Alice Paulet; a Sequel to Sydenbam 3 Vols.
The Affianced One. By the Author of "Gertrude" 3 Vols. The Sister's Budget 3 Vols.
Mrs. Jameson's Lives of Female Sovereigns 2 Vols.
Law of Husband and Wife. By a Solicitor
Maugham's Interlineary Translation of the Lou 1 don Pharmacopoeia Colburn and Bentley. Bull.
Whittaker and Co.
Colburn and Bentley. Whittaker and Co.
Whittaker and Co.
THE SPECTATOR'S LIBRARY.
THE critical reader of Sydenham, and its continuation Alice Pau- let, can have little hesitation in classing the author among the shrewdest and most ingenious authors of the present day. We do not call him a novelist ; for though his scenes, dialogues, and reflections, are couched in that form, there is only just so much of the novel introduced as may help the work into circulation. The bookseller, if not the author, is aware that this is the only shape in which the public chooses at present to receive either in- struction or entertainment. The clergyman must cut off his texts, and, striking out his thirdlies and fijthlies, introduce a hero and heroine, before he may hope to warn the world of its wickedness with success.. The poet must unbind his verse, and couch both his romance and reality in pedestrian prose. The historian de- serts the track of GIBBON and ROBERTSON, and in his investiga- tion of truth picks up that only which will look like fiction. The author of Sydenham is by nature a satirist and a moralist ; and in order to expound and exemplify all he can say of society and politics, he has chosen the convenient form of the memoirs of an ex-dandy for the promulgation of his opinions. His hero is some- what saturnine and cold-hearted, sensitive and vain ; yet capable of generous emotions, and imbued with a sense of truth and honour : under the impulses of vanity, and for the gratification of a somewhat morbid appetite for excitement, he wanders through the different circles of society which he commands access to by his wealth, talents, and station, to make experiments upon the extent of human selfishness. Such a man is sure to find amusement enough ; the pursuit is gratifying to his own self-esteem, and the game is of course sufficiently abundant to satisfy the bitterest cynic that ever took lantern in hand in mid-day to look for honesty. In the Continuation, the hero suffers himself to be convinced of the existence of virtue : he falls in love, and marries,—giving that last and most convincing proof of faith in human nature. It is in . accordance with Sydenham's character, and with the designs of his author, that this marriage should not he perpetrated in a hurry: suspicion and caprice necessarily protract the work to the close of the third volume. If we disliked the cynicism of the author, we lo not see that we are bound to go over with him, and all at once believe in the existence of a piece of perfection, and this • because it suits him that Sydenham should be married : it-would not have been in keeping with the delicate necessities of a novel, but it would have been far more in accordance with human nature, if a man of this hero's principles and habits had made a different end by having gone too far with some of his heartless experiments on the -fiat-catchers, and been himself caught,--or .if, in disgust with the hollowness of his own society, he had reverted to some nominally more sincere class, and found to his cost Mg hei had Made an error • in' his logic. Many of his reasonings are quite unsound enough to have admitted of such a catastrophe ; hut from the pen of such an author, and in the mouth of such a hero, we are quite disgusted with the sickening.perfection of the-family among wham he is ..at last thrown. -In Sydenham, we were utterly-confounded with the namby-pamby praise of the Paulets, and quite struck with the failure of every thing that related to 'Mrs. Majendie's- set (except, indeed, the grand overthrow of poor Beaumont's reign ) ; though then at a loss why so shrewd a man Should patch up so poor and dull a circle, we now see that it was the seed-bed out of which was to spring tap the heroine, and indeed the hero, of a future novel : the Mr. Paulet of Mrs. Majendie's set is the brother of Alice Paulet, and Alice Paulet is perfection, and becomes the wife Of the un- believing exquisite, Sir Matthew Sydenham. It is not the story of Sydenham that we have the slightest care for : we only lament that the necessity of stringing together these sketches should have led the author into so much that is poor and unseasoned by the condiment of either his wit or his malice. His forte is not in praise—it lies in truth : and when is praise truth, or at least the whole truth ? We like and can safely applaud the au- thor's analysis of the designs,motives, and disguises of personsmov- ing among the higher classes of society : we are struck bythe troth of many of his sketches of character : many of his dialogues are pointed, witty, and na1ural, some of his discussions highly dramatic. In the Sequel, the parts which have more especially struck uses in the best style are—the account of the death of the Dowager Lady Sydenham, the description of her toady, and the reading of her will. All the scenes which relate to the character and designs of that accomplished gamester and thorough-paced villain, Colo- nel Sydenham, are very clever, and perhaps superior to any part even of Sydenham itself. An election, in which, under the name of Sims, that poor creature Mr. HUNT is made to figure, is ad- mirably drawn. The author is a strenuous Tory, and fancies that by heaping, most justly, disgrace and contempt on this wretched mob-stirrer, he is attacking what is called the Liberal side of poli- tics ; which have as much to do with HUNT, or any similar per- son, as they have with the Pacha of Egypt. The Toryism of this clever writer would be lamentable, did we not perceive that it is only nominal : he never comes to principles, without granting all we could wish ; and as to persons, we agree with him, that there is not much to choose between the sets.
