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having various directions and magni- | warnings, is lost to art. Summuned to tudes. About their justice or injustice reflect on our faults, we know the he troubles himself little. He intro- character less. The author designedly duces them in characters, conceives neglects a hundred delicate shades the dominant quality, perceives the which he might have discovered and traces which this leaves on the others, shown to us. The character, less commarks the discordant or harmonious plete, is less lifelike ; the interest, less influences of temperainent, of education, concentrated, is less lively. Turned of occupation, and labors to manifest away from it instead of brought back the invisible world of inward inclina- to it, our eyes wander and forget it ; tions and dispositions by the visible instead of being absorbed, we are abworld of outward words and actions. sent in mind. And, what is worse, we To this is his labor reduced. What- end by experiencing some degree of ever these bents are, he cares little. weariness. We judge these sermons A genuine painter sees with pleas- true, but repeated till we are sick of
a well-shaped arm and vigorous them, we fancy ourselves listening to muscles, even if they be employed in college lectures, or handbooks for the knocking down a man. A genuine use of young priests. We find similar novelist enjoys the contemplation of the things in books with gilt edges and greatness of a harmful sentiment, or the pictured covers, given as Christmas organized mechanism of a pernicious presents to children. Are we much character. He has sympathy, with rejoiced to learn that marriages for the talent, because it is the only faculty sake of money or rank have their incon. which exactly copies nature : occupied veniency, that in the absence of a friend in experiencing the emotions of his per- we readily speak evil of him, that a son sonages, he only dreams of marking often aflícts his mother by his irregu. their vigor, kind, and mutual action. larities, that selfishness is an ugly fault? He represents them to us as they are, All this is true ; but it is too true. We whole, not blaming, not punishing, not listen in order to hear new things, mutilating them; he transfers them to These old moralities, though useful us intact and separate, and leaves to and well spoken, smack of the paid us the right of judging if we desire it. pedant, so common in England, the His whole effort is to make them visi: clergyman in the white tie, standing ble, to unravel the types darkened and bolt upright in his room, and droning, altered by the accidents and imperfec. for three hundred a year, daily admonitions of real life, to set in relief grand tion to the young gentlemen · whom human passions, to be shaken by the parents have sent to his educational greatness of the beings whom he ani- hothouse. mates, to raise us out of ourselves by This regular presence of a moral the force of his creations. We recog- intention spoils the novel as well as nize art in this creative power, impar- the novelist. It must be confessed, a tial and universal as nature, freer and volume of Thackeray has the cruel mismore potent than nature, taking up the fortune of recalling the novels of Miss rough-drawn or disfigured work of its Edgeworth or the stories of Canon rival in order to correct its faults and Schmidt. Here is one which shows give effect to its conceptions.
us Pendennis proud, extravagant, hair. All is changed by the intervention of brained, lazy, shamefully plucked at satire ; and more particularly, the part his examination; whilst his companions, of the author. When in an ordinary less intellectual but more studious, novel he speaks in his own name, it is take high places in honors or fiass with to explain a sentiment or mark the decent credit. This edifying contrast cause of a facul!; ; in a satirical novel does not warn us ; we do o wish to it is to give us moral advice. It has go back to school ; we shut the boyk, been seen to how many lessons Thack and recommend it like medicine, to eray subjects us. That they are good our little cousin. Other puerilities, iese ones no one disputes; but ai least they shocking, end in wearying us just as take the place of useful explanations. much. We do not like the prolonged con. A third of a volume, heing occupied by trast between good Colonel Newcome
at a sermon.
and his wicked relatives. The Colonel intelligible. He gives her the educa gives money and cakes to every child, tion of a prostitute, a husband money and shawls to all his cousins, depraved as a prison full of galley money and kind words to all the ser- slaves,” luxurious habits, recklessness, vants; and these people only answer prodigality, womanly nerves, a pretty him with coldness and coarseness. It woman's dislikes, an artist's rapture. is clear, from the first page, that the Thus born and bred, her corruption is au thor would persuade us to be affable, natural. She needs elegance as she needs and we kick against the too matter-of- air. She takes it no matter whence course invitation ; we don't want to be remorselessly as we drink water from scolded in a novel ; we are in a bad the first stream. She is not hunior with this invasion of pedagogy. than her profession, she has all ia We wanted to go to the theatre ; we innate and acquired excuses, of mood, have been taken in by the outside bill, radition, circumstances, necessity ; sho and we growl sotto voce, to find ourselves has all its powers, abandon, charms,
mad gayety, alternations of triviality Let us console ourselves : the charac- and elegance, sudden audacity, comters suffer as much as we ; the author ical devices, magnificence and suc spoils them in preaching to us; they, cess. She is perfect of her kind, like like us, are sacrificed to satire. He a proud and dangerous horse, which does not animate beings, he lets pup- we admire while we fear it. Balzac pets act. He only combines their delights to paint her only for the sake actions to make them ridiculous, odious of his picture. He dresses her, lays on or disappointing. After a few scenes for her her patches, arranges her garwe recognize the spring, and thence- ments, trembles before her dancing. forth we are always foreseeing when it girl's motions. He details her gestures is going to act. This foresight deprives with as much pleasure and truth as if the character of half its truth, and the he were her waiting-woman. His arreader of half his illusion. Perfect fool- tistic curiosity is fed on the least traits eries, complete mischances, unmitigat of character and manners.
