SAYNT LEGER. * THAT class of rhetorical and metaphysical fiction -which
takes the form of fragmentary autobiography, was at one time fashion- able from its novelty, and perhaps from the facility which it seemed to offer to writers. It is true that to, construct a fragment- ary story in a natural way is not quite so easy as it looks ; since coherence between what is presented and judgment in what is omitted, are equally necessary as in a more regular narrative : to trace the formation of a mind, and to present its minutest work- ings, require nearly as much knowledge of human nature as to exhibit the more numerous dramatis persolue of a novel in the third person, especially as various characters are not excluded from the autobiographical form. However, the fragmentary plan tempts idleness, which shrinks from the thought and labour of a complete fable ; and an inexperienced writer, especially with a knack of composition, thinks he surely can exhibit his own feelings. It, however, requires as much skill truly to exhibit one's own mind as to paint one's own face or to manage one's own cause. "Having eyes and seeing not " is as prevalent in art and literature as in religion.
Saint Leger is a novel of this stamp, and fails as such fictions gene- rally fail ; although the writer has some knowledge, some thought, a good deal of fluency and skill in composition, with the idea of a distinct purpose, which idea, however, is not very happily carried out. In fact, the purpose rather appears iu frequent reflections than is impressed by means of incident, story, or denouement. To a novel, indeed, the writer is at present unequal. The book is nought as a representation of life and character, whether general or peculiar. The elements are all borrowed, all hacknied, and have as little likelihood about them as the events in the old romances of knight- errantry : but the descriptions have often considerable force and picturesqueness ; the. reflections, strength and rhetoric, if not elo- quence—indeed, the style is rather too rhetorical. The moral purpose of Saint Leger, so far as it can be made out, is to warn against va,oe and dreamy apprehensions in childhood ; the substitution of Rationalistic and- Pantheistic notions for
• Saint Leger; or the Threads of Life. Published by Bentley.
Christianity in later life, and their concealment—in the case of the hero from his mother. The first point is illustrated by the peculiar] disposition- of William Henry Saint Leger ; his peculiar training at the 'faiiiily country-seat; and an old prophecy touching the rest Saint Leger race, which the re of the family very wisely dim- gard, but which the hero nourishes in secret, and which causes him to regard himself as a doomed mortal or child of destiny. The heresy is produced by a German tutor, who is himself infec- ted with the singular ideas of religion at that- time (towards the close of the last century) springing up in his country. These topics give rise to a good deal of rhetorical writing in the pauses of the. story, but do not produce much effect upon the action or end. Defective connexion is the great fault of the writer's mind. ' In autobiographical fictions so rigid a structure is not required as in flit! it'S,*ider novel ; but though events may not successively spring out oriach other, they should influence the story by influencing the hero's mind; and the ,events themselves should have some sort of probability. In this book the first ne- cessity is but slightly attended to, the last not at alL.rwychl The skeleton of the story is simple -enough : a journey7_from Warwickshire to the Highlands of Scotland, taking London ui the way, for the sake of hearing Chatham speak his last speech ; a voyage to St. Kilda; a sojourn at Leipsic, where the writer Studies under a professor, meets Goethe, and is puzzled by the difference between the speculative and the practical. The filling up of these parts consists of the exploded matter of romances of the Minerva Press. A foreign villain of the melodramatic kind, parading him- self without an object—a recluse in St. Kilda with a daughter and a mystery which turns out to be that he has suspected his wife—besides two or three stories of a similar kind, either intro- duced into the story or having some reference to the former Saint Legers—form the threads of " Threads of Life." The following scene is laid in St. Kilda. It relates to the wild- fowling of the inhabitants, and exhibits the author's power as a describer. Hubert is Saint Leger's cousin ; Count. Vautrey is a dis- tant relation, the villain of the piece, and his deeply offended the Highland chief Glenfinglas, whose name occurs in the extract.
