MR. AINSWORTH'S GUY FAWKES
Is a paraphrastic account of the Gunpowder Plot ; the known par- ticulars of which have been expanded into the prescribed measure of three volumes, by the introduction of fictitious incidents and characters. The melodramatic arts by which the meagre and im- perfect outline of historical fact is pieced out and amplified, are so obvious, that the junction of the ancient and modern portions of the mosaic design is traceable throughout : indeed much of the fabulous filling-up is at variance with the actual details. Never- theless, it must be acknowledged that the ingenuity of Mr. AINS- WORTH has been successfully exercised in cramming into his pages enough of marvellous adventure and horrible description to satisfy the most insatiate craving after morbid excitement. Executions are the Alpha and Omega of the ghastly catalogue of events ; while pursuit and escape, torture and imprisonment, conjurations and apparitions, with the terrors of fire, famine, and slaughter, fill up the criss-cross row. Effective as these horrors are in them- selves, their bearing on the main business of the treason is by no means so : they tend not only to delay the catastrophe, but actu- ally to weaken instead of strengthening the interest, by preparing the reader for its ultimate frustration. The conspiracy is repre- sented as being known months before to some of the Protestant party ; and its failure is prophesie&by Bess Orton, an old witch of some renown, who is resuscitated by the famous astrologer and magician Dr. Dee, for the especial edification of Guy Fawkes: nay, the conspirators and their design are actually betrayed to the Earl of Salisbury ; who only delays the discovery of the plot till the eve of the Fifth of November for the sake of effect. So dispirited are the plotters, that Guy Fawkes himself is only in-. duced by the bond of an oath to venture on the forlorn hope of executing the scheme ; which is condemned by the mass of the Popish party. In short, the Cato Street conspiracy was not a more miserable and bungling business than the Gunpowder plot, according to Mr. Amswentru's version of the affair; though Guano FAWKES is a much more genteel and sentimental conspi- rator than ARTHUR THISTLEWOOD. Guido is a devout and conscientious Papist, constitutionally given to gloom and super- stition, but of delicate sensibilities and generous disposition ; as is proved by the following very remarkable passage in his history. Fawkes, while digging the mine and laying the train to blow up the King and the Parliament, has unconsciously been undermining the peace of a fair damsel, who fires the train that love has laid to her combustible heart, by a quick-match of Hymen's making. Viviano, the daughter and sole heiress of Sir William Radcliffe, becomes platonically enamoured of Guido ; for whom she rejects two young and ardent suitors—one a Catholic, no other than Catesby himself—the other a Protestant, Master Humphrey Che- them, to whom Manchester is indebted for its Blue Coat School. The fair Viviana's proceeding is equally original and disinterested : finding that Fawkes avoids her, she ferrets him out in the depths of the forest, and not only pops the question herself, but insists on an immediate answer in the affirmative; and to prevent the possi- bility of a " breach of promise," she takes a priest with her to tie the knot at once. This assault is too much even for the resolution of Guy Fawkes, and he surrenders at discretion. The conditions are tantalizing, for the lady tells him, " I may never live with you as a wife, but I may mourn you as a widow ": she, however, bestows upon him her possessions as well as her hand ; adding, "He is free to use them in furtherance of his design against the state, though she cannot approve it,"—a most Jesuitical saving-clause, certainly. The style of the narrative is formal and elaborate; minutely de- scriptive of the details, but wanting in animation and rapidity of action : each scene, like the catastrophe, seems to hang fire. While wading through the sickening horrors of the scaffold and the tor- ture-chamber, and tracking the footsteps of the fugitives, one feels a sense of impatience at the tedious deliberation of the narrator; whom you are constantly tempted to interrupt, as Sir PHILIP FRANCIS interrupted the Prince Regent when telling a long-winded story, by inquiring, " And the result, Sir ? "
The etchings of GEORGE CRUIKSHANK have only one redeeming quality—the striking effect of light and shade in some of the plates : in respect of character and drawing, these designs are among his worst.