13 JANUARY 1855, Page 24

NEW NOVELS. * CONSIDERABLE 'powers are impaired in The Step-Son by

the vio- lence of religious prejudice. Mr. Dyer has great distinctness of conception in whatever he undertakes to delineate, with clearness and vigour of style. If he has not worldly he has social know- ledge, and is awake to what is passing in the world around him. But the Scarlet Lady and her machinations drive him into a "fine frenzy," and neutralize his abilities for any purpose beyond pleasing the rabid Anti-Papist, or the mere glutton of the circulating library. The Step-Son is no doubt a conspicuous actor in this "domestic ro- mance of the present day," but it is as a tool. The great hero of the fiction is Mr. Bernard, or Bernardi; who combines in himself "all that poets yet have feigned or fear conceived" of Italians, priests, and confessors. He is well-looking, wily, courteous, ca- pable, but such a dmmon! to restore this country to the bosom of the Roman Church. For this purpose he encourages the profli- gacy of his pupil Ferdinand Bodemal, "the Step-Son," while seem- ing to repress his passions. He promotes the growth of an attach- ment between Ferdinand and Giannina, ]3ernardi's own- niece, to have the Step-Son more in his power. He stimulates the jealousy of Mr. Bodemal senior against his second and Protestant wife ; using Ferdinand and Giannina as instruments. Ile crosses the love of Julia, Ferdinand's sister. Besides a number of lesser villanies, he whips Mr. Bodemal senior into a private madhouse, reporting that he has taken vows and gone abroad ; he confines Julia Bodemal, whose love he has opposed, in the cell of a convent in England ; and he is meditating further crimes when wicked uncle and wicked niece are both providentially removed.

It is often observed that men are violent about one topic and quiet upon other matters. It is probable that the quiet arises from indifference ; they would be equally violent were they equally stimulated. At all events, Mr. Dyer's religious excite- ment passes into the conduct of his romance. In description and merely social scenes, he is subdued, perhaps level. The incidents of action or passion verge upon extravagance, especially where Popery comes into play. A storm and a flood not only remove Bernardi and Giannina, but also bring about the catastrophe. As uncle and niece, meditating escape from a dilemma, are walking along a canal which washes Ferdinand's property, they find the rushing waters likely to injure the banks, and proceed to close a sluice which has been designedly opened to let the waters swollen by a storm escape.

The sudden stoppage of so large a body of water shook the old weir to its centre and a huge wave rolled back from it along the strait. At this in- stant, before they could return, a more terrific gust from the East than any they had yet experienced came roaring along the lake, piling the water be- fore it like the prow of a gigantic ship ; but that even is a feeble compari- son. A billow, crested with foam, and terrible as a breaker of the ocean, came rushing towards the devoted couple, threatening instant destruction. Just ere it reached the weir, they saw a man run wildly towards them, waving his hands for them to flee. But the warning came too late : the monstrous wave sprang forward as it reached the narrow passage • com- pressed laterally, and impelled by the whole force of the gale, it swelled to giant bulk and burst upon them. One instant they clung for dear life to the rack, when, with the roar of an earthquake, the weir was hurled into frag-

ments, and a mountain of water was poured over them. * * *

"Bernardi was a strong and active swimmer' and, provided he escaped the whirling fragments of the ruin, there is little doubt he would have reached the land had not Giannina clung to him, with the proverbial tenacity of a drowning wretch. Vainly be endeavoured to shake her off; her grasp was like that of Death, and her eyes looked up into his in agonized entreaty, her teeth too firmly clenched in her mortal terror to permit of speech or prayer for life. She had flung her arms around his neck, as they were precipitated into the raging flood ; and to this accidental circumstance she owed her being still in life, for he could not raise his head above the surface without raising hers. " Free me ! free me ! I will come back to you. I swear I will!' he shouted, making frantic efforts to force open her arms. 'On the salvation of • The Step-Son; a Domestic Romance of the Present Day. By F. N. Dyer, Esq. In two volumes. Published by Bentley. The Next of Kin ; a Novel. By Mrs. F. J. Hall. In three volumes. Published by Newby. Sibyl's Little Daughter; a Sequel to the Gipsy's Daughter. By A. M. Grey. In two volumes. Pubhshed by Newby.

