READING Mr. Reade's story is very like examining the contents of a heap of pearl oysters. There is a good deal of time to be lost, a great deal of surplusage to be removed, much refuse, ahd a very perceptible effluvium ; but who thinks of these things when the gems are so near, so numerous, and so rate? The critic of Hard Cash is conscious, unavoidably, of a quantity of useless writing, of empty tirades in an unintelligible dialect like those of Di. Sampson, of a mass of apparent exaggerations, and of one or two scenes like those between Mrs. Archbold and Hardie, which somehow smell. But if he loves his work he forgets to be wroth, to condemn, even sometimes to feel annoyed, as he draws out pearl after pearl, gems of description, and thought, and analysis, and masculine English writing, and recognizes that beneath all that brightness lies a wealth of philanthropic passion. Even the eccentric one of the author's two styles,—for he uses two even when speaking in his own person,—with its streaky cleverness and dashes of half-artificial colour seems to him by degrees a fitting shell for the gem which absorbs his interest, till, as he closes the book, it is with the sense that criticism of any kind is almost out of place. The work, to be done is to smooth the way to appreciation. When the whole form is so beautiful what is the value of analysis, when the face beams with expression, why apply a measuring rule to the eyelash ? We do not dissect the live, and if there be such a thing as a live book this is alive, throbbing with living characters and incidents the reader can believe—not to mention one or two which he can't after lie has laid the book down—and descriptions such as might make the best photographers among us weary with admiration. What good in pointing out that Dr. Sampson is a bore, who talks a language * Hard auh. By Charles Reads. London: Sampson Low and Co.
no educated man, Scotch or Southron, ever Spoke, When we have Lucy Dodd, nee Lucy Fountain, the "innocent fox" of" Love inc little Love me long" developed into the wife and mother, still the
same woman, with the same trick of society which is not affecta- tion, so honest and yet so crafty? We cannot recollect that it has ever been fairly painted before, and yet who, in real life, has not
noticed that craft of thoroughly good women when they happen also to be singularly clever, which makes us, till we see the result, half doubt their honesty of purpose? Lucy Dodd is perfect, and so is Julia, espiegle but loveable, and Edward all force and no brains, and Captain Dodd, and, above all, Mrs. Archbold, whom anybody but Mr. Made would have deprived of all his readers' sympathy. It is not given, fortu- nately, to everybody to know a Mrs. Archbold, a woman utterly brave and unprincipled, without a heart as Englishmen under- stand that word, indeed will an undeveloped capacity for tigerish cruelty, yet a woman capable of deep love and ordinary human feeling. Yet there are few who will not, as they read of her, recognize that she might exist, that her painter's only mistake
—if it he one—consists in giving her a white skin. That is the Maharanee of Lahore, the Ranee of nausea, the Begum of Oudo, the woman who mingles and is foremost in every great Indian iuci- dent and Whose existence so dreadfully puzzles those who conceive that the "seclusion of the harem" must produce feeble natures. We do not know in fiction a character more frightfully real than Mrs. Archbold, with her complete control alike over lunatics and
their more uncontrollable keepers. Or where is the advantage of pointing out that Sampson's tirades against medicine are wearisome, that lie himself is an impossible person, and that all he says and most that he does can be skipped with advantage, when we are forced in the next breath to con• fess that in the sea scenes Marryat has at last found a rival, and that the trial scene, though without an incident, is is feel as if it bad been reported in to-day's law proceedings? There are in these volumes fifty incidents, each of which would make the fortune of the regular sensation novel ; and they happen to people, people who can be nipped, and not to literary tailors' blocks—to people whom the author knows so thoroughly that he can re-create them, even in a demi-Carlyle, demi-Charles- Reade sketch like this:—
"Mr. Fullalove was a Methodist parson—to the naked eye : grave, saber, lean, lank-haired. But some men are bidden fires. Fullalove was one of the extraordinary products of an extraordinary nation, the United States of America. He was an engineer for one thing, and an inventive and practical mechanician; held two patents of his own creating, which yielded him a good income both at home and in Great Britain. Such results are seldom achieved without deep study and seclusion : and accordingly Joshua Fullalove, when the inventive fit was on, would be buried deep as Archimedes for a twelvemonth, burning the midnight oil ; then, his active element predominating, the pale student would dash into the forest or the prairie, with a rifle and an Indian, and come out bronzed, and more or leas bepantherod or bebutraloed ; thence invariably to sea for a year or two ; there, Anglo-Saxon to the backbone, his romance had ever an eye to business; be was always after foreign mechanical inven- tions—he was now importing an excellent one from Japan—and ready to do lucrative feats of knowledge : thus he bought a Turkish ship at the bottom of the Dardanelles for twelve hundred dollars, raised her cargo(hard- ware), and sold it for six thousand dollars ; then weighed the empty ship, pumped her, repaired her, and navigated her himself into Boston harbour, Massachusetts. On the way he resoued, with his late drowned ship, a Swedish vessel, and received salvage. He once fished eighty elephants' tusks out of a craft foundered in the Firth of Forth, to the disgust of elder Anglo-Sazons looking on from the shore. These unusual pursuits were varied by a singular recreation : he played at elevating the African character to European levels. With this view he had bought Vespasian for 1,800 dollars ; whereof anon. America is fertile in mixtures : what do we not owe her ? Sherry cobbler, gin sling, cocktail, mint julep, brandy smash, sudden death, eye openers. Well, one day she outdid herself, and mixed Fullalove: Quaker, Nimrod, Archimede, Philan- thropist, decorous Red Rover, and What Not."
