MRS. THOMSON'S CHEVALIER.
AT first sight, Mrs. THOMSON'S choice of a subject would seem to involve a dangerous approach to Waverley : but she has avoided any resemblance to SCOTT'S fiction, by exhibiting the Pretender in England and France, and bringing forward English Jacobites in- stead of Scotch. The Chevalier is only shown, in military phase, at Derby and its neighbourhood during his brief moment of tri- umph: his other appearances exhibit him at his mockery of a court at St. Get-mains; during his reported visit to London some years after the battle of Culloden ; and on his forcible seizure by the French, when he refused to quit Paris of his own accord, to fulfil the stipulations of Louis the Fifteenth with the British Go- vernment. Mrs. THOMSON'S English Jacobites, too, are of a very different character from the Highland chieftains and Lowland lairds in Waverley; principally consisting of an old lady and an old gentleman—memorials of a past generation, who seem to be nourish- ing an exploded faith, and can do nothing except subscribe their superfluous cash to the party-list for a "gentleman in distress," and remember him in a last will.
This is the feminine view of an historical event ; but it is as true in its way as the masculine. The manner and the gallantry of the last of the Stuarts are what Mrs. THOMSON really develops : and the only business in which he is continuously, though not very earnestly engaged, is an attempted seduction of the heroine, who during the latter part of the story is the wife of one of his stanchest adherents, a member of the house of Derwentwater that suffered so fearfully in his cause. This princely trait is well managed by Mrs. TnomsoN, so as to avoid offence or disgust ; but she seems quite unconscious of its real moral merit, for she loads the Pretender with all the terms of panegyric.
Mrs. Skyring, the octogenarian English Jacobite, and Mr. Bram- ston her friend, are perhaps as true types of the state of the cause in England, or the portrait of the Chevalier of its head ; and they are in themselves very excellent portraits of characters such as may still be seen in any country-town, the subject of their leethusiasm alone being changed. The most finished pictures, however, are the boarding-school characters and scenes, as well as those connected with the Moretons, the heroine's family, in the ■ laxly part of the work, before we are carried into the stream of • the rebellion. Many of these are life itself, mingled with some in- ideated reflections that suggest the true moral ; so that the cha- racter of the novel and the utility of the didactic essay are com- bined. The more stirring parts of the work are equally finished in point of composition ; and so far as just conception of character and artistical finish of delineation are concerned, The Chevalier may perhaps rank among the best of Mrs. TRontsoiv's works. The nar- rative or story of the earlier part is equally skilful. Although it deals with subjects that would appear too common and slight for fiction, the interest is sustained by the truth and nature of the delineation.
As regards coherence and continuity, the story of The Chevalier is the best of Mrs. Tnousox's historical novels; • perhaps because the history is subordinate, and rather affects the fortunes of her cha- racters by their connexion with events than makes them very pro- minent historical actors. There is also more than usual truth in the manners of the period. It may be that they arse a shade too late—rather the manners of the age of George the Third than of George the Second ; but their general form is sufficiently accurate, and the spirit is remote enough from our time to pass as that of a century ago. Considered as a romance, the book is- deficient ; from Mrs. Tnom- son's usual defects. The progress lags, from lack of incidents of suf- ficient importance to carry on the story : persons turning their backs, or not looking, or not speaking what they intended to say, are the means by which the narrative is run on, or fortune influenced. As we get deeper into the tale, the morale of the actors turns out feeble or doubtful. Ella Moreton, the heroine, elopes from her friends and country, under circumstances of something like ingrati- tude and deceit : her husband Radcliffe, a nephew of the Earl of Derwentwater who perished in the '15, is capriciously jealous both before and after marriage ; and though this is put down to the score of broken spirits and broken health, yet the failings of the sexes are reversed—indiscretion in a woman and weakness in a man are the worst qualities for heroes and heroines. There is also too little action in all the latter part ; and what there is ends in nothing. Mrs. THOMSON has sought to impart attraction by elaborate limn- ing ; which is insufficient for the purpose when a satisfactory
winding-up is expected. Considered critically, there is no substantial novelty in Mrs.
