THE RACE FOR WEALTH.*
IT is difficult sometimes to look at a picture plausibly clever, attracting attention almost magnetically by force of its deep- toned colouring, yet false in its tendency, and calmly criticize alone the faults of drawing. Some one has well said no artist can put more into a head than he has in his own, and so, in looking at some picture, we may perceive instinctively that the thought which conceived is more untrue than the hand which executed it.
We think it is so in the volumes before us. With the plausible cleverness which can at least caricature, if it fails in sketching full of the bitterness which is not strength, but to many minds perhaps its sufficient counterfeit ; of the cynicism which jars like a false note through all the chords of life, it is life looked at through the smoke of fires of whose origin we know nothing, but which makes the eyes smart, and the pen give, however honestly, a false report of the scenes on which those eyes are looking. It is at all times difficult to trace the exact province of fiction, and we are by no means inclined to look with special tolerance on the books whose heroes and heroines are mere exponents of the novelist's pet theories. Clearly one part at least of his business is to hold up a glass to human nature, and we have no right to complain if he chooses that fools and villains shall see themselves therein, nor perhaps any right to be annoyed, if his puppets seem to us grotesque, overdrawn, or unnatural. The drama may revolt us, and be none the less truly dramatic, but if the dramatist steps before the curtain to lecture the audience and chal- lenge the value of their most deeply rooted convictions, he surely has no right to grumble if the gauntlet he thus flings down be taken up. No*, in this last novel of Mrs. Riddell's, this is the attitude the authoress assumes. At every second or third page she drops her story to lecture her audience, and in our judgment to make state- ments we believe utterly hollow, yet mischievous in their plausi- bility. The outline of the story is soon sketched. Lawrence Barbour, son of a proud but rained country gentleman, sick of the perpetual combination of pride and poverty which meets him in his own home, disinclined for the gentlemanly poverty implied in an ensigncy or the worse struggles of clerical life, chooses. wealth as the goal of his ambition, and the business of a distant connection in East London as the shortest road to it. The business thus entered is supposed to be that of a manufacturing chemist, really that of a manufacturing grocer. "Nutmegs that had never seen a foreign shore, coffee-berries that had never grown on • The Race for Wealth. By Mrs. J. H. Riddell London: Tinsley Brothers. UK a tree, arrowroot extracted from potatoes, rhubarb useless as a medicine, peppercorns-made out of -molasses and pea flour, —these were a few of the articles -manufactured in Distaff Yard, and !distributed thence through the length and breadth of England." The heads of this most reputable business are well drawn. Mr. Perkins, the man with a clear brain, kindly nature; and some • conscience where business was not actually concerned, with his vulgar wife and still more vulgar children always dragging him down, is recognizable, even if slightly caricatured. Mr. Sondes, the 'other partner, living two distinct lives—one for his business, 'the other for his little niece, Olivine—the good heroine of the story, is even better described; but before Lawrence Barbour -makes -their acquaintance, Mallingford End, his father's place in the -country, has been- let to a Mr. Alwyn, a clever speculator, and -one of the nouveaux riches. His daughter, Etta, is "ill-tempered, hypocritical, unfeeling, cruel, but at the same time beautiful and -fascinating exceedingly." In defiance of all laws of physiognomy, the specially wicked creations of most modem novelists show that they are orthodox at least in their belief that Satan is never -so like himself as when he transforms himself into an angel of light.
This is the evil genius of the story. Lawrence, though vowing -to devote himself to East London,and bitterly scorning the pos- sessors of the wealth he envies, yet determines to scan them from • some vantage-post in Hyde Park. The Alwyns are in town, Miss Alwyn, -whom Lawrence has seen at Mallingford, and " despises in his heart," is riding in the Row and is thrown. Lawrence saves her, 'sustaining injuries in the attempt which ruin his own health for --ever; and at this point we are met by one of the authoress's bitter 4nvectivesagainst society andthe world, whatever those much abused words may happen to mean. "it is a hard thing," she says, "for -a wealthy man to be struck down suddenly from strength to weak- ness, and- when my lord, gets his fingers blown off his hand, or loses the sight of one of his eyes, or is thrown in hunting, and -crippled to the extent of never being able to waltz again, the world is lavish enough of its sympathy and commiseration. Society speaks of the man softly and in whispers, and throws a certain ro- mance over him, and compassionates the accident which has injured his health, or impaired his good looks, or prevents his killing part- fridges,. or bearing away. the brush, with much kindness and persis- etency. Poor Lord Adonis, and poor Sir Charles Stalwart, and poor :Mr. Millionaire, and that dear deformed boy, the Earl of Mammon's 'son ! Are these people not pitied ?" &c. "Rub the world is not tender to its workers ; fortunately, perchance, for them ; because no man ever works so well as he who, thrusting his fist in the face of the world, denouncing its shams, cursing its hypocrisies, despis- ing its soft words. . . . strips himself for the conflict, trtisting in mothing save the assistance of his Maker and the strength of his '-own right arm," &c., through another page and a half; and then, -" Behold -the 'application-.-.carriages, sympathy, earned inquiries for the young lady who was not hintfor the young lady Who, • had she been hurt, was daughter to so rich a father that every -luxttry would have been at her command ; while, for the worker, a lift to the nearest hospital.' Well, of course, all that is Very - bitter, very cynical, Veep plausible, but is it 'true ? It is just be- -cause-we believe it to be a piece of the false sentimentality Which is more and more eerilig to letignen the winter of our distoetent, - and more and Mere paralyzing the living sympathies Which are • at the ray root of all true • Work, that we think it worth -While to notice it-et ell. What is this oninipotent "world," With its condolence; this "society," im exalted on its pedettal, se bf its kind inteuiries, but the small surroundings of --tech man's life, which revolve round him?