3 MARCH 1866, Page 18

SEE-SAW.*' It is a matter of such rare occurrence to

find a novel purperting to be written by one gentleman and' edited by another, that we are forced to stop at the very title-page of thin-book and wonder What it means.

Of "Francesco Abati "we know nothing, and though we aee

not quite justified in claming him with Mrs. Harris and other unembodied spirits, and saying that "we don't believe there isn't no such person," still we are tempted to think that there is some- thing itt his position analogous to that of idr. jorkins (Of the firm of " Spenlow and Jorlsins "), and that he is admitted to partner- ship in order that the sins of the firm may be laid upon his invisible shoulders, whilst the senior partner comes out scath- less. Mr. Winwoode Reads has already faced criticism single- hauded,--a-can it be that the opinion of reviewers respetting Liberty Hall have caused him to take an esquire into the combat on the present occasion?' If so, We must admit that it is the only act of duplicity of which Mr. Winwoode Reade is guilty. The book is otherwise very outspoken—so outspoken as to render it worthy of a place beside the most candid French novel. In fact See Saw may be said to be a deadly-lively imita- tion of a French novel. Whether this be a merit or not is beside the question, and whether it is desirable that English novel-readers should have their taste trained to French cookery we do not stop to inquire. The book is entitled to be judged on its own merits. The plot is not very elaborate. The Marchese del Lorini, a young Florentine, very rich, very eccentric, and an amateur composer of much talent, falls in with a young contadina, whose father, it pauper and a scoundrel, has presented her to thellarchese ttnsitte pretence of consulting him about the cultivation of her flue take. The Marchese, charmed with her voice and talent, takes her up, causes her to be instructed, procures for her the opportunity of making a debut at a Florentine theatre, tmd finally accompanies her to London, where she becomes the prima donna of the season and the idol of the opera public. This pretty Platonic attachment soon becomes changed into a feeling of a different kind, and the in- teresting young pair begin to bill and coo in the true French novel fashion quite early in the book. Although he is a noble, and she is but a contadina, he overcomes that scruple, and one fine day he was on the point of making her his betrothed When there "was a Sound." This "Sound" turns out to be a dirge sung by a procession of mourners at a torchlight funeral. Both the lovers are so much affected by the " Sound " that the matter proceeds no further at that time. It is part of the business of novelists to invent varieties of the "slip between the cup and the lip." We may therefore regard this funeral as slip the first. Slip the 'second is caused by a certain Russian Baroness, who is living and travelling, fancy free, in the South of Europe, while her husband is soldiering in the North, and who is on exceedingly intimate terms with the Marchese. In your regular French novel this role is usually assigned to a Rus- sian baroness. Finding that the intimacy with " Maddalena " considerably modifies the feelings of the Marchese towards herself, the Baroness Sackoweky resolves to put a stop to the thing. Accordingly when they come to England the Baroness follows them, and then there is the old worn-out device, much resorted to in penny-number stories, of a demon in the human shape of a lady's-maid, who is suborned by the Baroness to get into Mesas- lenaa service by means of a forged character, act as spy and detective, intercept the lovers' letters, and make herself otherwise generally useful. By these means a quarrel is brought about between the Marchese and Maddalena, and this quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands at the end of the first volume.

