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NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.

No. XCVIII.

JANUARY, 1838.

7. Bowen, Art. I. - Gleanings in Europe. By the Author of “The

Spy,” &c., &c. Philadelphia. Carey, Lea, & Blanch

ard. 2 vols. 12mo. To write a good novel, we hold to be one of the highest efforts of genius. Many talents are required to this end, which are rarely combined in an individual. The novelist must unite in his own person the functions of the poet, the philosopher, and the dramatist ; he must invent, discriminate, and “ hold the mirror up to nature,” in the portraiture of character and passion, acting in their peculiar scenes and producing their characteristic effects. Though free from the shackles of rhythm and metrical arrangement, which embarrass the poet, he is bound to greater truthfulness in his exhibition of nature. He must not soar so high, that clouds may cover what had better be concealed ; he must be distinct, graphic, true. Incidents are to be invented, not so common as to create weariness, nor so marvellous as to excite unbelief. Unity of action is essential ; the story must have a beginning, middle, and end. A string of events, connected by no other tie, than the mere fact, that they happened to the same individual, or within a given period of years, may constitute a fictitious history or memoir, but it does not make a novel. A due regard to probability forms no trifling restriction. It is not enough, that incidents may be adduced from real life more

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VOL. XLVI.

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wonderful than those narrated. History is often stranger than fiction. The novelist is an imitator, and his subject is the ordinary course of things; not the wild accidents and ro

antic adventures, which now and then diversify the monotony of life. From this difficulty in the way of inventing probable and consistent plot, both ancient and modern playwrights have usually borrowed known historical facts, or the traditionary stories that form the debatable ground between history and fiction, or the acknowledged fables of professed story-tellers.

The action of a play is comparatively narrow and confined. Characters are brought out more by dialogue than incident ; therefore the portrait is less finished. The exhibition of a single passion, the sketch of one peculiarity in feeling or conduct, is enough to constitute a dramatic figure. The picture is complete, only as the imagination of the reader, stimulated by the suggestive power of the poet, fills up the outline thus presented. But the novelist works with greater freedom, and as the characters which he draws may be presented under any modification of manners and circumstance, he must paint at full length, and place less dependence on the reader's activity of mind for completing the costume and expression. An extended and minute observation of life, a facility at unravelling the complexity of motives, which regulate human conduct, and a microscopic power of detecting, in trivial events, the developement of peculiar mental features, are thus essential to the office of a Fielding, an Edgeworth, or a Scott. Again, the personages of a novel must be individualized sufficiently to command the sympathy of the beholders with their actions and feelings, while they must have common traits enough to stand as the representatives of a class. The annalist paints with sweeping strokes and little discrimination. His pages swarm with characters, who perform a certain round of events, make war and peace, marry, die, and are forgotten. Face answers to face; having nothing distinctive in themselves, we are as little interested in them singly, as in the successive waves that break upon the beach. Interest attaches to them, only as each is concerned in the great tide of human events, which advances a step as every head rises for a moment, and then disappears for ever. In history, moreover, individuals appear only in their connexion with great actions, the very nature of which is to call forth passions and powers that

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