Billeder på siden


must quote his words also. He says, upon “Jane Eyre " the popularity “ They (the critics) hunt over do- it attained. It was without doubt a mains more extensive than their wonderful and curious book, and own, trample down fences which our children's children will take it they cannot clear, strip off the buds, down in years to come from the and tear away the branches of all library shelves, and read it with the most promising young trees that interest and astonishment as the happen to grow in their road, work of a girl who did not know plough up the lawns, muddy the anything of the world. But “ Jane waters, and when they return be- Eyre," with all its brilliant clever. nighted home again, carouse ness, was not faultless, and the reciprocal flattery,"

critics who told the author that bard Now this is very severe, and it truth were more certainly her friends would be hard indeed if the poor than if they had lavished upon her critics had not a friend to break a indiscriminate and careless praise. lance in their defence. They shelter The books that provoke censure themselves, it is true, under the mingled with genuine praise are, as broad shield of “ Anon.," but we time will prove, the books that have cannot believe that they are brimfull in them power and vitality. Were of animosity to the race of authors the novels of Thackeray, Dickens, whose works are put into their Kingsley, and George Eliot-to bands for review. We are inclined name four only of our best writers, to think that critics are for the three of whom, alas, can never write most part genial and pleasant gentle for us again-praised without stint ? men, and we pity them most sin- Were not the blemishes that decerely for being obliged to read, as faced the noble group of life-like we suppose

read they must, all the characters conceived by the genius, trash in the shape of the many hun- and put before our delighted eyes dred volumes of novels that daily, by the magic of George Eliot's weekly, and monthly issue from the matchless pen, all pointed out, and press. We can but hope that in yet her light has not been quenched, many instances they follow the ad- because it was not an ignis fatuus in vice of we believe-Sydney Smith, the world of letters—that bright and simply cut the leaves and smell firmament in which there are a few the paper knife!

radiant planets, some fixed, and not Writers of undoubted genius, such a few wandering stars, but whose as Byron, Keats, and Shelley, suf- milk-and-watery way is crowded to fered keenly from adverse criticism, suffocation. and it is quite possible that they The point upon which legitimate may have been attacked by the re- fault can be found with the critics viewers from motives not wholly of to-day-not the "baser herd," literary; but it is a grave error for a but the cultivated and intelligent critic to allow himself to be swayed who write for the press-is not that either by personal or popular pre- they smoke and scorch tyros to judice when he sits down to pass death, not that they quench modest judgment upon the work of an rays which, under *more tender author to whom fair, honest praise treatment might have warmed a and judicious censure might be of hearthstone, if not lit up a shrine ; great and lasting value.

but that they praise everything, Charlotte Brontë, in her dreary good, bad, and indifferent, that home in Yorkshire, quivered and comes in their way, instead of writhed under the criticisms which, at once and for ever extinguishing in our opinion, did much to confer tyros who, having nothing to do and

[ocr errors]

plenty of time to do it in, sit down “ It would be difficult to find a and fill three volumes with sentimen- volume more congenial on a summer's tal rubbish-and sometimes there

afternoon, either by the seaside or in

the fields." are more serious errors than mere sentiment--who pay a publisher for

A story which is not only well .

written, but thoroughly interesting." bringing out the book, who have it

“We wish it were our fate to read advertised with a long train of fa- more novels of this description.” vourable criticisms extracted from Press notices tacked on after the And so on ad infinitum. name, then forth with imagine them- The foregoing are not, we conselves famous, and sit down compla- tend, specimens of the wholesome cently to write again.

criticism which will tend to sift for We select at random some ex- the reading world the chaff from the tracts from “Opinions of the Press, grain, and help the formation of taken from the advertising sheets of sound judgment on the part of those the monthly magazines, and without who are too thoughtless, and, in exception they are favourable to the some respects, too ignorant, to disnovels under review :

cern for themselves the good fruit

upon the tree of knowledge from A capital story-fresh, stirring, the worthless and impure. They are fascinating.”

merely the criticisms of critics who “ A vivid and lifelike picture.” “ One of the best novels we have

are too careless, or too good-natured seen this year."

to put an end to the tuneless little “The dialogue is bright and plea- piping which they probably, in their sant; the interest is well sustained.”

hearts, think too weak to hurt any Cleverness and brilliant wit; great one. But to intelligent readers sharp skill in story telling."

censure would be more valuable than “Sharp and humorous insight into indiscriminate praise, for we must character; written with unflagging consider the latter somewhat dearly vivacity and point." “ Well and clearly written, touching

bought when it induces us to send

to Mudie for books which neither deeply many of the better feelings of the soul."

amuse nor elevate, and which have “ It can hardly fail to win some

not even the negative merit of lull. share of favour with all readers of ing us into the forgetfulness of cultivated taste."