Now it came to pass that when Maddalena was-in the zenith of her fame at Her Majesty's Theatre—about a year and. a half ago, according to the chronology of the book—one Mr. Richard Atkins, a retired merchant and a millionaire, was living with a maiden sister of evangelical views in Bedford Square. This gentleman having devoted all his former existence to business and none-of it to pleasure, becomes suddenly seized with a desire to see a little "life." Acting on the principle "Better late, than never," he determines to make up for lost time. Amongst other preparations for the campaign he picks an acquaintance with some men in a "fast" literary set, and the author thus secures an opportunity of describing rather smartly a certain phase of London Bohemianism with which he is evidently familiar :— "He hastened to the Craven, which was very full as usual on Saturday nights after 11 p.m. In one corner of the room sat a group of bearded Men discussing the prospects of the R. A. Exhibition, and exchanging • See-Saw. A Novel_ By Francesco Abati. Edited by W. Winwoode Reads. 4, London: Moron. 1885. anecdotes of the studio and the dealer's shop. Another group, with shaven faces, were criticizing the east of the Easter pieces, and °hiking their respective managers. Several others had paired off into &Items. There you might See A—, the ventriloquist, talking to B-5 writer the- writer of entertainments; 0—, the editor of a new comic paper, with 111—, a professional punster ; E—, a successful actor, who was about to take a theatre, had been button-holed by F—, a writer Of =played comedies. Alone, with a red face and a grey, pointed beard, 'a Mazzini hat upon his knees and a glass of gin-and-water in his hand, immersed in the meditative state of drunkenness, sat G—, writer of. epic poems for posterity and of prospectuses for tradesmen. His next neighbour was H—, a geologist who riuhappily believediiiinselfto bee *it, and opposite to hima respectable land agenkwho had an ex- traordinary mania for personating the lower animals. When requested he would buzz like a bee, crack a nut like a baboon, snort like a hippo- potamus, crow like a cock, trumpet like- an elephant, talk like a parrot bray like an ass, miltord like a cat, and hop about the room his hands hanging before him like a kangaroo. He went to the Craven to indulge in these vagaries, as the man of science went there to excrete his wit, OS the journalist went there to pick up ideas, as the actors went there to propitiate the critics, as the playwrights went there to Make interest with the actors, as the lawyers and doctors went there to gob clients, as the talkers went there to shine, and the listeners to say they had been shone upon. The Craven had been founded as a caravanserai for the few Bohemians who have not yet succumbed to death or to marriage ; but as these gentlemen seldom attended and never paid, its doors were enlarged, and a number of middle-aged men from the 'Temple and the City, and of boys from the Army and the War Office, were allowed to cross its sacred threshold. 'The club became genteel and dull; it moved into a respectable neighbourhood, where, in spite Of its degeneration, it speedily Intense a nuitaftoil. Se'veral absurd regulations were then made ; K—, was forbidden to howl after midnight; a whist-table was smuggled in, and seated round it four solemn faces east a gloom upon the spirits of the company. In ad- dition to this they laid down a carpet ; they forbade smoking at the dinner-table ; and, worst of all, they built a lavatory—the grave of Tiohemianism. The Craven therefore had neither the delicious freedom of a cider cellar nor the luxuries of a genuine dub. As for the company, it was much the same. Putting aside its numerous nobodies, who were regarded only as animated subscriptions, its set consisted for the most part of second-rate men, second-rate authors, second-rate artiste, second- tate actors, and one second-rate African traveller. They were good- natured follows enough, and were always ready to assist a brother artist in distress, but they would play at a kind of amateur theatricals, among themselves. Not content to converse like ordinary mortals; they would insist on sitting down together at a table with the deliberate intention of being fanny, and would spend hours in straining for bon snots, which aid not come--;-never opening their mouths to speak without a grin; perpetrating vile puns, and indulging in that sour, witless pleasantry which is almost peculiar to England, and -which is tidied appropriately chaff."

Mr. Atkins's sister being of a serious turn, is horrified, and

being of an acrimonious temperament, is aggressive. This is another old stock character brought on the stage to redeem the book in the eyes of people who either despise Dissenters or de- 13pise religion altogether. As a necessary part of his course of in- struction in the ways of the world, Mr. Atkins goes behind the scenes of the opera house, falls in love with Maddalena, makes her acquaintance, and asks her to marry him just at the unlucky moment when the second slip has taken place, and she is under the belief that the Marchese is a faithless traitor. Maddalena be- oorties Mrs. Richard Atkins, and goes down to live at a country house with her husband and his sister. As Mr. Atkins is subject to epileptic fits, as his sister cannot tolerate the tenets of the Boman Catholic faith—and Maddalena is of course a Catholic— and as the marriage has been, at least on the lady's side, one of pique, the trio Are for the present as happily circumstanced as the most enthusiastic novel-reader can desire.

Meanwhile the Baroness has resumed her swayover the Marchese,

and is generally leaffing a very free and easy life, until one evening (or it might be very early in the morning), when she is in the midst of a bacchanalian revel, the details of which are very minutely described, and has just let down her back hair, and the reader wonders what is going to come next, she is surprised by the appear- ance from behind the door of herhusband, whom she supposed to bein Russia, and so, after a vain intreaty for forgiveness, has her hair cut off, and is hurried off to Siberia from Paris in a carriage and pair.

