MR. TROLLOPE is a novelist who requires space to bring out his conceptions to their full perfection ; his longest novels are as a rule his best, and the characters which have re-appeared oftenest on his stage are those which give the keenest pleasure to the reader. He has never yet found it in his heart, as far as we can remember, to kill off one of his multitudinous types, unless it was the drinking railway contractor, Sir Roger Scatcherd, in Dr. Thorne, whom not to have seen in the last stage of delirium tremens, would scarcely have been to have seen at all. Even the Warden, Mr. Harding, one of his very best and probably his finest pictures, is not, we trust, yet dead, while Lady liar tletop, Mr. Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke of ()minium, and many others give ample signs of life from year to year. Mr. Trollope was not the first to adopt this practice of bringing his old characters on to the stage of a new story, for Mr. Thackeray had adopted it before him, though less freely, and without an equally happy result. We rather regret seeing Arthur Pendennis again, are vexed with Laura in her contracted matrimonial goodiness, and thirst after fresh fields and pas- tures new. We believe the reason of this to be that with Thackeray and perhaps most great novelists, the creative effort is spent upon the characters themselves, so that when its first. great impulse is exhausted there is a certain second-handness about the repetition of the same imaginative picture. But with Mr. Trollope, on the other hand, the creative effort is chiefly spent on the construction of the little circumstances, the variation of the angles of the little mental and moral reflectors in which we catch a new glimpse of his characters' nature and essence. His characters them- selves once conceived never vary ; they are always the same, and always affect us as if they were data of Mr. Trollope's mind, the fixed, unalterable points on his chart of operations, as if all that his imagination really had to work at was _to find out the little incidents which would best throw a variety of lights upon these fixed centres of his thought and on their relation to each other. We have noticed before, in reviewing The Small House at .Allington, how skilful he is in delineating the small manceuvres and petty tactics of social life, how finely he calculates the effect of place, of dress, of all the most trivial associations in modifying the mutual in- fluence exerted by men and women over each other, how he makes a hair sometimes turn the scale between temporary failure or temporary success, and how admirably he understands a certain frugal artistic ' economy ' which reveals to the reader only as much as, and no more than, ordinary social opportunities actually do reveal of the characters concerned. This great characteristic of his,—that his mind as an artist is engaged much more upon elaborating the infinitely varying social occasions for reflecting character than on creating character itself ,—that he occupies himself with turning the social kaleidoscope in which the individual characters are always taking new relations to each other, rather than with penetrating to the core even of his best conceptions, has given him his power of perpetually bringing the old characters on the scene not only without fatiguing his readers, but even with new delight to them. And it is another way of saying the same thing to say that he requires ample space for his most effective pictures. A novelist who delineates best by a succession of varying circumstantial lights and shadows, whose happiest power is the reserve which be knows so well how to exercise in discussing the mental attitudes of frigid and self-restrained hauteur, who paints better in fact, the slighter the effect and the more of conventional knowledge and artificial custom goes to make up its medium (so long as it is a characteris- tic effect at all) which he wants to convey, —as, for example, the negotiations between the Duke of Omnium and his nephew, Mr. Plantagenet Palliser, through the Duke's agent, Mr. Fothergill,— a novelist in short who seems the more aldlful the more minute and complex are the conventional nuances through which his • Miss Mackenzie. By Anthony Trollope. Two vols. London : Chapman and RalL
characters express themselves, cannot but need ample space in which to delineate his conceptions. Those are almost always the best scenes in which the effective touches are apparently the slight- • est, and of course a great number of such scenes must go to make up a good story. In Thackeray, on the other hand, in whom a vein of strong feeling, whether satiric or pathetic, is almost always the basis of delineation, the finest scenes are those in which the conventional strata are broken through, such as that in which Becky half admires her husband for knocking down Lord Steyne, or Rawdon Crawley breaks out into tenderness over his little boy. Mr. Trollope is always strongest when painting individuals through the customary manners of a class, and even of classes he paints those manners beat which are almost an artificial language in themselves, which it almost takes an art to interpret. The coarser manners which tell their own tale he paints admirably, but with the tone of something too loud a laughter, as if he were laughing not only at the false contrasts and ridiculous aims which all true vulgarity exposes, but almost at the spectacle of vulgarity itself, which is simply disagreeable, and not amusing. It is his great power of painting character in the very act of using or coping with minute social circumstances, of inventing little social circumstances to throw back a new meaning on character, which enables him to reproduce the same characters again and again with so much effect. He never exhausts them, because he never paints them directly, and if he can find a new store of situations for them his imagination goes to work as fresh as ever, not repeating itself, but only working with the more power because there is none of that new ground to break which Mr. Trollope does least effectively, • —the first introduction of a character to his readers. And there- fore in all his best artistic pictures Mr. Trollope needs ample room for gradual effect. There are few of his shorter stories any- thing like equal in impressiveness to the longer ones, because he has not space for his peculiar style.
