ROMANCE AND REALITY.
THE reputation of L. E. L. in her own walk as a poetess, has ex- cited a good deal of curiosity to learn how she will acquit herself in prose. Romance and Reality, tinder this feeling, is likely to be taken up with as much eagerness as any book of the season. And the eagerness has some show of. reason : a young lady, whose ge-• nius has conferred substance, not merely on a name, but on the initials of one, and who now, after a career of success in verse, takes to a wholly different species of intellectual occupation,. is a phenomenon in the republic of letters not to pass unnoticed. The change is a sign of the times. Sir WALTER SCOTT did the same ; his desertion of metre was one of the first indications • of the set of the current. BYRON did not live to follow his ex- ample : he would, however, assuredly have soon abandoned DM' Juan for the modern epic in prose. And if WORDSWORTH and SOUTHEY were not too indolent, or too old for the task, we should have a pastoral novel from the former, and a political one from the latter. A fashionable novel, w.e should have ex- pected as little from either of them as from LE. L. The folly of writing about lords and ladies must indeed be epidemic, when this lady has deserted her own sphere to describe orie with which. she is not likely to be acquainted, and which, were she so, is hardly worthy of her notice ; and wherein, moreover, she must necessa- rily have to compete with persons who at least bring more know- ledge of the subject to the task. It is a fact, however, that Ro-, nuance and Reality is a tale of Lady Adelaides and Honourable Edwards ; and the authoress herself tells us, in her preface, how painfully she has studied the Peerage. for names. The heroine, in- deed, has no title—she is only an heiress, the niece of a minister of state, and the representative of a long line of illustrious ancestors ; below persons of this rank, the fashionable novel never goes, except to find food for ridicule. Accordingly, L. E. L. has condescended to select a parcel of tourist citizens to supply farce and vulgarity, to contrast duly with the elegance and gentility of her fashionable squares and her baronial castles : but her Cockneys are as far froth truth as tier leaders of the world of fashion. A portion of ro- mance is, however, infused into the ordinarymelange of fancy balls and suburban breakfasts, such as grace the true novel of the " knife and fork school." The heroine is kidnappednear Mount Vesuvius; and carried off to a solitary castle, by an Italian coiffeur from London; and the hero wanders in Spain, and falling upon the-ruined mansion of a Patriot, repairs the fortunes of the family by marrying his daughter—to the neglect of the lady whom, by all the laws of novel- writing, he ought to have married, but who, on the contrary, dies broken-hearted, and leaves her rival all her wealth. This is the Romance : as for the Reality, we are at a loss to know where to find it, unless it be in the elaborate puffs of the author of Pelham, the editor of the Literary Gazette, and various worthies of less notoriety, whom we now hear of for the first time, but who are undoubtedly geniuses of the first water. But we must not be ill-natured though we are disappointed. The novel is a bad novel—let us console ourselves—it is a clever book. It is clear that the authoress has no talent for the construc- tion of a story, for the invention of incidents, or the conception of character. Her work is a collection of dialogues : not certainly dramatic ones—no two or three persons ever by an accident put their thoughts in the same train, or conducted their discussion in a similar manlier ; but still they are dialogues, and sketches, written by no common person: and whets we recollect that their authoress must have taken the greater part of them on trust, we cannot fail to be surprised, if it be only at the appearance of the wisdom they are crammed with almost to suffocation. Ambition is the rock on which this young lady must unhappily be considered to have foundered. Tormented with the desire of shining, she has selected the "profound" as a fair stage for the exhibition of her talents. If the "profound" is deserted for an instant, it is in favour of the " smart." This is the see-saw in which the reader is kept vibrating,—now he is in the very depth of a truth, deep as a well ; now he mounts into the air, after the brilliant remarks which pretend only to buoyancy. We close the book with a strong sensation of relief—not from the exertion which it has demanded to accompany the authoress in her speculations,. but from sympathy with the delight that she must have felt on finishing her task. A consciousness of effort on the part of the writer—the most disagreeable of feelings—is the perpetual compa- nion of the reader. How many weary hours has it cost to polish these Bristol stones !