Hell i onde; or Adventures n the Sun. Published by Chapman and Hall. 0 Tit for Tat ; or American Fixings of English Humanity. By a Lady from New Orleans, U. S. Published by Clarke and Becton. your soul, free me! Think of the cause; without me it will be lost. Dear Giannina, sweet Giannina, free me for mercy's sake. You will drown us both. Loose your hold, and I will ;Ake you on my back.'

" It is probable that not one word ever reached her understanding, stunned as she was by terror; but the mute entreaty of her eyes was heart- rending.

" Free me, girl! free me ! With my life will be lost the triumph of the Church. Free me, I say, or I will curse you!'

"More he would have said, but a whirlpool of the fierce waters sucked

them in its vortex, and pulled them under.'

As regards manners and persons, The Next of Kin is a simple picture of common life, with an addendum of story to form the novel. This story is somewhat extreme, and does not naturally dovetail into the other parts. It turns upon a rich man dying strongly persuaded that the child of his son, whom he had quar- relled with, will some day turn up, to be dazzled by the splendour of his new condition, then haunted by the fears of the rightful heir, and finally dispossessed. There are many sketches of life and character in a country town, varied by the pomposity and fears of a rich parvenu, and by incidents of a more stirring kind. The quieter parts have truth and keeping—a consistency between the matter and manner. This matter is not equal to sustain the reader through a long worls; because, obvious in itself and con- tinually found in novels, it has become trite. Streets during a shower, a smart suburban villa, weak people with weak manners, and similar things, are too common for art, unless it be "high art" in a happy mood. Mrs. F. Hall wants force, but is not deficient in sense or reflection. Here is a little example, in the thoughts of Mr. Maggs, a solicitor summoned to a dying client.

" 'Riches do not always bring happiness in their train,' he reflected, as he rode along over the few miles between his own house and Armitage Hall.

I never saw such a lucky man in money matters, in my life ; every specu- lation he undertook succeeded : but I suppose it was Fate tried to recom- pense him for all else she had taken away.

"'Oh that men would think on the certain misery they are entailing on themselves and their offspring,' he continued, by marrying one in whose veins the seeds of consumption are lurking, and in whose family the deadly fruit has unmistakeably shown itself. Surely the pain of conquering an at- tachment in early life cannot be so great as witnessing in after years the slow but sure approach of the destroying angel ; coming, too, as he ever does, when all seems bright and safe. Perhaps the sons ale spared till manhood, and the daughters till the hope becomes undoubted,—they have lived beyond the season of danger. But the dream is broken! some cause, trifling in it- self, has blown the spark into a consuming flame ! and the terror-struck mourner sees the partner by whom the treacherous affliction was dissemi- nated, and the children by whom it was inherited, carried out from his home and laid in the grave. But I fancied Armitage seemed to rise again, even after these terrible blows, when Ile still saw his youngest eon, James, left to him, untouched by the blight which had swept off all his brothers and sisters. I believe he thought his toil had not, after all, been vain, when he looked on the fine, handsome young man, and hoped he should at least leave him be- hind to enjoy all the wealth he had accumulated. But that eon—ah ! he caused Mr. Armitage more grief than all the others. It seems as if trouble was to come to him through all he loved, and he be left at last with no one belonging to him to smooth his path to the grave.'"

In Ws Little Daughter Mrs. Grey exhibits her wonted ele- gance of style and the ease of a practised writer; but good work- manship is thrown away on worthless materials. More than nine hundred pages are filled with the story of a gipsy child, whose mother, Sybil, was married to a Spanish nobleman, but returned to her old haunts on his death, and, dying, left her daughter to the care of her old friend the widowed Lady Lisle. A full-sized novel devoted to the development of any child's character would be too much, although varied by social pictures, even if a general lesson and a general interest attached to it; but where is the interest in the endeavour to civilize a wild gipsy child, born, trained, and placed under circumstances so peculiar, that it is only by resorting to the maxim "truth is stranger than fiction" that the mind can admit they could occur at all ? A whole volume is devoted to one week's account of Zora's wild behaviour in Lady Lisle's mansion, and a subsequent illness caused by a fall down stairs in a fit of unre- strained passion.

