HARDNESS, OR THE UNCLE,.
Is a remarkable work. It exhibits enough knowledge and ability to set up half a dozen novelists; but, from deficient art in the higher branches of fiction, and perhaps from despising the mechan- ical tricks of the lower, we question whether the book will be so extensively read as it deserves to be—it will assuredly not be popular among the devourers of the circulating library.
The pivot of Hardness, or the Uncle, is the displeasure of Lord Innismore for the extravagance of his nephew, who having lived too fast upon his patrimony of six or seven hundred_ a year, is com- pelled to sell his commission and great part of his property to pay his debts. Retiring into the country to cast about for some means of retrieving his fortune and take the chance of his uncle's relent- ing, he falls in love ; marries ; and still further inflames the proud, self-willed, and obstinate old peer. On the persons of the two families thus presented to the reader the story turns, so far as it can be called a story : but the incidents, though natural, are hardly striking enough for the admirers of modern fiction—except the de- struction of a steamer by fire, and the death of Lord Innismore ; whilst many, and those not the least amusing, have little connexion with the story at all.
These deficiencies are injurious to the popular effect of the work ; and the author's not having studied the art of construc- tion is the more to be regretted because he has the other quali- ties of a novelist in a high degree. His knowledge of life is ex- tensive, and easily, quietly, and effectively exhibited ; his cha- racters are conceived naturally and developed truly ; nor do we remember any modern novelist,, MARRYAT excepted, who has displayed more consistency and variety in his persons, or pro- duced his effects with less exaggeration or effort; whilst in the nice power of painting men and toomen—of dashing his best cha- racters with weaknesses, and preserving humanity in his worst—as well as in the still nicer power of suggesting the true character of his persons to the mind without pointing attention by his own commentary, we think be stands alone. His narrative is clear, rapid, and comprehensive ; his satire pleasant and piquant ; his power of reflection considerable, and exercised upon contemporary events ; and though in his descriptions he sometimes accumulates images in vast quantities, and extends his periods to a most amazing length, yet there is no obscurity and no heaviness even in a sen- tence of a couple of pages, Part of the defect of the book as a novel, strange to say, consists in its being too complete a transcript of daily life. There is not sufficient action ; and there are no hero and heroine—no persons whose quali- ties raising them above the mass, and whose fortunes deviating from common events, make them the principal figures in the piece, and create for themselves a stirring interest. Henry de Burgh, a good-natured thoughtless young man, but rising under adversity, is not sufficiently separated from hundreds of other persons every day stimulated to exertion by reverses, to become the hero of a fiction ; and then he does nothing, from the beginning to the end, which in any way conduces to the catastrophe or to his own advancement— be is only about to do. Mary de Burgh is the person designed for the heroine ; but she has not force or distinctness of cha- racter for this purpose ; and her breach of engagement with her lover Mr. Waterton in favour of Lord Cubtown, at the first direc- tion of Lord Innismore and the attraction of great wealth and a coronet; however natural, is very unheroinelike, even though the hope of assisting her brother is mixed with her other motives. So far as resolute determination, self-dependence, and a certain loftiness of character go, Lord Innismore is the hero ; and he is well drawn and well supported. His age renders his notions of family autho- rity natural ; his high rank, great wealth, and long retirement on his estates, conduce to his unbending and despotic character ; and he stands out on his arrival in London, and during his Continental tour, like the fragment of an earlier age, among the pleasant and more reasonable but feeble fashionables around him. There is something extreme, perhaps, in his malignant hatred towards Henry de Burgh after death has swept away both his own sons ; but it was necessary to the production of a denouement.
The sudden downfal of a man of fashion brings various adven- turers with various schemes about him, and furnishes the author with different topics of satire. Commercial joint-stock projects of colonization are ridiculed in the affairs of the "Borneo and Suma- tra Self-supporting Colonization Society," with some pleasantry and some effect ; and an attempt in the literary way gives occasion for a capital hit at modern novels. The form is in the shape of some memoranda from a friend who has left off the business, hav- ing married a fortune : and here is part of his gift, supposed to be suggestion from an eminent publishing-house as to the propor- tional ingredients of a fashionable fiction.
