MR. SAUNDERS still fails to do himself justice. His new collec- tion of tales,—for Martin Pole is a mere screen on which to hang sketches,--s marked by all the faults which neutralized the real power latent in "Abel Drake's Wife." There is the same clear, vigorous writing, the same eye for the ways of the semi- educated, but also the same tone of exaggerated or even morbid sentiment. Allthe virtues under his hands seem excrescences and not growths. In "Abel Drake's Wife" his heroine displays her fidelity to her word and her conscience by keeping a vow made in a fit of tamper, till it destroys her own peace and endangers the husband she loves. In the outer story of Martin Pole a lady dies, after twenty years of suffering and remorse, because she had threatened a gipsy beggar with expulsion from the grounds, and her son sits on his twenty-first birthday counting the hours in half-delirious expectation that the gipsy's curse will be • Martin Pole. By J. Saundera. London: Yaneley, Brothers. fulfilled. The longest and best of the stories .told to relieve the young heir's strained attention, is from end to end disfigured by a morbid sentimentality which the heroine takes for conscience. Con- stance is the daughter of a plausible, well-looking, hard-hearted s:a-
tioner, whom she detects in the act of setting fire to his own house in the hope of the insurance. His son, Marmaduke, a mere child, makes his appearance as the fire burns out, and the horrified fattier exerts himself to suppress the flames to an extent which brings him the applause of all the neighbours and a testimonial from the insurance office. Constance, 'utterly disgusted, resolves to.
fly, in order to secure Marmaduke from the contact of such a man,.
carries out her intention after a scene intended to be harrowing,. and passes her girlhood in the house of a village wheelwright
An ordinary girl would have felt that her conscience impelled her either to stay with and guide her father, or to tell the insur- ance office the truth ; but Constance has a heroine's conscience, and so, while concealing her father's crime and aiding in a felony, she steals away his child whom be had just risked his life to save, and over whom she has no rights whatever. At the- wheelwright's her conduct is equally exalie. He has a son who- is a born engineer, and the father resolves to employ his- savings in making his son a gentleman. He announces his reso- lution at a family council or consultation-dinner, in a scene which is our justification for regretting that Mr. Saunders should so- misdirect his real powers, which he obviously thinks resemble those of Mr. Collins, but which are in kind though not in degree those of George Eliot. This rhapsody, uttered by an aunt at the- council, is not in the sensation vein :—
" I say this,'" answered Mrs. Standish, folding her arms, and gazing. admiringly at Kit, that there never was, nor never will be, a lad so hard to choose a trade for as ; and why ? because lie's got every trade going at his fingers' ends. I'm sure, where he picked 'em all up. beats me to this day. One time I see him mendin' Madgie'e little table, and I says to Humphrey, "Oh, there's no doubt about it, Kira heart- and soul a joiner!" but turn my back a minute, and there's the old clo& on the stairs, as stopped a week before he was born, a-iickin' RS ir there had been nothing the matter with it ! But Lor'l it's the same with. everything ; and, as I say, how did he come by it all 1 How came he to understand everything like this, from the Latin gibberish in his prize- grammar to the workings of a clock's inside! He goes about things in such a knowing, easy way, and looks at 'em as much as to say," I under- stand all about you—don't have any nonsense with me I "rind, if you'll, believe me, I can't help fancying, sometimes, when I'm expecting of bitn, down, that the olocks keep better time, and the doors stop creaking, as- if they was afraid of him."
Kit and Constauce, of course, fall in love with one another, and also of course, the inevitable obstacle is one created only by a morbid scruple. Kit fancies Constance set fire to her father's. house, and Constance will not explain lest she should imperil the father she has deserted and left childless. An ordinary girl un- der the circumstances would have told her lover the truth,.
trusting that the secret would be as safe with him as with herself;.
but Constance prefers to break her vows, and doom herself and- her lover to the kind of misery which novel-writers alone of mankind believe in, rather than run an infinitesimal risk of doing harm to a man whom she herself has punished more heavily- than the law. Of course the love story ends pleasantly, but the- denouement is brought about by the same exaggerated machinery_ Marmaduke receives a great property, goes wild, and, naturally enough having no reverence for his father, forges his mam- as trustee to obtain his own money ; a quarrel ensues, the father and son struggle, and a statue is pushed down on Marmaduke, killing lam on the spot, and throwing the- father at last into an agony of repentance, possible, perhaps, but in the character depicted—t re smooth, hard-hearted, selfish man—excessively improbable. Incidents like these,.
of course, afford opportunity for a good deal of fine writing,.
but then that kind of production is one with which the world could exceedingly well dispense. The true art even of sensation novel-writing, if the word is not misapplied to that species of literary manufacture, is so to group and connect probable events as to produce an exciting situation, and not by piling up unlikely incidents, strained ideas, and exaggerated impulses, to excite the- reader's surprise. Trap-doors only exist on the stage, and it is life of some kind which every novelist is bound by Iris trade to.