25 AUGUST 1866, Page 19


Tamaz is a certain class of books most valuable to people who object to using their brains, and 'who need some plausible excuse for dreaming away what should be the waking hours of life. Readers of this kind are content to listen to the platitudes of love- sick young maidens, and whilst -anything approaching an exciting scene might startle them from theirreverie, they are satisfied if in the course of the -story there are a few trifling disappointments ; and if one of -the characters turns out to be a naughty boy or girl, and is punished accordingly. Fortunately,for this section of what people are pleased to call ".the reading public," there are to be found authors, or rather authoresses, who are ready to inset all these requirements, and to produce such ;Woke Feliaia'e.Dowry, in which the spell is not too rudely broken but the " linked sweetness long drawn out " through three orthodox volumes.

Felicia's Dowry may=be safely read by 'the meet nervous people without any danger.Of a shock. Even the elopemeut :Which ends ,the story is beautifully calm, and the louses and heroines do • Feciciaa,a(nors. . Fitzmvtice Qatasii. .Loadoe: Ultra Ati4d 1860.

nothing and say nothing which the most enthusiastic advocate of diaries would consider worthy of a chronicle. , Mr. and Mrs. Meriton are the happy parents of two sons and three daughters. The eldest son shortly after the beginning of the story marries Felicia, the fast character of the book, who has a great deal of money, and who, finding that her husband, like the rest of the Meriton family, is not blessed with brains, prefers a bad man to a stupid one, and elopes with one Lord Belgravia, a fashionable male flirt. This is the event of the story, but events are in Felicia's Dowry arrived at by a very slow process, all the more wearisome from the reader's guess- ing them beforehand, for before reaching the end of the first volume he feels thoroughly acquainted with the contents of the third. The Meritons p'ere and mere are unselfishly fond of their daughters, and the eldest having married at seventeen, they are described as being impatiently desirous of advancing the matri- monial prospects of the other two, Kate and Adele. Unfortunately, however, for these young ladies and their prospects, they had as neighbours a family of Elliots, which likewise numliered several young ladies on the permanent staff ; and a gallant Colonel Grant, who was supposed to be exactly the husband for Kate Meriton, had the bad taste to fall in love with and marry Margaret Elliot. This is the sort of incident of which the book is made up. Miss Adele, too, has a chance of a husband marred by a rival beauty— this time not an Elliot. Lord Belgravia—before his elopement— is introduced to the family of Meritons, and received by them with the enthusiasm which a real live lord excites, and Adele determines not to refuse to bestow on his Lordship her youthful affections. She says to her sister, "Don't fall in love with him, Kate." " I don't mean to fall in love with him," says Kate. " Why ?" " Because," says Adele, " I do," and she does. Mr. and Mrs. Meriton soon dis- cover that Lord Belgravia has induced Adela to write to him during his absence, so the next time Mr. Meriton sees that noble lord, which happens to be on the day of the discovery, the following conversation occurs :—

" Belgravia,' said Mr. Marlton, producing from his pocket Adela's unlucky epistle almost as soon as they were alone, ' I have a letter here in my youngest daughter's writing addressed to you. It came by pure accident into my hands. Now, an open correspondence between cousins would be quite simple, but no man knows better than yourself that a clandestine one requires explanation. The letter is, you perceive, unopened; and if you tell me that it is a letter to you from a lady you desire to make your wife, I shall place it still unopened in your hands.' Lord Belgravia, man of the world as he was, had been taken greatly by surprise. He coloured deeply. For a moment he hesitated. It was only for a moment, however. Then he said It is such a letter, Mr. Meriton.' and received it, and instantly broke the seal, Mr. Meriton again moving forward in the direction of the house. 'Do your daughter,' said Lord Belgravia, when his eye had rapidly scanned the contents of the paper, the justice to read it.' Mr. Meriton, however, waved it from him. Its contents, that gentleman said, were immaterial."

Our readers' curiosity is naturally aroused to learn the con- tents of an amatory epistle such as this conversation leads one to expect. It is not our fault if we are unable fully to gratify that curiosity, and if Adela's billet-doux is one of the most common- place of common-place letters. Here it is :— " Dzea Loan Bzuntsvx.i,—We were very glad to see that the man who tumbled out of your yacht, and was so long in the water, recovered after all. I suppose the season for yachting is nearly over. I am sure I hope it is, for I think the water is always very dangerous. We are quite well ; and Kate and I are beginning to look forward to the West- ford Ball. Frank and Mrs. Frank are at Weymouth, as perhaps you may have heard. They like being there very much, but I suppose they will return to Coleworth in time for the November gaieties.— Believe me, dear Lord Belgravia, yours very sincerely,

" ADEL& Marffrow." Mr. Meriton's sternness has for the moment prevailed, however, and Adele becomes the betrothed of the unwilling Lord Bel- gravia. Of course the parents were delighted ; delay to them was torment. " Mr. Meriton would willingly have had his daughter a viscountess, and even Mrs. Meriton beheld with some regret the wedding deferred till the spring." In the meantime Kate accom- panies Felicia to Silvermount, the abode of Lord and Lady A—, where of course Felicia flirts, and looks sentimentally at a bracelet on her arm, and says many lackadaisical things which quite perplex her sister-in-law as to her singular demeanour.

One fine morning the Meriton family were startled by the appearance in a newspaper of the following paragraph :—

" A painful rumour, comprising a nobleman whose name has recently occupied an interesting position in the columns of this paper, and a young and beautiful married woman of a rank less conspicuous than his own, gains ground so rapidly in the Clubs, and other places where persons of fashion congregate, that it would be affectation in us to ignore it. We notice it, however, but as a rumour which we earnestly hope may yet receive authoritative contradiction. We hope this the more, because we hear of circumstances that render the affair, if true, a far more than ordinarily sad one." The " painful rumour" was founded on fact. Lord Belgravia had gone off with Felicia. Adela's grief was not such as we should have expeCted from a deserted maiden. " She availed herself of a severe cold . . . . maintained a strict seclusion in her own apartuient, occupied herself with her hook, her worsted work, her beef tea, and her water gruel, made no sign, and permitted no sympathy." It's an ill wind that blows nobody good. Her sister Kate, finding that lords are not always irreproachable or the people most to be desired as husbands, resolves to accept a humble suitor, George Dalton by name, whose addresses she had previously rejected.

Felicia, divorced by her husband, is married by Lord Belgravia, and the new bride and bridegroom are represented as entertaining a select number of noble personages at their country mansion t It only remains to explain that Felicia had known and loved Lord Belgravia while she was at a boarding•school in the days of her- education—if education it could be called—and that the bracelet over which she sighed contained a likeness of the worthy lord. Such is a sketch of a story of which the highest praise we can give is that it is comparatively harmless, that it is not so bad as the ever increasing pile of novels the object of which seems to be to represent vice as worthy of pity, rather than of blame, and purity of thought and nobleness of action as belonging to an age that is past. Happily they still live, and they still win our admiration even in some novels we could name. That a noble lord can elope with the wife of his fiancee's brother, and afterwards marrying her, invite his chosen friends to do her honour, may serve to point a moral, but it is a little chain of events that by no means adorns a tale.