COOPER'S JACK O'LANTERN—LE PEU-POLLET•
THIS nautical novel derives its title from the name of a French privateer, which is supposed to have injured our commerce and evaded our cruisers during the early period of the Revolutionary war. The tale itself mainly consists in a narrative of the adventures and hairbreadth escapes of the ship, and Raoul Yvard, her com- mander, from a series of perils, brought on through his affection for Ghita, an Italian girl, till, by a negligent accident, Le Feu-Follet is stranded, and the story comes to a close. The scene of the tale is laid in the Mediterranean, between the Island of Elba and the Bay of Naples: the time is immediately after the battle of the Nile, when the Allied fleets were lying in the Bay, and the tragedy of Caraccioli's execution was performed under the auspices of Nelson by the hands of British seamen. The prin- cipal nautical incidents consist of a neat escape of Le Feu-Follet from a frigate, that has apparently shut her in a harbour ; a day- attack in boats; a chase; an attempt to destroy the privateer by a fire-ship, baffled by her commander's presence of mind and sea- manship; and the final assault upon Raoul's position. The scenes not so directly connected with the sea are, some natural but rather tedious interviews with the Italian magistrates of a small sea-port, whom Raoul Yvard is mystifying under the character of a Guern. - seyman ; the execution of Caraccioli, with the skilful introduction. of Nelson, Lady Hamilton, and the sufferer himself; and the peril of Raoul Yvard, when a disguise assumed to protect Ghita subjects him to trial and condemnation as a spy. The characters are various, and such as naturally belong to the subject ; Italians of a seaport-town, and English seamen of all ranks, including Nelson himself. The Admiral is capitally sketched ; and the disgraceful crime of Caraccioli's execution, which might have afforded fair ground for attack, is handled with great delicacy, and even favour, without any weak attempt at extenuation. The most well-studied and novel, if not the most lifelike characters, are the hero, heroine, and Ithuel Bolt, a seaman on board the pri- vateer. Each of these is not only necessary to the story, and suffi- ciently individualized, but each represents as it were a public prin- ciple of the period. Ithuel Bolt is not only an unscrupulous and low American, such as Mr. COOPER luxuriates in bringing out as a crea- tion of pure Democracy, but a seaman who had been wrongfully im- pressed into the British service ; an injustice which is rankling in his mind. In Raoul and Ghita, Mr. COOPER has avowedly aimed at draw- ing "a contrast between profound beliefand lighthearted infidelity"; the obstacle to Raoul's marriage, and consequently the story itself, originating in Ghita's feeling against his scepticism, and the softer scenes of the novel being founded on this struggle. But perhaps the author has gone something further than this. In Raoul is em- bodied the daring energy and enthusiastic love of honour developed by the French Revolution in the better part of the nation ; and in Ghita the piety and submissive spirit pertaining to the preserved Catholic countries before that moral tornado swept the world. The introductory scenes between Raoul and the two Elban magistrates, whom he mystifies, drag rather heavily, from the humbur being invented, not natural; and there are passages of description where the author bestows his tediousness somewhat too fully upon the reader. With these limitations, we think Le Feu- Pallet one of Mr. COOPER'S best novels. The characters are drawn with discrimination, the sentiments are appropriate to the persons, and the dialogue is conducted with a dramatic ease and life. Every part of the work, too, bears so far the stamp of reality that it is evidently the result of observation and study. The author has seen the shores of the Mediterranean and the scenery he introduces into the work : he has observed the character of the people he describes, both in their national and individual peculiarities. Of familiarity with the professional points of seamanship it is unneces- sary to speak in the case of the originator of the modern nautical novel ; but in Le Feu-Follet he shows that he has used such oppor- tunities as have occurred to him to study the character which the British navy impresses upon its followers according to their pecu- liar idiosyncracy ; and sometimes by incidental remark, sometimes by direct observations, it is evident that he has well-considered the profounder questions of the period, whose principles must operate, however unconsciously, on all exposed to their influence. And these questions in the work before us are many, though often very latent,—the effects of the French Revolution upon the general character of Frenchmen, the spirit of religion respectively to be found in Catholicism and Puritanism, as well as various questions springing out of war-discipline, and its necessary modifications by national character.
