TALES OF THE PEERAGE AND THE PEASANTRY.
As a whole, the new productions whose coming out Lady DACRE I as superintended, are scarcely equal to the former ones; not from cev Jefleieecy of care or any fitilure of the author's talents, but trim a too ambitious choice in the principal subject. A story such as that of "The Countess of Nithsdale,'' was scarcely a judicious releet Min because the happy denouement being foreseen from the beginning, no collocation of events however artful could create suspei se or excite intense interest. The history of the Rebellion, the public characters of the period, and the manners of the times, went capable, indeed, of afforaing a secondary pleasure ; and this has not been lost sight of by the writer; but these subjects were scateely adapted to her peculiar style. They require breadth and force of handling, as well as richness of colour, to render them cfi rove, and appear somewhat flat when painted in the minute d cateful manner of Lady DACRE or her friend. All, however, has been done that the subject and the writer's powers admitted of. The character of the Countess is conceived and developed it a most able manner, from her retired unworldly education in the convent at. Bruges, through her submissive consent to the mar- ritte with Nitbsdale belioe she had seen him, in obedience to her molter, and the first dawning of an unknown passion on Lis ap- retrayce, till its final growth into ardent and self-absorbing love. 1 he draneslic manners of the age, too, are touched, so far as is rece-sary to exhibit their effects upon character. The stately reserve yet real kindness of the Marchioness of Powis, even whilst making over her daughter as she would an estate, is truly done; so is the old-fashioned fidelity of the two Welsh set ving-maids ; and the scenes of London life, at the time of the s ory, are hit off with lightness and knowledge. There are two other tales in the volumes besitles " The Countess of Nithsdale and though occupying less space and being of a less ambitious description, they are to our tastes far more effective, as being more nuthful, and better adapted to the writer's genius. "The Hampshire Cottage,- is the simple history of a simple peasant girl, who, afflicted with blindness on the eve of her mar- riage, insists upon releasing her lover from his engagements. He struggles with himself' for some lime ; but the hard necessity of poverty at last induces him to consent, and after a while he marries another. Owing to the exertions of a neighbouring family on their return from abroad, Susan Foster's sight is restored ; and site finally settles far more advantageously in a woridly point of view than if her first love had been steadfast. In this there is nothing striking and nothing apparently attractive; but the genet al character of the village poor is so well, indeed so philoscphically, understood—the r. gnation of the sutibrer and her afflicted parents, and the change which Susan's blindness works in her character, are so beautifully pi.ioted—the simple art with which the conduct of the story is managed, and the quiet power of the execution are so great— that the tale strongly reminds us of the truth of Mrs. INCHBALD'S Simple Story, divested of its chilling and depressive eflitets. The language of the peasantry is not ale ays perhaps sufficiently rustic ; but this defect—if it be one—is easily excused. Pure rusticity, if readable, would not be pleasurable. We all remember POPE'S Illustration of true pastoral simplicity, beginning
" Roger go vetch tint kee or else tha zun."
As a mere work of art, " The Hampshire Cottage" is the gem of tie book. But as a story, " Blanche has more variety, more extrinsic interest, and a more extensive moral. The scenes are not laid in what is generally understood by exclusive society ; for, as we formerly observed, Lady DACRE is not an "exclusive;" but the characters are those of high life; and the object of the writer is to show the folly of milling without a competency ac- cording to our position in society. The seventh son of a poor peer, with nothing but his Captain's pay and a small allowance, falls in love with Lady Blainthe, whose fortune is nearly as small as his own. He is too honomahie directly to avow his passion,
but it is discovered indirectly; and after various crosses, the mar- riage takes place : love in a year or two begins to pule; then to wane; and at last is in a fair way of hemming extinct, when ill- ness and all but a deathbed revive it, and it is prevented from changing by a lucky legacy. The first part of the tale is not without to,eitist ill iisell; unit It atiocds la its progress, a ,eir pleasant picture of easy high breeding, and exhibits some snots. ing scenes and agreeable characters: but the latter part, where affection is gradually sinking under the pressure of petty annoy- ances and pecuniary difficulties, is d ne with a high degree of truth, humour, good feeling, and good taste. The visit which Lord and Lady Palkiegliatu pay to their daughter and son in-law at their lodgings in the country town where the regiment it quaitered, is quiet, but capital ; no exaggeration, no vulgar cad- etttut e, no detailed professional catalogue of plates and dishes, but merely that the dinner was overdone, with its results.
