TUB PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTERS.
Tins third introduction of FREDERULA BREMER'S Swedish novels to the English reading world consists of two continued stories; the connexion between the two being very slight, though the object in both seems the same —to trace the effects of female character on female conduct in ;Taira of love, and consequently in the happi- ness of woman's life. In the first story, Adelaide, the heroine, is described as essentially good, notwithstanding a laxity of be- haviour, the effects of youth and high spirits : after some difficulties arising from her flightiness and the arts of an elder sister who is attached to the lover of Adelaide, the heroine marries the serious Count Alarik ; and the first volume closes upon the happiness of the wedded pair, whom we henceforth hear but little of, and see no more.
Nina, the heroine of the second tale, is the younger sister of Adelaide, left as a child at the close of the first volume, and re- presented as approaching womanhood at the commencement of the second. She has a family resemblance to her sister Adelaide ; but her character is more romantic, in the foreign idea of romance ; and she has constitutional peculiarities that remove her further from her sister. Nina, when a child, narrowly escaped being buried alive : the illness which caused this trance continued for some years, giving a morbid weakness to her physical, mental, and moral qualities ; and these are sought to be developed by the circum- stances of the tale. Her eldest sister, Edla, wishes her to marry Count Ludwig, a stern and icy repetition of Count Alarik, and much more estimable than loveable by ladies in their teens. A sort of half-understood but unrecognized engagement takes place between Ludwig and Nina, which is constantly endangered by her weaknesses. She just escapes seduction by some Don Juan whom the party fall in with at a watering-place and she falls in love with a clergyman under a cloud of mystery ; but, rescued from drowning by Count Ludwig, and conjured by her sister Edla from her death- bed, she eventually marries him, and dies.
Moving round these characters or connected with them are many others, consisting of the President, his second wife, and the family friends; all of whom serve to display Swedish manners, and some, by appearing in both tales, possess that " auld langsyne " interest which attaches to a person whom we meet again after a lapse of time. But the great link is Edla ; who seems designed to exhibit the advantages which modern manners bestow upon a plain woman, in furnishing her by education with the means of influence and happiness. In the first tale we see her suffering from suppressed affections, the consequence of her plainness. From this condition she is rescued by the governess, Mademselle Minnquist ; who sug- gests a course of study that makes her the teacher and protector of her sisters, and the comfort of the family, till the President's second marriage. At the same time, her example does not say much for philosophical interference in love affairs: the death of Nina is chargeable upon the practices of Edla to get her married to a man with a strength of character which crushes instead of supporting her.
In The President's Daughters, as in the previous novels of FREDBRULA BREMER, the work may be considered in two points of view,—as a story, and as a delineation of character and manners. In the exhibition of Swedish life, so far as we are able to judge of it, this authoress is without a rival,—full of matter, close in observation, characteristic in touch, and felicitous in expression, by the exact adaptation of style and diction to the thing described. As a novel- ist, her claims are lower; and but for the newness of her subject- matter, we suspect that her success would have been slender in this country. Three circumstances contribute to this deficiency. Her base is usually too narrow for the superstructure : the incidents of common life, which form her tale, cannot sustain her long drawn out narratives; and such as the story is, we are frequently losing sight of it : she often seems to make the mere development of cha- racter, and not the exhibition of character in action, the object of her theme : the romance appears unnatural in itself, and not adapted in its style to the simple and patriarchal kind of life with which it is found in conjunction ; the sentimental melodrama looking as much out of place as if the Corsair or Giaour had been located in Liverpool. The lax tone of Swedish morality has also an injurious effect, not only ethically but critically. The business habits of the English induce them to attach great value to engage- ments. The reader does not sympathize with Adelaide's "good- ness," when we find her in all innocence of heart neglecting the usual observances of a betrothed, and even listening to an old lover on his knees ; and the mixture of physical and moral weak- ness in Nina not only destroys interest but is altogether a useless exhibition, since no rule of life can be deduced from such extra- ordinary idiosyncracies both of nature and circumstances. The fact that the sketches of life excel the plan and the manage- ment of what is called the fable, is rather favourable than otherwise to partial perusal. Some writers, very far inferior to FEEDER/KA Bimetal, have a power of exciting attention by means of the stor y ; hurrying the reader along with slender consideration of the inter- mediate parts, which he sees are of little worth, and rather passes than peruses. It is these intermediate parts which, are the most -valuable in the novels"before us. FREDERIKA BREMER would leave a higher impression by " elegant extracts" than by a whole w ork-- which, sooth to say, is somewhat heavy reading.
