MRS. THOMSON'S TRAUB'S'.
IT is now a dozen years since Mrs. Thomson first, we think, came before us as a novelist, in Rosabel ; and we then pointed out her leading merits and defects. The merits consisted of a very remarkable and almost life- like knowledge of the manners of our immediate ancestors, as they ap- peared in the early part of George the Third's reign ; a coherent story as regarded causes and effects in reference to her book, but not to life or probability ; distinctly conceived and minutely elaborated charac- ters; with a careful and finished composition. Her principal faults were want of breadth, of sufficient motive power, and of rapidity. The sub- stance of the fable was unequal to the length it had to travel; the action was advanced or the fortunes varied by means that were both insufficient and unlikely—mere cross purposes or contrived mistakes. Hence, the story was too finely elaborated ; and, weakness or folly attaching to the principal persons, the interest was lessened or marred. These defects seem so native to Mrs. Thomson's mind, that they run through all her subse- quent fictions, though some are less felt in her historical novels, where the known facts enforce a species of largeness. In Widows and Widowers there were symptoms of repetition of self; and even in the historical Chevalier the tale displayed Mrs. Thomson's besetting sin of ending to begin again.
This defect is to a great extent conquered in the present work. Grant- ing the writer her premises, the structure of Tracey or the Apparition is the most perfect of any of Mrs. Thomson's novels that we remember.
The conduct of the story, indeed, is not very lifelike ; but, being what it is, it must go on till Tracey, terrified by the " apparition," clears up the character of the heroine, and brings the true lovers together. In all. other points of view, there are the faults of former novels, somewhat increased, and a falling-off in that careful finish of execution which was the great characteristic of Mrs. Thomson's fictions ; or if the same pains be ex- pended on the composition, the matter is of an inferior character, and the style not devoid of mannerism. The sketches of persons and social oc- currences are rather tedious ; we see too clearly the effort of the writer. go much is this the case, that on her once strongest ground—the pic- tures of persons, her efforts are flat.
There is a more vital fault in the book : its subject is unpleasant, not to use a stronger term. Tracey is intended to represent the second Lord Lyttleton, whose profligacy made him so notorious in his own day, and whose death, according to the alleged warning of a ghost, still keeps his name before the world. One object of the novel is to delineate his character and career. We think the authoress fails on this point : the view and the spirit are of our age, not his : his father, the historian and verse-writer, is clearly a misconception. These, however, are mere critical objections : the distasteful nature of the whole is the thing that will affect the reader. Tracey admires the heroine, Lilia Howard ; but his attentions are in vain, if not through her penetration of his character, through her love for Bernard Elphinstone. This man Tracey hates, for no other reason than that Bernard gives him the cold shoulder ; and he determines on revenge. With this view, he incites a dependent cousin and co-profligate, Aylmer, who is also in love with Lilia, to carry her off and force a marriage; and this well-worn contrivance is managed by the staler means of a fictitious letter. The object of Tracey in his recom- mendation is not very clear. The purpose of the writer is deve- loped when the legitimacy and nobility of Bernard are established, and his circumstances no longer prevent his marriage. As Lilia has been weak enough to conceal from her family and friends that she has been kept for a whole night in one of Tracey's dens of infamy, the pro- mulgation of this fact enables Tracey to break off the match, till, as we have said already, he is frightened by the apparition. The ghost which warns him of his approaching death is not the lady of the actual nar- rative, but a poor relation whom Tracey has seduced and who drowns herself. For mere effect the alteration is an improvement, but the style in which it is done is bad. There is a duel between Aylmer and Lilia's brother, in which the latter falk—Aylmer at the time being idiotic : and there are other means of turning aside or carrying on the narrative ; but they do not challenge the application of the touchstone. The careful reader of Mrs. Thomson's writings will conjecture from this brief outline, that Tracey is, in its elements, a reproduction from for- mer works : but this was generally the case with all her tales, though better disguised. The present failure arises from the weakness of the good people, the baseness of the bad, and the unfitness of the incident for fiction, especially as here managed. Abduction is an indictable offence at common law, independently of the various statutes: it has indeed been often used, but then it is directly punished in the action by the actors. These ethical errors would have seriously marred any work. Another source of failure is the want of fresher matter.
• The apparition is clearly and quietly managed : but in that dread eirele Mrs. Thomson cannot walk ; and the fiction is inferior in effect to the real story. The following scene, which occurs after the spectre has appeared, has a quiet power about it worthy of the writer's better works. Miss Wingrove is a cousin and confidant of Tracey, now Lord Raven- spur; and on the first announcement of the visitation, she is anxiously observing him.
' "She felt sure that Lord Ravenspur had a secret uneasiness at his heart. She read it in his forced and ofttimes even outrageous spirits; she saw it in his fur- tive glances towards herself, to observe if she were watching him; she perceived it in the half-checked sigh; and she observed, what no one else perceived, that the emaciation, which seemed his only complaint, but which was, doubtless, the symp- tom of extreme exhaustion, increased almost daily. She felt miserable and ap-
nsive. Still, medicine seemed little likely to avail; and the only plan, Miss ingrove thought, was to wait patiently till the fatal day appointed—according to the prediction which he believed in—according to his own apprehensions—fur Ms death.
