16 FEBRUARY 1850, Page 16


THE VILLAGE NOTARY, A HIINGA.RIAN ROMANCE.* IN Hungary there are or were three great political parties,—the Ministerial, Austrian, or " Conservative the Moderate Reform party, which seems to have had a touch of Whiggery in its com- position, (looking to the advancement of Hungary for, not by the ppeeopple,)) at the head of which was Count Szeehenyi ; the extreme Radicals or Republicans, who practically are followers of Kossuth, though their theories seem closely to resemble those of the French and English philosophical wits during the last century, whose ex- posure of existing abuses, albeit coloured, were a good deal more just than their ideas of the virtues and amiability of peoples un- corrupted by rulers.

Baron Eaviis, the author of the romance before us, belonged by birth to the Conservative party; but the taunts of a public school, and the occasionally solicited lessons of a Republican tutor, con- verted him in boyhood to the Republican party. Handsome, poeti- cal, witty, noble, rich, young Etitvos was successful in society, abroad and at home. At Paris, in company with a friend, he went to the notorious fortune-teller Mademoiselle le Normand, who addressed to him these words—" You are rich. The day will come when you will be poor. You will marry a rich woman. You will be a minister of state in your own country. You will die on the scaf- fold." The young Baron laughed at the prophecy, and told it con- tinually as a capital joke ; but the accidents of time realized a portion of it. A financial crisis and family speculations reduced him to poverty ; the young Baron had recourse to his pen for sub- sistence, and married a woman of property. Still he laughed at the prophecy; but when his position as a public writer and Opposition Peer made him a member of Count Batthyany's Hun- garian Cabinet, and civil -war became imminent, the last sentence of the prophecy appeared no joking matter, and Joseph ,Baron Eotvos took refuge from fate in Vienna. The revolution of Oc- tober with the murder of Count Latour drove him to Munich ; and in exile he still remains' —perhaps with the sword of Damocles suspended over his head in the shape of a fortune-teller's predic- tion.

The Village Notary is one of the works which Eotvos produced with a party purpose ; and is by far the best modern foreign novel that we have seen—the most solid, the most close the most nab).- raL It may be true what his friend Pulszky intimates, that the Baron Etitvos is a better poet than politician; and that "his poli- tical pamphlet ripened, very much against his will, into one of the most interesting works of fiction that Hungarian literature can boast of." But his political object is the salt of. his book. The alleged evils of the old Hungarian county institutions, (closely re- sembling -those of England,) may be misconceived, and their practical abuses exaggerated by a Republican aiming at theoreti- cal perfection from centralization and the perfect government of an absolute state ; the corruption, selfishness, folly, or narrow- mindedness of the gentry and officials of the county, may be height- ened in feature and coloured in complexion; . the venality, profli- gacy, rudeness, and ignorance of the mass of the privilegedciass, the electors of Hungary—very like the white blood in a slave state— may be treated in like manner ; the oppressions of the poor by the authorities, and the corruption and assumption of the magistrates, may be somewhat caricatured: but the satirical presentation gives a principle to the work, and continually animates the novel by wit, sarcasm, or a distinct purpose. Nor, after all, perhaps, are the abuses exaggerated more than is usual in fiction—more than in Dickens, for example. The want of refinement in the gentry, the coarseness of manner, and the swaggering, harsh, or brutal exer- cise of authority, may seem strange ; but, though different in form it differs little in substance from what the dramatists, or Smollet, Fielding, and other novelists, depicted as prevalent in this country in the beginning and middle of the last century. It is a general failing in novels written for a purpose, that the story is sacrificed to the object of the author. There is less of this in the fiction of Eifotvos than might have been supposed. Of course other matters are introduced besides love and romance ; but the ac- tors in these other parts are connected with the main story ; their sayings and doings not only illustrate the state of society which it is the object of the author to depict, but the illustrative incidents often bear directly upon the principal action. A remarkable art or a happy instinct is also shown in the descriptions. Those of many writers are mere introductions, or positive episodes that dis- tract the attention, and are sometimes difficult to comprehend. Those of Eaviis are generally brief, and form a part of the narrative, partaking of its colour ; being sometimes essential to the senti- ment of the scene, at other times indicating those practices it is the writer's cue to denounce. A good deal of petty police abuse, for example, is brought out in this passing sketch, which is a necessary part of the piece. "The party were about to leave, when their attention was suddenly di- rected to something which was going on in the plain below. Two men on horseback, and one on foot, were seen approaching over the heath ; and it was remarked that the individual whose means of locomotion were so unequally matched with those of his companions walked in front of the horses, and sometimes even between them. The servants of the party., nay, the very justice, were in doubt as to who or what they were—whether Pandurs or robbers ; for at that distance it was quite impossible to make out the difference, which doubtlessly does exist, between brigands and the familiars of the Hun- garian Hermandad. On a nearer approach, however, all doubts were removed • The Village Notary; a Romance of Hungarian Life. Translated from the Hun- garian of Baron Ehtr5s, by Otto Wenckstern. with Introductory Remarks by Francis Pulsaky. In three volumes. Published by Longman and Co.

by the considerate manner in which the cavaliers sought to divert the at- tention of the pedestrian from the length of the way, by beating him ; and it was at once clear that these were servants of the county escorting a pri- soner, whom they were aubjecting to the customary introductory proceedings."