" The following proportion of subjects has been found very effective, but is nearly worn out, the taste of the public appearing to be turning towards New- gate, highwaymen, prostitutes, executions, burglaries, murders, and such more exciting subjects. Mr. Hooker, however, being a gentleman, most probably had better make up his novel as follows-
Love-scenes 120 pages.
Pastoral ditto 15 „ One dinner, with bill of fare, and a side-dish upset 12 „ Two balls (one to be Ahnack s or a Queen's ball) 30 One opera, hero to be addressed at the door by a farmer's daughter he has seduced, and to quarrel with the heroine in consequence; this must be in the first volume 15 An elopement 15 Two marriages; the bridesmaid to be represented as bursting with envy at one, and the bridegroom to be married before in the other 30 Two deaths 25 Description of hero—his father, mother, dress, character, and
estate, which be ought to hold from temp. Hen. VIII. 70 Do. heroine—do. do. do. do. : her family should be Norman—
sometimes she is an heiress, but in that case she must be made to propose for the hero 90 „ Description of a boudoir 75 „
Do. of a race-course 20
Do. of an exquisite—be should be very effeminate, very hand- some and affected, and have a poodle ; a liaison with an opera-dancer—but, nevertheless, be a first-rate boxer and swordsman 25 Do. of ladies' dresses 120 Do. of a manceuvering mother 50 Gentlemen's slang 13 Sentimental reflections (chiefly from the German) 80 Lords and ladies 75 Something very horrible, it does not much matter what, but it must be between a love-chapter and a millinery-chapter 25
A sort of story to connect 115
Total of the whole 1,000 ,,
"N.B. The love-chapters puzzle the gentlemen most, but the old bands get them written for them by opera-figurantes or girls connected with the theatres; they know best what sort of thing in that way pleases the public most : the pastoral chapters are best done by putting ' Thomson's Seasons,' or Crabbe, or Wordsworth, (the latter is dangerous, being very difficult to understand,) into prose : the millinery chapters must be written by milliners' girls, and should be corrected by one of them too : these chapters are very dangerous, for being unintelligible to the author, great care is requisite. For the cookery-chapters, Tide's is the safest book, for it gives the English translations of the French dishes, and some complete bills of fare, so the author knows what he is putting on the table, and the nobility are very apt to judge a book by that : the up- setting the side-dish or lobster-sauce over her is to exhibit the sweetness of the heroine's temper. Gunter's men will give any information that may be wanted about the balls. The description of heroine and hero must be written, or at all events revised, by a woman, as likewise the boudoir. The exquisite is con- sidered as the author's portrait of himself—of course he lays it on pretty thick; the sentiment also, of course, must be done by a lady; and the lords and ladies likewise ; the ladies of the smaller gentry are the only people that really and vividly feel rank, but it is advisable and usual that the person employed upon the aristocracy should know little or nothing about them. The imagination should have free play—the novelist must attract the public; and the way to attract them is not by dislodging or otherwise taking liberties with precon- ceived notions. The lord of the novel is a stiff, affected, heartless sort of per- son if old, or a libertine if young ; just as the lion of the Herald's Office is bine, white, or red, according to the family which bears it. Exhibit the lord natural, or the lion proper, the public cries out, that is not my lord,' the herald shakes his head, that is not my lion.' The story is not material. Some have married their heroine to another man in the first volume, and killed him off at the beginning of the third; but that has been objected to, since an
If 71 ff f7 If If
eminent author, in a novel the hero of which was a murderer and executed accordingly, represented, as one of the greatest perfections of his heroine, that she was a virgin on the morning of her marriage."
THE ROCK AND PILOT OF A FASHIONABLE NOVELIST.