To some extent, we think, Miss Mackenzie loses by being a tale in two volumes, and two short volumes, instead of being spread in his usual leisurely way over his usual long per- spectives. It is very clever, and gives us one or two glimpses of some admirable old sketches of his,—Miss Todd and Miss Baker, who appeared in the Bertrams, — also the Duchess of St. Bungay and Lady Glencbra Palliser, who appear in the tale still going on, Can You Forgive Her ?—.for which we are sincerely grateful,—but the new characters, many of them ex- ceedingly able, are scarcely sketched in the variety of attitude and in the multiplicity of circumstances which are characteristic of Mr. Trollope's best style. There is Mr. Stumfold, of Littlebath, the jolly kind of Evangelical clergyman, who is cheery and jocular as well as Evangelical, — a sort of gentlemanly Spurgeon,— whom Mr. Trollope might well have painted for us with all the care with which he has painted Mr. Slope and Dr. Proudie. So far as the picture goes it is in his best style, but we regret to say that Mr. Stumfold disappears after a single Thursday evening's tea-meeting and re-appears on the scene no more. What can be happier than this picture ?— " Then Mr. Maguire read half a chapter in the Bible and after that Mr. Stumfold explained it. Two ladies asked Mr. Sttimf old questions with great pertinacity, and these questions Mr. Stumfold answered very freely, walking about the room the while, and laughing often as he submitted himself to their interrogations. And Miss Mackenzie was much astonished at the special freedom of his manner—how he spoke of St. Paul as Paul, declaring the saint to have been a good fellow ; how he said he liked Luke better than Matthew, and how he named even a holier name than these with infinite ease and an accustomed familiarity which seemed to delight the other ladies ; but which at first shocked her in her ignorance.—' But ram not going to have anything more to say to Peter and Paul at present,' he declared at last. You'd keep me here all night, and the tea will be spoilt.'—Then they all laughed again at the absurd idea of this great and good man preferring his food, —his food of this world,—to that other food which it was his special busi- ness to dispense. There is nothing which the Stumfoldian ladies of Littlebath liked so much is these little jokes which bordered on the profanity of the outer world, which made them feel themselves to be almost as funny as the sinners, and gave them a slight taste, as it were, of the pleasures of iniquity.—' Wine maketh glad the heart of woman, Mrs. Jones,' Mr. Stumfold would say as he filled for the second time the glass of some old lady of his set ; and the old lady would chirrup and wink, and feel that things were going almost as jollily with her as they did with that wicked Mrs. Smith who spent every night of her life playing cards, or as they had done with the horrid Mrs. Brown of whom such terrible things were occasionally whispered when two or three ladies found themselves sufficiently private to whisper them ;- that things were going almost as pleasantly here in this world, although accompanied by so much safety as to the future in her own case, and so much danger in those other cases I I think it was this aptitude for feminine rakishness which, more than any of his great virtues, more even than his indomitable industry, made Mr. Stumfold the most popular man in Littlebath. A dozen ladies on the present occasion skipped away to the tea-table in the back drawing-room with a delighted alacrity, which was all owing to the unceremonious treatment which St. Peter and St. Paul had received from their pastor."
And then, later on in the evening, when Mr. Maguire, the Evan- gelical curate, is talking his peculiar piety to Miss Mackenzie, Mr. Stumfold is once more heard :—
" Don't you agree with me, Miss Mackenzie, that psalms of praise are
better than songs of sorrow ? I don't sing at all, myself,' said Miss Mackenzie.—' You sing in your heart, my friend ; I am sure you sing • in your heart. Don't you sing in your heart? ' Here again he paused.
