15 DECEMBER 1832, Page 17


Is a painstaking romance, by the author of Derwentwater, a book which during its short day enjoyed a respectable character. The present is a still more ambitious effort: its success will be the same. It will be read by the critic as a task—by the ordinary reader as a thing with which he ought to be pleased ; for is it not historical? does it not relate to the classical times of English his- tory—the days of Hotspur at home and Douglas abroad—the days of chivalry and romance—of armour cap-a-pie, tilts, and tourna- ments, knighthood, and lady-love ? With all the brilliancy of pictures of this class, the author moreover mixes up a good deal of solid every-day sense; so that, though his main object is the glory of chivalry and the achievement of knighthood, yet the ex- ample is not so contagious as usual, nor so mischievous; for the author, well aware of the folly of any such system of society, has taken pains to expose it, by a common-sense commentary put into the mouth of an eccentric priest or taken up by the author in propriii persona.

Otterbourne, as the title will indicate, is the history of the events that led to the famous battle of Otterbourne, as fought between a part of the power of the stout old Earl of Northumberland, headed by his son Hotspur, and the Scottish force under Douglas, then returning from a "harrying" expedition on a large scale. The battle itself is preceded by such events as might be expected— the skirmishing of outposts, the seizing of spies, the rencontre of bodies of free prickers, the sack of private castles; and, on a larger scale, the beleaguerment of the town of Newcastle itself, then called the Newcastle, in which Hotspur's troops are shut up waiting reinforcements, and before whose walls many is the knightly passage of arms, and the more secret deed of trea- chery, worked by the industry and skill of the author. A tale of love of course pervades the whole. Love, to borrow an image from the culinary art, in novels performs the part of eggs to batter-pudding—it gives lightness and consistency to the fabrica- tion. Characters are rife, events not scarce; but how to make them work is the difficulty. Love is thrown in : a pair of lovers begin to plot and combine, and they quickly contrive to bring every thing within the entanglement of their mesh. The greatest personages are not exempt from the influence of the god ; and the author too always seems to have so much at heart the pros- perity of his pair of doves, that, after a little decent torture, he is sure to make heaven and earth come together rather than the suit fail. Novelists are resolved that men shall not appear to be the brutes they seem in history; the very characters who are said to be personages who have laughed at or despised the liking of a youth for a pretty girl, and have spurred him on to higher and more ambitious work, are sure to be the identical characters selected for the unravelment of a love story. No one would have suspected that Hotspur, for instance, would ever have been made so convenient a person as he is here represented. He is a most efficient agent, in conjunction with other warriors, in forwarding the love of his esquire Forneley for one Lady Amisia de Coup- land—for so are called. the hero and heroine of this novel. There are other loves thrown in, to give still further consistency to the invention : the love of Lord Moray for an English dame, whom he ventures to run off with, and in consequence of which he comes by an inglorious death. Nothing, it must be observed, is done without fighting—as might be the law in the lawless marches of England and Scotland in these times. The very esquire before- mentioned attains to the glory of marrying a noble heiress, solely by fighting ; and such indeed is the staple of the book, love only being introduced as a skein of silk might be thrown among a pack of nine-pins, so as to entangle them into falling not very far from each other.

Our idea of the talent of the author may have been already , gathered. Otterbourne is nothing very famous ; and in truth, its composition requires nothing but a right good will and deter- • mination to write three volumes of chivalry. Industry was re- quired, some research, and some taste and common sense : here they all are ; but the mens divinior is not—the true afflatus of in- spiration is wanting. The characters are manufactured, not- created : the events and incidents are beaten out of a painstaking brain. Such as it is' novel-readers must take it in the absence of better : the Wizard of the North is gone, and we know not who else can pretend to write the true historical novel. Otterbourne is as good as the numerous fabrications under that title by HORACE Salim, JAMES, and others of similar calibre.