In this loftier and more speculative kind of knowledge, which, though not sufficient to make a first-rate writer of fiction, is abso- lutely necessary to one, we think Mr. COOPER excels most novelists of the day. The same rank must be awarded to him as an artist— as a man who, selecting a subject for presentation, carefully con- siders his design, and its mode of treatment ; not merely regarding the fable in which that subject is to be embodied, and the cha- racters and incidents that are to carry the fable along, but re- ferring to those higher principles of philosophy—political, social, moral, or religious—which more or less affect men, though the prin- ciples themselves may not yet have been inserted in the philoso- phical code. And this latter and very difficult purpose he accom- plishes with more variety and less of obtrusive formalism than most of his competitors—perhaps than any. The defect of COOPER is a want of that quality which is understood by the word imagination. He is indeed imaginative, but it is rather by reasoning than inspir- ation. It comes by art, not by nature ; and for this defect there is no very specific remedy. This want imparts a kind of matter-of-fact air to his manner and treatment, which in parts gives a strong character of reality, but spreads a sort of heavy slowness over the
Our extracts will have little relation to the parts of the work which form the interest of the romance, or even to the stirring sea- incidents, — which, sooth to say, sometimes require a nautical knowledge to follow their details, though the results are appre- hended. Here is a general matter dramatically individualized, and feelingly yet sensibly handled.
I hope you parted good friends?" "The best in the world, Captain Cuffe. No one that feeds and lodges one Well heed dread me as an enemy."
"I'll warrant it. That's the reason you are so loyal, Clinch."
The hard, red face of the master's-mate worked a little, and, though he could well look all sorts of colours, he looked all ways but in his captain's eye. It was now ten years since he ought to have been a lieutenant, having once actually outranked Cuffe, in the way of date of service at least; and his con- science told him two things quite distinctly,—first, the fact of his long and weary probation ; and second, that it was, in a great degree, his own fault. "I love his Majesty, Sir," Clinch observed, after giving a "gulp, and I never lay any thing which goes bard with myself to his account. Still, memory will be memory ; and spite of all I can do, Sir, I sometimes remember what I might have been, as well as what I am. If his Majesty does feed me, it is with the Spoon of a master's mate; and if he does lodge me, it is in the cockpit."
"I have been your shipmate often, and for years at a time," answered Cuffe, good-naturedly, though a little in the manner of a superior; "and no one klICM8 your history 'better. It is not your friends who have failed you at need, so much as a certain enemy with whom you will insist on associating though be harms those most who love him best."
" Ay, ay, Sir, that can't be denied, Captain Cuffe ; yet it's a hard life that passes altogether without hope."
This was uttered with an expression of melancholy which said more for Clinch's character than Cuffe had witnessed in the man for years, and it re- vived many early impressions in his favour. Clinch and he had once been messmates even ; and though years of a decided disparity in rank had since in- terposed their barrier of etiquette and feeling, Cuffe never could entirely forget the circumstance.
" It is bard to live, as you say, without hope," returned the captain; "bat hope ought to be the last thing to die. You should make one more rally, Clinch, 'before you throw up in despair."
" It 's not so much for myself, Captain, that I mind it, as for some that live ashore. My father was as reputable a tradesman as there was in Plymouth ; and when he got me on the quarter-deck be thought he was about to make a gentleman of me, instead of leaving me to pass a life in a situation which may be said to be even beneath what his own was."
" Now you undervalue your station, Clinch. The berth of a master's-mate, in one of his Majesty's finest frigates, is something to be proud of. I was once a master's-mate; nay, Nelson has doubtless filled the same station. For that matter, one of his Majesty's own sons may have gone through the rank." " Ay, gone through it, as you say, Sir," returned Clinch, with a husky voice ; " it does well enough for them that go through it, but it 's death to them that stick. It 's a feather in a midshipman's cap to be rated a mate; but it 's no honour to be mate at my time of life, Captain Cuffe."
"What is your age Clinch ? You are not much my senior."