—and the 'friend of ethe hour -who helps Lawrence Barbour—" wdrker"—to the hospital is probably as true in his sympathy as Sir Somebody :Somebody who helps the heiress to a 'carriage. The skill 'which Cures him is as great as the other case could have had, and the -friends *ho cluster rotind the injured man's hospital bed, -the Perkiness, and Jotieses, and Smiths, of East London, are as truly :anxious in their care, as much his relatives, his Society, his world, -as if they crOwded iiifrom Belgravia. It is an evil thing to Eiuffer - without sympathy, betit is not on the *cad's workers that that evil ; they are tOo clogely. bound to their fellows. It is rather -they "who can lie in bed or sit at home in easy 'chairs, with -cushions to their habits, With eau-de-Cologne tO their heads," Who 'get the pity Which is not -sympathy, and Suffer from the bitter _mental lonelintres such a lot almost inevitably brings. There are vrebleme enough yet unsolved in the world, evils enough yet un- %tared,' Without arraigning Providence for imaginary Ones, 'the • shallow Sophisms Of a diseased mind. This is the &doming-of the pitture. Here is another morsel of bitter irony :-=1 Of Courise %there is no such thing as prospective jealousy in the weirld; it it
human nature, is it not, to smile on the man or woman who is to fill up your place in the world when you are grown old, and weary, and obsolete; it is human nature to like those who come after you, whose feet will travel the road to success, when your limbs are tottering and feeble, whose ears will listen to the throb- binge of other men's hearts when yours are deep and treacherous?" &c. "Is this human nature? Ah ! reader, is not this rather artificial nature, conventional nature—the nature men put on when they summon up all their courage?" &c. "Do people like being hung ? No. Well, there is a time of youth, and popularity, and sunshinefor most of God's creatures, and after that, the eternity of temporal nonentity, and age, and winter gloom." Again we ask, is all this true? These are not words put into the month of some hypochot- driacal grandeire, maundering by a cold fireside ; they ere distinct assertions, thrown at us for our reception. We analyze them, and they crumble to pieces. Why is winter More -eternal than sum- mer, cold than sunshine, or how can "a temporal nonentity" be an eternity? Is the love of parents for their children, who, we imagine, are the people who generally come after them, conven- tional? Is growing old always equivalent to being hung ? Our author's notions of the possibility of happiness, however, are decidedly limited, for though she has just told us there is a time of youth, and -popularity, and sunshine for most of God's 'creatures, we find the last two gifts are never bestowed on clever people till they reach old age, or rather, the eternity of temporal nonentity ; for a little while before she writes, "Sweet youth ! innocent youth ! guileless youth ! trusting youth ingenuous youth !' exclaim our poets, and rhapsodize accordingly, but it never enters into the head of even the most practical of writers to say there is -anything charming about youth if it be clever." And apparently the youth "pressing onward to distinction" must be content to pursue his way in solitude, "thinking the world perhaps as herd and cold as the world thinks him disagreeable and conceited." Rather hardeapon him, considering the kind of eternity which lies before him when youth is past. But our authoress is above the weakness of consis- tency. If "Belles and ladies of fashion are recommended in one page to fall back 'upon the graces of simplicity or the beauties of perfect naturalness," they are asked in another, "Shall we. babble about nature unadorned ? Shall we say a pretty woman is equally pretty in any attire? Bali! There are times and' places when dress is everything. Given a man who has not seen ernich of female society, and see which divinity he falls down and wOrslips — the pure and simple or the gorgeous and 'sensuous,' leare-foriVed virtue or vice resplendent with diamonds,". &c.
But if we return to the story, there are yet graver' errors in the sketching. Lawrence falls in love with Etta Alwyn, with "the girl who in his inmost heart he despised himself for loving,'t but she refuses him through- fear of poverty, and marries, for this wealth, a man she dislikes. Lawrence marries Olivine, Who worships but continues to love Etta, and on her becoming a widow forsakes his wife for the Woman who " netted him with the hair he was wont to laugh at, with the eyes which had in them neither a pure nor a holy light, with the hands which were so white and treacherous, with the smile which was so sweetly cruel, with the rich attire which -became her so royally,—for the woman who hadno compunetion for her Own. Ain, -no pity for the forsaken wife, and who treats lawrenee's offer of marriage
when his wife would have- given a divorce with "contemp- tuous acorn,"—a 'hard, teoatse, 'Mercenary nature; which the hero understand.% and despises, yet for -whom he has -amad passion, against which he strives—well, at all events, unavailingly. And because the -wife who has trusted him etterly, • and towards whom his whole life has been a- lie, is roesed from her ordinaty gentleness to a fit of `eery timid indignation, we are told, "She was 'very sweet, she was very ore, she was very innocent, she was what a man might desire the mother of his children to be in every thought, and word, and deed, but she never 'could be to him what many a worse woman can pro■Te to one she loves in the hour of his blackest desp Air, of his deepest need." We Are heartily tick of the affectation whieh is perpetually claiming the kind -of sympathy for the sinner which means, in plainer English, the palliation of the sin ; -and we-enter our protest the more strongly, because the authoress of George Geith has done. so much better things than the Race for Math.' If she would cease toPander to-an already diseased appetite, get a clearer idea of the value of the landmarks she is at present helping-to remove? and comsider that the man who "denounces shams and curses hypocrisies "- (maim- lecturing coffee-berries the while) is a negative character) in com- parison with bine who recognizes the 'eternal principlesof right sad wrong, justice and purity,' we may -yet have from her pen a story infinitely worthier than gni-She:has yetegiveuns.