The subject of Ifeliondé is the account of a visit to the sun, made, as it turns out, in vision. A framework of this kind, it strikes us, is only available for satire or for science. The satire, however, should involve persons and topics that are not so effective- ly presented on earth—as the dead, or the more delicate questions of practice or opinion; for otherwise there is no occasion to quit earth. If the solar novelist prefers a scientific exposition in the form of romance, the views should be those which are received as probable by some section of astronomers. Scientific truth cannot be looked for, because we do not know enough to warrant more than speculation ; but there should be scientific probability. The nebular hypothesis of the elder Herschel, and the profound calcu- lations by which Laplace showed how the theory might work, are, according to the discoveries of Lord Rosse's great telescope, pro- bably baseless • still that hypothesis is different from the atomic speculations of ancients. Helionde has little of satire or of science. It is a story of incongruous "adventures in the sun," and a wild description of the phenomena, country, inhabitants, arts, manners, and what not. The book contains a good deal of various reading and elegant writing, with much ingenuity and some fancy. All these are neutralized by the badness of the scheme—the want of truth and nature. As long as there is some pervading truth in a work and the object of the author is practicable the form may be wild or im- possible without marring the effect-Las in Gullivees Travels. It is labour in vain to fancy ingenious impossibilities, however con- sistently they may be tagged together. Man cannot create, he can only combine. Bessel the astro- nomer remarked, that persons who peopled the planets always peopled them with men. The writer of Heliond4 quotes the ob- servation and then proceeds to illustrate its truth. The remains of the most ancient buildings of earth suggest the architectural and ornamental arts of the sun. Pompeii is drawn upon for the nomenclature of domestic arrangements. The Crystal Palace sug- gests the shops of Heliopolis, the capital. The contemplated under- ground tunnel along the New Road is already introduced in the sun : those who ride traverse roads running below the ways of those who walk. The people are polite to an extreme, more polite than the earth-born but in the same kind of way. The inhabi- tants have their public meetings, and of course make speeches; they also have their fetes ; both, apparently, little better than ours. Their utterance is a sort of recitative; they live upon per- fumes and air. Interchange of commodities goes on ; or rather, the fashionables take from the dealers, and give them compliments for their wares. A method not altogether unknown in our days and domiciles,—as old, indeed, as the days of Aristophanes, if not older. To pay your debts by words, was one of the arts which (the dramatic) Socrates undertook to teach. When the sun is reached, the form of the story is that of a traveller and his valet-de-place. The people of the sun keep a stranger's guide, called Ahltedon : as soon as the writer arrives, he is met by this personage, who shows him all the sights, ex- plains everything that is worth seeing, and introduces him at court. Here the stranger falls in love with a princess—but the loves of the sun are platonic, and we may as well stop.

Tit for Tat. Let the reader fancy an American stump-orator betaking himself to fiction without natural bent or that sort of notion which may be acquired from a careful examination of the article to be imitated, and he will have an idea of Tit for Tat. The object of "Julia" is to depict the misdoings of "English hu- manity," as a set-off to American slavery, and in revenge for the Britishers' admiration of Uncle Tom's Cabin and its author. Even if the "Lady from New Orleans" succeeded in showing that va- rious social practices or permissions in this country were as bad as slavery legally enforced, we do not see how that would save Ame- rica. To prove British sins, would not remove American sins. According to Moloch's argument in Pandemonium, it might be " revenge," but it would not be "victory." There is, however, no parity in the cases. Slavery is an insti- tution not only encouraged but maintained by law, affecting con- siderably more than three millions of people, while in two States, South Carolina and Mississippi, the slaves exceed the free. The evils in England are social evils, the growth of ages, or the creation of darker times, and often in the course of improvement. They can be removed without resistance from the law. They often arise from moral or economical causes, and are not capable of being affected by laws. The Lady's great point of attack, the em- ployment of boys under sixteen in sweeping chimnies, operates at all events upon very few, and the cruelties she speaks of as exer- cised against the children may be, or more properly may have been, actualities ; but they are illegal excesses by individuals. A. man who forced a boy up a chimney and was the cause of his being smothered would be guilty of murder; or if the jury took what is called the "merciful view," of manslaughter. It would be just as rational to turn over the criminal cases of American jurisprudence and make them the foundation of tales illustrative of the American character. In fact, we fear that to some extent tkis might be done with more truth. It may be added, that the literature of Tit for Tat is about on a par with the logic.