LUCILLE BELMONT. * Jr is not easy to say whether this
novel is the work of a person of natu- ral talent, deficient in literary study, or a practised litterateur, who has not sufficient genius to rise to art as a novelist, though able to attain a consi- derable degree of cleverness in the craft. The almost feminine fluency and elegance of style, the superficial character of the descriptions, and a kind of littleness in the points selected to mark character or furnish praise, might indicate a female writer, as would an ignorance of details in business and life, (such as talking of the throne in the House of Com- mons,) that a man of social and worldly knowledge enough to write the book could scarcely have displayed. On the other hand, there is a pro- fessed acquaintance with scenes that women do not frequent, and topics are handled not altogether of a female cast. Lucille Belmont is a clever, readable, and well-varied book, rather than an interesting novel or a trustworthy picture of society. The volumes rise above the common run of novels, from having better writing, and much more style in them. But its story, and the materials out of which the story is formed, have even less relation to the actual than in the batch of novels that are annually printed. The pictures of courtly and political society, such as Castlereagh's supper-parties and Canning's orations during the session that terminated in Castlereagh's death, the sketches of public men in the declining days of old Toryism, and the half diplomatic scenes abroad, do not always impress the reader with the idea of being drawn directly or even at second-hand from personal observation. They are cleverly done ; they are not overdone; but they have that ge- nerality in which invention delights, unless where the observer is unable to see the characteristic traits of things distinctly, and hides his want of clear perception in vagueness.
The form of the novel is autobiographical. Lucille Belmont, the hero- ine, is a very subordinate person compared to the hero, Cecil Graham, the son of a nobleman, who is a member of Castlereagh's Cabinet and a
vehement old Tory. The book is planned to point the moral of weak- ness of character, and to describe the public observations which Cecil makes and the private scenes which lie goes through at home and abroad. Ills father and grandfather having exhausted the family property, it is desirable that Cecil should marry a fortune. Lucille Belmont, with whom he has fallen in love, is illegitimate ; a rascally first husband of her mother, supposed to be dead, turning up just as Lucille is born, killing Lady Belmont by the shock, and frightening Sir William into an allow- ance by the threat of exposing his daughter's illegitimacy. Various cir- cumstances therefore forbid the marriage. Lucille's fortune is not her cw13, except the savings that have expressly been made for her : to tell her so, would be to kill her : to marry and risk the real heir's coming forward on a future discovery when there might be a large family, would never do : a friend of Cecil therefore persuades him to give up the idea of marriage, as no engagement has been made, but without telling him the reason, which is left in mystery. This mystery Cecil unveils by opening
Packet with which he has been intrusted by the dead brother of Lucille,
despite of the most sacred injunctions. Another friend, to whom he wows what he has done, tells him the whole story of Lucille's parents; lad by his advice Cecil forwards a match between Lucille and his intimate )ndley ; after which, he goes to Italy as a diplomatist, and is engaged in variety of private adventures that still further display his weak selfish- !ea. Among the persons whom he encounters, is Antonio Ghigi, the st. husband of the first Lady Belmont. This worthy subsequently meets 4e,11 at Venice ; where, with his usual weakness, he is indulging in the
* Lucille Belmont; a Novel. In three volumes. Published by Colburn.
society of Lucille and Dudley. Before there is time for actual criminality to ensue, Antonio appears to extort more money, and, having exhausted Cecil's means, applies to Dudley : he is thus the cause of killing Lucille by the shock ; but by so doing, brings down fate upon himself, by a remembrance of Cecil which should have occurred before. Dudley has disbelieved the broken-down dissolute adventurer's tale, and ordered him from the room ; but the narrative of the friend who first interfered to break off the connexion with Cecil confirms the fact.
"Vavasour told him all; and he bore it admirably. There was a strength of purpose and energy. about Dudley which served him well and truly in this most painful of trials: if he was pale there was no weakness apparent, if his lips failed him the heart was still strong.
" Of coarse,' he said, there is but one line of conduct to follow. I will write im- mediately to Mr. Musgrave, and we will, after having fully investigated the case, re- lieve ourselves of an estate to which we have no claim. It is a fearful blow, but God's judgments are perfect, and may he grant her strength to bear it; it is only for her I mourn'; and then for the first time the big tears rolled down his cheeks. 'I ought still,' said he, to be happy in the ..sseesion of such a wife and such friends.' Vavasour had omitted everything which proved my weakness and folly; and so he only saw a constant never-failing regard on my part, where I felt there was meanness and falsehood.
"We sat quite silent for some minutes. " 'Now ' said Dudley, slowly, 'send for the man.'
He entered the room again, with the same bold, swaggering, reckless sir: but just as he commenced, 'Che dice Eccellenza?' a sudden idea struck me. I flew to the bell, and rang it violently. 'Rush to the door, Vavasour,' I exclaimed, 'till the people come.'
"What does it mean ? ' cried Dudley. "'Oh, how could I have so long overlooked this circumstance!' I shouted, The man is a murderer; his name is Antonio Ghigi, not Rinaldi: he is known as a criminal throughout Italy. He murdered a man at play: in God's name arrest him,' I continued, crying out to the crowd of astonished servants who had been attracted to the room by the noise; and I flew at him with the ferocity of a tiger. He drew out a stiletto, and struck with it right and left. And then be- gan one of those fearful struggles when the vigorous man is wrestling for his life like a strong swimmer in his agony. He fought with the strength of a maniac who has been once a gladiator. 1 wice we had him down, twice he arose. The window was open. While fighting lie cast his eyes below, and saw a ladder which was placed against the wall, a little below the balcony. With one violent effort he leaped over the iron balustrade. His feet touched the ladder. There was a look of audacious triumph in his gaze. When of a sudden I called out, Omicidio, omicidio !' and the ladder was dashed away by the crowd below; and he hung suspended over the pavement.
"Never shall I forget the look of despair, black as a midnight lake, the fea- tares contracted, the lips were drawn spirt in agony, the eyes were fixed as sculpture. We seized him; we in vain endeavoured to pull him back. Two caught him by the coat. Hold on! he shouted; 'per Dio, per Dio! hold on; the iron-work is going.' 'Put back the ladder,' cried the crowd; they cannot pull him in above': for his clothes, rotten like his heart, were creaking and strain- ing with the weight of his body. In the bustle and confusion of the crowd the ladder was not adjusted in time; and, amid the wild confusion, the roar of the people, down, down went the man, head foremost, to the pavement. Then a pause, a crash; another fearful silence. He was not dead, but taken up dread- fully lacerated, so that he only survived a few hours."
This is powerful writing; but the whole is the main point in works of art, and the basis upon which that whole rests. It will readily be seen that in this source Lucille Belmont is deficient. The interest turns upon a point that is highly artificial, not to say improbable. There was no disgrace attached to the illegitimacy of Lucille; none of the reasons which operate in after life to induce the concealment of such a circum- stance affect a new-born infant.