A.MABEL; OR THE 'VICTORY OF LOVE..
Tins fiction displays ability of a high kind, though probably rather adapted to the description of life, or to reflection upon its various conditions and trials, than to its exhibition in connected story. Miss Wormeley has considerable knowledge of society, much skill in depicting its persons and salient features, with the penetration to pierce below. the surface and appreciate the good that may lurk under bad manner's or no manners. She is familiar with foreign lands, depicts them as well as foreigners with ease and spirit, yet without rendering the accessory equal to the principal. For a lady, too, she has a remarkable knowledge of the sea ; perhaps because not only the supposed-novelist but the writer may have naval connex- ions. She is gifted besides with considerable power of reflection—a • Amabel; or the Victory of Love. By Mary Elizabeth Wormeley.. In three vo- lumes. Published by Smith and Elder.
species of natural metaphysics—a knowledge of the mind derived rather from thought and observation than from science. Her manner is easy, and effective, though grounded rather on the rhe- toHe of the modern French and American schools than on genuine old English.
Amabel, however, is not a fiction of so high a class as the pos- session of these qualities in the writer might lead one to expect. This arises in part from the want of a sufficiently broad and varied view of the events of life, which renders the elements of the novel too peculiar. The chief source of the deficiency lies in a wrong conception of critical morality. Frenchmen, in the days of le Grand Monarque, entertained a question as to whether the hero of an epic should be " un honnAte homme " ; there can be no doubt that he should not be weakminded, shabby, or felonious—his die- honesty should be upon a grand scale. In like manner, a heroine who is to attach the fullest sympathy of the reader should never be placed in a doubtful position by her own acts. The object may be to point a moral, and after a fashion the end may be attained ; ingenuity may frame the excuse of education and circumstances ; but this is unavailing for the purposes of high art. If ever human produc- tion seemed to require some taint of laxity in the heroine, it would be Othello. The art of " the mighty master " taught him that any such element would mar his work. Not only, as Mr. Charles Knight has observed, does Iago never even think of attempting to forward Roderigo's snit or of approaching Desdemona ; liar whole conduct is artlessness and purity itself, without a trace of weak- ness. The perfect art of Shakspere may not indeed be attainable, but his principles may be followed. The story of Amabel turns upon a separation of the heroine from her husband, Captain Warner, in consequence of temper, family interferences, the revengeful arts of a French Colonel Guiscard, and Mrs. Warner's imprudence and disregard of English conven- tion. The early part of the story is occupied with the half-neglected childhood and youth of Amabel at Malta ; which training disposes her to wilfulness and independence, and leads to the appearance of her having behaved ill to Colonel Ouiscard's brother. The latter part carries the heroine, through many trials, struggles, and diffi- culties, till at last she is elevated and strengthened by religion and practical duties, and a reconciliation is effected. The result is con- sidered by the writer as "the Victory of Love"; though it rather seems to inculcate the bracing moral effect of duties discharged, difficulties boldly encountered, and misfortunes patiently endured.
The matter of the novel, considered in reference to the topics, is apt and sufficient ; the numerous characters are well conceived and sustained ; many of the latter parts possess considerable and rapid interest; the composition is buoyant and animated. The conduct of the tale would admit of improvement: there is often more " situation " than action ; that is, the reader is sought to be moved by physical or outward circumstances—such as the -heroine's being lost in a snow-storm or tempest-tossed in a fever-stricken ship till she is wrecked—rather than by the passion, discourse, and deeds of the persons. For these reasons, passages are more avail- able for our space than scenes. The easy felicity of diction in these remarks on education almost diminishes the depth of the thought. "To say that the better part of education is self-bestowed, would be an impertinent truism. But my father was accustomed to go further : he as
that all education is of self, and that the mere acquisition of know- ledge and accomplishment is unworthy such a name.
"Till knowledge,' he observed, has become a portion of our being— something upon which we act, which subtracted from us would make us other than we are—it has not entered into our education. A little knowledge is only dangerous when it lies crude and undigested, without working its way into the heart out of the head.'"
This is a graphic bit of description—a country town anti its cha- racters.
"A country town, twenty years ago, before the age of railroads, was rich museum of human curiosities; the young student-artist of character could have found no better model-room. But Bella only reflected that these were the people amongst whom her life was to be passed. She had nothing in common with them ; not an idea, an interest, or an aim : it was a forced alliance upon her part. Had they appeared in any way dependent on her exertions for their self-esteem or their amusement, her better feelings would have prompted her to meet the obligation ; as it was, she thought it not worth while to seek pleasure or improvement in her intercourse with them. "There was old Miss Maddox, driven into their society by mere stress of ennui when there were no card-parties in more fashionable quarters ; and big Mrs. Bathurst, whose husband died of care and curry, a C.olonel in the East Indies, and who exacted an attention and a deference on the ground of her father having been an honourable, which it was positive humiliation to pay. She had a niece who lived with her, who wore long ropy ringlets, was kept in abject submission by her aunt, and consoled herself for her home miseries by looking out for consolation amongst the officers in garrison. No regimental gossip was unknown to this young lady; who called all the gentle- men by their surnames without handles, and spoke familiarly of 'the men,' meaning the private soldiers. "Nor did Bella see anything to interest her in the clergyman's wife, a country-bred young woman, with lots of children and of pariah business al- ways accumulating on hand. "The Talbots had withdrawn in a great measure from society ; fort in England, one must regulate the circle in which one moves by one's pecuniary ability. to cope with those composing and those persons who, for purposes of their own, found their way into St. Clement's, were nearly all with whom they visited : save that Captain Talbot had a professional acquaintance with Admiral Sir Jeremiah Thompson, a triton amongst the minnows of the little society, who invited them to a state dinner, once a.year, to feed them of plate, and would have considered himself ineffably insulted by being asked to eat oft' earthenware in return. Bella only perceived that the idee flue of all the persons whom she met was a holy hatred of the French, and that a man was held an infidel unless he acknowledged a belief in every malicious calumny then in circulation against the 'Corsican monster.' Conversation amongst them never grew exciting, save when they compared their interpre- tations of the prophecies against him as the Beat of the Revelations, or Daniel's little horn.
