31 JULY 1880, Page 21


IT seems almost a work of supererogation to tell the habitual -novel-reader that a novel which is by the author of Mr. Smith and Cousins, and which is published by Messrs. Blackwood, is clever, readable, and above the average run of novels. The work before us has all these merits, and also that of being pleasant, wholesome in tone, and free from any stain of the coarseness, vulgarity, and immorality which spoils many of the clever novels of the day. Furthermore, the author is not ashamed to show that she believes religious principle to be the true source of strength that enables any one to live a brave and unselfish life ; and yet she manages to make this belief of hers apparent without the least touch of " goodiness," and without giving her work any kind of resemblance to a religious novel. Notwithstanding all this, however, the book is neither faultless, nor yet as good as we have a right to expect, from the evident abilities of the writer. We complain most of her management of the chief incidents on which the story depends. There are not enough of them, and those few are very impro- bable. For a trifling incompatibility of temper, a young lady is exiled from home to a farm-house thirty miles off; there she lives for months, and when she breaks a blood-vessel, and is dangerously ill, not one of her family go near her,—not even the stepmother, who is always bent upon keeping up appearances. -Yet the slightness of the domestic jar which caused this exile is proved by the fact that the young lady (after being kept at the farm till some way into the second volume) returns -to her own people, and lives very happily with them during the rest of the book. Is not this strained and unnatural ? Take the behaviour of the hero, again. At an early period of the story he falls desperately in love, gets engaged, and knows -that the young lady returns his affection. He leaves her for .what is really no reason at all, and stays away for a long time, -although he might quite well have returned and been happily married at any moment. Then—just as he is at last going back to her—a man, whom he knows nothing about, tells a lie about her, and calls her crazy ; upon which, the lover instantly rashes off to the East for the next five years. This is hardly how ordinary human nature acts in such circumstances.

Then we have to complain that things want to be kept moving a little more,—that more action would improve the vitality of the story, in one or two places. Possibly Miss Wal- lord has a horror of what is common-place and hackneyed, and hopes to escape from this by having few incidents, and making them far-fetched and unlike those of any other author. But :she should remember that hinges are very common-place articles, yet that they are necessary for doors to turn upon ; and that if you despise hinges, you must choose between stay- ing in one room always—which becomes monotonous—and lhaving recourse to violent and inconvenient means of getting your door open when you want to go out. Much of the art of a good novelist lies in knowing how to use ordinary incidents in sufficient abundance to prevent stagnation, and having the skill to make them occur in a natural sequence and appear interesting.

For Miss Walford's character-drawing we have nothing but praise. Readers of her previous novels know the power she has of entering into and describing the goings-on of girls of all ages, from childhood to womanhood, in their every-day home life; and this power is shown again in the delineation of the "troublesome daughters" who give the name to the book. To our mind, however, the best portrait (and an excellent one it is) in this work is the stepmother, Lady Olivia, the well-bred, agreeable woman of the world, who is far too selfish to be able to love any one else; whose only idea of what was necessary for her son's education was that he should be finely dressed, able to hold up his head and answer back when spoken to, and make friends with noblemen's sons ; and whose only grievance against him when grown up is that he never talks about and parades his fine place,—never "takes any pride in his ancestral seat." To her, "listeners and correspondents are always indis- pensable ;" so, of course, she adores society, and enters with keen zest on the task of bringing out and marrying off her step- daughters, because it is an occupation that will keep her much before the eyes of her fellow-creatures,—make clothes and shop- ping a constant matter of importance, and secure unfailing -topics for the indispensable "listeners and correspondents." Being herself a lady, she has a keen nose for vulgarity, and dis-

• Troublesome Daughters. By L. B. Wilford. 3 vols. London : Blaokwo od and Boni.

tinguishes skilfully between the Charles Newbattles—who though poor and dowdy, are gentlefolks, and have real worth and good qualities which she cannot help recognising—and the Maclures, who are mere underbred, ordinary toadies. Both alike she considers undesirable to call upon in London ; but t f the former she says that though not desirable as acquaintances, they yet are very good as friends ; whereas of the latter she says that they are not to be tolerated at all in either capacity. True, however, to her worldly principles, she swallows down her hatred of vulgarity for a while when there is a sufficient reason for doing so, i.e., the pursuit of a rich parvenu as a husband for one of her step-daughters. He, too—not only a snob, but what is far worse, a cad—is well drawn. As such people exist amongst us, it is well that they should occasionally see them- selves in print,—but do the originals ever recognise their own likenesses, we wonder?

All the minor characters are also very good,—the governess, the poor relations, the abigail, and the outsider, who attends a wedding with a half-expectation of being best man, and then finds no "niche" for himself, until the French governess per- ceives his situation, and takes him in to breakfast.

There are too many Scotticisms in places to suit the ignorant English reader, who can only guess doubtfully by the context at the meaning of such words as " couthy," " bield," " daikert," "hait," " whyripes," " peyvee," &c. And, in conclusion, we would observe that a pronoun should relate to the last noun. Consequently, when we read that "he would take up a book and laugh over its absurdities, rather than attend to her con- versation," we naturally refer "her" to the last female men- tioned—i.e., "the beauty"—whereas the pronoun really relates to quite another person. As the same kind of fault occurs in another place also, we think it well to draw the author's atten- tion to it.