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must quote his words also. He says, "They (the critics) hunt over domains more extensive than their own, trample down fences which they cannot clear, strip off the buds, and tear away the branches of all the most promising young trees that happen to grow in their road, plough up the lawns, muddy the waters, and when they return benighted home again, carouse on reciprocal flattery,"

Now this is very severe, and it would be hard indeed if the poor critics had not a friend to break a lance in their defence. They shelter themselves, it is true, under the broad shield of "Anon.," but we cannot believe that they are brimfull of animosity to the race of authors whose works are put into their hands for review. We are inclined to think that critics are for the most part genial and pleasant gentlemen, and we pity them most sincerely for being obliged to read, as we suppose read they must, all the trash in the shape of the many hundred volumes of novels that daily, weekly, and monthly issue from the press. We can but hope that in many instances they follow the advice of-we believe-Sydney Smith, and simply cut the leaves and smell the paper knife!

Writers of undoubted genius, such as Byron, Keats, and Shelley, suffered keenly from adverse criticism, and it is quite possible that they may have been attacked by the reviewers from motives not wholly literary; but it is a grave error for a critic to allow himself to be swayed either by personal or popular prejudice when he sits down to pass judgment upon the work of an author to whom fair, honest praise and judicious censure might be of great and lasting value.

Charlotte Brontë, in her dreary home in Yorkshire, quivered and writhed under the criticisms which, in our opinion, did much to confer

upon "Jane Eyre" the popularity it attained. It was without doubt a wonderful and curious book, and our children's children will take it down in years to come from the library shelves, and read it with interest and astonishment as the work of a girl who did not know anything of the world. But "Jane Eyre," with all its brilliant cleverness, was not faultless, and the critics who told the author that hard truth were more certainly her friends than if they had lavished upon her indiscriminate and careless praise.

The books that provoke censure mingled with genuine praise are, as time will prove, the books that have in them power and vitality. Were the novels of Thackeray, Dickens, Kingsley, and George Eliot-to name four only of our best writers, three of whom, alas, can never write for us again-praised without stint? Were not the blemishes that defaced the noble group of life-like characters conceived by the genius, and put before our delighted eyes by the magic of George Eliot's matchless pen, all pointed out, and yet her light has not been quenched, because it was not an ignis fatuus in the world of letters-that bright firmament in which there are a few radiant planets, some fixed, and not a few wandering stars, but whose milk-and-watery way is crowded to suffocation.

The point upon which legitimate fault can be found with the critics of to-day-not the "baser herd," but the cultivated and intelligent who write for the press-is not that they smoke and scorch tyros to death, not that they quench modest rays which, under more tender treatment might have warmed a hearthstone, if not lit up a shrine; but that they praise everything, good, bad, and indifferent, that comes in their way, instead of at once and for ever extinguishing tyros who, having nothing to do and

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."


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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.

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 among 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 acknow. sufficient 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

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 statesjustice 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


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“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,

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