15 AUGUST 1829, Page 12


MR. HORACE SMITH has deserted the historical for the moral romance Tired, as it would seem, of gathering his materials from old chronicles and books of history, he has ventured to depend upon his own stores of observation and thought. The scene and subject are wholly modern ; and the aim of the author is to draw a perfect character according to the lights of the nineteenth century. It may be supposed that this perfect character is neither a man of fashion, a man of pleasure, nor a man of business : he is in name an. Utilitarian, but only in name, though he does not depart less than the Utilitarians do from the usages and opinions of the world. To begin with his love of veracity—he is so punctilious an observer of truth that he regards the most trivial ex- pression as sacred : he stays several days at an inn to his incon- venience, because he had accidentally said to the hostler that he should do so. His sincerity is a part of his system of truth-telling—he tells a gentleman to his face, that he is an "unprincipled liar," because he had said so behind his back; and this he is far from considering in- jurious treatment, because, in his opinion, the allegation is correct. This little circumstance brings to light another trait of the perfect gentleman's character: having by these words insulted a person whom the world considers an honourable gentleman, and being himself found " shootable" by his situation in life, he refuses to comply with the usual demand of satisfaction—he objects to duelling on principle ; and, in a letter in which he first of all corrects his antagonist's spelling and grammar, he explains the ground of his dissent from the practice of worldlings. The benevolence of this person is exemplary, his dis- interestedness complete, and his charity beyond human comprehension. The young wife of an old gentleman makes love to him—he most creditably repulses her advances she requires from him a promise that he will not betray her frailty—he gives it ; and she takes her revenge. She goes to her husband and accuses the Joseph of being himself the tempter of Potiphar's wife—the old story; Joseph, Aber- wise Mr. Henry Melcomb, is turned out of the house ; but his regard for his promise binds him to secrecy, and he answers this and much other injurious treatment by a rigid silence. The author allows that his hero is a pedant: his love of correctness carries him even to stop- ping people in the middle of a sentence, in order to amend their gram- mar or their pronunciation. Bravery is another of the qualities * The New Forest; op:ma. By the Author of "Brambletye House," &e. 3 vole. London, l6210. Colborne which go to make up perfection ; Mr. Henry Melcomb is not only bold as a lion, but he actually contends with one. In order to throw his heroine into a seasonable peril, the author has had the hardihood to let out of their cages the wild beasts that have been exhibited at Thaxted fair : the lion encounters a pic-nic party in the New Forest; but he who sent, can save—the hero is conveniently mounted on the top of a tree, and he instantly descends to give battle to the king of the forest.

It will be seen that the design of the author is to exhibit an example of an individual acting upon his own independent notions of right and wrong, without regarding how far they coincide or are at valiance with the opinions .0f the world. He himself states that his object further is to shoWy that the uniform practice of virtue is sure of its reward—that, oppressed and vilified for a time, its ultimate triumph is certain. In this view, the author should have shown Melcomb arriving at happiness and prosperity by the operation of ordinary circumstances : on the contrary, however, his release from prison and from obloquy is brought about by a most improbable and extraordi- nary event—by a story of the abduction, supposed death, adoption, and recognition of the hero. This is a fault ; and if we were fault-finding we might discover many others. The conception of Melcomb's character, for instance, is feeble ; and the author has not sufficiently well con- sidered the articles of his code of morality. This is not the first at- tempt of the kind ; and the two former attempts at a perfect man, according to his own code, have left stronger and more favourable im- pressions upon us than we think Melcomb will produce. The first is Mr. Tull, not CORBETT'S Tull, he of the drill husbandry, but Mr. HOLCROFT'S T1111, in the novel of Hugh Trevor. The other is a case still more in point—we mean Hermsprong, or Man as he Ought to be, in the excellent novel of that name, by Dr. BATES; a book we read with delight, and shall always recur to with satisfaction. We cannot hell) thinking that Mr. HORACE SMITH must have had Hermsprong in his mind from one end to the other of this nevi Man as he Ought to be. In order to bring the perfect man into play, it may be supposed that numerous incidents and characters are invented. The most prominent and novel are Mark Penguin, a sort of geological Paul Pry ; and Mrs. Tenby, a Yankee lady, whose meanness, vulgarity, and dialect, afford some amusement. Other persons also assume a leading position,—a negro servant for instance ; we are sorry, however, to he obliged to class him, and many others, among the numerous family of bores. Mr. H. SMITH'S forte certainly lies not in the dramatic parts of a novel; he fails either to conceive his characters with vigour or to paint them with strength. His characters as well as his incidents have all the air of compilations : it would seem that he had transferred them from his note-book, entitled "materials for novels," and that he kept up a debtor and creditor account of hints, subjects, and incidents, by the method of double entry. Our author is a sensible writer; and where he rises above the or- dinary level of good sense, his power is on the side of passion and sen- timent: it is here that we chiefly feel him. When, too, he speaks in his own character, we are pleased to listen to the observations of a rational and well-informed individual, whose meaning, to say the least, is virtuous and benevolent.

