21 NOVEMBER 1891, Page 37

The Lady of Raven's Combe. By E. H. Dering. 2

vols. (Art and Book Company.)—The closely printed pages of Mr. Dering's new story present anything but an attractive appearance, and inspire the very infrequent wish for an additional volume. Even with the physical aid given by more open typography, The Lady of Raven's Combe would prove somewhat heavy reading. The narra- tive, while somewhat old-fashioned in structure, is not in itself devoid of interest, though it is lacking in form, and is sadly in need of compression ; but as a work of art, the book is spoiled by the constant intrusion of reflections upon philosophical and theological topics with which—apropos of anything or of nothing— the hero is always ready. More than one novel with a polemical purpose has been described as a pamphlet in disguise, but Mr. Dering's novel is a pamphlet without disguise,—or rather, the domino of fiction has so many rents that the garb of the contro- versialist reveals itself everywhere. Even the logic of the passages where logic has all its own way, is frequently shaky. For example, the argument on page 58, that if the Gospels are true, the Pope is necessarily infallible, will be found convincing only by those who do not need to be convinced ; and, indeed, the weak point of The Lady of Raven's Combe, as of most polemical novels, is found in the fact that it appeals to the wrong set of people. The Catholic may find it edifying, but the Protestant can hardly find it convincing, and both Catholic and Protestant will feel it to be deficient in the special qualities by which fiction is rendered attractive. Mr. Dering writes like a scholar and a gentleman ; unfortunately, we cannot add, like an artist.