1 MARCH 1873, Page 21

ONLY EVE.* Tilts is a clever story, and very far

from common-place in its conception, though there are crude elements in the plot. We may safely predict concerning it, that few who read the first chapter will care to lay the book down till they have finished it ; and yet the interest is seldom dependent on the plot, which is simple enough, and free from all superfluous mystery. The scene of the story is laid in Framborough, a small manufacturing town in the midland counties, about the beginning of the present century, we conclude, but on this point our authoress is delightfully vague, so vague we have really been quite interested in the pursuit of some clue which might define the period for us, but it has always eluded our grasp. First, we found it was at a time when sofas were considered an innovation abhorrent to the well-regulated middle-class mind, and thought we had but to fix the important date when that could have been the case ; but a little further on we find one of the speakers seated on an "old-fashioned sofa." Then we ascertained it was long before the days of trains. Yet we found " cabs ' always waiting for our travellers when they arrived in London. Then we were thrown further back by finding one man reading from a newspaper to his friends an account of the Gordon Riots, while the writings of Cobbett were on his neighbour's book-shelf ;

but then we considered the newspaper was an old one. Perhaps it might have lain many a year undisturbed. We gave it up,

content that the story did not depend for its interest on any such adventitious circumstance as the year in which it was enacted, but the writer would do well in her next story (we hope we may have many more from her pen) to take a little more care on this point.

We have not the slightest intention to place this story in shreds before our readers. It is quite too interesting as a whole to be given in small pieces, but we may indicate one or two of its principal features. "The economy of the social system at Framborough was rather peculiar. There were no evenings at home. Its traditions for generations had been musical and political." And we may add, there was a women's whist club, for the elder ladies, the conversations at which in the intervals of play are very skilfully delineated. Mrs. Lunn

is never didactic, never commits the fault (so intolerable in the poorest, so forgivable in the best novelists) of commenting on her own characters. They say all the good things that are said, and that in the quietest and most unconscious way. The few

words in which she introduces her characters before we can know them or they can speak for themselves, show how great must have been the temptation to come before the curtain occa- sionally as apologist or interpreter ; at the same time there is an occasional vagueness and almost oddity of expression which gives some of these passages a certain enigmatic character. There is George Cameron, "with nothing ameliorative about him, cap-

tious in conversation, exacting more intelligence and higher principle than he was likely to meet with, and neither tolerable as an opponent, nor grateful as a partisan. The actual superiority of his character, being opposed to the genius of success, was not acceptable." What precisely does Mrs. Lunn mean by " ameliora- tive " here ? and is not the adjective "acceptable," in the sense of "popular," a little unusual? The struggle in Mr. Cameron's nature is well represented in his response to his mother's endeavour to rouse him to a more active effort in the redemp- tion of his falling fortunes. "I know what you would say, mother ; each man ought to be the centre of a system at my age, and take care he does not absorb all his own life and heat. I

dare say if the plunge were once made into such a novel state, one could get adapted. A new sense has been known to develop itself under exacting circumstances." It is no mean praise to say, by the time we are half-way through these volumes we know George Cameron and his mother intimately. We

find the two in the first page of the story, "having a few words. This was no unusual occurrence with them ; it did not mean much ; but they were both rather irritable, and having in their dispositions more sensitiveness than forbearance, their hearth was sometimes aglow with fires the Charities would not have kindled." George's devotion to music to the exclusion of business was a sore trial to the more practical mother, but here is a further glimpse of them, when for months the dread of deafness has been

upon the son :—

" After a while he took the violono out of its case and put it tenderly in its old place between his knees. Then he paused; with what dread lest the sweet and delicate harmonies should be lost to him for ever, any musician can imagine. For two months he had not dared to evoke a sound from this precious companion ; ho would tarry no longer, now Onry Ere. By Mrs. J. Calbraith Limn, London.: Sampson Low and Co. 1813. that he had gone through what must surely be the worst. He was nervous and trembled, feeling ae if he were about to stake all that was worth living for. The marriage between the new bow and the in-