The extracts we shall make are, however, from the gayer portion of the work. Though we are aware that the picture of the American lady is sadly overcharged; we could not help laughing at her vulgari- ties. She is a Jonathan W. Doubikins in petticoats ; and it would seem that the author has been more indebted for his notions of Yan- keeism to Mr. MATTHEWS than to any experience of the country or people. It is a portrait drawn from a caricature. In order to understand the following passage, we must premise that Henry Melcomb is a foundling picked up at sea, and adopted by Cap- tain Tenby of the Navy : Mrs. Tenby is that gentleman's widow, and an American, true Virginny. Melcomb and she have arrived in Eng- land ; and the former has just returned from Hampshire, where he had been to seek out a relative of his adopted mother,—one Mark Penguin, a retired tradesman, now a geologist, and, as we have said, a fac-simile of {lie notorious Paul Pry, With the sole addition of a geo- logical mania,, a passion for breaking stones and hammering rucks; an innocent filly, which harmonizes well with the prevailing characte- ristics of the curious impertinent.

" AlthoUgh Mrs. Tenby had now lost some portion of the personal comeli- ness which had won the heart of her late husband, she retained her full share of that provincial, not to say illiterate vulgarity, which Henry had in vain en- deavoured to correct, and which marked her at once for an uneducated Vir- ginian. This defect was rendered still more conspicuous by a drawling nasal intonation, a pretty free use of the most homely American colloquialisms, and the singing sound imparted to her ordinary discourse by her invariably leaving off with a high note, instead of the customary low one of the English.

" We have stated elsewhere, that notwithstanding her former cruelty to Henry, she had latterly, but more especially since he had so easily resigned his fortune in her favour, entertained for him a sort of compassionate attach- ment; considering him, to use her own phraseology, as little better than a naitral gump in all worldly concerns, and no more able to fight his own bat- tles, than a cub in a bear-trap, or a squirrel in a racoon's nest.' On his own account, therefore, she was not sorry to see him back in London ; but more especially was sheedelighted, for her head and heart had been ciphering during the whole of his narrative, when he stated the hospitable reception he had experienced from Mark Penguin, the genteel style in which that per- sonage lived, his independent circumstances, and the friendly invitation he had given them to become inmates of Grotto-house, until they could deter- mine their plans, and find a fitting residence for themselves.

" What !' she exclaimed with an animated look, little in accordance with her drawling mode of speaking, ' He didn't invite us for a week or a fort- night, or a month, then, but asked us to turn in now, and not turn out till we are tired ?'

Not till we had suited ourselves with a house, if we determined on set. thug in the neighbourhood,' said Henry. " ' Butternuts and codfish ! that's prime—that's the prettiest bit of news, I reckon, I have picked up since I came to the Old Country. Why, the old badger's, a warm one, I warrant, and lives like a pretty co4derable some- body, or I'd lose a guess ! Well, Henry, the best roof to be under is that which covers another man's house; and when once I seat myself down beneath .1ilW shan't turn out in a hurry ; tell me on't, if I do i Sure none but a lAtc will pay away hard dollars for rent, when he may live for nothing, like squatter in a log-hut. What's the tally of his property, d'ye reckon ? How many acres, and how many dollars do they fetch him in?—Got no children, say •v—

Joes to coppers he'll have none, for his brother, my first husband tha$ was never had any. Ah I I shall love him mighty bad, I rather guess. Well, as I'm alive, I long to be jogging, for I'm robbed and cheated here, up-stairs and down-stairs, from Passamaquody to the Mississipi, as we say in Vir-ginny —from Currituck Sound to the Laurel Mountain, as t nor talk in Caroliny.' The greater Mr. Penguin's kindness,' said Henry," the more ungenerous would it he in is to take advantage of it. An invitation does not imply,domi- ciliation : but this was an invitation ; we shall not be justified, therefore, in making a lengthened stay. A visit is not a permanent residence.' ," There you go ! chopping logic, as if you were cutting pitch knots for candles, and always taking the side that makes against yourself, or else it would not be you. Why, boy, the old one has no doubt got a power of dumps, and I'm sure you have little enough, so keep what you have, and live scot-free while you may; for " gold makes gold," as Poor Richard says, "and the more pence you can save, the more pounds you will have. " ' " 'You will oblige me very much, now that we are come to England,' said Henry, if you would drop poor Richard's sordid maxims, and speak the lan- guage of the country, instead of this Yankee dialect'

