NEW NOVELS. * WE congratulate Sir Arthur Elton and the public
on the brilliant success with which he has accomplished the most critical stage in a novelist's career—the production of his second work of fiction. A first novel is an uncertain measure of its author's powers, for these may not yet have attained the full development which use - can give them, or they may be incapable of improvement. In- stances are not rare in which a writer has not only put forth his whole strength in a first effort, but also expended upon it the whole sum of what life has taught him, so that all his subsequent utterances are but repetitions of the old theme accompanied by the old tricks of manner. It is well that a man should pass his little- go with credit, but the result of that trial does not determine his standing in the estimation of his contemporaries at the university. Below the Surface, Sir Arthur Elton 's little-go, was full of promise which has not failed of fulfilment. With Herbert Chauncey he went in for his novelist's degree, and he has come out from the examination a first-class man. Some day perhaps he will do something better than Herbert Chauncey ; he -may write one or two worse novels without shaking our faith in him; if he will continue to produce others as good from time to time with moderate frequency, we shall be content. Among the distinguishing merits of the novel of Herbert Chauncey, not the least signal are the freshness and the artistic construction of the story. It is full of variety, yet its unity is perfectly preserved, unbroken by a single episode. Its interest
increases n intensity with an even progression from the first chapter to the last, and this characteristic of the novel is the more remarkable because it is achieved in the teeth of a great artistic difficulty. Early in the tale its hero, the man "more sinned against than sinning," is guilty of a foul sin, and becomes an object of scorn and abhorrence to the reader, whose sympathy with him in his subsequent wrongs and sufferings could only be reawakened by a writer of consummate skill. There is no palter- ing here with the immutable laws of honour and conscience ; the erring man, who is his own autobiographer, may seek to palliate his offence, and his sophistical arguments are allowed the full licence which dramatic propriety demands for them ; but there is no furtive collusion between him and the author in the back- ground to make wrong seem right. The time comes at last, as we have said, when our interest in Herbert Chauncey is re- awakened by the atrocity of the human agency through which retribution befals him, but before this change comes -round there is a point in the story at which we trembled for the author. We eared no more for his hero, and had not yet learned to care much for the wife whom that hero had married after basely deserting his first love ; this was our condition ere we had advanced beyond the -first third of the first volume, and we looked at the long re- mainder of the autobiography with no sense of allurement, but with sore misgivings that its perusal would prove a weary task. We were not left long to labour under this discouraging im- pression. Presently we found ourselves accompanying Herbert Chauncey through scenes of English country life which we heartily enjoyed, and in that way we wereled at first to tolerate his pre- sence, and then gradually to become again concerned in the course of his destiny. There is very good fun in a discussion of county business at Quarter Sessions. Then follows a violent altercation, ending in a personal conflict and a duel. After this comes a remarkable inquest held by a vulgar and knavish coroner with a packed jury of ignorant and prejudiced boors. Presently we are in the thick of a contested election our hero being the Tory can- didate for a county bordering on ViT ales.
" Muckleworth then hurried me off on a canvassing expedition. We were to call on Mr. Juice, the dissenting minister. It was rather a forlorn hope ; but Apwood declared that a little stroking down and caressing would do wonders. Mr. Sriltmarsh, my good vicar, protested against canvassing a dissenter, and remained in the carriage outside. Mr. Juice's maid-stared wildly at the spectacle of a carriage and-four, with no end of blue ribbons in the horse's heads, drawn up in front of her master's quiet suburban villa. After some delay we were admitted. Mr. Juice had put on his best Sunday coat, and largest white neck-tie. He sat in an arm-chair, with the light
• Herbert Chauncey ; a man more sinned against than sinning. By Sir Arthur Hallam Elton, Bart., Author of "Below the Surface." In three volumes. Pub- lished by Smith. Elder, and Co. Scarsdale • or Life on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Border Thirty Years Ago. In three volumes. Published by Smith, Elder, and CO.
falling very effectiv ly upon the bump of veneration at the top of his bald head, one leg croaied over the other, and his countenance serious, but placid --just as our biehops sit when expecting a visitor who requires to be gently =abed.
" We made/our approaches cautiously ; first praising his garden, then his house, then/his study. Folliott went so far as to hazard a compliment to the good looks of the maid-servant, but we kicked him under the table, and he paused. The state of religion in Stoke was next touched upon, and finally the success of Mr. Juiee's ministerial labours.