[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]



Rahel: Her Life and Letters. By friends are also given, and not Mrs. Vaughan Jennings. H. S. merely their correspondence with King & Co.: London, 1876. We her, but also with each other. cannot help thinking Mrs. Jennings Rahel appears to have been one is too late with her publication. of the most remarkable women of More than forty years have elapsed her time. Carlyle calls her“ since the death of the person to kind of spiritual queen in Germany." whom it relates, and nearly as many She was regarded as a high authority since Mr. Carlyle gave some account in literature, and had the honour of her and her letters in an article of having been the first to render on the volumes edited by her hus- Goethe duly appreciated by his band, Varnhagen von Ense, which countrymen. Her salon was for contained her correspondence and about twenty years the resort of all descriptive memoirs of her friends. who were distinguished in society, It was of course impossible in a literature, science, art, philosophy, paper, the greater part of which, and theology. She numbered was devoted to Varnhagen himself anong her intimate friends such and his writings, to find room for eminent men as Moses Mendelsmuch biographical detail respecting sohn, Schleiermacher, Frederick his wife, or many extracts from her Schlegel, Fichte, Tieck, and others ; letters ; but had there been any won tributes of the highest admirademand for further particulars, it tion from Goethe and Jean Paul would surely have been supplied Richter; and even vanquished the long before now. If what Mr. vanity of Madame de Staël, so far Carlyle wrote did not awaken as to extort from her the acknowsufficient interest among English ledgment that the extraordinary readers to encourage the publication accounts she had heard of her of a more complete account while her with incredulity were not at all exmemory was still fresh in the minds aggerated. Count Custine, in an of many who are no longer living, article upon

her in the Revue de Paris there would seem to be less en- for November, 1837—not the Revue couragement now. Be this as it des Deux Mondes for December, as may, we must do Mrs. Jennings the Mrs. Jennings erroneously states — justice to say, that portion of the describes her as “the light of minds, volume which proceeds from her the guide of hearts,” and says, pen is written with vivid force, and “she had the intellect of a philosogives evidence of ample acquain- pher, and the heart of an apostle, tance with the leading

persons and and nevertheless was a child and a events of the time.

Though pro

woman as much as any one can be." fessedly devoted to the life and It is but natural that her husband letters of Rahel, the work is not should be still more eloquent in her confined to her. Accounts of her praise. According to him she was


“quite an original being, grand from “I am compelled to live misundera blending of innocence with pru- stood among unworthy people. Fools dent tact, prompt in speech as in

and liars protect themselves against action ; for the rarest presence of each other, but I have no protection, mind, and the most extraordinary And what makes matters worse, is

no kindred spirit, no friend, nothing. address, sagacity, and perspicacity that, living in the midst of injustice, were combined in her, and all this blame irritates me like something new. was animated by an ever practical There is not a single person of those and true warmth of feeling, and the that condemn me, who has not been liveliest sympathy with others in completely mistaken. No one undertheir joys and sorrows. Compre- takes my defence : they persecute me hensiveness and brilliancy, depth

because I have always spoken to each

one in favour of the other. The and frankness, imagination and

women whom I see completely undo irony combined together were dis

It is a physical effect. Their played by her in the series of un

presence agitates my nerves, they expected circumstances of which depress my mind.” her life was composed. But with power and greatness were always

To add to her other sufferings, found in her the gentleness and Rahel was doomed to undergo the grace of the woman, which were misery of disappointment in a love especially visible in the charming affair with Count von Finkenstein, expression of her eyes and mouth, who, after a long courtship, was as well as passion and enthusiasm." released by her from his engage

Born in 1771 of Jewish parents, ment on account of their disparity she was of a highly susceptible tem- of rank and difference of religion. perament, wayward in disposition, Though she never afterwards re

, and glad to escape as often as she gretted this result, it affected her could from the uncongenial atmos- so deeply at the time as to bring phere of her home, where her father on a severe illness of long conruled with an iron band, and her tinuance, after which she visited mother failed to understand and Paris, having long been familiar appreciate her. It seems to have with the French language and been her fate to have been mis. literature through study and interunderstood during her life, as it has course with many French emi. been to be less known since her

grants in Berlin. death than, according to all accounts,

Mrs.Jennings gives an interesting she deserved. Her husband said sketch of an evening at Rahel's it was not till after having been long salon from the pen of a French uncertain and mistaken about her, count, who says : that he at last got to know her true character. She can hardly be said

"I heard the boldest ideas, the to have led a happy life. Those

acutest thoughts, the most significant who are not blest with a happy play of fancy, all linked and suggested

criticisms, and the most capricious home in childhood are at a great by the simple thread of accidental chitdisadvantage to begin with. Soured chat. in temper and wounded in spirit at "" Every one was naturally active the time of life when the heart is without being obtrusive, and all seemed most susceptible, they are apt to be

equally ready to talk or to listen. gloomy and morose all through life,

Most remarkable of all was Mlle. the objects of dislike and suspicion

Levin herself. With what easy grace

did she seem to rouse, brighten, and rather than sympathy and kindness.

warm everybody present. Her cheerIt is sad to read what Rahel says fulness was irresistible; and what did in one of her letters :

she not say? I was entirely bewildered,

« ForrigeFortsæt »