THOMSON'S dramatis persome, or the general incidents by which she affects their fate. The Chevalier is a repetition of some of her other works ; deriving apparent freshness from the accident of its subject and little variations. Her heroine has often been a young and almost rustic beauty, inspiring love all round in a very sur- prising way, but dashed with more of feminine peculiarity than is altogether fit for three volumes, which require to be carried on by more tangible motives than cross-purposes. Then she has mostly a grave and constant lover—which part in The Chevalier is
filled by Mr. Carew of Beaumanor, who the reader constantly supposes will somehow or other be united to Ella, though he will
be disappointed ; and a gayer and more attractive one—which in The Chevalier is Radcliffe, a middle link between the high-prin- cipled and the rascally lover of some of her former works. The villain of the present volumes is a quondam suitor of Ella : and a very consummate villain he is—a suspected murderer, a reputed spy, a minion, a base calumniator, and a hypocritical dissembler ; yet he gets a sort of defence from the authoress, and passes without any sort of punishment in the volumes, so far as the direct conse- quences of his conduct are concerned, though several good oppor- tunities occurred. He seems to have been kept alive to keep the story alive, and he dies at last to make a sort of finale with his will. The following scenes, in connexion with Lady Cromartie's suc- cessful solicitation for her husband, after the failure of the rebellion, may be taken as a fair specimen of Mrs. THOMSON'S historical style.
" Within the gay saloons of Leicester House, the Princess of Wales sat - pensive among her children. A fair -boy, in features far more resembling her- self than his father, lay at her feet : an infant, far, blue-eyed, and round, dressed in the quaint style of the times, a bib and apron on its tiny form, and a set cap on its head, fastened round with a riband, and stuck up over hair al- ready turned back with an incipient attempt to club, rested upon her arm. The Princess was herself of a commanding height:- her features were aquiline, but somewhat harsh ; yet the intelligence of her eyes and the sweetness of her smile compensated for what was not so much the absence of beauty as its ex- aggeration. A long black gauze veil was fastened over her hair, and fell sweeping back over her modestly-covered shoulders. Her gown was laced up in front, bodice-wise; behind, it was made high and plain, in the style which we should appropriate to some old nurse in our own days. The skirt of her gown was, behind, puckered up into what would look to modern eyes very much like an external bustle : it was an honest, conscientious avowal of an attempt to increase the majesty of her figure, and to give what we all could understand but could not name until the French taught us to speak, (which, it seems, we only could half-do a century ago,) and instructed us to call it tournure. A long white muslin apron flowed over a gown of russet silk, and completed a costume which would hare ill become any one but the Princess, but which did not in her detract from those attributes of grace and dignity which were visible in her form and deportment. " The Princess was thoughtful, even dejected : one of those matrimonial disputes which rarely indeed, but yet occasionally, disturbed the harmony of her days, had just taken place. The avowed interest of Frederic, her .Royal husband, in the Jacobites—his increased disfavour with his father—or perhaps the recent scandal between the Prince and Lady Middlesex, who was the very Lady of the Bedchamber in attendance, for it was one of the miseries of mar- ried royalty to be condemned to wink at vice—had saddened the fine temper of the Princess. " She sent her children away : her eyes followed them tenderly to the door ; of late they had been dearer to her than ever. The plebeian mother may have to dread privation, or the caret even of a successful toil, or a failure in success for her children ; but what are her terrors compared with those of the mat parent, who knows that in the convulsion of states her offspring may lose their all ? 'United to a gay, a popular, a generous husband, the thinking, providing, anxious portion of their joint cares devolved upon the Princess. " The rooms were now lighted up, and wax-candles threw out their beams against concave mirrors or imow pier-glasses, then thought-to-be amasialb. htt which we should now scarcely deign to look into; and the Princess was repairing to the basset-table in an inner saloon, when the Lord in Waiting en- treated that her Highness would see a suitor.
"The Princess drew up. 'Lady Cromartie,' continued the nobleman, ' whose husband is to be sentenced tomorrow.'
"'I will see her,' replied the Princess gravely. and she remained, standing as she was, in the very centre of the apartment in which the petition was prof- fered. A dread silence ensued; Lady Middlesex laughed behind her fan ; there was an interval of rather awkward suspense before the door was reopened, and, ushered in with the customary forms, a lady came slowly forward, and sank at the Princess's feet.
" She was a woman of that exquisite and touching beauty which interests the heart as well as delights the eye : beside her stood, on either side, her four daughters, lovely as herself. She clasped her hands, and simply entreated the Princess to consider her helpless children. " The lofty personage whom she addressed looked at her in silence : a con- test of feeling was seen for an instant working on her expressive countenance. She made no reply ; her face was suddenly flushed, and she quitted the room.
" Lady Cromartie remained kneeling, her eyes fixed on the door whence the Princess had issued: her daughters supported her almost fainting form. Of the ladies assembled there, no one dared to proffer consolation and support to the heart-stricken woman. ' Can her Highness have left me thus ? she at last asked, in a voice which thrilled to the heart.