By way of extract, we must give a fight or so: for, in fact, Otterbourne is a series of combats ; and if it were worth while, the rencontres might be divided into rounds and published after the fashion of boxing-matches,—which they resemble in all but weapons and armour. The prize-fighter exposes his person, the man at arms encases his in plate armour: the one mounts a stage, the other enters lists : the boxer stands in his half-boots, the- knight tilts upon horseback. Let our readers compare the author's narrative of the fight of Otterbourne with any of Lord WELLING- TON'S old despatches— A dusky twilight, as yet indifferently assisted by the beams of the just rising moon, wrapped the brown moors of Redesdale in partial folds of obscurity, when- the English, from a patch of elevated ground, became able to discern the en- campment of the Douglas's army. They perceived at once what was the fact, namely, that the Scots had sat down before a little fortalice, called the castle of Otterbourne, standing near the Rede ; to which mountain-stream the Otter is an insignificant tributary ; but whether it bad surrendered to them, or still held' out, could not be ascertained. At any rate there was the enemy, aml the ardent

desire for combat was no longer likely to be balked. •

Redoubling the celerity of their advance, the English, filing along the margin of the Rede, arrived so near the Scottish tents as almost to give them a hope of making infall before their occupants were in fit state to receive them; - an event, scarcely conceivable, as they could not be supposed ignorant of the dangerous proximity of the English forces. "Does the Douglas mean to brave us by this show of seeming carelessness?" observed Hotspur to some around him; " or is it that the drowsy herd he rules having been overdriven, lies snoring on the turf, watchers and all ? " "By my fay! I can hardly guess, Percy," replied De Grey; but this I trow, 'twere no more than policy to give our own wearied followers leave to stretch. hemselves in correspondent sort; otherwise, tardy as these sleepers may be in • stirring, they'll spring at last too lusty for us."

" Pooh! the sounds they presently shall wiuk and start at, will stupify their waking senses."

"They wake already," remarked the young Fitzhugh, as a peal of shouts rose' upon the night breeze, which had hitherto only been broken by the flapping of pennons. " Hear how they bay and howl. 1 marvel wherefore ! " " Mayhap to see the symbol of our house scaling the sky," said Sir Ralph Percy, pointing to the crescent moon, which had just then mastered a pile or Vouds. " 'Tis the common nature of envious curs and wolfish prowlers to offer, such salute to brightness."

" The Douglas would better prove Us title to command, did he extend his' battle in front of an open camp, than keep his lances pent amongst its lumber," ariticised the Heron.

" That be his dole, Sir William," rejoined Hotspur; "let us bring it swith- upon him."

Sir Henry then issued orders along the column of his troops to close up, and prepare at the first signal to pour the onslaught. Meanwhile the Scots con-, tinned unaccountably hidden behind the tents, rude bough-buts, wain., an& other baggage which formed the body of their irregular ramp, giving no indica- tions of hostile alertness beyond what might be presumed from the hum of general motion which could be heard, and the somewhat exaggerated shoutin.g, wherewith a few who made themselves visible hailed the approach of them. assailants.

Eagerly did Hotspur examine the grove of objects mostly inanimate, lying before him ; with a will to choose the point upon which he should direct his- own course, but without detecting the post of those ensigns that would have de- ter mined his choice. De Neville, and the esquire, Farneley, with equal interest. made the scrutiny, and with the same fortune. " Pennons advance !" at length cried Hotspur. " Marchmen ! to the onset!" Breaking away, like a torrent suddenly undammed, the Northumbrian army rushed forward, and beating down in an instant the feeble opposition offered, i penetrated the Scottish camp n every direction. Then, and not till then, the. policy of the invaders became developed. At the first advertisement of assault in prospect, the Scots, abandoning their camp to grooms and horseboys, had taken an undetected circuit, with a view to falling upon the English flank. This they achieved so far, that when the assailants were fairly entangled amidst the baggage and encumbrances, they ap- peared ready to seize the expected advantage. Raimond Farnelei was one of the earliest to catch sight of the impending storm. It came on in imposing character. Displayed by a flood of moonlight, the Cale- donian power in full battalia presented itself, advancing with rapid force to the attack. Bold as-he was, the spectacle of such a formidable and compactbody, pressing forward with all the confidence of anticipated victory—making the very ground shake beneath its heavy passage, and the quiet night-air ring with wild cries, he felt momentarily dismayed. But he fought under a leader as quick to discover the perilous visitation as himself, and to whom dismay, from any cause, was a feeling unknown. Danger was to him delight, and the shape in which it now threatened did but rouse his energies. 174;

