FANNY DENNISON. * THB author of this book seems to have
had Jane Eyre in mind when planning and composing the novel. There is not, indeed,. much particular resemblance between them either as regards story orstyle ; but they are both of the same school. Fanny Dennison, like Jane. Eyre, is so singular in her circumstances and her for- tune, that her story is unaccompanied by a sense of reality or the sympathy which springs from it ;. the effect is produced by meta- physical conceptions presented in distinct and forcible composition. As regards mere power, the palm must be awarded to Jane Byre in the novel before us the composition is less strained, and the moral tone less repulsive. There is also more variety of fortune and incident in Fanny Dennison, with some practical lessons of life to be drawn from the story, though they may not be very pro- bably impressed. The moral, indeed, is not that which the author would inculcate—trust in Providence"; for any one who trusted to Providence to get out of the difficulties which beset Fanny- Denni- 8011 might trust in vain. The morals really though somewhat in- cidentally pointed are, that we should not permit external incon- veniences to impel us to a line of conduot at variance with our sense of truth and right, and that happiness will be found in an earnest discharge of duty. The evils of a dependent position are also illustrated, but hardly in a way to teach any lesson. The elements of the tale are not new ; hut they are made to look newer than they really are, by the manner in which they are worked up. Fanny Dennison, the orphan daughter of poor people, has been brought up by Mrs. Staunton of Knockfidd Hall. This lady is of the type of haughty mothers in romances. She quarrelled with her son, not only for declining to marry as she wished, but for making an inferior match. On his death she refuses all assistance to his wife and son, unless the son be wholly given up to her; which the mother refuses, but to which the grandfather on the mother's death assents. Walter Staunton's arrival at his grand- mother's hall soon changes the state of affairs. The proud old lady begins to fear, and with too much truth, an attachment between her grandson and Fanny. To stop this her course is decisive. Under the guise of a portion she bribes Mr. Elton, an embarrassed gentleman of the neighbourhood, to propose to Fanny ; and even- tually overcomes the opposition of her protegee, by sending her on a visit to her poor, and what Fanny dislikes more, her vulgar re- lations, with an implied alternative. Elton turns out to be a gambler and sharper; he squanders Fanny's portion, carries Fanny herself to Paris, and not only treats her ill, but horrifies her by his conduct and its consequences to the victim of his arts. At last she flies from him, and finds refuge in a family as a governess}, till an accident kills Elton, and Mrs. Staunton's deathbed remorse leads to a happy ending. Besides the early life of Fanny at the Hall, and her subsequent struggles in regard to- Mrs. Staunton and Elton, distinct classes of existence are introduced into the novel, almost in the form of what in the drama would be called acts. The reader has Fanny's coarse rustic relations, and her disgust at their manners and mode of life— the Parisian life of Elton and his associates, with a continuance of similar scenes in England—the quaint, humble-minded, virtuous family, with whom Fanny takes refuge. Each of these fairly represent classes of actual society; but they are not delineated in a lifelike way. They Iook rather like the products of an able but not very experienced mind evolving persons and scenes by dint of meditation, than combinations of materials originally drawn from nature. The truest pictures. are those of Fanny's uncle,. old Hicks, and family ; but the greatest part is too coarse for fiction, roma& ing one of similar things in the novels of the Bells. After the opening, which is minute and slow, the novel abounds, with scenes ; but though the situations are of a kind to excite emotion, and are evidently laboured by the writer, they fail to produce an effect corresponding to their apparent capability, pee- haps because they seem the result of intellect rather than instinct.- An example may be taken from a part of the interview between Fanny, Mrs. Staunton, and. Walter, when the young man is in- formed of Fanny's destined marriage, and hastily returns from
"Such were the kind of considerations in which I was engaged, as I sat in the drawingroom along with Mrs. Staunton ; when I was suddenly started from the reverie into which I had fallen by the sound of carriage-wheels.
" Who can that be?' I said to Mrs. Staunton.; who seemed also evidently
',Palmy Dennison; a Novel. In three volumes. Published by Conant sad Co.
surprised by the unwonted sound. 'It cannot be Mr. Elton, for he always rides. I wonder who it is.'
"The drawingroom windows being so situated as not to afford a glimpse of the approaching visitor, I listened with some impatience for the ringing of the hall-door bell ; the sound of which, in general, penetrated to the most distant quarters of the house. But no bell rang : though I heard dis- tinctly the carriage draw up before the door, it was followed by no ring. All
at once, however, the hall-door was opened violently from the outside. It swung back, with a heavy grating sound, upon its hinges. I heard a man's quick heavy step along the hall; then suddenly the drawingroom-door was opened, and Walter Staunton stood before me.
"Before me and Mrs. Staunton, I should have said, for we were sitting at no great distance from each other. Yes, it was Walter Staunton ; but Wal- ter Staunton in a different aspect from any in which I had ever previously seen him. He stood up mute and motionless at the door, with his arms folded across his chest. His cheeks were flushed, his eyes were sparkling, his brows were knit, and a bitter, mocking, scornful smile was on his curl- ing lip. And there he stood, as if he were a spectre, at the door, fixing his scathing glance alternately on Mrs. Staunton and me.