strument that had gone thorough so much had to be accomplished, and it was a crucial affair. Preseutly some good music came, certainly not so full and rich as of yore ; and at each pause the seething noise in his ears was very distressing. Twice he started up and flung his bow aside, feeling ready to wreak a surer destruction on the violono than the rioters had effected ; but at each renewed attempt there was more to be satisfied with. Then he opened the hook of the 'Messiah' and went on from one glory to another, gaining confidence end joy, till enthusiasm was quick within his soul, awl he became as rapt and triumphant as he had ever been. He came to the end, conqueror over the dreaded fate, having lost nothing. The great master's grandeur was as unique, his pathos as exquisite, his genius as accordant as ever, to the faithful translator. What the tried, thankful man did then, in his great, glorified surprise, need not be told. Assured that his sense for music was exquisite still, he played hour after hour—to interpret, his appreheusion was not dead, or even dulled. It was nothing miraculous, the cause was evident enough. His soul had been pene- trated by the music of the masters till ho had become independent of his outward ears. He was a type. in a single direction, of what we must eventually all become, in every capacity, before the purpose of being is fulfilled here. When his mother, unable to most for care about him, crept back to his door and looked in, she marvelled to see a quiet smile on his face and the old sympathetic motion flitting about his brow and lips. She smiled, too, as if she had divined a new and pleasant truth, thinking, indeed, that even genius could make right its ways. Quite unconscious of her presence, Cameron said, as he replaced the faithful instrument,

might have trusted, if I had not knO1r11. What matters a sense, more or less, when one's soul is true ?' After that night Cameron was, at any rate, better prepared to meet the isolated lot he had to bear; and after that watch he never heard a word from the true-hearted and penitent mother in disparagement of the violono or his musical and miscellaneous extravagances."

And then, again, we have Mrs. Cameron with Bernard Fielding, the young enthusiast and poet :— "The old lady, with all her peculiarities, could always talk with Bernard more freely than with George, because age. if lived up to pro- perly, has a mom delicate perception, and does not permit so many dis- tractions as must surround a man in middle life. She and Bernard were nearer to the source of inspiration, though her face, being turned towards the mount of visions, was the more divinely illuminated. The light and freedom of his mind were particularly grateful to her; the precision and sternness of her own clear intellect having fair play without any painful recoiL" Once more :— " Mrs. Cameron kept a long, anxious watch that night, hoping her son might come to her, and fearing to meet him in his disappointment if he did, until she heard him leave his music-room and ascend the stairs. He passed her door, but she called him, and he came. Lifting her knitting. she worked nervously and with a trembling hand as she said, would depart to-morrow, and with a vast content, could I but see you and Mary Elton hand-in-hand. This may not seem to be say- ing much, considering bow long I have been here and how many have gone before ; nevertheless, it is hard to go with this yearning for my one, lonely sou. I know what loneliness means ; and it makes me more loath than is seemly to go my way, lcaviug thee, George Cameron, without a soul to leek to when I am gone. Is it all over, then ?' "

