6 AUGUST 1870, Page 19


-WE are indebted to one of our advertising firms for the name -which exactly describes this book. As we hear of machine-made jewellery, so we may say that this is a machine-made novel. The process by which it is turned out can be divined by anyone who is familiar with modern fiction. You take three forms of a post- octavo size, with a certain number of internal divisions called -chapters. Having placed these forms on a table, you collect round them a mass of more or less successful fiction, according to your taste and reading. You then take the dimensions of your forms, and make an estimate of the amount of paper they will hold, and • you get that amount by snipping sufficient portions out of the fiction which you have collected, giving of course your favourite authors the preference. In this way you get the skeleton of a plot from one, your serious dialogue from another, your lively talk from a third, while a wholesale mixture of incidents and characters gives an air of novelty. You may begin with the quiet repose of the domestic novel, and then shake in an infusion of the extreme :sensational. Your good little girl of the first volume, for whom there are only too many originals, suddenly develops into a com- plete poisoner under the influence of Mr. Wilkie Collins. Your -heroine is duly engaged, and the third form is almost full to the brim, when you drop in a page of Mrs. Riddell, and wind up with e terrible tragedy. The great advantage of this method of com- position is that it provides continual surprises, we might almost ,say continual "sells." The reader knows everything when it has -come, but he never knows what is coming. As the man who has been deluded by some false pretence into listening to one of the -oldest of all stories, exclaims in.disgust, "Oh !it's that thing, is it ?" when the point is reached, so in such a novel as this we are always on the watch for familiar incidents which are sure to come, but give us no warning. How do we know that the clown will appear -out of the washing-tub, which we have just seen filled with real lather and a mass of writhing linen, till his accustomed "Here we -are again !" salutes us? The only drawback to our pleasure is the staleness of the incidents ; but in the novel before us that is so much of a piece with the conventionality of the characters that -our first duty is to give credit for consistency.

There was something in the title of the novel, and, above all, in its dedication, to prepare us for a very different kind of story. When we noticed the words "a heart history "standing immediately below the name of the work, and were told by a quotation from Faust that "feeling is everything," we expected a painful flow of mystic sentimentalism. Moreover, the dedication to the soul of -Jean Paul, "the noblest poet-romancer the world has ever seen, that veritable High-Priest in the Temple of Nature, who contended -ever for the sovereignty of sentiment over the coarse externalism of incident," informs us and Jean Paul at the same time that the present work is "a humble attempt to revive in a realistic age -somewhat of the spirit of his tender idealism." Whether the soul in question will be flattered by such a mark of esteem must remain

But for the hopeless obtuseness of reviewers, we believe that we ought to be able to detect some philosophical groundwork in the novel, some hidden meaning which would explain away all the difficulties. It is quite possible that the author has had in view these phases of love. He may have felt that English love is the mere practical feeling which looks to nothing beyond marrying and giving in marriage, and therefore is most aptly typified by a mercenary engagement. German love is considerably higher ; it is transcendental love tinged with a slight infusion of earthly passion, and therefore giving way to a couple of murders in order to gratify its human instincts. But American love is pure transcendentalism, triumphing over all obstacles, lasting for ever, and uniting at once Jean Paul, Plato, and the author of the Bond of Honour in a mystic trio. We are the more convinced that there is an under-current of nationalism running through the novel, from the fact that all the characters are types of different countries. The English represent purse-proud commerce, frivo- lous aristocracy, youthful discontent. The Germans are solemn, stolid, and beery, given to students' duels in youth and to fleshi- ness in middle age. Americans talk a peculiar dialect, and think the Old World has about reached the end of its tether. So much for the men, though we have not yet spoken of a colonial bishop who typifies the independence of colonial churches. The women are cast in another mould, and their superiority further assures us that the author looks to the regeneration of the world through their medium. The daughter of purse-proud England is a tempt- ing little creature ; Germany is handsome and cultivated, though it commits murder and does not know Schiller ; America, we have seen, is perfection. The only disagreeable women in the novel, besides the mercenary schemer, are some old women, and about them the author clearly thinks that they are like the Old World in the judgment of Americans. A schoolmistress who is like the dragon of the Hesperides, with the addition of a tongue, and with an amount of cunning which was, no doubt, strange to that honest sentinel ; the aunt who is poisoned, add who had certainly done her best to make everybody regard her death as a happy release, are the obnoxious characters of the novel. We may say that one or two of the scenes in which the schoolmistress and the colonial bishop are jointly engaged will provoke a languid smile. The passage in which the colonial bishop talks of Leasing as a religious author, and alludes vaguely to his commentary on Nathan and Solomon (supposing that the play of Nathan der Weise must neces- sarily include the prophet and the wise king) is almost amusing. But we are afraid of praising anything that does not savour of the sovereignty of sentiment, and, indeed, the temptation to praise is so faint, the temptation to speak our mind plainly so strong, that we had better part company with the author before we grow uncivil.