Well ; perhaps in my heart, yes.'—' I know you do, loud psalms of praise upon a ten-stringed lute. But Stumf old is always singing aloud, and his lute has twenty strings.' Here the voice of the twenty-stringed singer was heard across the large room asking the company a riddle.— ' Why was Peter in prison like a little boy with his shoes off?'—' That's so like him,' said Mr. Maguire.—All the ladies in the room were in a fever of expectation, and Mr. Stumf old asked- the riddle again..--' He won't tell them till we meet again ; but there isn't one here who won't study the life of St. Peter during the next week. And what they'll learn in that way they'll never forget'—' But why was he like a little boy with his shoes off ?' asked Miss Mackenzie.—' Ah ! that's Stum- fold's riddle. You must ask Mr. Stumfold, and he won't tell you till next week. But some of the ladies will be sure to find it out before then. Have you come to settle yourself altogether at Littlebath, Miss Mackenzie ? "
That Mr. Stumfold sang always, and that his lute had twenty strings, we feel no doubt at all ; and therefore regret the more deeply that Mr. Trollope should only have given us the tune of one of them. Let us hope that he has kept his song with the trumpets and his song with the shawms,—by the way, it would be quite in Mr. Stumfold's line to explain the exact nature of a shawm, and make a cheery application thereof, which would have the advantage of instructing ignorant Christians all over England, —for some other book. Still we must reproach Mr, Trollope for giving us so brief a glimpse of so admirable a figure. Mr. Maguire, the curate, is somewhat less successful. Mr. Trollope harps too much on the squint, till it almost hides the picture of the man's - pertinacious greediness and greasy Evangelicism. The libellous article which he writes in the Littlebath Christian Examiner against the other suitor for Miss Mackenzie's hand, or rather fortune, is handled with Mr. Trollope's usual skill in touching off the char- lataneries of the press, and his relations to Mrs. Stumfold, or St. Stumfolda, as she is more appropriately termed, are skilfully hit off. Still, on the whole, Mr. Maguire, though he occupies much more space than Mr. Stumfold, is less vividly painted, being as it were almost pushed off the stage of Mr. Trollope's imagination by his own squint. It is the greater pity, because there is nothing in the sketch, except the terrible accentuation of the squint, which is not effective,—even to the name Jeremiah, which occurs to Miss Mackenzie as one of the great difficulties of accepting him, Jerry being so very ludicrous and unclerical for private use and Jere- miah so impracticable. The Ball family are well painted, and John Ball (who is a kindly and refined edition of Joseph Mason, of Groby Park, in Orley Farm), the slow, care-worn, stock- buying man, who nurses his grievances without losing sight of jus- tice, and earns directors' guineas at the Shadrach Fire Office and the Abednego Life Office—(how happy is Mr. Trollope's humour in inventing names !)—for his nine children, is an admirable figure. But perhaps the most finished sketches in the book are those of Mrs. Tom Mackenzie and Mr. Samuel Rubb, Jun., though they are not the best of which Mr. Trollope is capable. We may note, by the way, that Mr. Samuel Rubb is made too vulgar for his educa- tion at Merchant Taylors' School, where, having learned a little Latin and a good deal, one would suppose, of the use of English words amongst fairly educated boys, he could scarcely have failed to learn that "decorum" and "ceremony" are not interchangeable terms, and that a man at an English watering-place would be making a blunder in complimenting ladies on having quite got rid of decorum. Still the man is admirably done, though there is evi- dently a slight increase in the vulgarization of his manners, and a slight change in the author's feeling towards him as the tale pro- ceeds. Mrs. Mackenzie and the slavish captivity into which she goes to Grandairs, the man whom she hires to wait at her dinner-party, is very amusing. But we are sure no boastful woman, whose hus- band had 800/. a year, would have bought only a single bottle of champagne for such an entertainment as her's. She is not meant to be stingy, and was far more likely to have been lavish of her champagne than penurious; but excepting this slight touch of caricature, Mrs. Tom Mackenzie and her dinner-party are very amusing. We do not altogether appreciate the heroine. Mr. Trollope loves to delineate women in a mess with their love affairs, and scarcely knowing their own mind. But we doubt if he sketches these characters so well as those more determinate cha- racters who fall in love in earnest. As a rule, his pictures are good almost in proportion to the definiteness of the character and the variety of the circumstances under which it is sketched. Miss Mackenzie's character is meant to be a fluid one, and the fluid characters are scarcely his forte. On the whole, however, the book, though too short and sketchy, is full of lively scenes, and shows no falling off in power, though there is somewhat too little fulness of execution.