THE TRUSTEE IS a novel, possessing strong interest, which is
well sustained throughout, though it is dependent rather upon incident than character ; the scenes are wrought up with dramatic power ; and the dialogue is forcible, nay even eloquent. Notwithstanding these good qualities, however, the story, taken as a whole, does not impress the reader with a sense of the reality of the circum- stances and characters : many passages are lifelike, and there is a general consistency and coherency in the action till towards the winding-up; but the will of the writer too evidently determines the fortunes of the persons and the course of events.
Master Richard Waring, "the Trustee," is an avaricious mer- chant of Hull, in the latter end of the reign of Henry the Eighth : strong-minded, heartless, and cunning to unscrupulousness, yet preserving the semblance of honour and fair-dealing, for the safer prosecution of his nefarious schemes. His wealth and apparent respectability induce many persons implicated in the dangers of that troublesome time to intrust their treasures to his keeping ; and amongst them, his kinsman, Sir Edward Waring, who is compelled to fly for his life, consigns two infant daughters to his charge. The arts by which "the Trustee" possesses himself of the inheri- tance of his wards obtains the favour of the King and the Church, and from the thrifty trader becomes the worshipful knight, are depicted with the distinctness of fact in short, his character is naturally conceived and powerfully developed, and his actions bear the stamp of his idiosyncracy. Not so with the rest of the charac- ters; which, though occasionally marked by traits of individuality, are not actual existences. "Scampering Jack," the prime agent in defeating the machinations of the villain, is a creature of modern farce—a restless, ubiquitous, voluble, goodnatured adventurer. The denouement is very unsatisfactory, and brought about by melodra- matic means : "the Trustee" is killed by an accident, and his victims are only rescued from his toils by a change in the sove- reignty and religion of the country.
Though making no pretensions to be considered an "histori- cal" novel, yet as the state of society and government are promi- nent and influential features, more characteristic phraseology and allusions were necessary to give the proper antique tone to the pictures of life : there is a continual jarring between modern modes of thought and expression and ancient habits and customs : the figures are clad in old-fashioned costumes, and move amidst owner; of like character, but their look, air, and speech belong to the present day. The writer evinces a decided tact for dramatic composition : the texture of his fabric is close ; his style is terse and vigorous, with no lack of rhetorical fluency ; striking situa- tions succeed one another with a rapidity that gives unflagging spirit and animation to the progress of the story; and the ab- stract reflections and particular descriptions are so pertinent to the business of the scene that they cannot well be detached from it. In effect, this novel resembles a melodrama in a narrative form ; and we think that its author would be more likely to do justice to his talents as a dramatist than a novelist. The Provost of Bruges, though not permanently successful, was a promising first effort, and has often been instanced as one of the most remarkable contemporary plays that the stage has produced.