" No one replied ; but at this moment the door was again opened. The Princess came in : this time she bore her infant on her arm ; it was asleep, and its cheek was pressed against the white bosom of its mother : her other hand held the tiny fingers of her eldest son within her otvn. She walked slowly and sadly into the very centre of the room, where Lady Cromartie was kneeling, and, without a word, placed those children before the wife of the rebel Lord who would have hurled them from the throne. The appeal was answered. The Princess, leaving her children in the hands of her attendants, moved on : her determined air, the mildness no less than the decision of her manner, told those around her that remonstrance would be vain. She passed into an inner cham- ber—the door was closed.
" Lady Cromartie arose from her kneeling posture : she was a woman of no common energy; she entreated to be allowed to see the Prince of Wales. Her distress, her children, her situation—for she was on the eve of her confinement —spoke for her. She was admitted to the apartment of Frederic. A short spare man, singularly elegant in form, came forward to receive her. In him the blood of the Stuarts, which had been mingled with that of the Guelfs, seemed to predominate. Notorious in his gallantries, undutiful, and factious, he had yet a heart. When in after years he was presented to Flora Macdonald, he said to her, ' You would, Madam, I hope, act the same part again, were it again in your power to succour royalty in distress.' "The Prince was laughing with some of his gay court ; and, as he turned towards Lady Cromartie, the delicacy of his appearance denoted the constitution that could neither bear extremes in service nor excess in pleasure. His com- plexion was transparently fair ; and his hair, even underneath the disguise of powder, was of the lightest hue. In face he bore some resemblance to his Royal father—the narrow, long blue eye; the thin, compressed lips; the slender form, and womanish hands ; but the peevish, quick glance, and unpleasant cleverness of his Royal father's countenance, were not to be traced out in a physiognomy as weak as the physical structure appeared to be feeble. "The Prince, however, had one attribute in perfection—be was eminently well-bred. He listened to Lady Cromartie's prayer for intercession for her husband in a kind earnest manner ; but his reply checked all hope. ' You should appeal, Madam,' he graciously replied, 'to my brothee Cumberland. His slightest word may avail; mine would worse than prejudice your cause.'
• • " Lady Cromartie paused for a moment ; her hand was on the check-string of her coach: 'Drive,' she said, 'to St. James's.' She was obeyed.
"There was a grand masquerade at the Duke of Newcastle's that night ; the fashionable world were thronging thither, and the Duke of Cumberland's coach was standing with its four cream-coloured horses in the Palace-yard. Flam- beaux, lighted, were held by footmen on either side of the coach-door : their light fell upon the gallant array—the stately coachmen with their wigs and nosegays, and scarlet liveries; the two men with horns behind, to warn these whom his Royal Highness might niece in a narrow street to give way ; above all, they fell upon the face of the scourge and blot of his time—of him who' had there been a spark of vitality in the Jacobite cause, must have given it force by his deeds—of him who was sent to play the part of a hero, but mistook his mission and displayed the vices of a fiend. Be was the King's favourite sou; strange to say, kind, sincere, beloved in private life!! What cannot party do ? Alas! who can read the annals of the Jacobites, and answer to himself that question unmoved !
" Lady Cromartie, before she descended to the last expedient, had requested that the Duke would see her. He refused, and she stood amid a throng who were waiting to admire the hero in his Field-Marshal's uniform. Be came out. She threw herself at his knees, and again preferred her petition. " Rise, madam,' said a burly voice. 'My Lady Cromartie, spare yourself this trouble.'
" '1 will not leave your Royal Highness ; 'tis my last hope,' cried the lady. ' To-morrow sentence will be passed.'
"'Lord bless you, madam !' cried the Duke, his voice softening a little, my good wishes go with your husband ; but the other lords, Kilmarnock and Bal- merino—and Mr. Radcliffe—' "' Oh, spare them too,' cried Lady Cromartie ; 'and think not, Sir, that I would beg this boon, save for the sake of these poor children.'
"The Duke gave a hasty glance. Four fair girls stood shivering in the night-breeze: he shook them off gently as they clung to him. ' I am not used to woman's ways,' he said, addressing one of his attendants ; bid them go home. I promise you, Madam,' he said, whilst Lady Cromartie still clasped his knees, all that my interest can do. Good night!' He passed on. Lady Cromartie uttered a cry—she was carried to her coach joy had overwhelmed her stout heart. She was conveyed home, whilst acclamations and blessings for once followed the career of the Duke of Cumberland."