Of Mary Elton we have not space to say a word; our readers must learn to know her for themselves ; bat of Eve it behoves us to say something ; for it is in the management of the strictly musical part of the story that Mrs. Lunn appears to succeed best. There is much of which it would be easy to qu-stion the truthfulness in the other parts of the tale. Eve, when we are first introduced to her, is a waif, without a name ; " Only Eve," singing in the rain, barefooted and shivering, under Cameron's window. But the lead- ing thought in the authoress's mind, which runs through the greater part of her story, and to which it is subordinate, is the power of music to ally itself to the drama in suchform as to become its highest interpreter. This it cannot be said to do for us as a nation in the Italian opera nor in the oratorio, where, as Cameron remarks, it interprets God rather than man. An ardent disciple of Gliick, our authoress has woven all his theories in a harmonious whole in her own mind, realised and idealised the whole, and burns with the desire that some fitting representation of the highest and deepest thoughts which at this moment agitate the hearts of men should find their expression in music allied to English words. The conversation which takes place in Bernard Fielding's room best illustrates her meaning as near as we can get it, we think. A fine little bust of Gluck occupies the place of honour at Handers right hand, over it is an illuminated monogram, "Art is great as it iuterprets humanity" Serle's music?' Mr. Cameron asked, looking cruelly clever and critical I at Bernard. 'Remember year new-fangled opera needs a poet who can ! represent man in his highest and deepest estate, humanity in all its ; greatness, as well as a musical composer who can wed word and music, , and put the soul of the universe into living relation with himself and all others. You must have lived a good deal, young man.'—' You own, then, that the traditional opera has not so grand aims as this you call our innovation? ' Mr. Serie asked, rousing himself a trifle from his cushioned ease.—' It is a simple thing to get up a musical entertain- meet to please some dilettante advocates of human nature, who would give to play-acting seine diviner reason for being. What would you have finer than Mozart's operas ? Do they not move you enough ?' Would you have every sense in such extravagant activity that you can- not distinguish your ears from your eyes ?'—' They are beautiful, but statuesque.—we want more flesh and blood,' said Saris, who certainly had no superfluity of these things in his own presentation.—' We _rent to express our highest idea in the noblest language,' Miss Serb e added, her fine personality ignoring the material illustration of her brother.— ' And what is your highest idea, madam ?' Cameron asked, rather dis- dainfully. Dinoralfe flue style being exasperating.—' The passions of our humanity,' she said, with similar curtness,—' I would rather get out beyond them and suffer my soul to float in the unpeopled regions.. I have enough of humanity.' Mr. Cameron turned his left shoulder towards the accomplished Miss Sane, and watched Mary Elton's fineers as they softly and silently wove an hIle pattern of mimic lace..

• We may got our inspiration from the unpeopled regions, but we must warm it and realise it amongst men, or it will never set any mark upon us, either for our own nobility or for God's recognition,' Bernard said, with the certainty of his reverent youth. His own fine soul made a ready sanctuary of every other, and he entered with enthusiasm into- this idea, that would make the art he gloried in the language, not only of its sister arts of poetry and eloquence and form, but of the mighty life of the human world, condensing and revealing it in the only way all can see and understand."

Eve's whole history, through an infinite variety of scenes, leads up to her becoming prima donna in Serle's opera. The two chapters in which this opera is suggested and described would alone vindicate for the authoress a right to belong in a true sense to this- artist world. The effort must have taken as much courage as ability, though for that matter, no strong passion is conscious of its own daring, and with the writer of this story music is evidently a passion. At the risk of doing the authoress injustice, we must outline what this opera was intended to be. "Ezra," she has called it. And the curtain rises on,— " A chain of mountains, with the clearly-defined outlines of an Oriental atmosphere, bounded the distance ; the Temple of Jerusalem, exquisitely- drawn, was recognised ; and beside it stood a group of sacerdotal and princely magnates of the East. A priest in a white serge robe with broidei:ed hem of gold and scarlet and blue, occupied a central place by the steps of the temple. His attitude was intense and sorrow-stricken, for he e-as listening to the grievous story of the Hebrew princes, who. sang of the wrong the Israelites had committed against their faith and nation by their numerous alliances with foreign countries. Their tone was low and plaintive, but not wholly sorrowful, their manner being tinged with a certain triumph as they proceeded, as if they would fain be proud of the informer's mission. Pointing towards the glittering domes and minarets that rose on either hand, they indicated, with eager, trembling fingers, that the offenders were shamelessly polluting by their presence the Holy City; and their voices rose as they concluded, in- dignantly.—' And the children that are thhealcliteyomofeouito- fathers shall come to declare of their sacred

minister in the Temple of the Holy One—to be put shame before the nations, because of the trespass of their fathers.' The white-robed priest bowed before the evil tidings as if smitten with sorrow and shame ; and when the informers withdrew he was prostrate before the temple, with hidden face. As a gleam of rosy light from the setting sun announced the hour of evening sacrifice, a boy came from the temple door bearing a gorgeous breastplate of precious stones engraved with many great and reverend names. The priest put away the sacred symbol with gesture of dismay and grief, and, rising to his knees, he- turned towards the audience and sang, with grand pathos and fervour, his confession and denunciation of tho people's sin, beginning am ashamed, and I blush to lift up my face. From the days of our fathers- have we been wanderers, and in trouble, and in captivity, and in confusion of face."

