MRS. ARMYTACE, OR FEMALE DOMINATION.
T1118 " last new novel " by Mrs. GORE is not equal to her pre- ceding one, The Handlluns. The same skill and ability are in- deed displayed, but the " material defeats the arti,t." The re- presentation of obscure sets of exclusives, or of a few provincial families, wants the intrinsic mass and interest which belonged to her picture of Toryism in its social state. Mrs. Armytage indeed aims more at exhibiting the passions and affectiotis than 7'he Hamiltons: but these are made very subordinate to tnere man- tier-sketching, and the passionate parts sue not always very truthful.
The subject of the book is not accurately expressed in its second title. "Female Domination " means only the domination • of Mrs. Armytage, a widow of ancient family. immense wealth, great though respectable pride, awl a masculine nnderstanding, but strict feminine propriety of conduct. Like Home, the object of the story is to warn the reader attain-t the evils that spring from domestic harshness of rule : but Mrs. GORE has not planned her novel with the rigorous propriety which characterizes that of Miss STICK NEV. A part only of the work is employed in paint- ing the effects arising from the absolute sway wielded by Mrs. Armytage ; and these effects are rather annoyalices than miseries. Her conduct does not, like that of Miss STICKNEY'S Stephen Grey, rankly develop the worst points of individual character, and so render the person morally or socially despicable; nor does it altogether thwart the natural predilections, and thus induce misary. On the contrary, the troubles and distresses spring more from unlucky incidents or contre temps than from character mo- difying or even causing circumstances. Arthur Armytogo falls in love with an interesting girl ; and, concluding that his mother would sooner forgive him for marrying without her consent than against it, makes his proposals, supposing his Marian an orphan ; whereas it turns out, that her father is one Jack Baltimore, half- gentleman half-jockey, with a vulgar wife, and a tribe of unruly young Baltimores. He has, however, gone too far to retreat; and the troubles of the novel arise from his mother's contempt for his wife and her relations, and her haughty manner of showing it.. The distress springs from a different and a still less consistent source. Sophia Armytage is secretly attached to Edgar Rains- ford : her mother wishes she should marry a Lord Greta. In rejecting a suitor whom Sophia conceived Mrs. Armytage favoured, she promised that she would never engage herself without her mother's consent. By a quibble upon the terms in which the promise was made, Mrs. Armytage chooses to conceive Sophia's hand is left at her disposal : and when Ruinsford, on a lucky ac- cession of fortune, formally offers himself, she declines him in her daughter's name ; and Sophia dies of consumption, brought on by anxiety at her lover's supposed faithlessness. An event brought about by trickery, not harshness; and a trick, moreover, to which a domestic autocrat would scarcely have had recourse, least of all such a one as Mrs. Armytage is painted. Even in the catastrophe a want of keeping is detected. Mrs. Armytage is filially punished, not so much by the inevitable consequences of her own injudicious conduct, as by the detection of a codicil to her father's will, which,. by giving the greater part of the estate to Arthur Arrnytage on the attainment of his majority, pushes her from her stool. Passing these errors in the mode of pointing the moral of the story, and a want of freshness in much of the subject matter, (tor '- fashionable people, even when truly described, are becoming a bore upon paper, whatever they may be in reality.) Mrs. Armytage may be recommended as a capital and very agreeable picture of society in its various shades,—the trifling, scheming, laughter- and-scandal-loving exclusives; the respectable, unpretending. domestic nobility ; the smaller Yorkshire squires; and the family oddities which grow up in a remote provincial neighbourhood. Most Of the characters too are exceedingly well drawn,--effective, yet without the exaggeration in which a more vulgar artist would have indulged. Besides the stately Mrs. Armytage—the gentle, uncomplaining Sophia—and the good-natured, sensible Arthur Armytage, amiable from his principles, but driven to the verge of the ridiculous from the difficulties in which he is place:I—there are the three sets of real fashionables, exclusive fashionables, and would-be fashionables, the members of each of which are well conceived and admirably touched off. Mrs. Gone has also varied the sameness of English characters, by the introduction of Mr. Leonidas Lomax, a travelling and toadying American,—a stanch advocate of the Federal principle till he gets amongst the coronets and has an eye for a Duke's niece, when he takes to support the. Feudal. We suspect, horiever, that Mrs. GORE errs in making Lao Lo a Carskiwi. Kle semi to have confounded
the New Englander—the venni Yatikee—with the Southern planter ; who might make hitr. self ridiculous endugh, but scarcely in the way of Mr. Lianas. The highest proof of Vsrs. GoIth's skill, however, is shown in her descriptions of the v:siore doubtful per4onages. All the vulgar points of the Bahinter es and their connexions are fully brought out; but they are redeenied by the uatural affections which they dis- play. The uncor,seious vul2tirity of the lowlier—the folly of the uncle, the is/ember—the fashion-hunting spirit of the aunt—the noisy, ill-managed young Baltimores—and even the coarseness of Jack himself—are overlooked, in the family feeling which they exhibit:fer Marian and each other.