"Your senior, Sir I, The difference in our years is not as great as in our rank, certainly, though I never shall see thirty-two again. But it 's not so much that, alter all, as the thoughts of my poor mother, who set her heart on seeing me with his Majesty's commission in my pocket; and of another, who set her heart on one that I'm afraid was never worthy her affection." "This is new to me, Clinch," returned the Captain, with interest. "One so seldom thinks of a master's-mate marrying, that the idea of your being in that way has never crossed my mind, except in the manner of a joke." "Master's-mates hare married, Captain Cuffe, and they have ended in being very miserable. But Jane, as well as myself, has made up her mind to live single, unless we can see brighter prospects before 11111 than what my present hopes afford."
"Is it quite right, Jack, to keep a poor young woman towing along in this uncertainty during the period of life when her chances for making a good con- nexion are the best ?"
Clinch stared at his commander, until his eyes filled with tears. The glass had not touched his lips since the conversation took its present direction; and the usual hard settled character of his face was becoming expressive once more, with human emotions.
"it's not my fault, Captain Cuffe," he answered in a low voice ; "it 's now quite six years since I insisted upon her giving me up, but she wouldn't hear of the thing. A very respectable attorney wished to have her, and I even prayed her to accept his offer ; and the only unkind glance I ever got from her eye was when she heard me make a request which she told me sounded im- piously, almost, to her ears. She would be a sailor's wife, or die a maid." "The girl has, unfortunately, got some romantic notions concerning: the profession, Clinch ; and they are ever the hardest to be convinced of what is for their own good."
"Jane Weston! Not she, Sir; there is not so much romance about her as in the fly-leaves of a Prayer-book. She is all heart, poor Jane I and how I came to get such a hold of it, Captain Cuffe, is a great mystery to myself. I certainly do not deserve half her affection, and I now begin to despair of ever being able to repay her for it."
Clinch was still a handsome man though exposure and his habits had made
inroads roads on a countenance whirl' by nature was frank, open, and prepos- sessing. It now expressed the anguish that occasionally came over his heart, as the helplessness of his situation presented itself fully to his mind. Cuffe's feelings were touched, for he remembered the time when they were messmates, with a future before them which promised no more to the one than to the other, the difference in the chances which birth afforded the captain alone excepted. Clinch was a prime seaman, and as brave as a lion too; qualities which secured to him a degree of respect, that his occasional self, forgetfulness had never entirely forfeited. Some persons thought him the most skilful mariner the Proserpine contained ; and perhaps this was true, if the professional skill were confined strictly to the handling of a ship, or to taking care of her on critical occasions. All these circumstances induced Cuffe to enter more closely into the master- mate's present distress than he might otherwise have done. Instead of shoving the bottle to him, however, as if conscious how much disappointed hope had already driven the other to its indiscreet use, he pushed it gently aside, and taking his old messmate's hand, with a momentary forgetfulnesss of the differ- ence in rank, he said, in a tone of kindness and confidence which had long been strangers to Clinch's ears,
"Jack, my honest fellow, there is good stuff in you yet, if you will only give it fair play. Make a manly rally, respect yourself for a few months, and some- thing will turn up which will yet give you your Jane, and gladden your old mother's heart."
There are periods in the lives of men when a few kind words, backed by a
friendly act or two, might save thousands of human beings from destruction. Such was the crisis in the fate of Clinch. He had almost given up Lope, though it did occasionally revive in him whenever he got a cheering letter from the constant Jane, who pertinaciously refused to believe any thing to his pre- judice, and religiously abstained from all reproaches. But it is necessary to understand the Influence of rank on board a man-of-war, fully to comprehend the effect which was now produced on the master's-mate by the captain's lan- guage and manner. Tears streamed out of the eyes of Clinch, and he grasped the Land of his commander almost convulsively.
" What can I do, Sir? Captain Cuffe, what can I do ? " he exclaimed. "My duty is never neglected; but there are moments of despair, when I find the burden too hard to be borne without calling upon the bottle for support."
OLD TARS ON THE PICTURESQUE.
