9 DECEMBER 1854, Page 14


Tn-E world is ever moving however slowly, and those who do not move with it will be left behind. This is more especially the case in authorship, where there may be repose, but no standing still. "An author who cannot ascend will always appear to sink," says Gibbon. In most eases he does sink, and below himself. Unless there be a new subject or fresh matter, the probability is that the writer will only repeat the previous theme, with attempts at variations lacking freshness and spontaneity, to which may be added a development of mannerism, if the nature of the writer has any tendency towards that ill quality. Something of this will be found in Women as they Are. The writer, indeed, may have apparently chosen quite a different walk; but the " idea " is similar ; so is the feeling or sentiment ; and the scheme of the tale is one which encourages a fault visible in the author's previous novel,—a tendency to postpone incident and narrative to writing ; to descriptions of external nature or inward feelings, to metaphysical speculations, or to reflections that for want of a more definite term may be termed moral. "Margaret, or Prejudice at Home "—that is, in England—. looked at life from a discontented point of view. The misery of the poor was broadly charged upon the vices and hypocrisy of the rich ; so that to appear respectable, or to be wealthy, sufficed to insure from the writer an odious delineation. Still the idea was developed in a form at once narrative and dramatic. If the prejudices of the novelist were quite as strong as those she undertook to expose, the exposure was brought about by incident and story, with considerable variety of persons and adventures, however extreme or unlikely they might be. In a preface to the work before us, defending herself against charges of an imitation of Villette and an attempt to run counter to Uncle Tom's Cabin, the writer explains the feelings she displayed by a reference to the "recollection of her own joyless and hardly-tasked youth"; a fact which accounts for but does not critically justify the perverted exhibition of society. In the present novel the same feeling is visible in a more modified form. There is less of attack upon society at large, but neither is society so broadly painted. There is consequently not so much interest in the picture. There is, however, the same disposition to look at life in order to exhibit depreciatingly and judge sternly those active and practical qualities by which, after all, life is supported and society in many things advanced.

In form, the book is an autobiography of Amy Floyd, the native of a beautiful and retired village in the North of Lancashire. Remote position, an unworldly father, a singular clergyman of the Calvinistic school, a selfish, vulgar, pushing mother-in-law, and a romantic yet self-retiring disposition, contribute to form a peculiar character. Mr. Floyd's sudden death and embarrassed circumstances eventually compel Amy to take a " situation" with a coarse-minded but not altogether bad person ; from whom she is rescued by a marriage that has only been delayed by a shipwreck. There is nothing very new in this, nor in the many persons and scenes attached to it. Novelty, however, might have been spared, had there been movement and more of action to stimulate the reader. But a large portion of the book is a minutely full exposition of character and its growth, often by description, always by trivial occurrences that are intended to derive their interest from the metaphysical display of the individual. As the story advances, there is more of narrative ; but the narrative is pervaded by the personality of the writer. We are told so and so, rather than shown it. Things are less impressed upon us than pointed out to us. This renders the book slow, if not tedious.

The writing, however, is of a remarkable description : close, thoughtful, vigorous, and powerful, the result of a painful experience, and as a consequence a hard observation of life ; though it is qualified by such formal admissions as that doubtless the amiable is weak and the practical necessary. The following from the mouth of the clergyman, for awhile Amy's teacher, Elijah Ppe, is a sample of the writer.

"You are precocious in a dangerous way : you fancy you are clever ; perhaps you fancy that you are a genius; yes, I see you do by that look. Be quiet ! You have yet much to learn, and much to suffer; and suffering may set you right. If you live you will shortly be a woman, and womanhood will teach you that a fearful penalty must be incurred by any straying out of the bounds proscribed for your sex. To what extent has a disordered imagination bewildered and unfitted you for the common duties of life ? What is it you have proposed to yourself to do ? what connexion have you established betwixt your ideal world and this real one, of which you know nothing ? Do you imagine you possess the power that enabled some of your favourites to speak to the universal heart, and command the attention and homage that should only await them that have a direct mission from God to His creatures? The greatest man amongst the intellectually great has had his first struggle with apathy, with unbelief, with jealousy, with derision ; and his final triumph has rarely tended to make others wiser or better, still less to satisfy himself. This is not woman's work. It is your father's wish that for the future you should receive instruction from me, and I undertake the task in the hope of benefiting you both. You will find me a stern monitor but you may live to see the day in which you will thank me, for these are not times in which to trifle with truth."

This is a nice picture of a delicate child, who, unconscious of her danger, only wishes to be at rest.

• Women as they Are. By One of Them. By the Author of " Margaret ; or Prejudice at Home." In two volumes. Published by Bentley.

"Ellen, oddly enough, had sidled up to Mr. Mostyn on seeing how gently he dealt with Walter ; and one wan tiny hand was resting quietly in his as 11Irs. Floyd spoke.

"'She is a frail little thing; he said, stooping and kissing her; very snowdrop, reminding me of wintry skies.'

Not likely to weather the spring, I think,' said Mark.

"I saw Mr. Mostyn shake his head as I went out with her and Walter. I looked at her more intently than I had been accustomed to do, startled by what I had seen and heard, and I wondered that I had never noticed before how corpse-like her face was. Slowly, scarcely perceptibly, she was fading from our eyes, melting away like a veritable image of snow ; and we had become accustomed to this process, so quiet that it was no trouble to us. But who amongst us was prepared for the final passing from mortal sight at which Mark hinted ?

Not I: I clung tenaciously to the few ties that made my home upon earth, and I shrank from such a severing of them as this new-born thought threatened. With all the love that was in my heart quickened by my dread of what might be coming, and by some remorse for past apathy, I took the child in my arms when we had reached the garden, and caressed her with all the passionate eagerness of my alarmed and dissatisfied affection. But Ellen, placid, undemonstrative, save in her shrinking calmness, as if this outburst of mine was a shock to her, feeble in her whole organization as she was, gently struggled in my clasp, and in low wailing tones asked me to release her.

'" Oh, Ellen,' I said, hurt at meeting no response, you don't love sister Amy

"'I do love you very much,' said Ellen ; 'but I am so tired, sister. r like to sit still and look at the sky and the weeds here. I love the weeds. They don't grow in other gardens as they do in ours ; and I don't like other gardens. The bright flowers make my eyes ache, and they are always coming and going, and that wearies me. I like the long grass and the moss, green and grey. When the wind blows it shakes the tall trees, and they disturb me ; but the grass waves gently, and the moss scarcely stirs ; that's why I like the moss and the grass. I like everything that is quiet.'"