We have as yet scarcely spoken of the execution of this novel. But it were an unjust omission not to say that it is excellent,—light, rapid, suarkling, and pointed. the combined result of natural wit, much observation of life, tied coie.iaciable practice in writing. Specimens can scarcely convey an idea of its goodness; but take this sketch of Mr. and Mrs. lialtimme to begin with.
Iii the present frame of European secietv, ii rue and vice are no longer " ul- tiniate fact. :" there are virtues and viers hit every station and degree. For an Honourable John Percy, for insiailee, to he called " Jdk Percy," implies the
currency of gore! fellowallip in the o "rid of ; hut fur a Mister Baltimore of Baker Street to be called " Jack It infers decided disorderliness of
morals or finances. Such a lick ir ust naels he a nein cunning in the odds, ex- pert at billiards, addicted to punch, I.:ow-inf.; in horse-flesh, the very Samuel 'Johnson of the slang dictionary : and, mire timatelv, the father of Arthur Ar- mytage's Marian was commonly called " in k !"—a 'Jack with a small and de- creasing income and a large and inere,laing Mrs. Baltimore, though not in her turn called Jill, was scarcely a more eligible connexion than her husband. Well-boro, but endowed only with a very pretty face, she hail doped in a tandem, at sixteen ; expecting to live with her dear Baltimore the same dressy, noisy, rtiail-driving, racketing life she had seen hint living at the watering-place where their ill-starred acquaintance originated. But Jack, disappointed in his notion of having married an Irish heiress, wisely judged that bachelor pleasures are by no means calculated for conjugal partici- pation. He did riot choose that there should be a Mrs. Jack ; and Mrs. Balti- more, accordingly, being totally deficient in the pralifications which inspire a woman Well-ordered home man's hest delight to make."
became a dawdle and a slattern. Finery she could not renounce ; but poverty willed that it should be faded ant shabby finery' and rinWets and rouge com- bined with soiled satins and rumpled Intim to endow her with an air the last a well-thinking woman would willingly incur. Still, with all her offences to the eye there was something not wholly despi- cable in Mrs. Baltimore. She was a Luting mother to the ten children whose necessities encroached so largely on her luxuries; and much as she loved a smart cap or showy gown willingly resigned all to afford a good tilbury and a fine horse to her dear Jack, whom she alone, by the way, of all the world, called Baltimore !
The society of such a house, as may easily be conjectured, was any thing but select. A few young noblemen in their nOnage were occasionally to be seen at Jack Baltimore's; who, on attaiuipg their majority, were heard of there no more; but, for the most part, the circle was composed of " coaching," suaok- ing, fancy sort of men, each with hia terrier or his bull-dog familiarly at his heels; each having his good song or his good story appropriately his own ; each the best fellow in the world, and each incessantly involved in squabbles with the fellow creatures his inferiors. Fortunately for Mrs. Baltimore, strong con- jugal and motherly affections had preset veil her in morals and reputation free from blemish amidst such injurious associations ; but they had not tended to improve her manners or refine her mind. All these best fellows in the world were heartily welcome to her hotel!. They evinced no disgust towards her slipshod habits, were ever ready to lend their sticks or whips to her seven little boys, and to swear by George or the Lord Harry that her baby was the most promising puppy of the kennel !
The following scene shows Jack in action. It is his first and only interview with Mrs. Arrnytage. Arthur has been put up for her own borough, against her candidate, by a mischief-making attorney, and returned ; and she is expecting his arrival. The Mr. Maudsley is Sophia's unsuccessful suitor. In this belief not one of them chose to move towards the window, for the verification of their hopes and feats; but each. though pretending to look else- where, soon discerned that the expected chaise and four was nothing better than a knowing, natty gig, containing a atranger and his servant—a sporting-looking Imam with a sporting looking servant and a poaching -looking, prick-eared dog, on the look-out between them ; or it inight be two servants, or two sportsmen, or three poaching dogs: it was impossible exactly to determine in whom or what the party might consist.
