13 AUGUST 1887, Page 23


THE merit of the three novels before us is almost in inverse ratio to the size of the book and the fame of the author. Mr. Black's Sabina Zembra, which is in orthodox three-volume form, is decidedly the least interesting of the three. It is quite unworthy of the author of The Strange Adventures of a Phaeton, or of The Princess of Thule. It has barely a trace of the humour of the one Or the pathos of the other. Except for the empty simulacrum of the form of expression from which the spirit has fled, and the pathetic intention which is not trans- muted into action, no one would geese that it was by the same writer. The whole tale turns on a moral impossibility. A girl whose chief characteristic is piety and self-sacrificingness, but who is a daughter of the gods, divinely tall and most divinely fair, in body and soul, essentially of the superior order of being, is made to fall in love with and marry a nasty little gambling,

• (L) &Km Zinnbra. By William Bloat. Londla Macmillan and (2.) The Old House at Sandwich. By Joseph Hatton. London Sammon Low and Co.—(3.) Captain Trafalgar. From the French, by William Welts& London Camell and Co.

smoking, drinking cad of a semi-professional jockey, just because he tumbles off his bicycle and breaks his leg by her father's house in his endeavour to avoid running over her dog. He is so described that it is either an absolute impossibility for each a girl to marry such a man, or an absolute impossibility for her to be such a girl as she is described to be. The usual result follows. She is maltreated, neglected ; her child dies ; the husband pretends to die, comes back to plague her, really dies ; and at last she marries the usual faithful and attached lover whom she ought to have married at first. He is an artist, and is a noble Scot, and all that is perfect; but even so he is not allowed to marry her till he too has touched her pity by going blind,—though, that the book may end well and they may all live happily ever after, he miraculously recovers his sight. The moral monstrosities of the story are not redeemed by any felicities of description such as we usually find in Mr. Black's books, nor any charm or quaintness of dialogue. Indeed, the scene is laid almost wholly in Kensington Square and Notting Hill, and there is little attempt at description of sky or scenery, while the talk is as dull and commonplace as the talk of the most ordinary conversation among the most prosaic of people. Mr. Joseph Hatton's two volumes are much more interesting, and give evidence of a great deal more trouble being taken for the reader's gratification. Indeed, the chief fault which is to be found with them is that they betray almost too much research. The description of Sandwich embraces a good deal of guide- book, and a whole charter of Canutis or Cont; while the subse- quent transfer of the personages of the story to America shows a good deal of acquaintance with the works of American authors, a great desire to instruct the reader in the details of American travel, and a striking family resemblance to Bret Marie's Snow-Bound at Eagle's in some of the incidents. The dory, however, is interesting and well told. In some respects it is told on the Browning model,—that is, the family tragedy out of which the incidents related spring, is told first by an old Vicar, a friend of the family, from his point of view, then by the hero of the book, and then by the son of the family, from their points of view. It is the story of the vengeance taken by the son on the man who had led his father to drink for the sake of depraving him in the eyes of the mother, had seduced and run away with her, and then murdered the father for the sake of marrying her, and so obtaining the money which had been settled on her by the murdered man. The tale is well told and full of incident, movement, and interest, though it must be confessed that, with the exception of the avenging son, the characters are somewhat faint and shadowy. The sou, who, like his father, has developed a taste for drink, in brooding over his vengeance is well drawn as a sort of modern and plebeian Hamlet of the favourite Bret-Harte type, a mixture of recklessness and brutality with tenderness and generosity. The sympathy of the reader with him is, however, entire, as the seducer has now become a sort of Captain Coetigan, living on the theatrical talents of the daughter of his victim, and be has become mean as well as criminal.

Mr. Westall's little book is a story of adventure of The Treasure Island type. It is professedly a translation from the French ; bat except for a "my faith" or two, it bears no great traces of Galic origin. It is an artistic work in one way, that the story is made to begin in a quiet and subdued and sub.humorous key, and gradually develops into a story of wild adventure, in which the incidents crowd on one another, and keep the reader in breathless suspense until the final denouement. The hero is a French youth, but the main scene of adventure is laid in the wilds of Texas before it became a State of the Union, and on the high seas before the days of steamships. A buccaneer with untold wealth and ferocious disposition, but a lovely daughter ; a traitorous negro, a faithful black nurse, a faithful sailor, and choruses of niggers, pirates, and sailors, mutinous and otherwise, form the dramatis persona. One Beene of Oordoo worship and human sacrifice strangely resembles one of the stories in Mr. R. L. Stevenson's Dynamiter; but it would appear rather to be taken from a common source in the account of an actual trial which took place in the Southern States than to be actually " lifted " by Mr. Weetall or his original from that work. For those who like the story of adventure, we can strongly recommend Captain Trafalgar as one of sustained interest and excitement.