"His countenance lost its sternness at the end of the first three minutes, and became mildly compassionate ; then passed into the blandly- cordial ; and finally into the soberly-jocose and familiar. Rising from his arm-chair, Mr. Juice showed us the theological works in his bookcase, par- ticularly a handsome edition of Hooker; the prints in his portfolio ; espe- cially a striking likeness of Bishop Horsley : a collection of dried caterpil- lars in various attitudes of torture ; and a bed of pinks in the little flower- gardenin front of his house. As we were going—not a word had been said on the real object of our visit—Mr. Juice drew me back into the.study, and softly rubbing his hands together, said :- "' I presume, Mr. Chauncey, you will vote for the total abolition of church-rates?'
"I reddened, and stammered a confession, that as a genuine Tory, I must standup defence of the Church.
ci, well ; you will give the subject your attention at all events, and perhaps you will read this little work, issued by the Church -Annihilator Society.' You will find it very good. And how about ejecting the bishops from the House of Lords, Mr. Chauncey ? Many of my dear brethren are warm on that point.
"I again reddened, and was afraid I could not support a bill for that pur- pose.
" 'Ah, well! You will think of it, I hope. I am pleased to have had the honour of being introduced fo you, and I think if I vote at all I shall give you a plumper.' "We shook hands warmly, and drove off in triumph. But a few days after, I discovered a fact that considerably damped my gratification. 3ty friend, Mr. Juice, did not happen to have a vote for the county.
"Then we visited a small yeoman living in S. small farm-house with a small field attached to it. This man kept us two hours before he would pro- mise his vote, and, after all, we were not sure of him. " Dwon't ye knew, Squire Chauncey, I be a freeholder, and father afore me ? Aye, aye, and 1'11 niver gee my vote wr my eyes shut ! Be- gummera, I oodn't, if the finest gentleman in England axed me. Na, I oodn't, Mr. Apwood. It's nonsical to 'spect it. I tell thee I oodn't. Now do ye, Squire 'Chauncey, come nist the fire, and tell I summat more. Dwon't be 'frunted, Squire Chauncey, dwon't be 'fronted. But I be a free- holder, and father war too, and gramfer afore us ; which all dree on us voted blue, but we all O's knawed why fust. Ees, all o's. Come, squire, I bag your pardon, but oon't ye take drop cider ? Do ye now, and tell I sum- mut more o' politics. Do ye now !'
• "The day was well nigh spent, but we paid one more visit. It was to the rector of the next pariah; a tall, dry, austere-looking man, who, the mo- ment we were all safe in his library, took down a voluminous work on the Alpocalypse, and put us through a regular examination. " We should have got out of it very well, if it had not been for my vicar ; who, although we pinched him black and blue, would persist in contradict- ing every other word the rector said, until it ended in a violent altercation, and our abrupt dismissal from the house, with the pleasant assurance that he would rather cut off his right hand than promote the return of so hetero- dox a candidate."
The recollections of a returned M.P. supply us with another extract :—
"1 had entered Parliament as a working man, and not merely a looker- on. The question was how to begin ? With much good sense, as I con- ceived, I determined to do nothing for some months, but watch and learn the ways of the House. This was very well in theory, but in practice my self-command failed. Doing nothing began to be a slow torture. I became depressed and almost ill; I felt I most do something, and accordingly did it as follows :— " After all my abstemiousness, I rose with much deliberation to make a speech, carefully rehearsed for some hours previous, at exactly two in the morning, when the House was impatient to get to bed. The debate had been driven late into the night by discussion on other subjects, and I had had no chance of speaking earlier. The wise course would have been to have said nothing and waited for another opportunity. But, lacking ex- perience, and deficient as yet in the gift of self-restraint, nowhere more use- ful than in the House, I sprang on my legs as if plucked from my seat by some invisible wire from the ceiling. The shout of 'Divide' that rang through the House rather stimulated me than otherwise. I hoped to excite the interest and compel the attention of both sides. There were a few of
cries of New Member, new Member ! ' Reluctantly the House let me go on. Near me I heard one M.P. say to another, Who's that confounded fellow ? ' with as much coolness as ill were a stray porter or policeman, in- stead of Mr. Herbert Chauncey, county Member, lately come into a hand- some fortune, who had distinguished himself at college, and of whom great things were expected by his friends.
"On the Treasury bench a noble lord said in an audible voice, Why the deuce does the fool get up to speak at two in the morning ? ' All this time I was getting through my opening sentences ; my idea having all along been to make a neat-speech of some half an hour's duration, rather to excite expectation than to achieve a high reputation as a debater.
