6 FEBRUARY 1886, Page 20

AUTUMN lkIANCEUVRES,

THE liberal provision of unmarried people of both sexes, evidently pre-ordained for each other, which is made in this book, almost equals the large-heartedness of Love's Labour Lost in the same respect ; and that play is called to mind in another way also, inasmuch as its representation of a party of men vowed to celibacy who are invaded by women, is exactly reversed in Autuma Afana3uvres. The following rough outline will give some idea of what happens. There are two country- houses in close contiguity, of which one is inhabited by male, and the other by female, celibates. These last are a widow and three daughters, whose charms of both body and mind are unusually great, and who, being convinced of the existence of a reason which would make it wrong for them to marry, resign themselves gallantly to the inevitable, exclude matrimony wholly from their dreams of the future, and determine to find happiness independently of husbands. Each has her own scheme for doing this. One devotes herself to cookery and district work ; the second goes in for drawing, deep reading, and for enigmatic remarks; and the third sister in- clines to music and riding, and thinks she might take to shells, perhaps, if she were near the sea. They live in a strict seclusion which provokes the cariosity of the neigh- b3uring household ; and an attempt to gratify this inquisitive- ness ends in an accident to one of the gentlemen, who gets badly hurt, and has to be taken in by the ladies. This leads to a prompt invasion of their domicile by the patient's friends in a body, and then the various bachelors and spinsters proceed at once to pair off with their appropriate mates, notwithstanding the mysterious secret, which only the ladies know, and which condemns them irrevocably to single blessedness. In due course of time, knowledge of the terrible doom is communicated to the enamoured swains also, and causes them great dismay. But that sentiment is not shared for a moment by the reader, whose con- viction that no author's hardihood would be equal to such a whole- sale blighting of innocent lovers' affections as is threatened, gives him a comfortable and well-founded confidence that a way out of the difficulty will be arrived at before the end of the third volume. However, the heroic readiness of the aforesaid lovers to sacrifice themselves for the sake of principle is thoroughly genuine, and the moral to be deduced from the book is sound and excellent,— viz, that what is right is the test by which all matters should be settled absolutely, and the grand rule of life to which every- thing must give way as a matter of course. One can fancy the author to be identifying duty with necessity, and endorsing

Carlyle's words,—" It has ever been held the highest wisdom for a man not merely to submit to necessity—necessity will make him submit—but to know and believe well that the stern thing which necessity had ordered was the wisest, the best, the thing wanted there." And that is teaching which is worth propa- gating, whether by novel or sermon, practice or precept, or any other way that may be possible.

Mrs. Moore is evidently of opinion that women's help is required in governing the country, and that their position is not yet altogether satisfactory ; and we should not have been surprised to find her propounding some practical scheme for ameliorating their condition. The only approach to anything of the kind, however, is the picture of a rich, hospitable, bachelor Colonel with a hobby for aiding the progress of women, who thinks that as there is a preponderance of them, and as they are physically unfitted for hard labour, therefore the sphere of domestic service should be reserved for them exclusively, and gives effect to his notions by employing no men-servants, and composing his establishment entirely of pretty young women. But as the story shows that this arrangement might not prove quite desirable in the event of the Colonel's guests being less chivalrously respectful than himself towards the fair sex, it seems unlikely that Mrs. Moore put forth the plan with any wish to see it generally adopted. The merit of the book is more as a study of ideas than of character. All the chief performers, save one, never think of acting wrongly or in • Autumn mancauvres. By Mrs. M. Moore. London: R. Bentley and Bon.

any but the most high-minded manner; and though that might not matter much if there were only one or two of the paragons, yet when it comes to as many as seven, the abundance of the article grows almost oppressively unnatural. The eighth prin- cipal personage (who is not to be included amongst the paragons) is evidently destined for the part of one of those droll, rollicking Irishmen whom Lever used to draw; but he by no means fulfils his destiny, for instead of being amusing he is simply a bore, who is wished at Jericho by the reader as heartily as he was by his friends in the story. We conclude our criticism by remark- ing that the plot is insufficient for the book's length, and that there is an undue tendency to intellectual, but somewhat heavy, conversation. For novel-writers to make their work improving (if possible) as well as amusing, is very right and proper ; but they should beware of letting the higher aim become plainly apparent.