If we had been led to take up the work as a set of conversations and sketches, interspersed with tales originally intended for albums, we cannot deny that we should have read and skipped, dipped and paused, and looked again, with a good deal of satisfaction: but in that case, and in that view. of her book, the authoress would have lett out all the love and the sentiment,—which is really very ill done, and unworthy of many of the remarks, which are truly worth preserving. Her passion for the sententious has un- fortunately led her into far too many oracular conundrums; which may probably take in some of her admirers, but which, when ana- lysed, provoke a hearty laugh, or perhaps a sigh,—according as • the reader is disposed to rejoice at the exposure of pretension, or lament over the mistakes of vanity. No persons in the world, not even one of the injudicious friends Of the authoress, could have undertaken a perusal of her book with a greater anxiety to admire: and if there is any thing vacillating in this notice, it arises from an unwillingness to dispraise, struggling with an unlucky habit of being honest. If L. E. L. had only writ- ten according to knowledge,—had she constructed an interesting story, or developed a genius for character,—it would have been a pleasure to us to proclaim the fact ; or had she abandoned all idea of story or character, and sought only to instruct or stimulate thought by her remarks, her dialogues, her critical disquisitions, —all might still have been well—she would have been unpretend- ing, and we should have been gratified : but here is a self-consti- tuted Madame DE STAEL—Corinne in England—philosophy, hu- man nature, learning, wit, wisdom, satire, scorn, all in petticoats : polyglottic, polygraphic, polysyllabic—in future L. E. L. should be written P. P. P. The brilliancy and success of Madame DE SrAEL has been in this young lady's mind in every page ; but, unluckily, the DE STAELS are. born, not made ; and, after all the industry with which she has plied her commonplace-book, and after all her assiduous study of ROCHEFOUC AULT, apparently her favourite author, there is no difficulty in distinguishing between a very clever person and a woman of genius. We can be under no difficulty in selecting specimens : fine passages adorn every chapter. There is a look of effervescence about a part intended to be admired, we cannot be mistaken in : we seem to hear, as we read, the indicative whiz ; and by the time
i we have got to the end, the whole is sure to explode, in a style common both to pop and champagne.
FASHIONABLE LONDON AT
" But the three hours before, of, and after midnight in a fashionable square, are not very favourable to a reverie, when the ear has only been accustomed to the quiet midnights of the country—where the quiet is rather echoed than broken by the wind wandering among boughs of the oak and beech, and whose every leaf is a note of viewless and mysterious music. But in London, where from door to door ' leaps the live thun- der ;' the distant roll of wheels, the nearer dash of carriages, the human voices mingling, as if Babel were still building,—these soon awakened Emily's attention ; even the fire had Iess attraction than the window ; and belays was a scene, whose only fault is, we are so used to it.
" In the middle of the square was the garden, whose sweep of turf was sil rered with moonlight; around were the dark shining laurels, and all the pale varieties of colour that flower and shrub wear at such a time, and girdled in by the line of large clear lamps, the spirits of the place. At least every second house was lighted up ; and that most visible;the corner one, was illuminated like a palace with the rich stream of radiance that flowed through the crimson blinds ; ever and anon a burst of music rose upon the air, and was lost again in a fresh arrival of carriages; then the carriages themselves, with their small bright lights flitting over the sha- dowy foot passengers,—the whole square was left to the care of the gas and the watchman, before Emily remembered that she had next day to do justice to her country roses." t THE SAME IN THE MOONING.
" Emily just rose an hour too soan the next morning—morning, that breaker of spells and sleep. There was the garden- dingy and dusty, the greeu trees with a yellow fever, and the flowering shrubs drooping as if they had been crossed in love of the fresh air. The milkman was, gaoler- like, going hi ; clanking rounds ; and, instead of gay equipages waiting for the graceful figures that pessed over t e steps lightly as their blonde,— now slam(' a pail, a mop, and a slipshorl domestic, whose arms, at least, said mach for the carnations of London. Around, like the rival houses of York and :,:-,ncaster, some NvIlite, some red, stood mansions whose nobility was certainly net of outward show, and setting forth every va- riety of architecture save its own peculiar beauty, uniformity ; and win- dows on which the dust of ages' had gathered, and even that only dimly seen through smoke and fog—tuose advantages cl early rising in London."
TIIE DAY OF A FASIIIONABLE YOUNG LADY.
" Those little elegant nothings—those rainbow-tinted bead-workings of the passing hours, adlicii link the four-and-twenty coursers of the day in chains light as that slender native of Malts-, round your neck. just roles; a day for you : Your slumber, haunted by some last night's whis- per " fairy sound," is broken by the chiming of the little French clock, which, by waking you to the music of some favourite waltz, adds the midnight pleasures of memory to the morning pleasures of hope. The imprisoned ringlets are emancipated ' • " fresh as the oread from the forest fountain," you deseend—you breathe the incense of the chocolate —not more, I hope—and grow conversational and confidential over the green tea, which, with a fragrance beyond all the violets of April, rises to your lip, "giving and taking odours." A thousand little interesting dis- cussionsarise—the colour of the Comte de S.' smoustache—the captivation of-Colonel F.'s curls: there are partners to be compared—friends to be pitied—flirtations to be noted—perhaps some most silvery speech of pe- culiar import to be analysed.