It is for Mr. Beetle's own sake, and not as criticism, that we ask him why he will not recall his own beautiful work, Christie
Johnstone, and excise the rubbish amidst which his readers dis- cover the pearls ? Why pile up the horror in his madhouse scenes, when his lighter touches arc so effective ; why roar at the doctors when his whisper can, if that be his object, make them look so absurd ; Why, with his wealth of imagination, invent ineidents like that of Captain Docld'e catalepsy under water, or why not have tried to make young Hardie a little less pedantic and wooden, when in contact with the real 'miseries of life ; and old Hardie a little more human when his panic terror for his gold ceases to press immediately upon him ? Why not, in fact, have gone over his story after its appearance in "All the Year Round," and mercilessly pruned away all that struck his own taste as redundant or offensive ? Much must have done so, or he could never have created Lucy Dodd.
The pearls would then have been strung, and novel readei a have been grateful for two volumes in which there was not a word they honestly wished away. As we have said, criticism is very much wasted on Mr. Reade; but the longing of those who appre- ciate his varied powers to see him for once exert them without the lumbering drapery in which he chooses to work, ought not to be.
We must, we suppose, say something as to the social purpose with which Hard Cash has been written, and that something can only be an expression of doubt. With the end in view, the im- position of further restraints upon the possible abuse of our lunacy laws, we most heartily sympathize. So entirely do we appreciate the possibility of the imprisonment of the sane among the insane from interested motives, that we would even go the length of abolishing all private asylums, and making the doctors' certificate legal only when addressed to a State establish- ment. The interest there, is to cure the patient, not to keep him, as it must be while human nature endures, in all but the best pri- vate establishments. If Mr. Reade, by his horrible descriptions,can stir up the public to demand any guarantee beyond those already required, he has our hearty sympathy. But can he ? Our impres- sion is that of those who do not skip his horrors—an inveterate practice with the very class be wishes to interest—the majority will believe his accounts coloured for an artistic purpose. Mr. Reade affirms that every detail he has given can be proved, and, indeed, that he has sufficient evidence in his own hands ; and we can well believe him. The three worst incidents of madhouse life,--=the use of water for torture, the refusal of communication with the .outside world, and the horrible position of really dangerous lunatics, can be demonstrated from evidence on oath, though they are not all likely to have passed under one patient's eyes. But, granting the evidence forthcoming, would not a single letter in the daily journals have done more to ex- tinguish the abuse than these three volumes ? Mr. Reade acknowledges that it would, for in this very tale the instrument which liberates the victim from incessant persecution is a letter telling his story, and telling it well, till all England reads it, and it would be as dangerous to touch him as to arrest a popular hero while haranguing a crowd. The story of poor Porter of Flushing would have appeared incredible in a novel ; but a single letter in the Times, signed by a recognized name, rendered all similar acts of cruelty too dangerous for continu- ance. The mingling of fiction with fact in the style of these volumes too often throws a cloud over the truth, and gives the public, and specially the official public—which, warned by long experience, never believes anything—an idea that their sym- pathies are excited, as in a French novel, simply to increase the popularity of the book. It is, of course, open to Mr. Reads to reply that his business is to write novels and not political letters ; but then be must consent to have his madhouse scenes judged apart from their purpose, and wholly from the novelist's point of view. From that point they are too horrible for true art, excite the same sort of loathing as an anatomical picture ; and will be shunned by all, and they are many, who cannot endure a day's fit of disgust, and tremor, and unavailing wrath, even for the sake of enjoying the power of Mr. Kende. This, however, is rather a doubt than an assertion. There may be classes, approachable in no other way, who may rise from this description of at least possible horrors with a resolution to enquire, to do their duty by the insane more keenly as visiting justices, magistrates, commissioners, and members, than they have ever done before. It is certain that thousands will realize the power of a theory like Dr. Wycherley's to blind the percep- tions and deaden the feelings as they have never realized it yet, and that is something gained. We must add that the charge of libelling the keepers of "retreats" en masse which has been brought against Mr. Reade is simply not true. No pleasanter picture could be drawn than that of Dr. Wyeherley's establish- ment, where the intention is to cure, and the only things denied to the pstients are liberty, justice, and their rights.