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We admit it. We intend it. The fate and character of these novels are a perfect paradox. They have been much praised and but little read. Their merit is great, yet their attraction is small. They reflect honour on the literary talent of the country, and yet they are as a sealed book to the greater part of its population.

We commenced this article with the assertion that novel writing is the most attractive species of literature and yet we have taken for the subject of it, a series of novels, which we have acknowledged to possess but little magnetism. This would seem as if we had caught something of the subtilizing spirit of Brown, and were becoming ourselves paradoxical. But we would remind the reader of the proverbial phrase, that there is no rule without an exception. We still maintain our assertion in relation to novel-writing generally. Against this assertion the character of one, or even a dozen novels, proves nothing-it only forms an exception to a general rule.

We shall now endeavour to account for the absence of that popular attraction in these works, which their greatest admirers have been obliged to acknowledge and deplore. In reference to attaching qualities, we may divide all novels into three classes, the narrative, the descriptive, and the philosophical. Of these, the first is by much the most, and the last, the least attractive.

That to a very large majority of light readers, (we might, perhaps, include readers of every description,) narrative has much greater charms than either description or ratiocination, is proved by the well-known proneness of the mind, when perusing a work of fiction, to pass over, or at most, slightly glance at, the descriptive and philosophical passages, while it dwells with complacency or delight on those which carry forward the story, and communicate that information relative to the events of which the curiosity is in search. It is neither for the acquirement of knowledge in ethics, nor instruction in science; nor yet for the attainment of an acquaintance with external nature, animate or inanimate; nor, in short, with a view to information or improvement of any kind, that novels are generally read. Amusement is the great-almost the only object. In hours of relaxation and leisure, the mind which can never be idle, requires occupation. That which will afford it employment with the least exertion, will ever be the most acceptable; and every one must have experienced, that to peruse a succession of events, requires much less attention or exertion of thought, than to connect the parts of a description, or to follow the deductions of an argument, so as to comprehend them in a manner that will afford either benefit or satisfaction.

With respect to the descriptive novel:—Why is it more attractive than the novel which moralizes? What are its superior charms? We confess that long and formal delineations have never been pleasing to us. We could, at any time, better endure to wander through a dozen pages of abstract speculation, than through half the number of mere description. The one has generally some chain of connexion in the ideas, which, by a moderate share of attention, we can follow without becoming bewildered. In the other, the parts or appearances delineated, are necessarily separate, and must be singly represented. To connect them, in the perusal, in such a manner that the imagination may form a satisfactory picture of the whole group, requires a mental effort greater than in the hours of lassitude and idleness, which alone we usually devote to novel-reading, we are willing to make. Such at least is our own experience; and we believe, that it differs but little from that which is generally felt. Still, the novels which are termed descriptive, or are ranked as such, are usually more entertaining than those devoted to moralizing. This arises not from any superiority of attraction possessed by description itself, but from the circumstance that descriptive novel-writers have seldom or never indulged their peculiar vein to such extent as the moralizers. With their descriptions, actions and incidents, which in reality form the great charm of works of imagination, are more frequently blended; for even to the writer, sheer description is more laborious and fatiguing than moralizing. If a scene is to be described, it must come to an end when all its features are fully presented to view. But to what end did philosophizing ever come? Who can set bounds to speculation; or limit the wandering of his thoughts when he has fairly embarked them on the tide of theory, or given them license to range amidst the perplexing wilds and interminable labyrinths of metaphysics?

It is this unfortunate propensity to prolixity in the philosophical novelist, together with his frequent and inevitable lapses into mysticism and obscurity, which renders his productions, despite of whatever talents they may display, less readable, and therefore less popular than those of the describer in fiction, although, in most cases, the performances of the latter are the result of mechanical tact rather than intellectual pre-eminence. There is, at least, one descriptive novelist of this country, whose peculiar powers consist in grouping and arranging, sometimes with considerable effect, but frequently with wearisome minuteness, and always with the square-and-rule exactness and measured precision of a working man,—those appearances of external nature with which he is familiar, rather than in displaying them with the bold, free, concise and vivid pictorial touches of a forcible and animated writer. Yet the novels of this descriptive writer are much more popular than those of the philosophical Brown, because his descriptions, long-winded and tediously minute as they often are, display to us the appearances of real, not of fanciful nature, and what is more to the purpose, they are always blended with a sufficiency of historical, or at least, probable events, to keep alive curiosity and render the reader anxious to learn the result of the tale.

The novels of Brown, on the contrary, are so glutted, if we may use the expression, with philosophical reflections, springing from the inexhaustible fertility of his superior intellect, that there is little room left in them for the admission of incidents. These are, therefore, comparatively few, and compressed into bounds so small, that it is with difficulty the reader can trace them. He, consequently, becomes tired of the search, his curiosity cools, he frets at being kept by the never-ending exhibitions of the author's powers of subtilizing, from the main object for which he took up the book, namely, to become acquainted with the fortunes or misfortunes of its characters. He, therefore, throws it aside, no doubt, fully convinced of the author's talents, but with no disposition ever to resume its perusal.

Thus the exhibition of abilities does not always afford pleasure, nor even command attention. To gain the suffrage of the world, more depends on the mode than on the power with which talents are displayed. Strength, not grace, is the attribute of a giant; and there are productions of mind whose profundity and force extort admiration, but do not communicate delight. The vigour of Churchill, the satirist, is great; but his manner is rough, and his sentiments unamiable. Who reads him?--The artless Goldsmith has no extraordinary vigour; but his manner is elegant-natural-sweet. Who does not read him? Every one loves his memory; every one praises his works. His fame will never die; while that of the bold, rough, powerful Churchill, is already almost extinct.

