded by criine, grow up in squalid wretchedness—their pangs unsoothed by the caresses of fond parents, or the thought of a blessed hereafter, where there shall be no more sorrow, no more pain for the trusting and humble. He thought not of the many in the strength of manhood, in the feebleness of age, the sturdy man, the gentle woman, worn down by want and suffering to the brink of the grave, who would have held themselves blest with a tithe of his superfluities ; he thought only of one —and that one himself. Others had been parted from those they loved before, and with a thousandfold less hope of a happy meeting; but he remembered not this. Sorrow was to him as a strange thing, and he had not learnt to bear it. We envy those whom we count prosperous: there is many a heavy heart joined to a smiling fortune ; or if not so, the thwarting of a moment's wish causes a sharper pang, from the contrast, to him who enjoys, than the blighting of a life's long hope to him who endures.
Art. XII.—The Mythology of Greece and Rome; for the Use of Grammar
Schools. New York. No mere dictionary of mythological names, no compilation of the principal fables of classic religion, will ever be found, however useful as a book of reference for pupils or the general reader, to supersede the necessity of becoming thoroughly acquainted with the authors of Greece and Rome, if you wish and profess to have a knowledge of classical mythology. Translations and learned commentaries will not suffice. The scholar and the teacher must have recourse to the very source of these fables, or at least to the early epics, the darker tragedies, the devotional lyrics, and the pictured page of the oldest historians, if he desires to give a genuine interpretation to the worship and to the worshipped of classic antiquity.
The Greeks appear to have regarded their mythological fables with nearly the same veneration with which the Hebrews regarded the books of their sacred writers. The poems of Homer, Hesiod, and a few others of their early bards, constitute what may be called a Greek bible. They give, according to the popular notions, a history of the creation and of the gods, and then, devoting themselves to the particular history of one nation, they detail the origin and progress of Greece. The Greeks believed themselves to be the favoured people of Heaven; the mighty heroes the ancestors of their race, were allied to, and descended from the gods; not a hill-top in their land, not a river nor a fountain, but was the chosen abode of some deity. Their faith, though not based on truth, was sincere and deep; it was perhaps as true as human invention and the highest refinement of unaided nature can ever reach.
One thing, however, is certain, the religion of Rome, at least as found embodied in Latin literature, was not so elevated and far from being so sincere, as was that of Greece.
The characters of the gods, as they were portrayed by the Greek poets, are more dignified and pleasing, than they are made to appear by Roman writers. The fact is that the poets of Greece were, in some degree, believers in the religion which they celebrated; the poets of Rome, whatever may have been the sincerity of the uneducated classes in the less degenerate ages, were not. The general features of the two systems of faith are the same ; for the Romans derived their worship, in a great measure, from the Greeks. The gods of both are chargeable with great deficiencies, as human creations must ever be. They were haughty, tyrannical, passionate, often licentious, and occasionally displaying the most ridiculous weaknesses of humanity. But in the Greek poets these deities are invested with the majesty and glory of immortals, so far as mere humanity can carry its conceptions; while in the Roman poets, unless a mere repetition of the Greek fable be given, the gods are not endowed with immortal natures, but only with more than human power; and are essentially human in their language and actions.
The Greek writers abound in descriptions of the personal appearance of the gods; exhibit them in every variety of situation and employment, with a minuteness which not only proves their sincere belief, but which is so distinct as to have served as a guide to the painter and sculptor ever after. The Latin poets, on the contrary, give but few such descriptions. Many of the gods are not even mentioned in the neid; whereas the Iliad embodies almost an entire theogony.
The cause of this difference is obvious. To Homer and Hesiod was allotted the proud duty of making known to their countrymen the gods who watched over them, and from whom they were descended. They rose at once to the rank and dignity of prophets. To them had been revealed the splendid vision of Olympus, the pavement of gold, the gorgeous throne of Jove, the flaming car of Minerva, the portals of heaven, watched by the Hours, and spontaneously unfolding at the approach of the celestial messengers. For them the impenetrable veil of the past had been removed, and they had gazed upon the infancy of creation,-they had seen primeval Chaos, and Love, eldest of the immortals, moving in solitude over the tenantless earth, then, as a glorious vision, rose up before them the children of heaven in glittering array, immortal in their nature, and irresistible in their power. They had listened to the hymns of the Muses, and received from their hands the laurel bough, the token of kindred inspiration; and they knew that from their lips would proceed, as the responses of an oracle, the religion of their land.
In the days of Virgil, Ovid, and Horace, nothing remained to be declared respecting the gods. The early Greek poems were familiar to all readers, and the statuary, which was brought from Greece, had so established the persons and attributes of the deities in the minds of the people, that description seemed superfluous. It was only when allegory assumed the place of simple faith, as in the celebrated instance of Fame in the Æneid, that there was any occasion for minute or accurate representations of the celestial forms.
To the modern student the most important consequence of this difference in the degrees of faith of the two nations is to be traced in the moral effect of the study, as pursued in the one language or the other. In forming an opinion of the propriety or indecency of any work, the first and most important consideration is the intention of the writer. Was his object a bad one? Did he intend to excite the passions, to throw a false lustre upon vice, to bewilder the ideas of right and wrong? Was his mind, in a word, filled with impurity, a source from which no good thoughts could proceed? It is the spirit, not the letter, which constitutes the objection to a work. Who would think of applying the term indecent to a work upon surgery or natural history? And, on the contrary, how easy it is to clothe the most revolting ideas in the language of refinement! Moreover, the mind of the reader must be in a depraved state to discover indelicacy where the thoughts of the writer were unsullied ;—none but the falsely educated, or the depraved in their imagination, would discover food for the passions, for instance, in the sculpture of Greece; and so it is with regard to the descriptions of the gods.
It is with such views, that we must examine the Greek and Roman mythology. In the former we shall find, it is true, a few passages which should be sealed up from the student; but they are very rare, and do not appear to have been dictated by impure minds. In general, the Greek writers are singularly free from the charge of indecency ;-their own thoughts were evidently unsullied ; they never degraded their beautiful theology, by rendering it the exciter of unholy passions; they never descended from the lofty station they occupied as the interpreters of the gods, to minister at the altars of indecency and wantonness.
But the same undefiled spirit is not always discoverable in the poets of Rome. Their poetry was the growth of a dissolute age. Epicurianism had usurped the place of religion, and had ensnared many of the greatest minds, even the feelings and sentiments of such poets as Lucretius and Horace; while others sung still more voluptuous lays, and wrote as if they had been for ever revelling amid luxuries and breathing perfumes. By such means as these, the stately as well as the comparatively graceful religion of Greece was perverted to the channel of cold belief or licentious dreams.
But with every exception which may be taken to the basis and