MRS. HOFLAND'S DANIEL DENNISON AND THE CUMBERLAND STATESMAN.
Tim name of Mrs. Holland still survives as a living entity in juvenile literature ; but as a novelist it is almost traditional, like Mra. Opie's and Mrs. Brunton's—preserved by the memory of those persons who remember the perusal of her works, rather than by any fresh accession of readers. This neglect is less to be ascribed to any absolute deficiency of merit in her, than to the brilliant and dramatic style of composition founded by Scott but spreading by his example toall other kinds of fictitious composition, as well as to the number of novels of' merit that the last quarter of a century has produced. The writers of the old school took a respectable view of life; and the moral, mostly contained, if not obtruded in their works, might smack of the school-room ; but they drew their materials from reality, though perhaps from the outside; they gave time and thought to the composition of their works ; and their style, if neither powerful nor brilliant, was equable and carefully finished. The wider range—the lax morality—the knowledge of the world—the delineation of manners of some modern writers—were not to be found there ; but these older works were truer pictures of a narrow sort of life. The spirit of juvenile
tare often pervaded them; but with its sober interest they had its reality.
Daniel Dennison, and to some extent The Cumberland States- man, are delineations of peculiar characters in a peculiar district. Bather slow in the movement of the narrative, and somewhat lacking both incident and imagination, they are interesting from the _contrast they offer to the novels of the day. As soon as we open a volume, we see by their close and careful composition that we are in another age; and though they may not he well adapted to attract the readers of the circulating library or those whose taste has been vitiated by the highly- spiced dishes of the modern school, Daniel Dennistm at least will furnish a curious leisure occupation for a more critical class of readers.
Daniel Dennison is the autobiography of a country apothecary ; and the story consists of the narrative of his own career, with sketches of his patients. The main interest of the tale, however, centres in the character of Mr. Witherstone of Witherstone Hall, and the incidents to which it gives rise. The scene is laid in Derbyshire ; the time is towards the end of the last century ; but the then isolated situation of the district gives probability to a state of manners belonging to an earlier date. Mr. Witherstone, like his father before him, is a species of, automaton : a good landlord, a benefactor to his village, because it is " the custom of the family " ; at home, a tyrant without intending it, by his rigid method- " the custom of ihe family," and some theological views of his own. Everything around him breathes the atmosphere of fornsality and iron restraint ;. in addition to which, lie is hypochondriacal and fancies himself an invalid. In this part of the work, the interest arises from the por- traiture of a singular character, and the peculiarities that character de- velops; and these, though outre to a degree, have the appearance of actuality, as if they were drawn from a real prototype. The story pos- sums a deeper interest after his marriage. This takes place with the daughter of a neighbouring squire, whose estate adjoins his own ; and she, of course, is the victim of his overbearing habit and self-opinion. After giving her absolute away, according to "the custom of his family," during the honey-moon, Mr. Witherstone then commences a precise and petty tyranny, not with a tyrannical object, but to carry out his own ideas of what is fit. His wife, moreover, has been privately attached to another ; but, hearing of his supposed death, she is persuaded by her parents to marry Witherstone. In this, the only interview between the lovers that takes place' after the marriage, Mrs. Holland sailed as near the wind of propriety as is consistent with her rigid schdol.. " I had proceeded but a, little way froni the place I speak of; when in a lane which lay at no great distance from the main road,-I beheld -a-pOst=cbaise and four, so placed as if waiting for some person who must be near me, probably at that moment, as it was a considerable distance from any house. " I concluded directly that a Gretna Green wedding was to take place; but who could the lady be?' We had no heiresses in our neighbourhood; nor, since the late marriages of Miss Rachel and Miss Judith, even any young lady of suffi- cient importance to claim such a conveyance. It was a bright moonlight night; and I looked sharply round on every side, being now on a little open slip of common.
" In turning about I lost my whip, and dismounted to look for it: on recovering it, a gate to my right, which led to the Hall:through the mazy walks of a planta- tion called ' the Desert,' opened, and a lady, leaning on a gentleman s arm, came through it, with their faces towards the lane in which the carriage was placed. " That lady was Mrs. Witherstone: she was dressed in deep mourning, and over her head was thrown a crape handkerchief, which gave her the airof a nun. Her face was very pale, her features thin and sharp, but still exquisitely beautiful. When they had passed the little gate, she laid her hand upon it, and said, in a faint voice, " ' Charles, it must not be; I can go no further.' "'You do not need, my dearest Bella, for the carriage is close by; I will bring it hither in an instant.
" That is not what I mean: we must part here.'
" ' We will never part again! I have suffered too much, I still love too fondly, to allow this, my only, my last chance to escape me. Come what will, my own, my only love, we will part no more.' At this moment I stepped quickly forward, having the bridle in my hand, from under the shadow of the high hedge, which I conclude had concealed me. The arm of the gentleman was around her waist, whilst her head was bent against his breast, and he was gently drawing her in the direction of the carriage.
