AN ACCOMPLISHED GENTLEMAN.*
WE had read this bright little story with zest, and were about to praise it with a clear conscience, when, as luck would have it, we chanced on Mr. Frederick Harrison's lecture on the • An Amnaptished Gentleman, By Julian liturgic. London : Blackwood and Sons. 1870. "Choice of Books." The solemn invective of that earnest essay made us pause, and a deep fear fell upon us lest our heedless eulogy might lead some thoughtless reader to "stuff his mind" with "something trivial," or with something which has at best but a "low nutritive power," and so, peradventure, close it, so far as in us lay, to what is "solid and enlarging, and spiritually sustaining." But we took heart of grace when we were confronted by the well-known name, which plays much the same part in Mr. Harrison's writings as Charles L's did in those of Mr. Dick, Had we the making, we thought, of an Index Expur- gatorius to Auguste Comte's BibliothZque Positiviste, we should out and slash its hundred and fifty volumes with merciless con- fidence and complacency. Yet that was the library which forms, as Mr. Harrison frankly tells us, the basis of the whole of his lecture. So we took heart of grace, we repeat, and determined to say our say in favour of Mr. Julian Sturgis's sparkling novelette, undeterred by the thought that we might thereby, in our infinitely small way, be advising a reader to do some- thing which, in the oyes of ponderous Positivism, is less "fruitful than whistling." Besides, we have chosen our own part, oven as Mr. Harrison has chosen his ; and we have adopted our own teacher also, in literature. And does not that teacher's favourite reply to the remark of Poins, that a prince should not be so loosely studied as to remember so weak a com- position,—" Belike, then, my appetite was not princely got ; for by my troth, I do now remember the poor creature, small beer." Belike, too, we admit, Mr. Sturgis's "weak composition" is very small beer indeed, compared to Fielding's tokay, or Sir Wal- ter's burgundy, or Mr. Dickens's champagne. But it is a pleasant beverage, for all that, this honest, small beer, and one which deserves to be remembered,—a bright, pure, wholesome, effervescing "composition," in every way preferable to the special sherries and particular ports with which this, that, and the other, male and female, English and foreign, compounder of adulterated stuff is muting Mr. Harrison, and breaking his heart. But we have stretched our metaphor till it cracks, and may now say that, in our opinion, Mr. Julian Sturgis's novelette is a capital book, which will be read with pleasure by those who wish to be amused, without any danger of "a bit of most useful in- formation being driven out of their heads and choked off from their minds" by its perukal. The author rushes in medias yes at once, and from start to finish carries the reader along with him at a good hand-gallop. A couple of hours at the most will be all that it will take to get from cover to cover, and he must be a dull or over- worked (Positive) reader indeed who cannot make up the time so lost,—if lost, indeed, it were. But we others, we men, or rather anti-Positivists, are minimifidians in the matter of "systematised reading." At all events, we are Macaulay-sure that, once a week at least, there comes an hour or two, when the best of all possible reading for a studious man is the reading which lies outside of his "system." We are disposed to think that one or two of these hvrae subsecivae might be not entirely thrown away, if given to Mr. Sturgis's book ; and as for that large class of readers with whom it is "always afternoon," they at least may give what time they like to it, and gain by the exchange. The story is simple enough. The heroine—but we hold it best and fairest, in respect of a tale like this, to say nothing about the story or the heroine. The reader will judge from the following extracts whether he desires the better acquaintance of their writer, and we need only assure him that they are equitably chosen, and are not the pick of a basket of otherwise indifferent fruit. "Mr. Deane," who is, we suppose, the "Accomplished Gentleman," though we may have a word to say about this anon,— "Mr. Deane was in his calmest mood. His wife sat by him quietly expectant, and being unusually free from household cares that morn- ing, did not, irritate him by her normal look of anxiety. Ho had just completed an important bundle of notes on one of the Doges, and tied it with a silken cord. He felt that something had boon done. The temperature suited him exactly. The light, subdued to the proper tone, fell from the right quarter on his open book ; and the book had been recently published, had just come from London, was both in- struotive and agreeable. It was a book about books,--a book delightful in tone, from the treatment of its important subject to the tint of its paper. The mere word tone ' was pleasant to the oar of Mr. Hugo Deane; and he had been always fond of books about books. He had always expected himself, as a man of letters, to be well acquainted With the great works of every ago ; and he was glad to say that his baste was catholic. He rejected nothing that was good of its kind. Nevertheless, of these groat works of former ages many had weighed u,Pen him by their dullness and bulk ; some had offended his fastidious taste by their coarseness. 