De NIsulton had wished the dinner to be plain and without pretension ; and I.• had flattensd himself that, by attempting nothing, they must he secure from a failure. Alas! they bad the mortification of seeing both their guests scarcely able to finish what they had upon their plates, and of iserceiving that Lord Falkingham helped himself three times to cheese, and that Lally Fmkinghain demolished full halt the spooge rake at dessert ! De Molton, who was habi- tually reserved and posssessed much self command, maintained a calm exterior ; but ilhinehe. who, whatever might be her wish to do so, was never able to cora. real her feelings for any length of time, was in a fussy state of agitation, and was the first to complain of the badness of the dinner. Her leinarks disturbed the equanimity of John Benton, who was toast anxious that sit should go off well. Ls his eagerness, he made mote noise, jarred the plates, kmicked the glasses together, clattered the knives and fiwks, and pl wed the dishes on the table in a more fearful, undecided manner than he was ever known to do before; constantly brushing by Lady Falkingluumes cap to give a finishing touch to the arrangement of the table. Blanche's martyrdom increased every moment. It is very easy to be trarumil, composed, and agreeable, at the head of one's table, if one has the comfortable assurance that all will proceed pi overly and decorously ; but when one has no 0i:tom that such will be the ease, it is tint so easy to preserve the careless air of perfect good breeding; still less 1411, should one actually see one's guests hungry and incommoded such tranquillity masons to a lofty pitch of stoicism scarcely attainable by consloon mortals.
If the F'alkinghams had smiled good humouiedly, it inhtht have been better ; but the mother preserved a civil senuldance of not perceiving what was amiss, evidently treating the present as the best (mart: t it was in the power of
the De Moltons to give, and considerately sparing their feelings. When the ladies retired after (linnet, Lady Falkingliam made no allusion to the blouse, the establishment, the cookery, or any part of the menage, except the baby, on
whose growth she expatiated, and wh she wished to see in its crib.
Blanche accordingly took, her her up stairs to the garret ; where Lady Falkingham was shocked at finding two Inds its the small room. •• My dear Blanche, do you allow two people to sleep in such an apartment as this? It in very had for the baby to he SO confined as to air and space." "My maid sleeps here just now," Blanche replied ; "it cannot hurt the baby for a little while."
" The weather is sn hnt, I own I should dislike it very much. I always was eery particular about giving you all an airy nursery. But I suppose it cannot be helped," added Lady Falkingham, checking herself. " Oh, this house is Ion rid !" exclaimed Blanche; "if you had but come to see us in our Devonshire cottage, mamma— !" " I with I had, toy dear." "But you know we have this only for a time, mamma ; and next year we may be quartered its a prettier country and a nicer neighbum hood, and where we can get somethisg out of a town." " I hope you will, my love," replied Lady Falkingham ; who was resolved to dwelt as little as possible upon her daughtet's present discomfort, and who thought herself very kind and very meritorious in not saying what she thought, felt, and looked—viz. " I told you how it would he."
The moral intended by the writer has been stated already. The tale, however, paints another, of which we are pretty confident
she never thought ; and that is, the tremendous misery which an
hereditary aristocracy, with its primogenitural prejudice:,, must inflict upon its younger members. The careless and unptincipled, indeed, may live upon the public, either as sinecurists or swindlers ; but the most prudent and the most worthy arc compelled to exit in a condition of comparative privation, whilst tantalized by sur- rounding splendour, and either stifle the natural feelings, or in- dulge them at the expense of peace of mind and the daily comforts of life.