3 MARCH 1855, Page 17

717LIA liCATANAGH'S GRACE LEE. ° THIS fiction displays Julia Kavanagh's wonted

power of word- painting and force of conception as well as of composition. These qualities may in the opinion of many give Grace Lee an appear- ance of originality. The main elements of the tale, however, are by no means new. A young and vigorous mind, like our fair wri- ter's John Owen, rising in spite of depressing circumstances to social eminence and power by means of the press and the bar, is a cha- racter of the present time ; but we have had the successful lawyer several times of late, and more naturally done. The sudden suc- cession of an accomplished and strongminded young woman to a large fortune has been used in a novel attributed to Mr. Crowe, to exhibit the politics and politicians of the day, as well as to point the moral that the career of an unmarried woman maybe useful and happy. A singular lawsuit, to raise a man of genius to sudden celebrity—poverty in a woman arising from loss of wealth, though in this case it is a romantic resignation—love crossed by peculiar temper, rather than by the continuous con- duct arising from character or a series of external influences—are, • Grace Lee; a Tale. By Julia Kavanagh, Author of " Nathalie," " Women of Christianity," &c. In tbre-• volumes. Published by Smith and Elder. -with several minor persons and incidents, more or less familiar, though all are not haoknied.

As the essential features of the story belong to the present day, mere lack of novelty, or rather priority, would have been of little consequence had the matter been presented in the spirit of the day. But it is not. Julia Kavanagh has a knowledge of French manners and character, and a power of exhibiting them, beyond most English writers. She does not seem to have studied na- tive society so closely ; and while her ideas of home life are not racy, her style is not adapted to her theme. The thoughts, the conduct of her persons, the management of her story, are not in-

digenous, or what we meet with in British life or fiction, little as much of our fiction truly represents life. Without being at all

an imitator, Julia Kavanagh appears to have drawn her plan of treatment from the modern French school, with their startling con- trasts, their love of striking situations or effects, and their in- difference to a natural progress of the story. This may not be so theatrical or even unnatural as it appears to the English reader, because a large part of French life is said to be made up of sudden

changes and their feverish consequences; but it is unnatural trans- planted to an English tale. In some parts of the story the writer seems to have had her eye upon about as bad a model as a novelist could take as a model—Jane Eyre.

A greater fault in the story is its want of purpose, and the reader's want of sympathy for the characters, as soon as the more general introduction of Grace Lee and her sudden riches merge into the real story of the heroine's resignation of fortune, her love for John Owen, and its troubled course. John Owen, in spite of his genius, strength of character, and so forth, is an nnamiable not to say a repulsive person. He is saturnine, egotistical, exacting, and in his love affairs double-dealing, without sympathy and without care for any one save himself. Grace Lee is intended by the writer to be loveable; but she scarcely is so. She is too much of a feminine Mr. Owen, with a want of that delicacy and reserve which are

looked for in an English heroine. It is on this point that the in- fluence of Jane Byre is most perceived, in the instance of others as well as Grace.

It may be said that such persons exist: and possibly they do ; but they are rare. There is nothing in the structure of the story or the conduct of its chief agents which resembles general life. " Cui bono ? to what end is all this ?" the thoughtful reader will be tempted to exclaim. Few women can ever be placed in the circumstances of Grace Lee, or possess her extraordinary acquire- ments and peculiarity of character. Men doubtless resemble John Owen, so far as ability struggling against adverse circumstances and finally succeeding ; but there is no other general resemblance. And if the fortunes and circumstances of both hero and heroine were more common, few persons would imitate their example. The book has many transient persons exhibiting observation of life, and scenes of power though not of a satisfying kind. There are also a few nice creations, and many close remarks or passing sketches. This is one of a French ambassador at Rome, whose wife has do- miciled the English "fortune" in her house with a view to her nephew the attache getting the lady and the money.

" Miss Lee reached Palace Colonna in time for the ambassadorial dinner. The ambassador himself, Madame de Montreuilt her nephew, and Grace, were the only persons present; but the very dining-room had a diplomatic air, as indeed had everything around. His Excellency M. de Montreuil

was a diplomatic man, tall, spare, austere in aspect, laconic in speech—the man to wear a gold-embroidered coat, riband, crosses and orders—to figure well in public ceremonies, to look properly deep and solemn at a ministerial dinner : an impenetrable man, from whom no one, not even Madame de Montreuil, had ever been able to extract anything, but whether because of his great depth or of his utter shallowness, Madame herself never could make out. He never breathed a word of politics ; he read all the news- papers, took notes of the cases of extraordinary longevity, spent an hour every morning with his secretary, rode every afternoon on the Pincio, lived like any other gentleman, and had the name of un homme d'etat."

This is a specimen of the reflections ; somewhat rhetorical, but the writer belongs to that school.

" Who has passed through life and not been wrecked with some long- cherished hope on the wild and desolate shore of that troubled sea ? Some

sit down among the rocks, raise their voices, and weakly weep. Some look around them and say—' Of the home to which Fate has driven me I will make my home : grief, I fear thee not ; I take possession of this thy barren heritage ; here I cast my tent: do thy worst ; I brave thee in thine own doleful realm.' And some neither brave nor are conquered by grief. They know that life is a hard battle ; that few are the victors : they take evil as they take good fortune; defeat and death as they take victory—with a smile. But happy they who conquer ; thrice happy they who never know what that smile of the lips costs the aching heart.'