"'Stop!' cried I, in breathless agitation; ' stop a moment, I beseech you.' " The answer was given by a ball from a pistol, which whizzed close past my ear, and lodged harmlessly in the pummel of my saddle-
" The surprise caused me to make an exclamation; and, instinctively, I put my hands to my eyes. " ' Charles, Charles, what have you done?' cried the unhappy and alarmed woman: ' it is Mr. Dennison, my only friend.' " took him for a highwayman; but, friend or foe, this is no time for parley: more than life or death are at issue.' " True,' cried I; much more, for eternity is concerned in it. You would not, must not think of taking away that lady, Sir. You cannot think of adding the misery of guilt and indelible disgrace to all her sufferings?' " 'Igo such miseries will attend her. In another country, with a lover, say a husband, that adores, and friends that will honour her, she will forget the mur- derer—ay, the scoundrel murderer—that has thus reduced her!' "'Reduced, indeed !' said I, in an under voice, looking more earnestly upon her; and, unquestionably, with an air of the deepest commiseration, for she answered my looks by saying, ' I have, indeed, suffered long and severely; and since you know I have neither parent, brother, nor sister, or even friend to blush for me, to suffer for my crime, perhaps after a time, Mr. Dennison,—oh, I am very ill, I know not what I wasgoing to Say; and so • • - " ' You have a child,' cried I, vehemently interrupting her; a lovely child, who will be taught to despise his mother, who will be left to ;offer a thousand modifications if he lives: but he will not live—he will pine and die, for want of his mother's care—the cruel mother, that forgets and forsakes him.' "` I cannot leave him, no, no, nol I cannot, Charles, for he is your image. When I believed that you were killed is America, when I lost mamma, when that
man made me mad with vexation, the sweet child was my only comfort. I will never leave it. No, no, no!'
' She turned and ran back to the little gate, and fell against it panting and breath- less. We both sprang at the same moment to her assistance; and I then perceived that there was a fixed colour in her cheek, though her lips were parched and pale, and her hand burnt fearfully. Mental agitation, though it might produce much of this, could not produce all the symptoms. I asked eagerly, if she were not Ill before she came out of the house?'
" Oh! yes, very, very ill. It was because I was ill that I sent for him that I might see him before I died. But I shall not die: I shall live, and 1 "' Have you been to John Collets' yourself ?' " ' I have been there every day this week; I was there this morning.' " This conversation passed in a low voice. I turned to the gentleman, and told him in a whisper, ' that she was in high fever from infection of the most danger- ous nature.'
"'Were she in the plague, Sir, these arms should be her refuge, this breast her pillow. How can you, who know her situation, thus step betwixt us? Why will you dare to tamper with a desperate man ?' " As he spoke, he again went up to her, drew her unresisting arm through his own, ant then firmly grasping the other piste!, which he had drawn from his pocket and examined whilst I had spoken to her, prepared to lead or rather drag her to the carriage, which was well situated for flight, but could not without in- convenience be turned in the part where it stood. "' If you attempt to remove this lady, who, I protest most solemnly, is at this moment in a state of the utmost danger, and utterly unable to judge for herself in a matter of so much moment, I have spied horse here, and swear that I will raise the country. Nay, Sir, do not menace me; chance has preserved me from your first ball, Providence will guard me from the second. 1 am as firm as yourself. Had she been in health, a few words were all I should have uttered; but in her present state . . . . ' " A loud shriek, followed by wild incoherent complaints that a snake was in the bed, now arrested the attention of both. He became dreadfully convinced I had spoken the truth, and cried eagerly, ' What could he do?' Save me, Charles,' she cried eagerly, 'save me!'
"'I will save thee, Bella, my own Bella.'
" You shall save her even from herself,' said I, gently drawing the pistol from his hand, and laying her head upon his shoulder, directing him how to support her in the most easy position; then, opening the gate, I laid bold of her feet, and we bore her gently through the intricate path until we arrived at the hall-door; when I knocked boldly, and demanded the housekeeper, into whose charge I put the lady. Her shrieks in the plantation,' I said, had drawn myself and my friend to her rescue.'
" 'Ay,' said the woman; 'madam will needs walk out o moonlight nights to see poor Collets, an' I tould her it would come to no good. She has seen something that has scared her.'
" I drew the housekeeper from the hall to the little parlour, where the medicine- chest was kept; told her my fears that her lady had caught the fever, and advised that she should send for the best medical assistance instantly, at the same time giving her a mixture calculated to allay the agitation under which she now la- boured. When we returned into the hall, she appeared to be nearly fainting, and was supported by the stranger, whose hat was completely drawn over his face. Her own maid now arriving, she took the arm of each of the females, and slowly re- tired; whilst I forcibly drew away my companion, whose agitation was so exces- sive as to be little short of phrensy."
The deeper interest of the story.ends with Mrs. Witherstone's death; but.Mr. Witheratone is exhibited as a widower and in a second mar- riage. There is also a flirtation between Mr. Dennison, a married man in mature life, and one of his patients, which is hardly stopped in time ; whilst no effect is produced by allowing it to continue so far. It is, however, cleverly managed, and may have been designed to point the moral of human weakness and the fleeting nature of human affections. Troth, though not of a marked or striking kind, is the characteristic of the tale; and it is not only shown in the incidents and characters but in the moral lurking under them. The Cumberland Statesman is a work of less interest than Daniel _Dennison. The merely provincial manners are indeed as truly de- lineated, and, being more marked in themselves, are stronger in the ex- hibition ; but manners that do not form a necessary part of a tale are rather curious than attractive in reference to a fiction. A con- siderable portion of the tale, however, is not in Cumberland, but in London; and Mrs. Holland fell into an error in endeavouring to engraft the striking effects of the modern school on the matter of her own. The town subject is commercial transactions, with which she probably was not very well acquainted : the characters are persons of the genteel mid- dle classes—the old respectable merchant, the slapdash mercantile ad- venturer' religious devotees, and pretenders to fashion ; all very proper subjects for fiction if the end sought is proportioned to the means. Such is not the case in The Cumberland Statesman ; which endeavours to raise the interest of mystery and romance out of brutal husbands, middle- class roues, and genteel swindlers; and it fails of course.