"Dr. Glas000k had early prejudiced her mind against the English; and she could not see the intrinsic excellences of character, national and individual, that lay beneath the surface both of society and manners. The exterior dis- gusted her ; and, poor thing, she was too unhappy to look deeper. Let us confess that no mere stranger and sojourner can understand or like us : he must live amongst us, associate himself with our interests, work with us, feel with us, hope with us, in short grow English, before he will have the least idea of our real excellences. The things a foreigner most generally admires in a six weeks' stay in London in the season, are precisely the evi- dence of things unseen,' of which the true Englishman is least proud."
The source of the intrigue of the story is in Amabel's re- gard for a young French officer, whom she meets at Malta under singular circumstances and between them an attachment springs up. The manner in which this is broken off is a piece of clever contrivance ; but it does not satisfy the reader, and may be said to lead to the blot of the book. The following incident indicates the manner in which young Guiscard is got out of the way at a criti- cal time, by the blunder of a lieutenant, thoroughly John Bull and with a turn for tippling. "So saying, Mr. Grump pushed off 'again from the Dodo, and swore at Theodosius all the way across the harbour.
"By the time he landed, his wine and his vexation had put him quite be- side himself. He rushed into every sailor's shop in the Marina, making in- coherent inquiries. "'Anybody know a Frenchman ? a French spy, living in Valetta ? A Frenchman ! a Fenchnian ! a Monsieur Girard ! a man who landed from the Dodo about two hours ago !' "'Go this way,' said one. Try that way,' said another. Poor Grump, in despair, dashed at the head of his boat's crew up the principal street of Valetta. 'Some one (he questioned every man he met) had told him there was a Frenchman living in Floriana : thither he went, and, having no defi- nite ideas of the geography of that locality, happened to strike into the quiet street where Captain Annealey had taken lodgings, just as Felix Guiscard reached his door.
"'Ahoy there! you!' cried the Lieutenant. What is the way out of this street? Do you know any Frenchman in this neighbourhood ' "'Comment, Monsieur ? ' replied Captain Guiscard. "'Come along ! Pm in chase of you, sir. You're my man,' cried the Lieutenant. What are you doing here ? What did you go ashore for ? Is your name Girard, sir ? '
" am le Capitaine Guiscard,' said the other; who whether he under- stood the last question or not, thought it better to declarehimself. " Guiscard ! Hang their French pronunciation ! The Captain called it Girard. Never mind; it's all the same. Come along with me, air ; you are the man I want,' poured forth the Lieutenant, pressed for time, overjoyed at the rencontre, and with his brain a good deal fuddled. "Felix had mastered a few words of Italian during his two residences 'in Malta, but could not speak a syllable of English. Nevertheless, he endea- voured to remonstrate.
" Collar him ! Take hold of him ! Gag him ! Make him be quiet, men!' cried the Lieutenant, shouting into his ear the two words most likely to be understood, and explain the business, Captain Warner, of the Dodo. Cap- tain Warner !'
"Still Felix struggled ; windows were opening in the street ; there was no time for ceremony. One of the sailors stuffed a ball of rope-yarn into his mouth. His arm& were seized and pinioned. Four stout men lifted him oil his feet; and at a word from the Lieutenant, all the party, followed by the dog, dashed down the hill, at full speed, to the Marina. Felix was stowed into the boat with little ceremony; and the Dodo's men pulled off to join their vessel. She had weighed anchor ; she was working out into the great harbour. Mr. Grump stood up in the stern-sheets and exhorted his men to Give way '—to pull harder. " Aye, aye, sir.' "And the little boat skimmed over the dark water ; for the night was clouded, as we said : before them all was black ; but the bright lights of the harbour, shining like stars in an inverted sky, were gleaming on the path behind.
"Felix shinned, gagged, and bewildered, lay in the bottom of the boat, and gazed at them. Hope lay behind. Every moment bore him swiftly to an unknown future—doubt, distress, and darkness.
"They have come up with the Dodo. Again Theodosius meets them at the gangway. "'I have him!' cried the Lieutenant, springing on board. Rand up that Frenchman.'
" ' Have who?' cried Theodosius, hoarsely.
"'The spy; your M. Girard. . . . what's his name ) Guiscard. You pronounced it wrong, my boy,' replied the other.
"'Mr. Grump . . . . it's the wrong man, sir : the right one came on board just after you left. We shall have two of them on board, sir. Don't speak too loud,' continued he, as the Lieutenant burst upon him with a vol- ley of execration. • I thought it best to say nothing to the Captain, sir.' " 'Hoist him up here in the boat ; he'll be safe there for the present ; and throw my boat-cloak over him,' said Grump to the seamen who were bringing his prisoner over the side; and, without further concern at present for the captive's fate, he went down to report himself to Captain Warner."