"By the by, he desired me to warn you to be very cautious about the millinery; i
which is of the greatest importance, considering the court by which you are tried, a jury of matrons. And take care that it is done by some one that dares not play you a trick : he got a cousin of his to write some of it for him, and she sold him a regular bargain—girls are so infernally mischievous. She sent his heroine to a ball in a white dimity dressing-gown, with a flaming red tur- ban on her head, green morocco boots, a coral necklace round her waist, and a patent elastic garter round her throat : she masked the whole description in a set of French phrases that he could hardly read, and did not understand a word of: he thought it was all right. The manuscript went to the publishers with this in it : nobody there of course knew any thing about it—all that they saw was that there was the regulation-number of French words: what they meant they neither knew nor cared; they took it for granted the author did : and it went to press, and would have been published with all that absurdity in it, only one of the compositors, in setting up the type, was struck with the words being different from what he had been accustomed to from time immemorial; for there's a regular stock of French words, you know, that are used in English conversation and literature by people who cannot express themselves in their own language: they are not very numerous. Well, this fellow luckily had a French milliner's girl living in the same house with him : he cribbed a sheet and took it home to her, and she discovered the thing at once ; and so the chapter was rewritten : but it was a near escape."
Waverton's idea of taking service in the Spanish Legion, after his dismissal by Mary de Burgh, gives rise to something better than jokes—some deep remarks on the broadest principles of politics.
"I certainly had no very particular interest in it, but I wanted something to do. I asked General St. George what he thought about it: he said he approved of it highly in a suicidal point of view. There is no credit to be got there,' said the old campaigner ; • depend upon it, that army is sent out to be beaten. Its object is merely to keep the Carlists busy in the North until the Queen's people have managed to get them under in the other provinces ; and if they can contrive to do that much, it is all that Ministers expect of them. The expedition is not for the purpose of winning battles—it is a mere political diver- sion, and the officers will get no credit : the whole thing is a job ; and I'll tell you what is more, if it was successful it would not be satisfactory ; there is no light to be seen through the troubles of Spain. God knows when that country will ever be got into shape again. A nation in that convulsed state is like a regiment broken in action : it re-forms upon its officers and its colours, and upon nothing else ; the nation re-forms upon some great principle, embodied generally in some powerful class. So, in this country, whatever change or popular tumult takes place, the nation always re-forms upon the Aristocracy. It did so in 1660 and 1668, as it is doing at this very moment after the Reform mania. In France, in the first Revolution, church, monarchy, aristocracy, were all swept away. Nobody knew how the French were ever to get out of the mire ; but their enormous and amazing foreign conquests created a new class and a new principle. Napoleon saw that, seized on it, and re-formed the country upon the army. The military principle is, however, a false one, at least in Europe : it broke down with its own weight ; the land could not sup- port it; and the struggle that is now going on between it and the commercial principle will terminate in favour of the latter. France is becoming the nation of shopkeepers ; the last Revolution was a counter-jumping one. The manufacturers were jealous, and turned off their hands when they found the Government engaged in an unpopular contest with the press: the troops were sent out in bad humour, insufficiently supported, and half-starved; and French troops, it is notorious, will do nothing unless they are regularly fed and kept in good-homour. At that time the mercantile spirit patted the military spirit on the back, to get out the monarchical government : it now wants to tread it down ; and so we shall see Paris soon surrounded with forts with the guns pointing inwards—that will be the work of the shopkeepers : the next governing principle in France will be mercantile. Washington held America together upon Republican principles. They did very well as long as he had the expounding of them, however, and before they had time to root out the Monarchical and Aristocratical principles we left there ; but they have no vitality in them, and in fact are breaking down visibly already. They kept matters right, though, at the time—kept the country from the state of anarchy Spanish America went into; which was as much as could be expected of them. In the East, whatever may happen, every thing ultimately steadies itself upon Religion or Monarchy. Look what their religious principle enabled the Mahometans to do! Whilst it was fresh, they bid fair to conquer Europe : it took a man like Charlemagne to stop them at the Pyrennees ; it took eight hundred years to hustle them out i of Spain, and they were in force in the Danube even in the last century. Now it is decaying, and they are in consequence getting weaker and weaker : but even now it is beating French bayonets in Algeria—and I can tell you that French bayonets are uncommonly ugly customers. The great Eastern empires have commonly been founded by conquerors upon rigid Monarchical principles. We will have a King over us, is the cry now, as it was in Samuel's time ; no- body cares much who it is. John Company does very well. Now in Spain they have no principle to guide them, and no class to enforce it if they had ; they have not even a great man to announce it. Nobody among them knows what they want; and their troubles are not half over yet. It is like the Negroes, they have no power of recognizing a principle, and the consequence is that they always remain savage and barbarous tribes. They are incapable of forming great nation: look what a hand they have made of Hayti."
