14 APRIL 1855, Page 18


THERE is as much of matter, thought, and variety of subject in Philip Lancaster, as is often found in half-a-dozen novels or vo- lumes of sketches. It stops short of being a striking fiction, from want of sufficient depth in the incidents and of dramatic purpose in the story. The directest lesson is the necessity of hygienic reform ; for, independently of many scenes that are occasioned by the condition of a part of Woodington, the hero, Philip, catches a fever and is nearly killed. Notwithstanding the space it occupies in the novel, this blue-book kind of moral was not the one that was uppermost in the writer's mind. Religious persecution in the shape of the Test Aots seems to have been her original aim ; for Philip Lancas- ter is shut out from the University by conscientious scruples ; his father's public career was closed against him by the same obstacles ; and the family for upwards of a century previously had suffered in some way from the persecuting spirit of conformity ; the story going back to the Stuarts and the Commonwealth, and one of the family having been expelled from his living on the Restoration. For popular purposes the topic is too late by a quarter of a century ; but the social injury, the smarting sense of hopes defeated and a i career stopped by legal enactments, is very well because quietly in- dicated. The idea is not, however, carried on continuously; it is frequently lost sight of and at last dropped. Neither are the Dis- senters spared. Their exceeding narrowness—their antipathy to art and indifference to natural beauty—the control they would exercise over their ministers, and the necessity imposed on the ministers of “Rleasing to live "—are very freely touched. A princi- pal person in the book is Gilbert Moths, a private tutor and friend of Philip. At first the charm of novelty makes Morris popular ; but his taste for poetry, his love of the beautiful, his pursuit of science, and his catholic mind in religious and social matters, soon turn the tide. His congregation fall off, some going to the Tract- arian rector, others to "Silas Thompson "; and poverty begins to threaten the house of Morris soon after his marriage.

" Well, it was said, over the little tea-tables of Woodington, and if his chapel is empty, he has brought it on himself, ma'am. No people were more disposed to like him than we were ; in fact, we made too much of him, and he grew conceited : I always thought him stuck-up. Why did he speak so severely against drunkenness, when he knew poor Mr. Fosters weakness ? To be sure there was no name mentioned ; but we all knew who was meant. And other people's little failings, too, reproved from the pulpit !—I have no patience with such freedom. He has a peculiar way of making one feel dis- contented with oneself ; but with the deep doctrines of religion he is afraid to meddle. What a sermon Mr. Thompson preached yesterday on the secret counsels of God ! Mr. Morris, with all his fine learning, never preached like that.'

" And then,' said another, making such a fuss about the progress of the human race ; as if religion had anything to do with that! and how silly of him to join this literary institution, and go lecturing there,—quite beneath his dignity, my dear; quite.' " Yea, added a third ; and how did he lecture ? I assure you he con- tradicted Moses over and over again. I call it awful for a minister to under- mine the Bible in that way. Why, he said, ma'am, that beneath the very town of Woodington where we live, lay remains that proved the world older than the creation of man by thousands of years.' " I do not wonder at the fever,' said the fourth, when the very Chris- tian ministers support rank infidelity in that way.' " ' I never thought him sound,' said a fifth, 'since he called the Roman Catholics a Christian denomination ; never. But, really, it is all very sad.'

" Oh !' exclaimed another, 'he must be cruel to expose his young wife to poverty now, my dear. But these finephilosophers are always hard- hearted. Mr. Smiter was worth a hundred ofrhim ; he was indeed ; and so I always said. ' " Although a good many groups of persons, with their interests, deaths, or marriages, are introduced, the story, we have said, is de- ficient. Philip, the hero, after his education is finished, becomes the pupil of a Woodington doctor ; but the extra exertion and worry of " the fever " show that his health is unequal to the labour of the professson' and he succeeds his father in his manu- factory. The affairs of Gilbert Morris, flourish again ; and so on with the other persons, pretty much as matters happen in everyday life.

But if the plan of the tale is deficient in art, very great skill is shown in the treatment. Breadth of view and quiet elegance of style are infused into the commonest subjects ; not unlike Our Village of the late Miss Mitford, though there is no approach to imitation. The life and interests discussed in Philip Lancaster

• Philip Lancaster. By Maria Norris, Author of " The Lifeand Times of Madame de Steil." In three volumes. Published by Saunders and Otley.

are of a broader and deeper kind than those Miss Mitford handled ; not only presenting the struggles of passion, prejudice,- and the

daily business of life, but discussing profounder matters. The following is an example. Linley, a teacher at the foundation- school of Woodington, and young Philip Lancaster, have taken to each other. The night before Linley returns to Oxford to start in life, he spends the evening at Philip's in company with his father, and " Uncle Jaek,"—a vagabond by nature, who has wandered over the world struggling through all kinds of fortune, and has returned penniless to his brother's, to die at home when his time comes.