" After breakfast, there are the golden plumes of your canary to be smoothed—the purple opening of your hyacinths to be watched—that sweet new waltz to be tried on the harp—or Mr. Bayly, that laureate of the butterflies, has some new song. Then there are flowers to be painted on velvet—the new romance to be read—or some invention of novel em- bellishment to he discussed with your Mlle. Jacinthe, Hyacinthe, or what- ever poetic name may euphoniously designate your Parisian priestess of the mirror.
" Luncheon and loungers come in together—a little news and a little nonsense—and then you wonder at its being sa late. The carriage and • the cachemere are in waiting—you have been most fortunate in the arrangement of your hat—never did flowers wave more naturally, or plumes fall more gracefully. Your milliner has just solicited your atten- tion to some triumph of genius—you want a new clasp to your bracelet-
" Visions of glory, spare my aching sight ! "
Complexion and constitution are alike revived by a drive in the Park- a white glove rests on the carriage-window—and some " gallant gray" or chesnut Arabian is curbed into curvets and foam by its whispering master. "' I will allow you to dream away the dinner-hour—what young lady would plead guilty to an appetite?- Then comes that hour of anxious happiness—that given to the political economy of the toilette. I rather pique myself on my eloquence; but "language, oh, how faint and weak I" to give an idea of the contending claims of tulle; crape, &c. &c. We will imagine its deliberations ended in decision. Your hair falls in curls like a sudden shower of sunshine, or your • dark tresses are gathered up, with Pearls. You emerge, like a lady lily, delicate in white—or the youngest of the roses has lent its colour to yourefape e your satin slipper.rivals the. silver-footed Thetis of old; and in a few minutes youare among the other gay, creatures " of the element" born of Colliuet's music; and:among the
many claimants for your hand one is the fortunate youth. Midnight • passes—and 1 leave you to your pillow, " Gentle dreams, and slumbers light."
A LONG DAY WITII A LITERARY LADY.
" Monday and two o'clock found Emily in Harley Street, rather sooner than she was expected, as was evident from that silken rustle which marks a female retreat. A discreet visitor, on such occasions, advances straight tni the window or the glass : Emily did the latter ; and five minutes of contem- plation ascertained the fact that her capote would endure a slight tendency to the left. She then took a seat on the hard, or, as they say of hounds, the hide-hound sofa—the five minutes lengthened into twenty, and she sought for amusement at a most literary-looking table. Alas! she had read the novels ; for treatises she had no taste ; and two German volumes, and three Latin, together with a scientific journal, gave her a cold chill. While thus employed, a red-faced, loud-voiced servant girl threw open the door, and howled, ' If you please, Ma'am, Master Adolphus has thrown the Library of Entertaining Knowledge at Master Alfred's head, because he tore the Catechism of Conchology ;' but before Miss Arundel could express her regret at such misapplication of knowledge, the girl had Va- nished in all the dismay of a mistake.
" At last Mrs. Smithson appeared. My dear Emily, you have waited —I forgot to tell you that I devote the early part of the day to the dear children—I never allow my literary and domestic duties-to interfere ; you cannot commence the important business of education too soon, and I am but just emerged from the study.'
" This was a little at variance both with the servant's appearance and her own laboured toilette, whose want of neatness was the result of hurry and bad taste, not of after-disorganization. It is amazing how oppressive is the cleverness of some people, as if it were quite a duty in you to be clever too—or, as I once heard a little child say, Oh, mamma, I always speak to Mrs. S. in such dictionary words " Slowly and sadly' did the morning pass. Alas ! for the victim of friendship, whom sentiment or silliness seduces into passing a long day ! The upright sitting Ole the repulsive sofa—the mental exhaustion in searching after topics of conversation, which, like the breeze in Byron's description of a calm, come not'—the gossip that, out of sheer despera- tion, darkens into scandal ; if ever friends or feelings are sacrificed under temptation too strong to be resisted, it is in the conversational pauses of a long day ; and worst of all, a long day between people who have scarcely an idea or an acquaintance in common, for the one to be exchanged, or the other abused—communication or condemnation equally out of the question. Mrs. Smithson secretly pitied herself for wasting her collo- quial powers on that social nonentity, a young lady ; and Miss Arundel was somewhat bewildered by the march of her former friend's intellect. Divers of those elegant harmonies, which make musical the flight of time in London, verified the old rhyme, that- , Come what may,
Time and the tide wear through the roughest day.'
