THE HEIR OP A.RDENNAN..
A. FEMININE perception of small points in appearance and man-
ners, minute in themselves but conducive in the aggregate to great truth and naturalness, forms the distinguishing feature of this novel. Other things are there, including love in half-a-dozen bosoms, and of course in as many different aspects. There is an ill-assorted match, between a haughty, aristocratic, selfish man of the world, and a woman with heart and affections, but with pride, temper, and no religion. There are also many persons in the middle class of Scottish life, with a few gentry, and some pictures of life in London. The Scottish society, however, owes its truth—and very truthful it is—to the quality mentioned in the outset. The ma- jority of the dramatis persona) are not striking in character, man- ners, station, or anything ; some of them, indeed, are commonplace, some vulgar : but they are presented so naturally, the good points in them are so well preserved, that the reader feels the same regard for them in the book as he would in life. The English part of the story is not so truthful; and the romance, or rather the deeper love, is somewhat overdone—not perhaps false, but exaggerated. The heir of Ardennan is a Highland chief, the freeliving of whose ancestors has compelled the sale of the patrimonial property to pay off their debts. Malcolm Gordon was designed for the army, but the exposure of affairs on the death of his father compels him to accept the offer of an old Calcutta merchant and take a place in his counting-house. Of course he gets rich, and buys back Ardennan : but the real interest of the story turns upon the loves With which he is connected. Violet Smythe, his first passion, de- serts him, for an old love—a handsome, fascinating, heartless Englishman, already alluded to ; and is miserable. In the mean time, Malcolm has unconsciously won the heart of the heroine, Caroline Irvine ; and to bring about this match is the finis of the work. It is reached. at last; but with some needless suspense, through the old story of a supposed engagement. This is more cleverly contrived than usual; but people do not like much ado about nothing, and long adoes are worse.
There is some pathos and some power in the writer, but want- ing consideration and more artistical management to be effective, at least for isolated exhibition. Her everyday characters are her chef d'ceuvre : here are the heroine's maternal uncle, aunt, and cousin, Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Purves. "Mr. Purves, Caroline's uncle, would have been a good-looking little man, had it not been for an intense commonness of aspect, a brisk, fidgety, consequential manner, and a habit of putting himself into awkward attitudes, which he mistook for fashionable ease. He was short and slight in figure, had regular features, blue eyes, and brown hair, which was cut shortish and stood straight on end. He was a sharp-witted man of business, with no mean opinion of his own talents, as well as of his personal and social quali- fications. Mrs. Puma was a tall, overgrown, over-dressed, coarse-looking
* The Heir of Ardennan ; a Story of Domestic Life in Scotland. By the Author
of "Anne Dysart." In three volumes. Published by Colburn and Co. ' woman, with a swarthy complexion, bold, meaningless black eyes, and a profusion of false black curls, glittering with oil and bear's grease. In her youth many persons (they could not have been people of much refinement)' had considered her a bftuty; and from her dress and manner it was evi-, dent that she thought herself still a very fine woman. She was very fond of show and company, much addicted to finery in dress, and though totally illiterate, and with a small jealous mind, could not be called stupid, but was, on the contrary, rather quick and smart within the narrow compass of her own vulgar perceptions. "Her daughter, Miss Jane, was a tall, stout, assured-looking girl, with handsome showy figure, but inelegant, unladylike movements, a dark corn-' plexion, regular, not ill-shaped, but large and rather coarse features, staring black eyes like her mother's, and quantities of long corkscrew black ringlets, which hung down about a quarter of a yard below her bonnet. Her man- ners corresponded with her appearance, and were at once pert, affected, and vulgar. Her dress—for dress, though a trivial thing in itself, assumes im- portance from affording an indication (as it generally does) of the character of the wearer—was of the very latest Manchester fashion. Her gown, of silk, showy, but not expensive, flounced and furbelowed in the most extra- ordinary manner,. very fine with cotton lace and ends of riband, was altoge- ther a perfect caricature of the prevailing mode. Possessed of the charms I have described, and much admired, danced, and flirted with in certain circles, Miss Jane Purves considered herself, and was considered by her pa- rents, a belle of first water, and as superior to her cousin Caroline as a real brilliant is to a—dewdrop, let us say. It was a complete riddle to all three how people—and there were several such—could be found so tasteless as to prefer the latter. But Mrs. Purves at last solved the difficulty. 'If the Major had not been the Major, and all that, nobody would have thought Carry pretty ; and you may depend upon it, Jane, at a ball where you were not known, you would have far the most partners. So they need not be so set up about her as they are ; and as to her being clever, I see nothing very clever about her, for my part.' "
Caroline's half-sister, Agnes, is an equally good picture of an amiable, domestic, but commonplace personage.
"Agnes Irvine, the Major's elder daughter, was no longer young, at least not for an unmarried woman. She appeared to be about thirty-five or thirty- six ; was tall, thin, fair, and pale, with light eyes, light eyebrows, and light hair. Her other features were small and delicate, but with no pretensions to beauty or even prettiness ; while her figure, though undeniably ladylike, could not well be called graceful. She generally wore light greyish or bluish. or yellowish dresses, from a mistaken notion that pale colours suited her com- plexion. She was generally very silent, and her manner was quiet, gentle, timid, and affectionate, but entirely devoid of warmth or spirit. As to the rest, she was devoted to household economy and needlework ; her entire life almost having been spent in making pastry and preserves, keeping the linen in order, and working over acres of canvass in Berlin wool. No ambitious, wish, no anxious intellectual aspiration, no puzzling moral or religious problem, had ever disturbed the gentle serenity of her thoughts, or invaded the peaceful monotony of her guileless bosom. By those whose beau ideal- of the feminine character is amiable and industrious nonentity, Agnes Irvine might have been considered a very model for the sex. By others she might have been deemed insipid. In short, though a good, kind, and likeable crea- ture, and no doubt fitted to fill her own place in the economy of Providence,- she was rather uninteresting, and though nobody disliked her she had never in her life had either a lover or an admirer. Indeed, it is to be doubted ifs thought of love or marriage had ever once troubled the everyday placid current of her thoughts."
In what is called the winding-up, the authoress -violates the rule of poetical justice, by giving the heartless Sir Arthur Cornisk another wife and a prospect of prosperity ; pleading for it the fact that the wicked are often prosperous in the world. The objec- tion to her particular instance is, that her termination is gratuitous ; not only unnecessary to the tale, but having nothing whatever to do with it. One answer to her general rule is, that upon the whole the really vicious and the wicked are not outwardly happy, even in this world. The true answer is, that the poet deals with the in- ward as well as the external; the whole is before him, to exhibit as- is fitting. The visible punishment of Macbeth's guilty ambition and tyranny is only shown in his downfall ; the inward punish- ment begins from the murder of Duncan—nay, from the first con- ception of the crime.