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m- Ha, Mates; ho !".he shouted, making-his deep but sonorous voice audible above the general dia. " The, foe's main battle's on our right! Knights ! look to-your pennons l—serry spears, sorry{ change front. The knaves think they've limed us ; we must speak them a rough nay-say. What prickers are those that loiter among the spoil?—dalesmen, I• warrant—up, ,up, and take your ground,' ye landraking rogues ! is this a time for pilfering?'

By prodigious efforts, in which he was well seconded by other leaders, he suc- ceeded in bringing his force into hasty alignment against the nearing charge. This done, or rather the moment it appeared in a fair way to be done, he spurred out beyond the foremost ranks.

" We will not let our horses cool, my hearts!" he exclaimed. " Forward to the meeting !—upon 'em!—St. George for England ! and Esperance for Percy !" He appealed to boiling blood. At the words, the English chivalry dashed on amain-; and ere a fresh breath could be drawn, the rival hosts closed with a shock awfully tremendous. In a few moments more every arm, of horse and foot, on either side, was engaged lathe strife.

A fiold, the most inveterate, sanguinary, and prolonged which the history of ages rife in such events has handed (Iowato us, ensued. Order or arrangement of action there was none. Sometimes the murderous iron-wave surged tumul- tuously one way, then rolled heavily back the other, marking et each flow rather the indomitable spirit of the struggle, than any change in its fortune. The war- cries, at the beginning frequent and piercing, gradually became leas often iterated, and then in tones hoarse and indistinct. Several, which erst had waked the echoes, sunk altogether, leaving the unhappy fate of their owners to be sadly inferred. But the rain of blows, the clash and clang of steel, increased rather than diminished ; and yells, not of defiance but of suffering, began more to afflict the ear. The bright moon, now high in the heavens threw a pale ra- diance over the fearful scene, rendering the horrible fleshings of bill, brand, and battle-axe, but too distinct, as they swung and circled above the eddying throng. The whole contrasted strongly and strangely with the hour, and the wild still- ness of the neighbouring hills. The slogan. of the Douglas, a sound which usually repelled and diverted else- where the tide of ordinary adversaries, was the breath of attraction to at least tftree desperate warriors on this eventful evening. Need we say that the fore- most of these' and he who hacked and clove a path for his fellow-braves was 'die invincible Hotspur ? The planet of his house literally and figuratively as- cendant;eventfully rewarded efforts memorialized in gouts of Scottish blood : for, gaining a temporary vantage-ground, he saw its beams kissing the white outline of the Brabant-lion—his captured insignia—streaming in the wind above the heads of a knot of Scots. To behold, awl to make his destrier bound, through all intervention towards it, was one act. Doughty indeed must that enemy have been who could have withstood the more than mortal power that nerved him.

Raimond FarneleY and De Neville were both in his rear, and simultaneously saw his object : saw him lop away, as a woodman clears a copse, the weak- branches of resistance offered to his career, with mingled sensations. The first could not help feeling pride in the prowess of his lord, even though forestalled by it in a darling desire : the last looked on with envy indeed, but also with a sort of satisfaction that the prize was about to be won by a competitor so pre- eminent, and one he did not, in a certain sense, regard as an obnoxious rival.

It was won. The hapless esquire, Glendonwin, to whom the unlneky honour of bearing; the trophy had been committed, gave up life and trust together. " Ih-hah ! a rescue ! a rescue!" shouted Hotspur, exultingly waving his re- covered banner in the air. " The Percy, for himself !—What • Scot dares the Percy ?" "

1—the Douglas !" rose in answer from a little distance ; and with the de- fiance, the furious utterer could be seen working through the press to back it. The parties here.being in the very centre of the ,n ;Ije, a,dire confusion reigned around, and blows were dealing so fist and indiscriminately that each man's constant care was necessarily that of his own head. Farneley, desp,ruely tasked at the moment by a huge Lothian man-at-arms, found exclusive emple2,- anent most unpropitiously for the juncture. " Farnelcy, my bold esquire," cried Hotspur, snatching a hurried look about, before springing to meet the Douglas, " where art thou?" There was no re-sponse. " Ha! De Neville! (recognizing the young knight) thou art well at call. There is the toy you covet ; keep it ZIS thy love dictates—I care not for it now, and must have free hands. Douglas, have at thee!"