Of all men, sailors become the most &las& in the way of the sensations pro- duced by novelties and fine scenery. It appears to be a part of their calling to suppress the emotions ofa greenhorn ; and, generally, they look upon any thing a little out of the ordinary track with the coolness of those who feel it is an admission of inferiority to betray surprise. It seldom happens with them that any thing occurs, or any thing is seen to which the last cruise, or, if the vessel be engaged in trade, the last voyage did not at least furnish a parallel ; usually the past events, or the more distant object, has the advantage. He who has a sufficient store of this reserved knowledge and experience, it will at once be seen, enjoys a great superiority over him who has not, and is placed above the necessity of avotting a sensation so humiliating as wonder. On the present occasion, however, but few held out against the novelty of the actual situation of the ship, (on the coast near Amalfi); most on board being willing enough to allow that they had never before been beneath cliffs which bad such a union of the magnificent, the picturesque, and the soft ; though a few continued firm, acting up to the old characters with the consistency of settled obstinacy,
Strand, the boatswain, was one of those who on all occasions "died hard."
Be was the last man in the ship who ever gave up a prejudice: and this for three several reasons—be was a cockney, and believed himself born in the centre of human knowledge; he was a seaman, and understood the world; he was a boatswain, and stood upon his dignity. * • " This here coast is mountainious, as one may own," observed the captain of the forecastle ; "but what I say is, that it 's not as mountainious as some I 'ye seen. Now, when I went round the 'arth with Captain Cook, we fell in with islands that were so topped off with rocks, and the like o' that, that these here affairs, alongside on 'em, wouldn't pass for any thing more than a sort of jury-mountains." " There you 're right, Catfall," said Strand, (the boatswain,) in a patron- izing way ; "as anybody knows as has been round the Horn. I didn't sail with Captain Cook, seeing that I was then the boatswain of the Hussar, and she couldn't have made one of Cook's squadron, being a post-ship, and com- manded by a full-built captain; but I was in them seas when a younker, and can back Catfall's account of the matter by my largest anchor, in the way of history. D—e, if I think these hillocks would be called even jury-moun- tains in that quarter of the world. They tell me there's several noblemen's and gentlemen's parks near Lunnun where they make mountains just to look at ; that must be much of a muchness with these here chaps. I never drift far from Wappin' when I 'm at home, and so I can't say I 'ye seen these artifice hills, as they calls them, myself; but there 's one Joseph Shirk, that lives near St. Katherine's Lane, that makes trips regularly into the neighbourhood, who gives quite a particular account of the matter." '5 I dare to say it 's all true, Mr. Strand," answered the captain of the fore- castle; "for I 've know'd some of them travelling chaps who have seen stranger
. sights than that. No, Sir, I calls these mountains no great matter ; and as to the houses and villages on 'ern, where you see one here, you might say you could see two on some of the desert islands."
LAW OF CONSEQUENCES.
States, like powerful individuals in private life, usually feel themselves too strong to allow any considerations of the direct consequences of departures from the right to influence their policy; and a nation is apt to fancy its power of such a character as to despise all worldly amends, while its moral responsi- bility is divided among too many to make it a matter of much moral concern- ment to its particular citizens. Nevertheless, the truth will show that none are so low but they may become dangerous to the highest ; and even powerful communities seldom fail to meet with their punishment for every departure from justice. It would seem, indeed, that a principle pervades nature which renders it impossible for man to escape the consequences of his own evil deeds, even in this life ; as if God had decreed the universol predominance of truth, and the never-failing downfal of falsehood, from the beginning ; the success of wrong being ever temporary, while the triumph of the right is eternal. To apply these consoling considerations to the matter more immediately before us: the practice of impressment, in its day, raised a feeling among the seamen of other nations, as well as, in fact, amoN.,o those of Great Britain herself, which pro- bably has had as much effect in destrojing the prestige of her nautical invin- cibility, supported as was that prestige by a vast existing force, as any other one cause whatever. It was necessary to witness the feeling of hatred and re- sentment which was raised by the practice of this despotic power, more espe- cially among those who felt that their foreign birth ought at least to have as- =red them impunity from the abuse, in order fully to appreciate what might so readily become its consequences. Ithuel Bolt, the seaman just mentioned, WU a proof, in a small way, of the berm which even an insignificant individual can effect when his mind is fully and wholly bent on revenge. •