After a ed wickednesses, are rare things. The violent scene, he pauses at
a spare events and feelings of real life are not moment, and shows her idle, stretched so arranged as to make such calculated on her couch like a cat, yawning and contrasts and such clever combinations. basking in the sun. Like a physiolo Nature does not invent these dramatic gist, he knows that the nurves of the effects : we soon see that we are be-beast of prey are softened, and that it fore the foot-lights in front of bedizened only ceases to bound in order to sleep. actors, whose words are written for But what bounds! She dazzles, fasci. them, and their gestures arranged. nates; she defends herself successively
To bring before our mind exactly against three proved accusations, rethis alteration of truth and art, we futes evidence, alternately humiliates must compare two characters step by and glorifies herself, rails, adores, de scep. There is a personage, unani- monstrates, changing a score of times mous.y recognized as Thackeray's her voice, her ideas, "ricks, and all masterpiece, Becky Sharp, an intrigu- this in one quarter of an hour. An ante and a bad character, but a supe- old shopkeeper, prout«ted against rior and well mannered woman. Let emotions by trade and avarice, trem 13 compare her to a similar personage bles at her speech : “She sets her feet of Balzac in les Parents pauvres, Val- on my heart, crushes me, stuns me. éri; Marneffe. The difference of the Ah, what a woman! When she looks two works will exhibit the difference cold at me it is worse than a stom. ch. of the two literatures. As the English ache. . . How she tripped down the excel as moralists and satirists, so the steps, making them bright with her French excel as artists and novel writ- looks !” Everywhere passion, for e
atrocity, conceal the ugliness and cor Balzac loves his Valérie ; this is why ruption. Attacked in her fortune by he explains and magnifies her. He a respectable woman, Mad. Marneffe does not labor to make her odious, but I gets up an incomparable comedy, play
ed with a great poet's eloquence and ladies of indisputatile correctness and exaltation, and broken suddenly by the gentility will condemn the action ai burst of laughter and coarse triviality immodest ; but, you see, poor dear of a porter's daughter on the stage. Rebecca had all this work to do herself. Style and action are raised to the If a person is too poor to keep a ser. height of an epic. “When the words vant, though ever so elegant, he must * Hulot and two hundred thousand sweep his own rooms : if a dear gir) francs' were mentioned, Valérie gave has no dear mamma to settle mattets a passing look from between her two with the young man, she must do it for long eyelids, like the glare of a cannon herself."* Whilst Becky was a goveThrough its smoke.” A little further, ness at Sir Pitt Crawley's, she gains the aught in the act by one of her lovers, friendship of her pupils, by reading to
Brazilian, and quite capable of kill- them the tales of Crébillon the ing her, she blenched for an instant; younger, and of Voltaire. She writes but recovering the same moment, she to her friend Amelia : “ The rector's checked her tears.
“ She came
to wife paid me a score of compliments him and looked so fiercely that her eyes about the progress my pupils made, glittered like daggers.” Þanger roused and thought, no doubt, to touch my and inspired her, and her excited nerves heart-poor, simple, country soul ! as if propel genius and courage to her brain. I cared a fig about my pupils." This To complete the picture of this impet- phrase is an imprudence hardly natura? uous nature, superior and unstable, in so careful a person, and the author Balzac at the last moment makes her adds it gratuitously to her part, to repent. To proportion her fortune to make it odious. A little further her vice, he leads her triumphantly Rebecca is grossly adulatory and mean through the ruin, death, or despair of to old Miss Crawley; and her pomptwenty people, and shatters her in the ous periods, manifestly false, instead supreme moment by a fall as terrible of exciting admiration raise disgust. as her success.