Thu§ speaking, lie threw to De 'Neville the banner he had just regained, and urged on to a collision with Lis raging foe.

Raimond dismissed to earth his personal opponent barely in time to note, with a bitter pang of disappointment, the above transfer. Ile felt as if the genius which had guided-ancl sustained him hitherto, had wilfully deserted lihn : but the soul of a warrior—the inflamed blood of manhood still lent him the, now as it were mechanical, impulse of conduct. He spurred vengefully after his lord, to the place where Douglas, Swinton, Lundic, and other famous Scottish lances created a whirlpool amidst the billows of the conflict.

" Esperancel csperance!" repeated Hotspur, riding at the Liddlesdale thane with a force that overthrew an esquire, man and horse, who chanced to impede, his career. " This hour's worth a life-time ?"

" It shall end that of one of us," bellowed the Douglas. " Thine--and this for it," retorted Percy, driving the point of his lance with such amazing force as to pierce through Douglas's shield and even penetrate his hauberk.

The Scot bent backward to his crupper with the might of the thrust ; but ere Hotspur, quitting his entangled lance, could pursue advantage with his mace, Lundie and Swinton fell upon him. From their assault Farneley and stout Roger Widdrington only freed him in time to encounter a maddened plunge from the wounded Douglas' again righted in his stirrups." Hotly as the red demon of war had all along tioted in the field, it remained for him on this spot to bring his revel to its acme. The battle here thickened, and the flight of blows accumulated to such a degree as to defy any attempt at detail. Horses reeled, riders sunk, helmets crashed. Gory clods torn from the heel-ploughed ground bounded aloft, and an almost spray of sprinkling blood flew about the faces of the combatants.

"Anti many a horse ran masterless, And many a comely cheek was pale."

Several times Percy and the Douglas, sundered by the rolling tide, were com- pelled to waste their unrivalled prowess upon meaner heads. Here we might tell Of approved inen of .both countries slain, but must be content exclusively to name poor Delayed, who, emulous in the same race with Neville and Ferneley., faced the hazards of this spot, and fell.!

Space and verge enlarging, in obedience to a lethal weird, the opposed chiefs —the two great sprits of the hour—renewed with direful promise of decision the wager of their Mortal bodies.

live to slay thee yet, boy Warden!" cried Douglas, desperately dis- guising the efliets of a second wound. " Esperance shall sicken on this heath." "It tells me not," replied the other briefly; his menacer's assault requiring other than wordy answer. Each then fought with his long two-handed sword ; for Percy's mace had been severed in his grasp. Their arms, which nothing but the strong passion eftheir souls could have kept so long ,untired, rose and fell in unfriendly con- cert; until.Douglas, causinglisdestrier to make a demi-volte, wherefrom that of Percy unavoidably swerved, dischargedtvitit allillis pith a blow which-sheered the pauldron front the other's shoulder. In die act he overstrained his reach,' and purchased a return that, while a trenchant, proved a parting one. Percy.

saw his valiant antagonist bowed to his horse's neck under the stroke, and saw'. no more of its effects, or of him on whom they told ; for a freak sway of the battling ranks and his own ardour carried him immediately after into a further mass of the enemy. But the "doughty" Douglas had received his death. Sinking from-his steed, he rolled to the earrh, and was only saved from trampling hoofs by the devoted exertions of his faithful chaplain, Lundie, and one or two others. They raised him ; but it was only to receive his dying exhortation.

" I die like my forefathers," gasped out the expiring hero, " on a field of battle, not on a bed of sickness. Conceal my death, defend my standard, and avenge any fall. It is an old proverb that a dead man shah l win a field. I hope it will be accomplished this night."