From internal evidence, we should suspect the writer to have been in the Army. Though not skilful in the larger and more comprehensive parts of fiction, such as criticism regards, he is very clever in making single points tell by an effective mode of presenting them tangibly; a quality which belongs to players and to gentlemen of the services. But there is much better evidence. Mr. Wellington Elden Pitt Johnson, a youthful brother-in-law of Henry De Burgh, gets a commission in the Hundredth Foot ; and this serves as a peg to introduce a variety of mess-scenes, which are done with the most thorough knowledge, and exhibit some of the nicest painting of any thing in the book. The vulgar military character is hit off with great power and lifelike truth, in its thoughtless jollity, its caste prejudices, its reckless snatching of momentary enjoyment—no matter at whose expense, or at what injury to the feelings or interests of others, mingled with the better qualities of indifference to danger and the spirit of standing by one's friends. The account of the various sprees, from the time when " Captain Rock and the officers of the Eighteenth Light Dragoons present their compliments to Ensign Johnson of the Hundredth," and, inviting him to dinner, make the raw youth
drunk and lay him out as a corpse, to the night steeple-chase of the same gentlemen in their shirts to settle the reckoning, are the best of these sketches : but the consideration of space induces a selection of shorter passages.
A few minutes more beheld the young officer deposited in safety at the Rich- mond Barracks. A stray corporal conducted him to the Colonel ; who turned him over to the Adjutant; who, having shown him to the Paymaster, turned him over to the Quartermaster ; who turned him into a square, bare, white- washed room, containing a table, two chairs, fire-irons, fender, a pair of bellows, an iron candlestick, and nothing else, except indeed a list of those valuable articles : there he was left alone in his glory, with the satisfactory reflection that he was returned "present" in the muster-rolls of the Hundredth Regi- ment of Foot.
MILITARY PRACTICE AND PHILOSOPHY.
He received one fine evening a letter, anonymous and almost unintelligible, containing merely these words- " Catch is a good dog, but Holdfast's a better : look to your banker." Of these mysterious warnings he was uncommonly puzzled what to make.
Now it was the custom of the Hundredth Regiment of Foot, as of many others, that whenever any peculiarly private and delicate epistle arrives-such as a request from a parent to declare what one's intentions are ; or a notification that the writer is deeply enamoured with one's sister, and proposes soliciting her hand in marriage, if his income (which he states) is considered sufficient; or the communication of any bit of family secret history that is to be kept as still as the grave, or any thing else of that sort-to lay it forthwith upon the mess-table, in order to take the general opinion of the regiment upon it. In the multitude of counsellors is safety ; and so the mysterious warning was sub- jected to the usual scrutiny ; but without result; the united wisdom of the Hundredth not being equal to reading the handwriting on the wall : and as soon as the Paymaster declared his inability to decipher or expound it, the job was given up in despair, and our friend was recommended to trouble his brains no more about it ; it being a sound military principle, in desperate cases, to go on never minding.
" My dear fellow," said one of the Captains of the regiment, a scion of aris- tocracy, who placed so much confidence in his brother officers that he was in the habit of intruating his duty to their charge six months of the year, " my dear fellow, this letter appears to refer to some impending smash in your money- matters : now if that be the case, you may take my word for it, you will he much happier and enjoy yourself twice as much as a poor man as you do as a rich one. I was as happy as a prince when I had nothing : now I am con- stantly suffering the most acute misery ; every guinea I spend now goes to my heart. I am spending my own money now : formerly it was other people's money that I spent ; which was much better fun, for I never grudged it."
THE RULE AT THE HORSE GUARDS.
I have been inquiring how they ever manage to get through the enormous number of names upon the list, amounting 1 think to more than a thousand and have been told that the regular form is, to attach some peculiar and specific military virtue to the age of eighteen; and consequently, except in cases where a family is sufficiently powerful to command attention, the candidate for a commission, until he approaches that age, is told that he is too young; when he reaches it, is told there are no vacancies ; and two or three months after he passes it, is told he is too old, and removed from the list.