I contemplated Edla narrowly, and discovered in her a deep and wounded 'sensibility. What she said often betrayed a conviction of injustice in the dis- tribution of human lots, and great bitterness of mind in consequence. She seemed to feel deeply the human inability to avoid suffering and unfortunate fate ; she considered this fate to be hers, and yet would not submit to it. She seized upon the discordances of life with a keen glance ; and, pondering on the niggardliness of nature towards herself, her eye had become sick and her heart wounded. These wounds she regarded as incurable, and she became reserved to the whole world. Her lips never complained, and no one ever saw her eyes shed a tear. It might be said that her whole life and temperament was a silent, bitter, and proud repining. She was irritable and sensitive; but shyness and pride pre- vented her exhibiting her wounded feeling, except by a contemptuous and bitter demeanour. Beneath all this, however, there existed real power, deep feeling, love of truth, and extraordinary though very much neglected powers of mind. I felt a deep interest in her ; and, waiting till time and circumstances should show me how best a ray of light might be thrown into that darkened soul, I determined to follow her quietly, and endeavour to win her confidence by love. I was convinced that unreasonable severity and improper manage. ascot had laid the foundation of her unfortunate temper.
IGNORANCE OF THE RICH TOUCHING THE POOR.
"An early, a bitter experience," replied Angelica. "The lofty ones of the earth cannot understand what want, what suffering is! They know not how a noble nature feels in being compelled, like the worm of the earth, to crawl after its food, when it has not strength to suffer hunger !—to be compelled, for few crumbs of bread, to flatter what they despise, or else to starve ! Life moves around the wealthy with so much grace, so much pomp and beauty ; they drink of the sweetest wine of existence, and dance under a delicious in- toxication. They find nothing in themselves which permits them to under- stand the actual sufferings of the poor. They throw out corn with a liberal hand to the little sparrows; they take up the worm from the earth that it may .lighten their rooms in dark evenings; but they love only themselves, they see _mankind only in their own circles.
Among the different characters of this writer that have fallen in our way, we think the President is the best—happy without effort, prominent, yet not laboured, and never obtruded beyond his position in the story. All the little weaknesses of a highly respectable elderly gentleman, with old-fashioned prejudices and a touch of sensuality, are hit off to a nicety.
THE PRESIDENT AT DINNER.
We sat at the dinner-table. The third dish, fricandeau with parsnips, was just despatched, and we had begun with the fourth, a substantial cheesecake, when the President made a little pause, drank a glass of wine, put aside his -Anife and fork, and, leaning backwards in his chair, said feelingly, "How -Attie man really requires to live ; how little he requires to be content ! It is wonderful I "—and he became quite affected. "With one dish," continued be, "one such cheesecake as this to my dinner every day, I could be perfectly satisfied." I coughed a little. "Yes, I assure you!' continued he, more ener- getically as he looked at me with an air of a little defiance, "I assure you it "would be quite enough for me I" I thought it a pity to take him out of an illusion which made him happy, and in which, after the cheesecake, he yet uuzonsciously swallowed three or -four little tartlets.
' The President became yet more pleased with his pleasure over his afternoon's coffee and his glass of liqueur. The little ones stood, one on each side, at his knee, and received now and then a spoonful of the Arabian drink.
• "I do not ask much of life, Mamselle Riinnquist," said he : "to have every thing comfortable for me and mine, is my utmost desire: to be able to give my : daughters a good education, is my chief ambition—it will be the best inherit- . since I can give them. If people were less exacting of our Lord, and of each other, they would be happier!—What dost thou want, my little chick ? more coffee? See then, my angel, a whole teaspoonful more !—We should thank ...Goel for what we have, Mamselle Ronnquist, and seek our means of enjoyment more in the internal than in the external, and every thing would go on better. Is it not so, bonne nmie?"
THE WIDOWER MARRIED.
It is time that we visit the new-married man, and ask him how he does. "Excellently ! " would his Excellence have answered; but truth whispers us behind his back, "Not particularly so." It stood indeed as follows. The President was in love with his wife ; but found himself to such a degree disturbed in his old habits, in his comfort, in the mode of life %Welt he had hitherto led, that it operated obviously both on his health and temper. His beautiful Countess was a charming hostess, an amiable lady of the house; but an attentive managing wife she was not. He must wart on, care for, ask, do, amuse, fondle, and follow. The poor President got quite out of breath. He was, however, in love; and when she called him "My sweet one! my angel I" and stroked his chin with her white hand, he was enraptured, and even happy. Alt Cupid° ! Cupid° ! But this amorousness, the secret discontent, and a certain feeling that he bad acted foolishly, all this made the President not only out of humour and dissatisfied with himself, but awoke in him also a sort of fear before Edla. Be was ashamed of his feelings before the clear-sighted daughter : he began to avoid her glance and her society, and this the more anxiously as he felt the injustice he did to her, who least deserved it, by this coldness and reserve. Edla soon observed how he sought to avoid her; yet, keenly as it pained her, she con- formed herself in this respect immediately to the will of her father. She also lisid much to conceal from him : she too felt herself not happy through the change in the house, and knew not how to say a cheerful a ord Cu her father.