"The muffins-boy announced three o'clock—the pot-boy clanking his empty pewter was symptomatic of tour—the hellman tolling the knell of the post announced five—and, at length, a heavy, hard-hearted rap pro- claimed the return of Mr. Smithson; a gruff voice was heard in the pas- sage—a ponderous step on the stairs—the door and his boots creaked, and in came the author of the treatise on bats and beetles, followed by a blue-coated, nankeen-trousered young man, whose countenance and curls united that happy mixture of carmine and charcoal which constitute the Apollo of a Compton Street counter. Mr. Smithson was equally sullen and solemn-looking, with a mouth made only to swear, and a brow to scowl—a tyrant in a small way—one who would be arbitrary about a hash, and obstinate respecting an oyster—one of those tempers which, like a domestic east wind, 'spares neither man nor beast,' from the un- happy footman that he cursed, to the unlucky dog that he kicked.
A minute specimen of humanity, in a livery like a jealous lever's, of green and yellow melancholy,' announced dinner. Mr. Smithson stalked up to Emily, Mr. Perkins simpered up to the hostess, and they entered a dismal-looking parlour, whose brick-red walls and ditto curtains were scantily lighted by a single lamp, though it was of the last new patent— to which a dim fire, in its first stage of infant weakness, gave small assist- ance.
" Mr. Smithson, who, as member of a public office, thought that church and state ought to be suprrted—which support he conceived to consist in strict adherence to certain forms—muttered something which sounded much more like a growl than a grace, and dinner commenced.
"At the top was a cod's shoulders and head, whose intellectual faculties . were rather over much developed ; and at the bottom was soup called mul- ligatawny—some indefinite mixture of curry-powder and ducks' feet, the first spoonful of which called from its master a look of thunder and lightning up the table. To this succeeded a couple of most cadaverous fowls, Ziluze haunch of mutton, raw and red enough even for an Abys- sinian, flanked by rissoles and oyster patties, which had evidently, like Tom Tough, seen ' a deal of service : these were followed by some sort of nameless pudding—and so much for the luxury of a family dinner, which is enough to make one beg next time to be treated as a stranger.
" Conversation there was none—Mr. Smithson kindly sparing the lungs of his friends, at the expense of his own. First, the fire was sworn at— then, the draught from the door—then, the poor little footboy was en- couraged by the pleasant intelligence that lie was the stupidest blockhead in the world. Mr. Perkins sat preserving his silence and his simper ; and to the lady of the house it was evidently quite matter of habit—a sort of accompaniment she would almost have missed. " The truth is, Mr. Smithson had just married some twenty years too late—with his habits, like his features, quite set, and b oth in a harsh mould. Young lady ! looking out for an establishment—meditating on the delights of a house of your own—two maids and a man, over whom you are set in absolute authority—do any thing rather than marry a con- firmed bachelor—venture on one who has been successful with seven succeeding wives, with ten small children ready made to order—walk off with some tall youth, who considers a wife and a razor definitive signs of his growth and his sense ; but shun the establishment of a bachelor who has hung a pendulum between temptation and prudence till the age of —; but of all subjects, age is the one on which it is most invidious to descant."
TILE GENERAL IDEA. OF A BALL.
" it is a fact, as melancholy for the historian as it is true, that though balls are very important events in a young lady's career, there is exceed- ingly little to be said about them : they are pleasures all on the same pat- tern,—the history of one is the history of all. You dress with a square glass before you, and a long glass behind you.; your hair trusts to its own brown or black attractions, either curled or braided,—or you put on a wreath, a bunch of flowers, or a pearl bandeau.; your dress is gauze, crape, lace, or muslin, either white, pink, blue, or yellow; you shower, like April, an odorous rain on, your handkerchief; you put on your shawl, and.. asp into the carriage ; you stop in some street or square ; your footman raps as long as he can ; you are some time going up stairs ; you hear your name, or something like it, leading the way before you. As many drawing-rooms are thrown open as the house will allow, —they are lighted with lamps or wax-lights; there is a certain quantity of china, and a certain number of exotics ; also a gay-looking crowd, from which the hostess emerges, and declares she is very glad to see you. You pass on ; you sit a little while on a sofa ; a tall or a short gentleman asks you to dance, to this you reply, that you will be very happy ; you take his arm and walk to the quadrille or waltz ; a suc- cession of partners. Then comes supper : you have a small piece of fowl, and a thin slice of ham, perhaps some jelly or a few grapes,—a glass of white wine, or ponche a la romaine. Your partners have asked you if you have been to the Opera ; in return, you question them if they have been to the Park. Perhaps a remark is hazarded on Miss Fanny Kemble. If you are a step more intimate, a few disparaging observations are made on the entertainment and the guests. Some cavalier hands you down stairs ; you recloak and reenter the carriage, with the comfortable reflection, that as you have been seen at Mrs. So-and-so's ball, Mrs. Such-a-one may ask you to her's."