In reviewing books oftravels on Hungary, wehavehad occasion to remark a general resemblance to the institutions and customs of 'England. It would seem that in essential manners the resemblance holds. The poor relation, the bullying justice, the " led captain" or hangers-on of the great house, genteel and gentlemanly but pinched in means, the family lawyer, unscrupulous in assisting his patron clients for a consideration, the public meetings, the private corrup- tion and intrigue, the aristocratical feeling, with what we now call low habits, really read like a leaf out of old England's book. It is the same even to the kidnapping of electors. In the dialogue whence the following is taken, a lord-lieutenant and his secretary are discussing the probabilities of the ensuing election for the county officers. The secretary, who understands business much better than his master, speaks- " 'It makes me laugh to think that the very men who now divide the county trace their origin as political parties to an idle controversy on the uniforms of the county-hussars. Hence the Yellows and the Blacks. I am sure your Excellency would laugh if you had seen their committee-rooms. Ray s head-quarters ring with high praises of his patriotism, for his having at the last election fixed the price of meat at threepence a pound ; while in the next house you find all the butchers of the county for Bantornyi, the in- trepid champion of protection and threepence-halfpenny. Just now, at the cafe, I overheard an argument on Vets&W.'s abilities ; which were rated very low, because he is known to be a bad hand at cards. In short, your Excel- lency can have no idea of the farce which is acting around us. Slatzanek called half an hour ago, lamenting the loss of two of his best Cortes. They were stolen.'

"'They were—what ? '

" 'Stolen, your Excellency. One of the men is forest-keeper to the i

bishop. He is a powerful fellow, with a stentorian voice, strongly attached to his party, and very influential in his way. He is a Black. The Yellow party surrounded him with false friends ; they made him dead drunk, and in that state, in which they keep him, they take him from village to village, with the 3-renew flag waving over his head, thus showing him off, and making believe that he had joined their party. The thing happened a week ago ; and the fellow, fancying that he is with the Blacks, shouts " Eljen!" with all the fury of drunken enthusiasm. The Blacks have made several unsuc- cessful attempts to rescue their leader ; and three noble communities, who were wont to vote with the bishop's keeper, have joined Bantornvi's party. The other man is a notary at Pnlinkash. They have put him down to a card-table ; and whenever the wretched man thinks of the election, they cause him to win or to lose, just as it serves their turn to keep him there.'

Widely as the incidents and formal manners differ from any- thing in England, the essence of the story is very similar to some of our older fictions ; though what was sufficiently natural formerly has ceased to be natural here.

The story of The Village Notary turns upon papers stolen at the instigation of an ambitious woman, Lady Ray, with the two- fold purpose of preventing her husband's er 'brother from claim- ing his rights, should he, a humble minister of religion, ever be moved to do so, and of degrading Tengelyi, the father of the heroine Vihna, to whom the son of Lady Rety is attached, by removing the proofs of his nobility. The lower persons mixed up with this affair—robbers, gipsy, Jew, haiduck—have no counterpart in this country; but the main interest of the romance turns upon a topic familiar enough in English novels—a false accusation of murder.

This scene exhibits the murder, of which Tengelyi is accused. Viola, a leading character—a peasant driven by oppression to turn bandit—is under great obligations to Tengelyi, and determines to regain his papers, which have been stolen by a Jew at the instance of Lady Rety and the lawyer Mr. Catspaw. The latter worthy, having obtained them, is determined to make the most of them.

"He recollected that since Akosh, Ete]ka, and the Bays were gone, he was quite alone in that part of the house ; and so much had his mind of late been occupied with robbers and robberies, that he became uneasy at the thought of passing the night alone and with open doors ; and while he thought of it, it struck him that something moved in the stove. He ap- proached it and listened. " 'I am a fool !' said he at last : I can't lock the door, it's because the lock's used up; and as for the bolt, why I've never moved it. It ought to be rusty by this time !' He went to bed, still thinking of the most pro- fitable plan of investing his money, when a slight noise interrupted his train of agreeable thoughts. Steps were heard on the stairs. They were soft and cautious, like the steps of one who wishes to escape detection. Mr. Ca aw heard them distinctly. They approached from the stairs, and crept along the corridor to his room. He was just about to leave his bed when the door was softly opened, and a man, wrapped up in a bunda, entered the room. " Yids said Mr. Catspaw, with a trembling voice, for the shout which he wished to raise died in his throat. His hair stood on end ; his jaws shook. .