The extract which we select for the amusement of the reader,ns well as in illustration of the author, is the sketch of the Colonel Sydenham, to whose character; as being well drawn and admirably developed, we have already alluded. The following passageatT eludes his designs in returning to his native country. In addition to being an entertaining and spirited sketch of a modern man of fashion of a certain grade, the whole may be con- sidered as a practical commentary on the Aristocratical Accounts in another part of this paper.
" The gentleman with Whom the reader is thus made acquainted, was my father's younger and only brother. In conformity with that system
which sacrifices all the junior members of a family to the aggrandize- ment of its head, Richard Sydenham had scarcely emerged from a neg- lected boyhood, when he was sent out into the world with a scanty allow- ance as a subaltern in a fashionable regiment. Thus situated, it is not surprising that he should have given way to extravagance and vice, which is the general tendency of young men. He soon became initiated in the
worst parts of the knowledge of the world, and was, at an earlier age than usual, one of the most accomplished scoundrels in the service. He was handsome, insinuating, fashionable, daring, deceitful, dishonourable, heartless, selfish, and withal rather clever. By the time he had got his company,—for the Parliamentary interest of his family secured him pro- motion,—Captain Sydenham, besides other achievements, had killed a man in a duel, seduced a married lady and sundry girls, and was overwhelmed with debt. Knowing that it-was hopeless to look to his father for assist- ance, my uncle could extricate himself from his embarrassments only by his own talents and industry. Accordingly he studied play, and shortly became a proficient in that science. Fortune smiled upon him in the hells, and his skill and luck soon entitled him to be recognized as a pro- fessional le;. In order to have the best facilities in his new line, which could only be afforded by a constant residence in town, he exchanged into the Guards, and thenceforth, I believe, came in for a share of the spoils of most of the young men who took that road to ruin. Infamous as he was as a libertine, a gambler, and even a ruffian, yet such was the fascination of his accomplishments, that he was not only tolerated but caressed in the best society ;—thus affording an additional proof, if such were wanted, of the extreme importance of cultivating manners, which, in the eyes of the world, possess the virtue of charity, inasmuch as they cover .a multitude of sins. The reputation of a gamester, however, is as fragile as that of a woman ; which, though it may bear a great deal of in- discretion, may at length crack. Colonel Sydenham (for he attained that rank), after having played many suspicious tricks with impunity, was, after all, detected. He had won a large sum from a -youth of high rank, who murmured doubts, and hesitated to pay ; strong language ensued, and a duel—in short it was said to he an ugly business, and a court-mar- tial was spoken of. Under these circumstances Colonel Sydenham sent in his resignation to the Horse Guards, and withdrew to Paris—a scene more congenial to the advanced stage of the art to which he had attained. When I came to town,'I found the memory Of my uncle still fresh and celebrated, although he had been expatriated ten or eleven years, and was considered dead to his country—insomuch that when-my affair with Lady Oliphant was made known, I understood that it was a current saying at the Clubs, He is a chip of the old block: they're a bad breed those Sy- denhams ; we all remember what his uncle Richard of the Coldstream was. With this precious relative I had not much personal acquaintance, for my father saw as little of him as possible, and had no communication with his set. What brought him to England, therefore, and to my house, I could not divine; unless indeed he wanted money, in which case I.de: termined to supply his necessity,and to getrid of hinuas soon as possible, for his society wasas little to my fancy as it was to my credit. Whatever was his object in coming over, 1-did not apprehend that he purpoaed making a protracted stay in this country, the air of which- I presumed would-not be found to agree with his constitution. " Great, therefore, was my surprise and chaigin,when almost thefirst words which myuncle uttered the next -morning, communicated tome his intention of sitting down in.Englandlor the remainder of his days.
" ttrith much delicacy I hinted my surprise at this intimation, and my floubts whether he would find it convenient, or even practicable, to abide by such a determination.
" Oh,' cried he, carelessly, in reply to this remark, if you mean Wells- Bury's business, that has long blown over ; he was a fool, and, enraged at the loss of his money, accused me very absurdly ; but people have long Since seen the matter in its true light, and been convinced that I was not to blame, though prejudice ran high against me at the time. At all events, it's a dead letter, and I don't stand a bit the worse with the world on that account now.'
"`But what are your circumstances and views, if I may take the liberty of inquiring?' " Why, as to my circumstances, my dear Matthew, they are lame enough, and my views are to mend them ; in which I hope to have your assistance. Don't be alarmed—it is not your purse, but your information and interest that I want.'
" In what respects ?' " I intend to marry,' answered Colonel Sydenham; and to cultivate the pleasures of domestic life.' " To marry l' cried I, with unfeigned admiration. " ' Ay, to marry ; what is there strange in that resolution ?' " ' The resolution is certainly an excellent resolution; I am only afraid you will find it rather difficult to effect it, at least under those advanta- geous circumstances, without which, I presume, you would not think it worth your while to enter into that state.' " Why not ?'