She is selfish and lying to her husband, Before such passion and logic, what and knowing that he is on the field of is Becky Sharp? A calculating plotter, battle, busies herself only in getting tocool in temperament, full of common gether a little purse. Thackeray desense, an ex-governess, having parsi. signedly dwells on the contrast: the monious habits, a genuine woman of heavy dragoon "went through the business, always proper, always active, various items of his little catalogue of unsexed, void of the voluptuous soft- effects, striving to see how they might ness and diabolical transport which be turned into money for his wife's can give brilliancy to her character and benefit, in case any accident should becharm to her profession. She is not a fall him." “ Faithful to his plan of prostitute, but a petticoated and heart- economy, the captain dressed himself less barrister. Nothing more fit to in his oldest and shabbiest uniform” to inspire aversion. The author loses no get killed in : opportunity of expressing his own; “And this famous dandy of Windsor ar i through two-thirds of the book he pur- Hyde Park. went off on his campaign sues her with sarcasms and misfor- with something like a prayer on the lips for the
woman he was leaving. He took her up from tunes; he puts only false words, per the ground, and held her in his arms for a mis fi lious actions, revolting sentiments in ute, tight pressed against his strong beating ker mouth. From her coming on the heart
. His face was purple and his eyes dim, siage, at the age of seventeen, treated as he put her down and left her.. with rare kindness by a simple-minded not to give way to unavailing sentimentality on
Rebecca, as we have said, wisely determined family, she lies from morning to night- her husband's departure.
What a fright and by coarse expedients tries to fish 1 seem,' she said, examining herself in the there for a husband. The better to So she divested herself of this pink raiment,
glass, "and how pale this pink makes one look.' crush her, Thackeray himself sets forth then she put her bouquet of the ball inta all this baseness, these lies and indecen- a glass of water, and went to led, and slepi cies. Rebecca ever so gentle pressed very comfortably." I the hand of fat Joseph: “ It was an * Vanity Fair, ch. iv. Ibid. ch. 2. advance, and as such, perhaps, some 1 Ibid. ch. X.
From these examples judge of the more useful, has become less trua and rest. Thackeray's whole business is beautiful. to degrade Rebecca Sharp. He con
IX. victs her of being harsh to her son, robbing tradesmen, deceiving every- Suppose that a happy chance lays body. And after all, he makes her a aside these causes of weakness, and dupe ; whatever she does, comes to keeps open these sources of talent. nothing. Compromised by the advan- Amongst all these transformed novels ces which she has lavished on foolish appears a single genuine one, elevated, Joseph, she momentarily expects an touching, simple, original, the historg offer of marriage. A letter comes, of Henry Esmond. Thackeray has announcing that he has gone to Scot- not written a less popular nor a 8 ore land, and presents his compliments to beautiful story. Miss Rebecca. Three months later, This book comprises the fictitious she secretly marries Captain Rawdon, memoirs of Colonel Esmond, a conten2 poor dolt. Sir Pitt Crawley, Raw- porary of Queen Anne, who, after a don's father, throws himself at her feet, troubled life in Europe, retired with with four thousand a year, and offers his wife to Virginia, and became a her his hand. In her consternation planter there. Esmond speaks; and she weeps despairingly. “Married, the necessity of adapting the tone t married, married already!” is her cry; the character suppresses the satirical and it is enough to pierce sensitive style, the reiterated irony, the bitter souls. Later, she tries to win her sarcasm, the scenes contrived to ridi. sister-in-law by passing for a good cule folly, the events combined to mother. “ Why do you kiss me here?" crush vice. Thenceforth we enter the asks her son ;
you never kiss me at real world; we let illusion guide us, home.' The consequence is com. we rejoice in a varied spectacle, easily plete discredit; once more she is lost. unfolded, without moral intention. We The Marquis of Steyne, her lover, pre are no more harassed by personal sents her to society, loads her with advice; we remain in our place, calm, jewels, bank-notes, and has her husband sure, no actor's finger pointed at us to appointed to some island in the East. warn us at an interesting moment that The husband enters at the wrong mo the piece is played on our account, and ment, knocks my lord down, restores to do us good. At the same time, and the diamonds, and drives her away. unconsciously, we are at ease. Quitting Wandering on the Continent, she tries bitter satire, pure narration charms us ; five or six times to grow rich and ap- we take rest from hating.