" She was not aware that all this time the nervous excitability was working ince a subterranean fire, fearfully to break out and to close all. "But nothing could have been done: no change of place, no argument, could have taken from Lord Ravenspur's heart that heavy weight, nor have convinced him that he had not received a wsrning from the world unseen. During this awful period—worse than the ordinary agonies of a deathbed—whilst be wandered about with the consciousness of his doom, he was perfectly collected, and it was eventually found that that period had not been wholly unemployed.
"One day he and Miss Wingrove were walking on the colonnade which ran the whole length of the South front of the house. The warmth of that genial day appeared to invigorate the shattered frame of Lord Ravensptus. He pointed out to his watchful friend and cousin some alterations which he projected; he spoke, for once, to hen as if years were in store for him, and as if the tree which he should plant on the morrow would shade him—even him—with its boughs at some distant period.
"Miss Wingrove was gladdened by this style of discourse, which continued as long as they were alone. A gay noisy party rushed out dom luncheon, Lady Charlotte Coeirtenay at their head; and Lord Ravenspur's repartees were the de- light of all as they lingered beneath the colonnade. They dashed off into the shades of the pleasure-grounds; and he became dejected, and expressed himself fatigued. Others,' he observed to his cousin, 'may laugh, and make laughter; upon me alone is the mark set.'
"He fell into a reverie; from which no gentle arts of Miss Wingrove, whose at- tachment grew as his maladies increased, could arouse him.
" The next morning he sent to her before she had left her dressing-room. " 'Well; he said, 'Esther, will Sir Henry Aylmer be convinced by this?' He paused, and added, in greatagitation, 'Last night the vision appeared again. I had not been asleep. I heard a noise near me, about me, like the fluttering of a bird. I saw her,—a figure in white passed around the bed, extended a hand, as if to draw my attention, and then left me: it was the same—Isabel!'
" He gazed at his cousin as he spoke, and his eyes were wild, and his face hag- gard; his hands fell powerless; his voice was hollow and weak. ' Esther,' he added feebly, I feel that I am dying.' " Then,' she cried, alarmed as well as awe-struck, my dear cousin, consider and make your peace with thia world, as you hope for salvation in the next.' "Lord Ravenspur waved his hands impatiently, and shook his head, as if to say, I have no belief in that folly.' But he said, ' I certainly wish to repair some omissions: I wish to provide for that wretched Harry Aylmer in my will: don't say, a word of all this to the party in the house; don't expose me to ridicule.'
My dear lord! at such a time —'
" I grant it all; hear me: will you see that due care is taken of that poor idiot?—that he is placed with good people—even with religious people, if yon think fit; perhaps it may be as well.' " I know the very persons,' said Miss Wingrove, eagerly, who could take charge of tuns: an aged clergyman and his wife, all simplicity and kindness.' " I am content. See that it is done, and done secretly; for it is as well that all that Harry and I have seen together should not be the talk of a country neigh- bourhood. Then there is another point—'
"Lord Ravenspur paused, and drank off a cordial which was near You know those two slaters? you know the circumstances under which their brother died ? I mean the bliss Hower& ? '
" The youngest was, as you know, betrothed to Elphinstone, now restored In his estate. I did not like the man, and in a frolic—but 'tie of no use troubling you with a long story—I am a poor, weak invalid, Esther, whom you call super- stitious, but I ant brave in some matters: I can own that I have been a calum- niator, a cruel, a wicked calumniator; but to no one but you, remember.'
" Then,' said Miss Wingrove, what good will that do?'
" I wish' replied Lord Ravenspur, thoughtfully, 'to reconcile those two to- gether, if I knew but the means.' "`The means,' exclaimed Miss Wingrove solemnly, are truth. Pardon me; I know much, and can guess more: you wished to marry this unhappy girl, and therefore countenanced a falsehood. As you hope to meet your Saviour— "Lord "Lord Ravenspur stopped her imperatively. ' I will have none of that super- stition, Esther: but I believe my mind may be easier, and, if I am to live, I may have more chance of permanent recovery, if I wipe this sin from my remem- brance.'
" Humbly trusting,' interposed his monitor, that He may cease to remember it who will hereafter judge it.' " ' Very well—vastly well !' cried. Lord Ravenspur: 'this is the time to ad- monish me, I own. Do you write for me, and I will sign whatever you wish. You govern me, Esther, for I am weak—weak as a child. I wish that you had always governed me!' he added, in a tone of sadness.
"Miss Wingrove was touched, and the tears fell upon the paper upon which, is tremulous haste, (for she feared lest that shattered frame might be summoned away are this act was done,) she penned a letter, addressed by Lord Ravenspur to Mr. Elphinstone, and solemnly recanting every imputation against Lilia. It was signed with his own band, and that signature was witnessed—Miss Wingrove willed it so—by his faithful valet."