" Oh, consider your time of life, my good Sir.' " What ! you think because I am not a boy, no woman will look at ? How self-sufficient you young fellows are ! But 1 don't want either youth or beauty ; though, if I made them essential points, I shouldn't despair of getting them, rarely as they are connected with for- tune, which is my principal object, and which I must have.' " But,' said I, ' there is, in my opinion, another difficulty still more formidable than your age. What woman do you suppose, young or old, would trust her fortune and happiness to such an extravagant, dissolute Veteran as you, my dear uncle ?' " ' That depends a good deal,' answered my uncle, upon the relatives, teho are generally d—d nuisances in these matters : but there are very few women who would really, of their own accord, feel a repugnance against me, for the reason you name : there might be some shyness and scruples at first, but they could easily be done away with by a very little manage. anent and tact. And as to my age, you really overrate it ; I am only nine- and-forty, and I don't think I look even so old : I am rather bald and grey, to be sure, but then, you frequently see young men of five-and- twenty almost as much so.' " Well, I heartily wish you success,' said 1; 'and I believe there is nothing like confidence and determination in promoting it. And upon whom is your first attempt to be made ?' "' How can I tell you, when I have not been a week in the country, and have as yet had no opportunity of making inquiries ? It is in this particular that I have, in the first place, to apply to you for informa- tion. You have been in the midst of every thing for these two years past, and of course know all the fortunes in the market. So give me a catalogue.'
" But what is your price?' " Fifty thousand at the very least.'
" ' Let me see; there's Miss Webster, the tailor's daughter, 150,0001. three per cents. ; Miss Lazarus, 100,0001.; Miss Grooby, fee-simple, 10,0001. a-year, out of guardianship ; Miss Mallison, 6,0001. a-year, remainder intail, present tenant old and sickly ; Miss Webb, 4,000/. a year, copyhold; Miss Hodgson, West Indian property, averages 5,0001. but uncertain ; Miss Babbage, 9,000/. a year, capital 60,0001. invested in houses ; Miss Richardson, co-heiress, 70,0001., ward of Chancery; Duchess of Cirencester, jointure 7,0001.; Mrs. Playfair, jointure, two shares in a railway, supposed 4,000/. a year, but uncertain. There are several other widows whom I could name with less jointures. You have them at all ages ; those whom I have named run from seventeen to seventy'
" Well,' said mv uncle, but are there none nearer home? Is there not a Miss Jephson or Jackson in this neighbourhood ?'
" You mean, I suppose, the ci.devant waggoner's daughter, Jackson, who bought Sir William Merrivale's place ?'
" I dare say. She is an heiress, is she not ?' "'Yes, but entirely dependent upon her father, who is a hale man, and will last twenty years longer at least,' I replied, for I preferred setting my uncle upon a distant scent; ' I should not recommend you to try that quarter.' " Perhaps you have marked her for yourself, Matthew ?' rejoined Colonel Sydenham ; if you have, say so, because I would not on any account poach upon your manor' " I have no thought of her, I assure you' " You really have none ?' " None, upon my honour' " 'What is her age ?' " About four or five-and-twenty, I should think' " Handsome or plain?' "'Neither the one thing nor the other, rather good-looking, perhaps.' " Clever ?'
"' I cannot tell you, for I have seen her only once, and then scarcely exchanged a word with her' " 'Are her manners pretty good ?'
"' I should hardly say they are vulgar, but she has not an air du monde.' " No, of course not; one doesn't expect that. Did she appear to you to be free from affectation ?'
" Why, yes' " `Um ! very well,' said my uncle, musingly ; this Miss Jackson is just the thing, I see ; at all events I will try her during the recess, when I have nothing else to do. If I don't succeed before spring, I can but go to town, where, by having several strings to my bow, I should be secure of one at least. As to the city women, I fear there would he but a bad chance with them, for they are generally whipped up by those d—d Scotch and Irish peers who allure them with their beggarly coronets' "
We should not he sorry to see a second sequel of Sydenham; in which, as the hero is married, love would be left out of course— though there would be place for carrying on the white intrigues with which Sydenham used to amuse himself and draw out his friends. The author claims a high rank among the choice spirits of the day, and must not let his wit grow rusty. He takes perhaps a sounder view of human nature than Mr. WARD ; and though both deal in sermons and speeches, he is far more lively than the author of Tremaine. Tremaine and Sydenham are, however, of the same faMily—branches of the great Childe Harold race. Mr.. BULWER'S Pelham—somewhat of a less bony breed, and perhaps- rather a resemblance than a relative—does not go so deep into the principles of society as Sydenham, and aims more at the exhibition of manners than motives. The author of Vivian Grey is a com- pound of the two ; though the eye of this painter has a far less range than in the admirable writers we have just mentioned, and has latterly permitted his talents to be utterly misapplied in an ex- aggerated and false-coloured picture of the most contemptible species of 'fashionable life. Wanting the justness of Mr. WARD'S coup d'ceil, the acuteness of the author of Sydenham, and tha variety and brilliancy of Mr. BULWER'S fancy, he has suffered him- self to he drawn into an exhibition of society as unlike life as an opera at the King's Theatre.