The Marchese having thus lost both his charmers, and having Thither gambled Sway all his money, retires to the Black Forest, where he gives himself up to the cultivation of his art, and to the composition of an opera which is to throw the works of all former Composers into the shade..

Meanwhile, Maddalena, becoming tired of her life, determines to

run away, and accordingly makes off in the middle of the night, takes the mail train to London, and is brought back early next morning by a certain Dr. Charles Darlington, who comes on the scene when wanted, and who is represented as a physician in large practice in Harley Street. He finds time nevertheless to mix a good deal in very odd society, to act as a sort of private detective, and to be the guide, philosopher, and friend of handsome prima donnas. He takes Maddalena back to her husband's house just in time to find that gentleman has been found drowned in his bed-

room by falling with his head in the sponge bath during an. .epileptic seizure. Of coarse he has left all his money to Madda• lena, and hardly anything to his sister; a lees mood of justice would not satisfy the thorough-going novel-reader, and the sequel may be imagined. Maddalena goes abroad, seeks and finds the 'Marchese, makes love to him—he treats her eoldly, she ilies—he finds he cannot exist without her, the hide-and-seek game is reversed, and the end of the book leaves them happy.

In this book Mr. Winwoode Reads shows that he has mistaken his vocation. There are pages of description that evince much acute observation and ,graphic :power. Take, for instance, the following

Baden-Baden is a paradise, dad a description of it always, resembles a prospectus. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the world. Itnestles in a miniature valley, watered by the sparkling little OCON perfumed by meadows Which are alrhost gardens, shaded by graves and avenues of stately elms, and encircled by lofty forest000vered hills. Anywhere else these would be the cause of eternal rain.; but here, though they attract the clouds, the winds are ingeniously arranged to drive theta instantly away. Showers are frequent, storms are kV*, this cliatate Is-a' coal:Rh/It April. %Wire tdriret With a watering-trot and sprinkles the tsetse and flowers every day From all parts of the town there may be seen a large white building, with a portico in the style of the Renaissance, suppotted by eight yellow 'coltirress. It stands on the top of a gentlrsloping hill, laid out in grass- -plots and flower-beds, lined with shopa Which are searcelylarger than booths at a fair but which glitter with the wealth of the Boulevards, and which are stored with the treasures of local produce, sikch as the toys of Nuremberg, the cuckoo clocks of the Black Forest, and the 'woollen goods of Satony. On the front of the white building is printed in large letters the word 'Conversation.' You cross a broad gravel walk, where the world promenades, while music is played to them from a gold and green kiosque; you mount into the portico, and pass into the grand salon. It is of great size, and splendidly fitted up with mirrors, lustros, and magicians' galleries. The. floor is a dark and delicate parquetrie ; the walls are covered by Riguier in the Louis Quitters° style, with cupids, flowers, and arabeaques. Here the solitary traveller can lounge in luxury on red velvets or friends can cluster their chairs together and converse. For a short time you May be deluded- into the belief that the word on the walls outside is the true sign of the enter- tainment to be found within. But presently you hear a little ehink, chink, chink, and a low monotonous voice saying something which you cannot hear, but which seems to be always the same. You stroll up -and down the salon; you pass a door from -which a hot gaseous breath pours out upon you like a flame blast from a furnace ; you catch a glimpse of dark figures stooping over shaded lamps; you enter, and find yourself in one of the salles-de-jeu. You discover that in a corner of this paradise M. Beretzet keeps a hell."

Here and there one meets with a strain of cynical growling that is amusing, and gives proof of some power of originalthought, but contrasted with the weakness of the dialogue and the absurdity of the plot, it only serves to show that Mr. Winwoode Bowie is an essayist, and net a novelist. lie deludes himself by supposing that because he is a good scene-painter he is fitted for the post of stage 'manager as well. He earn set up the tame show, beat the drum, chaff the audience, and take the money; but he will do well in future to consider that his talent lies in that direction only, and does not fit him fin moving the puppets orspeaking their Lnuts.