"'It's well you know me !' said the outlaw, as he advanced to the attor- ne s bed. 'If you call for help, you are a dead man ! Besides, it's no use calling; nobody will hear you.' " 'I won't call ! I won't make a noise !' said Mr. Catspaw, while an ashy paleness spread over his features. 'I know you are the last man to hurt me, good Mr. Viola! Do you come for money ? I am a poor man, but you are welcome to all I hive. No thanks! I am happy to oblige you!' " am the last man to hurt you!' said the robber, giving the attorney a look which made his blood creep. Am I, indeed ? Don't you think bygones are bygones with me ! Not your agony, not all the blood in your veins, can pay me for what you've done to me and mine!' " You are mistaken, my dear sir ; indeed you are—' ; the attorney cast a despairing look around him; I am not—'

" 'Who ?' said Viola, sternly. Who was it made me a robber? Who was it drove me forth, like a beast of the forest, while my wife and children were cast as beggars on the world ? Say it was not you! Say it was not von who wrote my doom ! Say it was not you who would have drunk my blood! Say it is not you who are my curse and my enemy !—'

." I'll give you my all,—I'll give you all I have ! I've a couple of hundreds of Mr. Rety's money too, and you are welcome to them, though I shall have to refund them, and—' " 'I don't want your money!' said Viola, scornfully. want the papers you stole from the notary.' " !The papers ?' said the attorney, with a look of profound astonishment : `what papers does it please you to mean, my dear Mr. Viola ?' " mean the papers which you took away when they bound me. If you don't give them up this minute, you'll never rise from this bed.' "The robber's tone showed Mr. Catspaw that it was dangerous to trifle with him. He replied—' Yes, I had them! You are right, I took them from you : but I lament to say, I was rash enough to burn them on the spot. That's the truth of it. I would not tell you a lie, no ! not for the world; for you know all and everything.'

" 'If so, tell your lies to others. I know that you keep the papers in this room, and that you've offered them to Lady Rety for fifty thousands Who can have told you that ?' cried Mr. Catspaw, as a suspicion flashed. through his mind that Viola might possibly be hired by Lady Rety; who ? who ?'

" Never you mind who it was,' said Viola, dryly ; if you think your life of less value than fifty thousand florins, ru show you in an instant how little I care for it.'

" But do tell me!' cried the attorney, do tell me who told you that the pagers are in my room ?—who has sent you ?' `Silence and the robber flung his bunda back ; get up ! give me the papers, unless —' "Mr. Catspaw rose and walked to his desk. Viola stood quietly by, watching him.

"The attorney's hands trembled as he produced the papers. They were. in two bundles, and among them were some letters of Tengelyrs, which the Jew had abstracted with the rest.

" Here they are said Mr. Catspaw, with a hoarse voice; 'you know their value. Ask whatever you please ' "'I don't want your money—keep it !' said the robber, advancing to seize the packet; when the attorney recollected that he kept a loaded pistol in the desk.

"Yielding to an impulse of mad despair, he seized it, and presented it at Viola.

"The robber's eyes shot fire as he saw the weapon. He made a rush ; the attorney fell, and the pistol was in Viola's hands. "That movement sealed Mr. Catapaw's doom. Viola was not cruel. He had an instinctive aversion to the shedding of blood. If Mr. Catspaw had given up the papers without resistance, he would have been safe ; but the treachery of the action and the struggle inflamed the robber's wilder pas- sions.

" Pity screamed Mr. Catspaw„ as Viola seized him by the throat.

" Did you pity me when Susi begged for grace, when you wrote my death-warrant ?'

"The attorney's face grew black, his eyes started from his head ; but his despair gave him strength. When he saw the robber's knife descending, he caught it in his hands.

"There was a noise in the house. Steps were heard. The attorney's cries had roused the servants.

" Viola made a violent movement. Again, and again, and again was the. broad steel buried in the breast of his victim. Then, seizing the papers with his bloody hands, he rushed from the room and reached the yard where he was met by the coachman and another servant. They pursued him.

"He crossed the meadow, and disappeared in the thicket which covers the banks of the Theiss."

Both the preface by Pulszky and the translation by Otto Wenek- stern are remarkable specimens of English by foreigners. The novel, more especially, has not only the ease and idiom of a. native style, but it reproduces the Hungarian *it phrases by English equivalents, so completely that one almost imagines pas- sages to have been written by an Englishman, who transfused his. knowledge of life in his own country to the banks of the Theiss.