" ' Rattlesnakes and ringums ! that's a good one, I speak real old ginooine Virginny ; and that's better, I guess, than all the new-fangled rubbish that we shall hear in these parts. Reilly, you progress at a strange rate. Sordid maxims, forsooth l it would be better for you, if you would profit by them, instead of trampoosing about the country, as you did in America, attending to every body's concerns but your own ; going about wool- gathering, and coming home shorn. There ! that's into you, I reckon ! And pray, boy, when do you mean to set about some business or other for yourself; for 'twould puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to tell how you mean to live on a hundred a year ? Snecks ! I wish you would recollect for once what Poor Richard says, no gains without pains ; then help hands, for I have no lands.' Didn't I tell you over and over, when we were in the new settlement at Johnson's Town, that if you went on spouting and planning, and attending committees for the good of others, you would never do any good for yourself ? 'Didn't I remind you, that if you would ' plough deep while sluggards sleep, you would have corn to sell and to keep." " You have never begn remiss, I must confess, in inculcating any of Poor Richard's morality, such as it is, and yet I do not feel disposed to become his convert. I despise the selfish and debasing struggle for wealth that is in- stilled into us, as the primary. lesson, and the most important law of life. Be satisfied, madam, with knowing, that while I am occupied, as I hope I shall constantly be, to the best of my ability, for the benefit of others, I cannot be idle; and that while I am content with what I have, I cannot be poor' "' Only hear him ! Why, this beats all natur ! to think that a young man like you, spry and ac-five, with a power of legs and arms, soople as a young catamountain, shouldthink of doing nothing but stray-ya-ging about all day like a great fat, lazy- opossum. As I'm alive, one would think you had got Wan blood in ye. Pretty 'considerable tejus you'll find such a life, or I'd lose a guess. Rich enough. with -a,„anealang hundred a-year ! But a quair notion, I reckon, ftwarrYnne's that's not on,,the cracky order. Why, then, if you never mean to add more to it, you should take the greater care of what you have, and husband the few hundreds that was saved for you during your mi- nority; and take care of the pence, for a small leak. will sink a great ship ; and always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom,' as Poor Richard says.'

"'Have you any particular reason for harping on Pcior Richard at the present moment, or may I consider it as only a rehearsal of your established lecture ?'

" ' Why, then, boy, I have a particular reason, and a pretty considerable handsome one, I conceit. Guess you're in some danger of having the dollars

in your pocket knocked down, faster 'n sixteen more '11 pick 'm up again. So look out, and stay to house, while we remain in London, or else you'll buy the rabbit, that's all.'"

The next extract is in a different style : it is a satirical touch—but not a whit less true on that account—on a piece of folly and affecta- tion prevailing in English society. It is in such passages as these that we recognize " one of the authors of the Rejected Addresses."

"There is probably no country in the world wherein music is so extrava- gantly encouraged, so widely diffused, so vehemently praised, and so little loved or felt, as in England ; so that it would be almost as difficult to find a gentleman who confesses that he dislikes it, as one who speaks the real truth when he declares that he is fond of it. Almost every private party, where the individuals are freed from the restraint of a public concert, will corrobo- rate this averment, and prove that, to the great majority of the company, there is no music half so delightful as the sound, of their own voices. The male visitants beseech, they appeal, they are tender, they are even pathetic, in imploring some one to begin ; and in proof of their sincerity, they are mi- nutely circumstantial, mentioning the identical song or overture on which they dote, and which they will officiously ferret out from a huge pile of books. The lady thus passionately beleaguered, probably an expectant spinster, is all smiles and acquiescence. She begins ; the first sound of her voice or instru- ment, like the first heat of the drum that disenchanted the ship of Aboul- fonaris from the loadstone rock, sends the crew of her petitioners to a dis- tance; they form little knots and parties, they talk aloud of hounds, horses, guns, politics, anything; the ladies dissert upon balls and fashions ; the card- players are vociferous about honours and odd tricks : but when the unfortu- nate vocalist has finished her song, the whole disposable forces of the room rush once more to the instrument, in utter ecstacies, ejaculating beautiful ! charming ! delightful I exquisite! sweet voice ! roost accomplished singer ! Whose are the words ? whose the music ? where can I buy it ? Some enrap- tured beau, more hypocritically affected than the others, exclaims in his softest and most winning voice, ` 'Would you do us the favour to sing it over again?' The accommodating warbler obliges them with art encore, which the whole auditory remunerate with a still louder obligato accompaniment of Bounds, horses, guns, politics, balls, fashions, honours, and odd tricks, until the termination of the vocal strain calls upon them. for a new round of ap- lilausive exclamations, which now become almost riotously enthusiastic. urns generally passes the evening where music forms the nominal entertain- ment at private houses; and- thus was it whiled away at Oakbam-hall, the visitants unanimously declaring to the host and hostess, that they had had a perfect treat, complimenting the young lady performers upon the perfection with 'which they had executed the most difficult pieces, and nine-tenths of the party sincerely wishing that the aforesaid pieces, instead of being only difficult, had been altogether impossible." On the whole, in spite of our qualifications, we have derived much pleasure from the perusal of the New Forest. We like these attempts to render works of fiction available for moral purposes ; and we can look kindly on a failure even, in a good cause. There is no compari- son between this and any of the former novels of the author ; so much superior is he when treating of living manners, to what he is when ransacking ancient books for the signs of bygone times.