"Mr. Nelovell's clerk, whom I am expecting down about the renewal of the Farringham lease," said Mrs. Armytage, greatly relieved, and resuming her usual dignity of demeanour. "Rather the tuner from Yotk," observed Sophia, almost as well satisfied as her mother : "I wrote yesterday to my eld friend Mr. blowpipe, the organist, to beg he would send one of his people to my piano." " Pianoforte-tuners and attotnies clerks!" reiterated Mr. Maudsley, with amazement. *" My dear Miss Arinytage vou must he blind : that was the finest horse I ever beheld iu harness." "I did not look at the horse; I was thinking of the man." "I did look at the horse," said Reginald, with a grins smile, "and therefore form my conclusion that the man was a gentleman.' "Why not as easily a horse-dealer ?" said Sophia; who made it a point to dispute her cousin's dictatorial decrees. "Because," interrupted Mrs. Armytage, petulantly, "Mr. Maudsley is pro- bably aware that hems — " "Mr. Baltimore," interrupted a footman, throwing open the door ; and in bustled the active Jack, the vivacity of whose movements had left old Simmons some quarter of a mile in the rear. "How are you, Ma'am ? happy to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Armytage ! Thought to have been here last night ; but the people at the Blue Boar at Thoroton, where I put up, insisted that the road was not good travelling after dark. To be sure, there is a devil of a gravel-pit just before you turn into the
lodge-gates, where perhaps I might have found neat accommodation for man and norm; and if- " Sir r interrupted Mr. Reginald Maudsley, advancing with solemn gesture it:wards the stranger, evidently with the intention of asking him the nature of
is business with Mrs. Armytage, whose astonishment and disgust at the intru- sion were sufficiently manifest.
" Mr. Baltimore—the father, 1 believe, of Mrs. Arthur Artuytage?" inquired Sophia, timidly intercepting his rutivements, but judging it necessary to inter- fere before further (deuce was girds or taken. " Exactly ! Arthur's sister, Miss Sophy, I presume?" demanded Jack, in re- turn. " Ay, I guessed as much, hy the iikeness. And Mrs. Armytage, tem.- devilish stiong resemblance to my friend Arthur—might swear to the breed as safely as to a foal of Cohanna's ! But I AM keeping you all standing," cried Jack, checking himeelf, and turning with unsuspecting good-humour to look for a chair; in which, having coolly seated himself, even Mrs. Armytage was not proof against the frankness of his self-possession. They all sat down, over.. mastered by his impudence. " You see, Ma'am," said be, (abruptly repelling the advances of Sophiess pet spardel, a blemish in whose genealogy the knowing eye of Jack had mecha- nically detected,) "you see, Ma'am, I have made my way here on a false scent; ran down to Newmarket, ember day, for the Spring Meeting, with young Lord Ilardup, and was persuaded by Tom Watley and Parson Longedds to push onr to Croxton for the first day's tunning, as Tom's bay filly was—"
Mrs. Armytage no longer repressed her symptoms of impatience ; and Maudaley seemed only waiting her nod, to interfere with the spurting intelli- gence of her guest. n _When, as we were journeying through Grantham, at the rate of twelve miles an hour and turnpikes paid," remained the reckless Jack, " what should I see placarded in black mid white, as large as ' Try Turner's ' on the outside of the Leeds Regulator. hut Arleytage at the head of the poll! ' hailed coachee in a second—pulled up—and in five words made out, to my great sur- prise, that my son. in.law, whom I fancied to be wasting his time and money yonder among the Johnny Crapauds, was electioneering here at home among the Johnny Bulls ; standing, as the saying is, in hopes of getting a seat. Ha! ha! ha! So says Ito myself, Are ye there, my hearty ? ' and instead of keeping to time with Tom and the Parson, I turned in straight to the George, took a chop and a bed, and spanked on nor'ards at daylight, in the Ilighflyer, as far as Doncaster, to-my friend Lightweight's, (a fellow pretty well known, I fancy, in these parts, and aa good a jockey as ever crossed a liorse,) and after a. snack and a pint of Burton, that made my ears tingle, be drove ine over to Thoroton, where, as I said before, I found I had come eighty miles out of my way on a fool's errand."
" My.brother is still in France," said Sophia, hastily, dreading her mother's interposition.
" Ay, so I hear from Mr. Gumption and the other gentlemen of his commit- tee ; arid more's the pity," cried Baltimore; " for, as I said to 'em this morn- ing, what business has a young chap with Ids prospects, heir to one of the finest estates in the county, to stay gambling and masquerading among such a set of outsiders as the fellows in Paris? a pack of snobs, that run their sham matches in a sand-pit, and hunt hedgehogs with buckhounds! "