" Two couples undertook the perilous descent to the. spot where the birds were congregated. At one time hanging over dizzy heights, at another rest- ing upon the edge of some slippery rock, so narrow that there seemed no place even for the slightest foothold, the daring adventurers proceeded on their perilous way. Below, at a distance of some thousand feet, the sea raged and foamed and lashed itself into a resistless fury ; while the sharp pro- jections seen here and there from the different cliffs, indicated with a fear- ful certainty the fate of the wretch who should miss his uncertain foothold. "All eyes were turned toward the intrepid fowlers. Now the heart quailed at their fearful risks ; now admiration for their extraordinary daring was paramount. In the midst of the excitement, and when all were watching the adventurers with breathless interest, I perceived a person coming cau- tiously toward me, along the 'side of the cU. I knew the stranger to be Vautrey. Ho was, as I thought, alone ; but on looking more carefully, I fancied that I could detect some one following in the distance. The Count was apparently getting a position to see the fowlers to the best advantage; at any rate he paused at the place where one of them had descended, and leaned over, as if watching their movements. My own attention was soon directed to the same object ,• Intel when I again glanced toward the Count, I was surprised to see that the figure which I had before observed had ap- proached near him, and that it was his attendant, the wild savage. There was something so treacherous in the manner of this hideous creature, that I at once suspected a plan hostile to myself ; but on closer scrutiny it seemed as if he was attempting to come up, unobserved, with Vautrey. He certainly did-not seem aware that I was near. So extraordinary did this appear, that I turned my attention entirely toward the Count and his attendant. The lat- ter approached nearer and nearer to his master ; he would pause and glance hashly around, or skulk behind a rough mass of rock, and then resume his oat-paced course. I rose instinctively to warn. Vautrey—I knew not of what; but I felt that there was danger. At the same instant the savage started up, ran swiftly toward the Count, and, mahing upon him with a sudden, des- perate fury, seized him, and by a tremendous effort hurled him over the
p ' ice—clear down into the frightful chasm. ;
t was so horrible, that I shrieked in spite of myself. In a moment the savage was by my side. I was upon my guard, yet he attempted no violence ; but throwing off it quantity of coarse hair from his head, I recognized the wild Highland follower of the young Glenfinglas, Donacha Madan. His e_yes gleamed with malignant fire ; his soul seemed oompletely abandoned to the Fu- ries. Pointing with exultation toward the cliff, and then to himself, es if glorying in the act ,he tamed, uttered a fierce Highland cry, and dm' appeared in the darkness. This was the work almost of a moment. The alarm- was given ; the whole party were in confusion. "But Count Laurent de Vautrey was not thus to perish. Strange, nay in- credible as it may appear, although he was cast by the sudden attack of Do- nacha completely clear Of the cliff, still, after• falling several feet, he caught the prejecting point of a rock, which, although it wounded him severely, served to arrest his fall., But he could not hang by it ; it, only gave him an instant longer to think upon his fate. It will be remembered that the; Cennt had chosen a place for his Observation where one of the fowlers had descended. This choice saved his life ; for only a few feet below, the same fowler was cautiously ensconced upon a narrow shelf of rock, braced up to meet any emergency of his partner, who was linked to him,' and was Firming the way 4Oward his eyry, some hundred feet below. As the miserable Vautrey caught ,ripen the projection, he was seer], and the St. Bildah'a mar . instantly summoned for his rescue. The next instant Vautrey fell lieavil dean, but
not into the fearful abyss that seemed gaping to receive .hini:. e, hunter 'watched him as his hold loosened on the crag, and, by an extrao effort,
caught and held him in his descent. His partner was called, to ; e rope was tied round the Count, and he was drawn to the top of the cliff, lacerated and bleeding, Iniewithout any mortal injury. "He was conveyed' to the hoUse of the minister. Hubert and myself yielded our lied to him, and sought accommodations elaewhere. As I was the only eye-witness;at.thri:attnekmade; by Dosaoha; I hesitated to state that I recognized lip, , .. • .. follower ufiGlenfingles. 1 finally concluded to speak 1r of it to Hu'; o , And leave If" for him to make further mention of it if he chofie* 6 `31$rirt.' heard me in sllehee ,• walked up and down a moment with a eeriblig air j;' then stopping, exclaimed, ' Saint Leger, mark my words—Vautrey is a dead man !'
" ' What do you mean ? ' said I. " ' A dead man !' continued Hubert ; ' Donacha is as sure of him as if his dirk was now through his heart. I know the race ; but I did not know that
Donaeha, being a captive, acknowledged fealty to Glenfinglas. Dead ? yes, if ho escaped seventy times. Never did a Madan lose sight of his victim, when revenge sharpened the pursuit. The bloodhound has not a surer scent, the fox is not more subtle, nor the tiger more fierce, nor the cat more stealthy, nor the tortoise more patient, than a Madan of the Black Cloud when pursuing his enemy.' "