We have already intimated, that the Countess, with her great resthetic accom- plishment, was yet destitute of the peculiar beauty of the heart—goodness; aud we must add, that she coul I be bard and morally cruel towards those who fell under her displeasure, and to whom she in her own mind was not well affected. The necessity for her to be perpetually on the scene, to play perpetually a part, and everywhere to command, made her even to those who most sincerely ad- mired her fine talents somewhat inconvenient; but far more so to those who did not understand how to please her and to secure her favour. Clara speedily felt the whole weight of a disposition which, under the most polished forms, yet knew how mercilessly to oppress. It was nothing that she became the lady's- maid as well as housekeeper to the Countess ; that she must prepare and alter one bead-dress after another ; that she must run from the dressing-room to the kitchen, from the kitchen to the dressing-room, in order to execute a thousand commands—this was really nothing. But that she never received a friendly look—that she was exposed to sharp words and angry mistrust—this was hard, this cost her heart heavy conflicts.
There appears to us something touchingly pleasing in this ac- count of children's
Among our amusements was also leave to play twice a week for two hours in the court. But as people are seldom content with what they have, so neither were we satisfied with our present pleasures; and when the summer came and all the world had gone to the country, we took a great fancy to have a country. place for ourselves. Sometimes we had been permitted to accompany our old dame into the cellar ; and there we marked oat a spot on the floor on which the daylight fell through an air-bole opening into the yard. Here, one fine day in the end of May, we planted a pea. 'During three weeks we went every day to visit the spot, as well as to poke a little in the earth, to ascertain if it did not intend to come up. Great was our joy when, on the twenty-fourth day after the plantation, we perceived a little elevation in the earth, and under this peeped out our charming pea, quite green, and quite modest, with one expanded leAr. We danced round it, and sung with joy. Opposite to this plantation we now placed a little card-house, and at the door of this a little bench, on which sat ladies and gentlemen cut out of paper; and nobody can have a more lively en- joyment from their country-scats than we had from ours. We lived in a little, very dark room. But from my bed I could in the morning see a little bit of sky, and a chimney of our neighbour's house. Now when the smoke ascended from the chimney, ansi was stained red and yellow by the rising sun as it curled up in the blue heaven, I thought that the world up in the air must be very beautiful, and I longed to go there. I took a great desire to fly, and told it to Johanno. We made ourselves wings of paper, and when they would not hear us upwards, we tried if at least they could not sup- port us when we threw ourselves from the linen-press and the stove upon which we had climbed. But, independent of the many bruises we got, the great clatter we made on the floor when we fell from the press brought out our old dame, who seriously scolded the clumsy angels. In the mean time, we hit on another manner to lift ourselves up and hover over the earth. We chose out suitable stakes, which we used as crutches, and with these we galloped up and down and across the court, fancying that we were almost flying.
From the preface we learn that a translation of one of FREDERIKA BREMER'S novels was made six years ago by a friend of MARY IlOWITT, then resident in Sweden ; sent over for publication in London ; and declined by the leading publishers. The present speculation was the translator's own; and it appears that Joao MURRAY, in alluding to the subject a short time before his death, almost regretted that he had let the former offer slip. Similar in- stances have occurred before in bibliopolical annals, but in this case we must not jump too hastily to conclusions against "the trade." It is not every one, however able, who could succeed in these translations like MARY HOWITT ; and perhaps six years ago was a less favourable time for their appearance than now, when the fashionable, and romantic, and historical, and sentimental novels, are drawn off to the very dregs.
The translator also states that her publishers are beset by
propositions, even from ladies of fortune, to be permitted to un- dertake some of these novels, merely, we gather, for the credit of
the thing. On this ground she seems a little alarmed ; but we think she is quite safe. It requires a kindred genius to succeed in these translations; and it is probable that some of the applicants have so little knowledge of the originals that they may fancy them written in German instead of Swedish.