"But before I had got through my first paragraph, the House began to comprehend that I was commencing, not a few remarks, but a studied oration. Some of the men immediately grew restless, and once more there was a loud tnurmur of 'Divide.' This was not encouraging„ but what was worae, the idea crept through my mind, unwelcome as a twinge of toothache, that I was perpetrating a great blunder. I was making myself a bore, and when a man has established a character for being a bore, he is often a long time in getting rid of it. If I had possessed impudence, I might have run through niy speech as fast as a schoolboy saying his task ; but impudence ITRS.not one of my gifts, and the only idea that occurred to me was to make a dignified retreat; that is to say, judiciously curtail my speech, and sit down in ten minutes.
"More easily said than done. As soon as I left the beaten track of my well-conned harangue, I began to flounder in abyssmal ' mud. The cry of ' Divide ' again burst forth, and the tone in which it was uttered was Unmistakable; it meant= Oh, shut up that bothering noise and sit down : nobody wants to hear you!"This did not improve the clearness of my ideas, but I struggled through my sentence, and began another with Mr. Speaker!' There was no need whatever to exclaim Mr. Speaker ; ' and I said to myself= You are saying that to gain time, for you know you haven't a notion what to say next.' The moment I made this pertinent ob- servation, my mind became a blank ; there was an awful pause ; the very cries of ' Divide ' ceased. I gazed wildly at the Speaker; he looked at me with benignant compassion, as if replying—' I .im sorry for you, but you see I can't help you.' I believe the pause was only five .seconds and a quarter in duration, but in my intense distress it seemed many minutes. The whole building began slowly to revolve round and round, my heart was nailed to my ribs, and my tongue as dry as a piece of shoe-leather. I made a desperate effort, like a drowning man, to save myself, and partially suc- ceeded. There were a few good-natured Hear, hears,' by way of en- couragement, but that did me no good ; it only impressed upon my mind the disagreeable fact that my embarrassment was patent to everybody. I saved myself, as I said, by a desperate effort ; condensing into a couple of sentences the pith of my half hour's oration, I wound up by assuring the House I would not detain it at that late hour. This was the only sentiment in my speech that met with applause, and I sank back into my place in a frame of mind not far from miserable.
"As I had overrated my powers of enchaining the attention of the House, much more did I overrate the extent of my failure. In point of fact, very few suspected it was a failure at all, for none could know I had privately contemplated making a decided hit. But more particularly, in common with most of us' I imagined myself the observed of all observers, when I was barely observed by a dozen near me.
"Leaving the House with an aching heart, I threw myself into a cab, and went, home to bed a blighted being.' Next morning, however, my spirits a little revived. My five minutes' speech did not look a° very ad an print. One man called it 'sensible.' I could have clasped him to my heart, though only the day before such gentle praise would have seemed downright impertinent. "But my unlucky attempt to make a sensation left some ill effects be- hind. I was vastly more nervous than I was before. Merely to present a petition, became a most formidable proceeding—a glass of sherry and a bis- cuit were essential before the step could be attempted. For weeks, nay months, I would no more have addressed Mr. Speaker,' except in the de- partment of parliamentary business just mentioned, than have danced a hornpipe on the floor of the House. One day, however, in Committee of the whole House, some Member made a foolish observation ; I rose, on the impulse of the moment, and put him right ; there was laughter and ap- plause. A weight seemed taken from my mind, and nerve and self-possee- sion came back to me. By degrees I gained the ear sf the House, and po- litical leaden deemed my support worth securing."
The author of Scarsdale is intimately acquainted with the scenery and people of East Lancashire, and the pictures he draws of them are clear and expressive. The period which his story illustrates is well chosen, being that which witnessed the tran- sition from the hand-loom to the power-loom system. This vast change was not effected without entailing much temporary suffer- ing on the working classes and provoking violent outbreaks, one of which forms a prominent feature in the novel. The incidents connected with it are numerous, and are vigorously pourtrayed. The author never appears to more advantage than when he is de- scribing scenes of vehement action, whether on the part of indi- viduals concentrating every faculty of mind and body upon soms perilous enterprise, or of masses swaying to and. fro under change- ful gusts of tumultuous passions. He is a man of large capacity and acquirements, to whom the profoundest problems of economi- cal science are matters of more than speculative interest. Discus- sions on topics of this kind occupy a large portion of his pages, and we by no means deny their intrinsic value, but we would rather have lighted upon them in another place. Construction and characterization are the weak points of the novel. Setting aside that part of the story which immediately concerns the riots, the rest is feeble in conception, and awkwardly unfolded. The author is at home among his living models of the humbler class, but his hand fails him when he attempts to pourtray persons of his own social grade. Study and practice will, we hope, enable him to make good his present deficiencies QS an artist, and to assert for himself a place among writers of fiction which shall be worthy of his unquestionable talents and earnestness of purpose.