We are pear honest. Always, at the moment like an army surgeon, who, after a day of success, accident brings her to the of fights and maneuvres, sits on a ground. Thackeray sports with her, hillock and beholds the motion in the as a child with a cockchafer, letting camp, the procession of carriages, and her hoist herself painfully to the top of the distant horizon softened by the the ladder, in order to pluck her down sombre tints of evening. by the foot and make her tumble dis- On the other hand, the long reflec. gracefully. He ends by dragging her tions, which seem vulgar and out of place through taverns and greenrooms, and under the pen of the writer, become pointing his finger at her from a dis- natural and interesting in the mouth tance, as a gamester, a drunkard, is un- of the chief character in this novel willing to touch her further. Or the Esmond is an old man, writing 01 last page ke installs her vulgarly in a his children, and remarking upon his smal. fortune, plundered by doubtful experience. He has a right to juuge devices, and leaves her in bad odor, life; his maxims are suitable to his uselessly hypocritical, abandoned to years : having passed into sketches of the shadiest society. Beneath this manners, they lose their pedantic air storm of irony and contempt, the we hear them complacently, and per heroine is dwarfed, illusion is weaken-ceive, as we turn the page, the calm ed, interest diminished, art attenuated, and sad smile which has dictated them. poetry disappears, and the character, With the reflections we endure the
details. Elsewhere, the minute de- , in imitating successfully the style of scriptions appear frequently puerile; ancient Greece. The style of Esmon we blamed the author for dwelling, has the calmness, the exactness, the with the preciseness of an English simplicity, the solidity of the classics painter, on school adventures, coach Our m dern temerities, our prodigal scenes, inn episodes; we thought that imagery our jostled figures, our habit his intense studiousness, unable to of gestic ulation, our striving for effect, grasp. lofty themes of art, was com- all our bad literary customs have dispe!lod to stoop to microscopical ob- appeared. Thackeray must have gone servations and photographic details. back to the primitive sense of words, Here every thing is changed. A writer discovered their forgotten sha of memoirs has a right to record his meaning, recomposed an obliterated childish impressions. His distant rec- state of intellect and a lost species of ollections, mutilated remnants of a ideas, to make his copy approach so forgotten life, have a peculiar charm ; closely to the original. The imaginawe accompany him back to infancy. A tion of Dickens himself would have I atin lesson, a soldier's march, a'ride failed in this. To attempt and accompLehind some one, become important lish this, needed all the sagacity, calmevents embellished by distance; we ness, and power of knowlerige and enjoy his peaceful and familiar pleas- meditation. ure, and feel with him a vast sweetness But the masterpiece of the work is in seeing once more, with so much the character of Esmond. Thackeray ease and in so clear a light, the well- has endowed him with that tender known phantoms of the past. Minute kindliness, almost feminine, which he detail adds to the interest in adding to everywhere extols above all other hu. the naturalness. Stories of campaign man virtues, and that self-mastery life, random opinions on the books and which is the effect of habitual reflecevents of the time, a hundred petty tion. These are the finest qualities of scenes, a thousand petty facts, mani- his psychological armory; each by its festly useless, are on that very account contrast increases the value of the illusory. We forget the author, we other. We see a hero, but original listen to the old Colonel, we find our- and new, English in his cool resolution, selves carried back a hundred years, modelled by the delicacy and sensibility and we have the extreme pleasure, so of his heart. uncommon, of believing in what we Henry Esmond is a poor child, the read.
supposed bastard of Lord Castlewood, Whilst the subject obviates the brought up by his heirs. In the openfaults, or turns them into virtues, it ing chapter we are touched by the offers for these virtues the very finest modulated and noble emotion which theme. A powerful reflection has de- we retain to the end of the work. Lady composed and reproduced the manners Castlewood, on her first visit to the of the time with a most astonishing fidel castle, comes to him in the book-room ity: Thackeray knows Swift, Šteele, or yellow gallery ;” being informed by Addison, St. John, Marlborough, as well the house-keeper who the little boy is, as the most attentive and learned histor- she blushes and walks back; the next ian. He depicts their habits, household, instant, touched by remorse, she re conversation, like Walter Scott himself; turns : and, what Walter Scott could not do, he imitates their style so that we are in her eyes, she took his hand again, placing
"With a look of infinite pity, and tendernen deceived by it; and many of their au- her other fair hand on his head, and saying thentic phrases, inwoven with the text some words to him, which were so kind, and cannot be distinguished from it. This said in a voice so sweet, that the boy,
who had perfect imitation is not limited to a few never looked upon so much beauty before, felt
as if the touch of a superior being, or angea select scenes, but pervades the whole smote him down to the
ground, and kissed the volume. Colonel Ismond writes as peo- fair protecting hand as he knelt on one knee. ple wrote in the year 1700. The feat, I To the very last hour of his life, Esmond rewas going to say the genius, is as great looked, the rings on her fair lands, the very
membered the lady as she then spoke and as the attempt of Paul Louis Courie, scent of her robe, the beam of 1 or eyes lighting