'Of groat historical interest,' he was wont t41,13a7) delicately discriminating the good from the good in its place. Ilual"aPs absolute goodness was, in his mind, identical with that which high-pitched, after all, for our "always afternoon" friends, our next shall show Mr. Sturgis in a lighter mood :— "On the track of this gentle pair came swiftly the darkling spirit of the Contessa Belrotoli. She was in groat force, intoxicated by a now experience of mankind. Sometimes, in moments of excessive bitterness, she had cried that all men were alike ; but after such periods of depression, she rose again to the study of the sex with re- newed zeal. Nor did she limit herself to observation. With over fresh delight, she made experiments on masculine susceptibilities. Much evil had been spoken of the Belrotoli, but principally by those who had little sympathy with the scientific spirit. 'He is wonderful,' the Contemn had exclaimed to Lady Lappin, after her first interview with Lord Checpyre. 'I have been oven charmed by- your little English grooms—the "tigers," as you say—so neat of form, so round- faced, so natty, with enchanting boots. Now comes one with all that charm,—and also ho is a gentleman.' She was delighted with his strange expression and his knowing air. She plied him with questions, as he sat at her foot beneath the black canopy, and she turned again and again for sympathy to the lady at her side, who was in her most statuesque mood. 'You ore fond, then, of the chase, of hunting P Is it good fun I' she asked.—' Ripping,' replied the youth.—' Ripping! you must teach me this argot. Ripping ! I should love the hunt ; how I should love it ! The quickness, the excitement, the danger! Houpla, tantivy !' and her eye blazed with enthusiasm. 'There is danger, is there not P'—' For thorn as like it. I've no nerve myself. I daren' t jump a stick.' —The Countess twisted herself round to Lady Lappin in an ocstac3r of delight. Is he not wonderful P' she cried ; and then to him, you do better at gunning perhaps P'—' Yes, 1 gun,' said Cheopyro, without a smile, and slowly fixing a glass in his eye, tho better to contemplate this remarkable woman. If he had not long ago decided that nothing in life could surprise him, he would have been astonished by this lady. As it was, he accepted hor as a fact, which it was useless to
to discuss, and accepted her attentions no agreeable and flattering. I gun,' he repeated, very nicely ; • bat I don't hit anything. I'm too shaky i" "
In conclusion, and in obedience to a fashion which our betters have set, we would briefly warn Mr. Sturgis to be careful. He is, we take it, a young man; and ho is, clearly, a clever man. But if he wishes to leave his mark as a writer of fiction, he has before him a long and difficult hill to climb. We would bid him read the Vicar of Wakefield very attentively, and try to dis- cover the secret which makes that story immortal. It is need- less to say that An Accomplished Gentleman is, before every. , thing, ephemeral. The characters in it are marionnettes, and for the matter of that, so arc the majority of the characters in Gold- smith's tale. Lord Checpyre is not more so than Moses Prim- rose, nor Mr. Lomond. than Mr. Burchell. Where, then, lies Goldsmith's immeasurable superiority? We must leave Mr. Julian Sturgis to argue this query for himself, and. we leave his book with hearty good wishes that he may soon give us another and a better one. One word about the title. Which of the per- sonages was an "Accomplished Gentleman ?" Dimond, or Deane, or Fernlyu, or who? It matters not one whit, of course ; and our real objection to the title is that it is caco- phonous. It is not so easy as the author may fancy to ask a lady if she has read Julian Sturgis's An Accomplished Gentleman. Why not have called it "Venice Preserved," or "Venetian Blinds," or "Art and Artifice," or some such other title, quite as descriptive of the contents of the book, and rendering it much more pleasant to talk about? pleased a refined few in the nineteenth century. However that may be, he liked bettor to road about a groat work than to read it. With the cultured Mervin, he inhaled the essence of its contents ; with the methodical Flint, he weighed it as a link in the dragging chain of litera- ture; with both gentlemen he tasted the bouquet of the very newest style. Mr. Deane shuddered at the hell of Dante ; but to linger with Mr. Mer- vin in the Florence of the dark ages, and to mark, amid glittering pro- cessions, gay garments, inlaid armour, antique viols, and bright sun- light, ono dark-clad form, grim and gaunt, prophet and poet among the idle, a thunder-cloud in summer, was to enjoy a most piquant eon- treat. To descend into hell with Professor Mervin was far easier for Mr. Deane than to abandon himself to the stern guidance of Virgil. The Professor glided playfully over the most repellent horrors with an allusion to the Time-Spirit. In like manner, too, the age of Fielding, as softened and shaded in the modest study of Mr. Flint, was far more agreeable to Mr. Deane than the robust painting of the groat lmmourist. Between Hugo Deane and Tom Jones there could be little sympathy. So books about books were pleasant, and this now book was one of the best of its kind ; and the reader, loaning grace- fully back in hi s deep leathern chair, was conscious that it was his privilege to enjoy the more delicate aromas of life. He was satisfied with the chastened beauty of the view, with the long, gentle- man-like leg which was carefully disposed over its no less aristocratic) fellow, with the neatness of his slipper. Ho was satisfied with the world, and with himself."
As this extract, though undeniably clever, may seem a little too