And so from scene to scene, till the word goes forth that the Hebrews shall put away their wives which they have taken from from among the heathen. Kelita, one of the Temple singers, is robing for the service, while Eve, the radiant Egyptian wife, fastens about his neck the golden chains of the sacred vestment :—

" Ag she looked into his face the passionate aspiration of her soul illumined her beautiful countenance. She was pleading with her bus-- band that she might no longer be isolated from his faith and daily devotion, but be a witness of the glories and a sharer of the prerogatives she had learned, through him, to venerate supremely. Still, anxious that ho should not think her unmindful of his love and care, she chanted a charming recitative, with glowing smile and love-lighted eyes, the tone of her voice and manner changing, however, as the melody proseciled until the sympathetic listeners seemed all woe- begone :- 'Love mingles light and My with everything, like sunshine in the valley of Ilrfr youth. A very paradise my home is seeming; ay. sweeter far than any primal Eve's, for little ones are playing in our bowers; and thou art more than Adam

unto Eve,—thou art my priest, belovbd Kelits!

'Then take me with thee to the temple shrine; My soul is all athirst for thy glad call:

Oh, bid me not be happy like the flowers,— Whisper no longer, "Love is all in all!"

The lily's cup that earthly dew has fin],

Ere now a cola, earth-blight has touch'd and UN.

'Thou bast a holler love than aught of mine! I feel its spirit breathing in thy kiss:

When may I sing before the temple shrine ? Oh, bid me not sing, star-like in by heavens: The quivering stars burn with celestial light, Or, drawn by earth's base aliens, sink in night.'

Kelita, replying with the accustomed kiss and look of tender yet calm superiority, inevitable in one so supreme, added,— 'Thou art my Eve, belovhd one, the sweet and holy music of my life! Yet the temple brooks no stranger's foot; and art not thou an alien?' 'No alien, if thy wife,—

For all these years, 0 Kelita some love has been teaching me, That Ile who made thy soul for Him made my soul for thee.' ''

Then, after another scene of some beauty, Kelita announces to Eve the doom which has fallen upon her ; the girl has her part tiegistain, but struck by some new and uulooked-for agony, forgets it, and improvises a more beautiful one. The part of Kelita had been borne by Bernard Fielding, and Eve's subsequent explana- tion to Serie, which contains perhaps a shade or two too much of the sentimental in it, will give the reader some insight into the girl's nature. Eve is speaking :—

" ,It was no panic that came upon me, but it strange and terrible revelation that rose up at once, as if my soul had spoken with its one true master.'—' Well, dear, and what was the revelation ?'—' You see, Mr. Serie,' Eve began quietly, but warming and flushing as she pro- ceeded, 'we singing women have to cultivate every sense; we have to make ourselves beautiful by all means, and we must learn how to feel the most intensely what is beautiful and good, and then to put it into our very souls, to kindle and glow till it lives and shines before the world ; and yet the clear crystal urn is not to be stained or even touched by the quickening fire. Every time we sing we are like flowers open- ing their inmost heart to the sunshine, and the rays go in and warm .-and sweeten every little nook till all is colour, and blies, and glow.'

'Then all at once we find we are not these calm receptive flowers, but women, and with every feeling and hue of life crushed in our hearts, or world-shamed.'—'I cannot follow the argument to its result,' said Serb, deliberating in tone, but with a belying sparkle in his eye. Whence do tho flowers get this fair wisdom? There must be a whisper or sign made from without. Nothing evolves sponta- neously, not even women.' "

But we are spoiling 3frs. Lunn's work by thus giving detached morsels torn from their proper setting. We can only recommend our readers to get the book for themselves, though they will pro- bably regret with us, that either through want of space, or time, -or some other cause, Mrs. Lunn has made the last pages of her story so hurried and indefinite as almost to suggest that they are the work of another hand.