17 FEBRUARY 1855, Page 16

NEW NOVELS. * Fabiola, attributed to Cardinal Wiseman, is a story

of Roman per- secution and of Christian martyrdom, faith, and virtue, at the close of the third and the beginning of the fourth century. The leading feature of the fiction is the character of Fabiola, at first the Pagan daughter of a Roman patrician, haughty but courteous, and look- ing with contemptuous indifference on the despised Christians; then, moved by circumstances, among which the conduct of a female slave is conspicuous, to entertain the subject of the faith ; finally, to become one of the faithful herself, and to live in peace under the edicts of Constantine, surviving the martyrdom of some Chris- tians, the death of others through the personal malignity of Pagans, and the punishment which overtakes the persecutors.

One object of the writer is evidently to make the story a vehicle for insinuating E,omish theology. At least, the virtue of the Church and its sacraments is put conspicuously forward, and for Protestants rather too much so ; the safety of a most abominable criminal being intimated if he will but submit to baptism. The antiquity of the doctrines and practices of the Church is also up- held in the descriptions of ceremonies and beliefs, the same then as now. These things are broadly but not offensively done. How- ever, they could only have di influence with persons of not very penetrating minds and no very decided opinions.

The tale exhibits a good deal of learning, displayed in the one- sided manner already intimated, an easy and even eloquent style, with a scholastic rather than a natural invention. In the great essential of fiction, the dramatic power which gives life and vraisemblance to action and speech, the author is deficient; but the deficiency is shown more in quiet and domestic scenes, that derive their interest from the natural development of character, than in occurrences of a deeper kind, especially when description can properly take a leading part in exhibiting the event.

The House of Baby is a much better novel than its subject would lead one to suppose. The misery arising from hereditary insanity, fully displayed in two generations is, like any other affliction, especially if partaking of a physical character, not well adapted to excite interest. It may be, as the writer of Lis novel seems to intimate, that the moral of celibacy is contained in the idea, and is inculcated by showing the misery that arises when hereditary insanity develops itself both in father and son. Even in this point of view, however, the subject seems too closely allied to the Greek destiny-tragedies to be altogether fit for a modern fic- tion, unless it were of a loftier kind than the generality of writers can attain, or than the generality of readers would care for. The writer of The House of Baby has got over the difficulty with considerable skill by the prominence given to domestic tenderness and kindly feeling, and to the wretchedness arising from the infliction. The style and treatment, though there is over-detail in parts and too much visible effort thrown upon the mere composition, are well adapted to the peculiar theme. The mode of telling the story is good. It opens with an autobio- graphical introduction, and the childish reminiscences of a person who is adopted into the family, and who narrates the fate of two or indeed of three past generations, partly from information and partly from letters.

The title of "The House of Raby " shows that a family of dis- tinction is the subject of the affliction ; and perhaps this is necessary. The contrast of large possessions, external Splendour, and all the means of worldly happinedli, with the fear that haunts its owners or the misery that actually overtakes them, is requisite to the full development of the subject; while the family affections, and the need of sympathy from humbler friends, acts as a kinily relief. This is a touching scene, where the second son of Lord Carleton has been seized with a fit, whose termination is uncertain. The little Margaret, the daughter of the village clergyman and a friend of the house, is the heroine of the next generation.

"It was during a critical sleep that the doctor walked down here. On his return he found his little patient still sleeping soundly, as he expected. He was prepared for the length and soundness of the sleep, but he was very un- easy about its result. He was by no means sure that the poor boy would not wake up a confirmed idiot. He told me afterwards somewhat of his feel- ings, as he sat beside the bed, about the time he expected the sleep to pass off. He could scarcely bear to glance at the faces of the parents,—the mother's wearing that indescribable look, made up of the intensest love and pity, mingled with painful, eager Inquiry, which, he says, he sees so often in the faces of mothers as they watch the deathbeds of their children ; the Fabiola; or the Church of the Catacombs. [" By Cardinal Wiseman" is writ- ten in pencil on the titlepage.of the copy sent to us.] Published by Burns and Lambert.

The House of Baby; or Our Lady of Darkness. In three volumes. Published by Chapman and Hall.

The Warhawk; a Tale of the Sea. By F. Claudius Armstrong, Author of "The Two Midshipmen." In three volumes. Published by Newby.

father's face downcast, wretched, but too proud to unbend the firm-set mouth, or to let the lids droop over the expectant eye. "Poor Carleton ! Dr. Ward observed, also, that he did not stand beside his wife, or offer her any consolation, and that she seemed to avoid looking at him; their whole souls seemed concentrated in the gaze with which they watched the little slumberer, who lay wasted, wan, with the transparent lids only half covering his large eyes,—the beautiful head, shorn of its abundant curls, resting on one small thin hand, while the other lay clasped in his mother's, on the white coverlet. He had been thus for Ave hours. At length he stirred slightly—a tremor passed through his limbs. They who saw the motion trembled too. Then his eyes opened a little. And the thought came to all of them, What if there be no longer any intelligence there ?' At that moment there was a sound of small pattering feet, and a child's voice outside the room sounding plaintively, and as if in the act of struggling.