" ' What means this, Walter ? ' said Mrs. Staunton rising up, and ad- vancing towards him as she spoke. What brings you here ? What makes you act in this extraordinary way ?.'
" Ah ! excuse me, madam,' said Walter, making a ceremonious bow, ' I did forget my manners, I believe. I should have said good morning. I will say it now. Good morning, madam. Good morning, Miss Dennison. I hope I see you both in the enjoyment of perfect health ? '
" 'Have done, Walter, with this insolence ! ' said Mrs. Staunton, in a voice of startling sternness and command. say again, what brings you here ? Answer me at once.'
" It was your letter, which I received this morning, that brings me here,' was Walter's reply. have travelled here from Oxford as fast as four horses could convey me, to offer my congratulations to Miss Dennison upon her approaching marriage, of which you were so good as to inform me.'
"The bitter taunting tones in which he spoke penetrated to my heart. I quailed beneath his gaze as he continued— I hoped to have met the bride- groom here, and to have offered him likewise my congratulations. He is a fortunate man, I must admit, to have gained the affections of one so truly faithful, so unchangeable, so constant, as Miss Dennison.
"'Have mercy, Walter!' I faintly exclaimed. " do not think, however,' he continued, addressing Mrs. Staunton, 'that it was acting kindly towards me to keep me in the dark so long upon the matter. The knowledge of Miss Dennison's happy prospects should have been allowed me sooner. It was depriving me unnecessarily of the pleasure I now enjoy. Of this proceeding I really think I have good reason to com- plain.'
"'No more of this, air,' said Mrs. Staunton firmly ; your disrespectful voice and manner I will not suffer or permit.' "'I am very unfortunate, very, that my voice and manner do not meet with your approbation. I fancied that I had said or done nothing to incur your censure. My words have been of the politest kind. Both towards you and Miss Dennison I had acted, I thought, with the most perfect courtesy and respect.'
" Walter ! ' exclaimed Mrs. Staunton, as she pointed her finger towards him with a menacing air.
" Yes,' continued Walter; ' I thought I was conducting myself in the most respectful and civil manner. Another person in my place might have been angry—another person in my place might have accused Miss Dennison of faithlessness and forgetfulness of prior claims; but you are a witness that I did neither—you are a witness that nothing like reproach has escaped my lips towards her—you are a witness that she has heard nothing but polite congratulations from me.'
"I am a witness, Walter, that nothing could have been more insulting than your conduct both towards her and me,' said Mrs. Staunton, her fea- tures writhing with anger. 'Lay aside at once that supercilious mocking tone, that sarcastic sneering smile, and tell me what you mean.'
" Your will shall be obeyed,' said Walter, with a more natural look and voice. You ask me what I mean. Well, I will tell you. I mean to say that that girl, who sits there cowering beneath my gaze, too much ashamed to raise her eyes to mine, has wronged me foully.'
" ' Wronged you, Walter ! you are mad or dreaming,' was Mrs. Staunton's quick exclamation. " ' Ay, wronged! I say wronged, again. She allowed me to imagine that I was loved by her; she permitted me to think that she would not refuse to share my future lot ; she gave, I say, a sanction to my cherished hopes and views; and now she has deceived, betrayed me, with a woman's weak incon- stancy.' " ':And you dare, Walter, to say this to me,' said Mrs. Staunton, slowly, but with the hissing sound of concentrated anger in every word. " Why not? You asked me for my meaning : I have given it.' " ' And you have the audacity to avow to me—to me, your grandmother- s project of that kind ? to confess, without a blush upon your cheek, the purpose you entertained of making a lowborn girl like Fanny Dennison your wife ? Even your father, Walter, would not have demeaned himself by such an act. Between the daughter of a clergyman and of a laundress there is still a difference.'
" The colour rushed to my cheeks at this ungenerous taunt, and I listened in breathless silence for Walter's answer, as he rejoined—'And yet it seems, madam, that you considered good enough for Mr. Elton what was not good enough for me. I am much obliged to you for your kind consideration, though I cannot appreciate it as perhaps I ought. It may have been a vain delusion on my part, but still I do not scruple to declare, that although Fanny Dennison was destitute of all ancestral honours, a disposition such as hers—a cultivated intellect such as hers—endowments of mind and person such as hers—rendered her the equal of any man in this whole king- dom, and more, far more, than a match for one like me.' " Deep in my heart I felt a thrill of gratitude to Walter for his generous defence of me, and my cheeks glowed with the emotions to which his words gave rise.
" But far different was the effect of Walter's words on Mrs. Staunton. Her face, which had been pale before, grew paler, whiter still, until it looked quite ghastly in its marble colour : then, after an instant's pause, slowly and
emphatically she thus addressed I suppose I am to understand from what you say, that if your affection had been returned you would have mar- ried Fanny Dennison ? ' " Ay, I would have married her : I would do so still.'"