" And when are vou to take orders, Linley,' asked Philip's father, as they sat around the fireside.

" intended doing so at Easter,' replied Linley, blushing and trembling ; but—but—in fact, Mr. Lancaster, I am in a difficulty about it.' " Are you ? Can any one assist you ?'

" 'I should be glad of your advice, sir. You must know that I have now a family of women dependent on me, and that I am eager to repay their many sacrifices on my behalf. You know how useless I am, having been bred a scholar, for any other life : uncle Jack has scarcely overrated my useless- ness indeed. My desire to help my family is so eager as to be a perpetual fever—a perpetual fever. I grew up in the contemplation of the priestly office, and still think it the holiest and best ; but,just as a prospect of sub- sistence opens before me, I am tormented with doubts on certain matters, never mind what ; and if I take the steps necessary to secure the boon held out to met I shall lose my self-respect for ever. I am wrong, most likely, in my‘doubtm '

ga but, while I doubt, can I eat this proffered bread ?' ' 'No,' said Lancaster, ' no, you cannot. Sweep a crossing first. Be i honest, at whatever cost ; and in the end you will rue nothing.'

"'If only myself were in the case,' said Linley, 'I hope—I am sure—I should not hesitate one moment ; but there are others, good and true, pious and self-sacrificing, who have been sparing at home that they might spend on me.'

"'Young man; said Lancaster, my brother Jack, as an old angler, can tell teyou that one bait will not attract all fish. And, during a pretty long ac- quaintance with his Satanic Majesty, I have found that he also adapts the fly to the prey. For one man he hangs on his hook a place under Govern- ment ; ambition is that man's foible ; and Lancaster sighed. 'Another, who is affectionate and passionate, generous and self-denying, like yourself; is to be tempted through his family affections. But keep your self-respect at any price, and He who loves honesty will make you His care.'

' Pooh, pooh, brother,' said Jack ; what rigmarole is this ? The poor lad has sat over his books till he has grown sickly-minded. His doubts are only disease. Let him ride and walk about, and see the world ; Ills belief would soon be all right again. Don't advise him to fling away his mother's bread. The man who administers the oath, or whatever it is, very likely be- lieves it no more than he does, if they come to talk it over. Many better men, sir, are in the church, and why not believe what they believe ?'

" ' It would be small comfort to Linley, I imagine,' said the elder brother, to know that his spiritual superiors were dishonest and uncandid. It is not a question of bread, but of honesty. If Linley be capable of living a lie, let him take the vows and the bread ; if no; the vows must go, and the bread with them. I advise him, as I would advise this lad here, as I do advise him now—keep your self-respect, keep your honesty ; and, at whatever cost you keep them, you can look the universe in the face. Philip, my son, life itself must be a torturing thing to the self-convicted and dishonest.'

"' But why,' said uncle Jack, be always brooding over doubts and be- liefs ? See how many beliefs there are in the world. Are the prayers or the human race a discord in the ears of the Divine ? He reconciles them, and finds music in them, and loves a good man of every creed.' " No doubt,' said the elder. 'But infinite honesty has a contempt, be sure, for the wretch who professes one thing and believes another.

don't fling away a good conscience, the jewel of a lifetime—never truly ours but once—for a mess of earthly pottage, though it be -cunningly flavoured, and those you love hope to share it with you.' "'You have decided me, sir' said Linley, two slow tears rolling down his

pale cheeks. You are right ; but self-interest is a bewildering thing At Easter, then, I leave Oxford, and—and—break the poor mother's heart She will fret over my scepticism even more than for the loss of the living.' °i Had you the offer of a living ? ' said uncle Jack. " Yes, sir ; and unexpectedly, near her old home. She has already par celled out the house, and begun to arrange the garden.' "'Poor soul,' said uncle jack ; the doubt that cheats her ought to be an important matter.' " Jack,' said his elder, it irks me to hear you talk so. If swearing black is white will get me a dinner, the importance of the question, whether black is white, has nothing to do with the fact of my perjury. It is equally an act of perjury to swear that two and three are five, or that the blessed God is not eternal.'

" But suppose a man believes two and three dre five.' "'Let him swear it, by all means.'

" 'But if others, whom be believes to be more religious, and knows to be better informed, assure him that two and three-are not five, and that he perils his safety by his error ; and if good people depend on the event of his decision — " 4 It does not touch the question one bit, Jack. If the peace of the uni- verse hung on his lips, and a lie would purchase it, (which, thank Heaven, is impossible, for peace and truth are yoke-fellows,) that man who says the lie, or acts the lie, is a coward and a rogue, and the peace of the universe, so purchased, is a contemptible thing.' "