Some of these novels, however, abstract and metaphysical as they are, possess, in no slight degree, the power of entertaining. Desultory and superficial readers, it is true, such as chiefly resort to the circulating libraries for entertainment, will not derive much enjoyment from any of them. They will not have patience to go through the long but masterly discussions of the principles of duty, or investigations of the motives of action, with which they abound. Such are best pleased with sprightly dialogue, or hurried and animated narrative. But there are minds differently constituted; tastes differently formed. There are the serious and the reflecting, who read for the purpose of study rather than amusement, or rather the amusement most acceptable to them, is that which awakens in their minds, contemplations on the nature and dispositions of man, and on the duties and designs of existence. To those who relish such studies; who wish to animadvert upon theories and doctrines, and to see the positions of right and wrong illustrated by portraits drawn from humañ characters, and examples from the occurrences of human life, the works of Brown will afford a mental repast, rich and noble, which can be excelled by none with which we are acquainted, in the whole regions of fictitious literature.

As novels, therefore, although these works may not be so universally attractive as if they were of a lighter and more narrative cast, yet they have not been written in vain. They fill up a chasm or vacancy in a department of literature, which had not been before occupied, or occupied but in a very partial manner by one or two of Godwin's works. It has been said, that Godwin, in his Saint Leon and Caleb Williams, set the example to Brown of this style of writing. It may have been so, if affording a hint can be called setting an example. But Brown, if he took the hint from Godwin, has greatly improved on it. He has carried it to an extent, and raised it to a height much beyond any thing to be found in Godwin; and may justly be placed at the head of the school, if he may not be considered its founder. The existence of such a school of novel-writing, although it should not be so extensively popular as some others, is a matter, which, by increasing the varieties of this department of literature, must afford satisfaction to literary men; and, inasmuch as it addresses itself to the peculiar taste of some readers, it supplies a desideratum in letters which entitles its founders to gratitude and praise. The question of its popularity apart, it must be admitted to be a school of romance highly magnificent and instructive, and requiring greater powers of mind to excel • in it than any other. By Americans it ought to be regarded with peculiar favour, for by an American it has been brought to the highest point it has yet attained.

On this account, Brown ought, in justice, to be considered the chief ornament of our national literature. In no other department of authorship, except that in which he has so greatly excelled, can we claim any superiority over other countries. Nor is excellence in the philosophical romance so slight a matter, that we should not be proud of it. It is a most difficult species of composition. To excel in it, requires a mind of the first rate order, fertile in ideas; choice, accurate, and flowing in expression; inventive, acute, and gifted with an almost intuitive skill in the nature, passions, and general pursuits of man, together with the obligations imposed on him by his various circumstances and positions in society. In short, the same powers of mind and knowledge of human nature, which enabled Brown to write “ Wieland,” and “ Arthur Mervyn,” would have enabled him to excel in any species of mental exertion to which he might have chosen to apply his faculties.

These novels, indeed, taken as a whole, appear to us a phenomenon in literature ; and we are persuaded, that by every reflective mind, that studies them properly,-for to understand their worth, and appreciate their importance, requires much study-will consider them such. We have mentioned the opinion which several critics have advanced, that Brown was a follower of Godwin's school of romance. We now state explicitly, that we think such an opinion erroneous. That he took the hint of his peculiar manner of scrutinizing motives from Godwin, we will not controvert. But if he did, it was all he took from him. In nothing else does he resemble him; and, even in this, there is a peculiarity about Brown which sufficiently distinguishes him from his alleged model, and gives him, in our opinion, solid claims to originality in the only point in which it has ever been denied him. Godwin's strain is connected, deductive, argumentative. Brown's is abrupt, concise, and sententious. The one deduces and demonstrates; the other investigates and analyses; the one is expansive and profound ; the other is close, pointed, and elucidative; the one is vehement and passionate; the other is intense and pathetic. In fact, except in their propensity to dwell on the operations of the mind, these two great writers have as little in common as any other fabricators of tales; and even moralizing, the topic which is so alluring to both, is approached by each in a manner so different, as to entitle him to the full credit of thinking for himself.

Having thus, as we hope, established for our countryman a sufficient claim to originality in the line of literature which he adopted,-for it is not pretended, that he, in any degree, resembles any other writer than Godwin-we will now go farther, and say, that we consider his novels much superior to those of his philosophical rival, in the demonstration which they afford of intellectual power. Godwin has produced no work so unique —so deeply philosophical, so awfully mysterious, and so overwhelmingly pathetic as Wieland; or so full of strange and impressive incidents, and just, yet novel reflections, as Arthur Mervyn. Godwin's knowledge of existing manners, appears to be more extensive than that which was possessed by Brown. He has drawn, therefore, more accurate pictures of his contemporaries, and his incidents seem to correspond more with the ordinary practices of life. But Brown excelled in the knowledge of our general nature. Man, in the abstract, seems to have been his favourite study. He delighted to contemplate him in reference to the universe, as a being forming an important link in the chain of creation, subject to certain laws and destinies which he cannot control, and liable, at the same time, to mutations of condition, powerfully affecting his well-being, which are greatly influenced by the results of his own volition. Godwin's personages are, in general, the artificial men and women of the

VOL. VIII. —NO. 16.


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