" Oh ! let I do in ! I will be deed! Please let I do see ittle Danny !' "For half an instant a feeling of alarm at this disturbance, so near the silent chamber, contracts the brows of the watchers ; but only foe half an instant—the next it is converted into tearful joy. For at the sound of that voice the patient's eyes open wide ; he raises his head, smiles, looks towards the door, and then towards his mother, and says, in feeble but glad accents- ' Little Maggie ! Mamma, little Maggie !'

"The doctor says that he never admitted a visitor into a sick-room more 'willingly than he then admitted our little pet. At a sign from him, Carleton opened the bedroom-door, and discovered Miss Maggie engagedin single com- bat with Ann, who was endeavouring to carry off the child. In another moment Maggie was free, and saw the door open before her. Without pausing she ran into the sick-chamber, and Frank crept in after her. Dr. I.Vard says it was pretty to see her stop suddenly, smitten by the silence and darkness of the room, and then turn her head round slowly in the gloom as if in search of something. At last she seemed to make out the bed, and be- gan to move towards it. When she was close to it, so that she could see its little tenant looking eagerly at her, she stretched out her arms towards him,

and sobbed out, 'Poor Bunny! Kiss ittle Maggie The invalid testifying much impatience to comply with her request, she was lifted on the bed by Dr. Ward. He says that every one present shed tears at the sight of thew innocent caresses. Arundel's pale face beamed with delight, while Maggie's fingers wandered over it, as if to make sure it was indeed her dear Dunny.' She seemed sadly puzzled about his hair—her eyes fixed themselves in- satiably upon it in the dim light ; and then feeling with her two little hands all over his head, she said mournfully, A carra gone !' "

The Warhawk. Why should the novel-reader feel distrust of the novelist, when he meets at the outset with passages that not only resemble Scott's, but might really pass for his ? Want of originality is an obvious answer • but if this want were to excite distrust, how few books could be opened without suspicion! The fact is, experience tells us this imitation is partial and cannot be sustained. The most glaring or formal parts of the original writer, which without great care on his side degenerate into man- nerism, are those which the imitator fastens upon and reproduces, perhaps not without some touch of mimicry ; while all except these peculiar parts fall considerably below the style of his prototype. Thus, the author of The Warhawk opens with a bit that might pass, for Scott.

"Towards the close of the seventeenth century, on a day anything but remarkable either for its beauty or its mildness, two horsemen were spur- ring along the then very indifferent road that skirted the banks of the noble Star, from Carrick to Waterford. It was the month of November; the days were short., and the two horsemen seemed by their speed inclined to make the most of the daylight. On reaching the summit of the steep hill, about three miles from the town of Waterford, they paused for a moment to breathe their panting steeds, and then about a dozen of well, armed at- tendants, who were far behind, came into view.

"The two horsemen, having; checked their steeds, gazed on the scene be- fore them for a few minutes in silence. The elder of the two was a man well advanced in years, though still hale and vigorous; but the thoughts then struggling in his breast gave to his otherwise very noble features a stern and harsh expression. He wore a military undress; and on his head a broad beaver, with a single drooping feather. He was well armed ; and the huge holsters on his strong roan charger carried a pair of the heavy, clumsy horse-pistols of that period."

As soon as mere description of the obvious—locality, wea- ther, and persons—is over, and the author is called upon to display his art of invention and his narrative and dramatic power, the reader finds what a very, little way he has entered into the spirit of Scott. Ireland, about the time of the Revolution, is not a bad groundwork for the novelist, with its civil wars, its vio- lence in politics and religion, its strong contrast of races, its man- ners too racy and its morals too immoral perhaps for true delinea- tion • but Mr. Armstrong can make little of it. He has so little actual knowledge of the times, that he talks of a disappointed man accompanying his regiment to India,—as if the Company in those days had King's regiments or the means of paying for them : and we further hear of the Pindarries, the bugbear of more than a cen- tury later. He kills away without scruple merely to start his story; and as this start is mainly founded on an abduction with the restoration a few years afterwards of a child, the practised novel-reader soon seizes something like the heart of the tale.

It will be readily understood that The Warhawk is not a remarkable fiction as a learned and craftsmanlike piece of work, such as James could turn out, still less as a vivacious picture of the age. It is however, a readable and rather rapid affair, with plenty of stirring occurrences and changeful fortunes, well adapted to the readers of the circulating library.