1 JULY 1882, Page 21

THE MARTYRDOM OF MADELINE.* Ma. Bucnerws is a master in

the art of story-telling; he pos- sesses in an unusual degree the power of arresting and keeping the attention of his readers, and his words and thoughts flow easily and agreeably, so that there is never the least effort or tedium in following him. He is poetic, dramatic, highly inter- esting, and hard to lay aside when once begun. It is, however, not merely in the light of a story that the present work must be

-considered, but rather as a sword drawn to lead a crusade. The author, seeing grievous evil in the world which he burns to op- pose, uses his gift of story-telling to arouse public sympathy against it ; all honour be to him for so laudable an endeavour. Therefore, to be contented waith the amusement he affords, with- out looking deeper and reflecting on what he strives to inculcate, is like watching a patriot engaged in a desperate struggle to

save his country, and applauding his strength, activity, valour, or dexterity as a swordsman, without giving a thought to the cause for which he has exposed himself to danger. When a man is in downright earnest, it is wronging him to think of him as actuated by no higher motive than a mere vain desire to exhibit his skill and personal good qualities. What Mr. Buchanan aims at combating is to be gathered from the following extract out of the preface to the book :—

"What the creed of Peace is to the State, the creed of Purity is to the social community. So long as carnal indulgence is recognised as a masculine prerogative, so long as personal chastity is a supreme factor in the fate of women, bat a more accident lathe lives of men, so long as the diabolic ingenuity of a strong sex is tortured to devise legal means for sacrificing a weaker sex—so long, in a word, as our homes and our streets remain what they are—the creed of Purity must remain as forlorn a dream as that other creed of Peace."

He will on no account tolerate such light views of morality as are expressed in the subjoined conversation, before quoting which we must mention that the subject under discussion is literature of a low tone, and that the first speaker is a chivalrous, unselfish sort of Sir Galahad, named Sutherland, who holds that "until a man's life is as pure as he would have the life of

* The Martyrdom of Madeline. By &bort Buchanan. London: Chatto and Windus,

the woman he loves, he has no right to throw one stone at the most fallen woman in the world" :—

" Whatever is unfit for a pure woman to read is unfit to be read by a pure man. Would you give these books to your wives and sisters— that is the question?" Certainly,' cried Ponto, from the other side of

the room. Provided their msthetic education had been complete, they would find nothing but pleasure from the perusal. Why, in Heaven's name, should Woman remain for ever the slave of Virtue ? I would make her the archpriestess of the Beautiful, ministering to mortals in all the passionate nudity of Art.' And you, monsieur?' said

Sutherland, turning suddenly to Gavrolles. What is your opinion?' ' Oh, I am an artiste,' answered the Frenchman, with a shrug of the shoulders and an unpleasant smile. I, too, would make woman the priestess of Beauty. Ah yes ! with the greatest of possible pleasure I' The words were of little meaning, but the tone was significant, and a titter went round the room. Sutherland's face darkened. '1 pre- sume that your experience of the sex is large?' he asked, in a low voice. 'Gentlemen of year nation are generally fortunate—' 'I am no exception to the rule,' answered Gavrolles. My whole life has been une bonne fortune! But look you, as I say, I am an artiste—in affairs of gallantry, as in all others. I do not suffer these things to cloud the equanimity of my artiste's soul. When I have plucked a rose—observe ! I smell it ; I wear it a little while; then I take it from my button-hole and throw it away. You understand?' ' I think so,' said Sutherland, rising to his feet. 'Pray does it ever occur to you what becomes of the rose afterwards? if it is trampled under- foot who is responsible?" Pardon me, that is the rose's affair, not mine. An rests, roses must bloom and fade ; Art, Art—for which I live—is imperishable and divine.'"

Giving Mr. Buchanan credit for being thoroughly in earnest in his crusade, we believe he will care rather to know how far his work seems adapted to produce the effect he aims at, than to have an opinion as to its literary merits, and we therefore wish to point out something which. he appears to have overlooked. In shaping his story for the end he had in view, he should have taken a man and woman, contrived so to place them as to cause appearances to be against both of them in about an equal degree, and then proceeded to show the disparity of treatment accorded to the two sexes. This, however, he has not done. G-avrolles, the man who betrays Madeline and causes her sufferings, is never found out, and therefore the general public who receive him with open arms and make much of him are ignorant of his misdeeds. By only two men is his infamy even partially known or suspected, and these two certainly detest him and treat him as he deserves. Against his innocent victim, on the contrary, awkward-looking things are first whispered and then published in the papers. It cannot be said, either, that the world was the only source of her martyrdom, for it arose as much from internal as external causes ; had her nature been as callous as that of Gavrolles, she would have escaped a great part of her troubles, which were made additionally heavy to her by the keenly sensi- tive disposition that caused her to shrink from the appearance of guilt almost as much as from the thing itself. For the world to think that she was wicked was almost as overwhelming to her as though she had actually been so, and then this was her condition :—

" Nothing seemed real : not the cloudy pageant, or the darkening sun, or the desolate earth ; not the life that she had lived, or the life that she had voluntarily left behind; not the long years of a confused and broken experience, chiefly of helplessness and sorrow ; nothing but the clinging, contaminating sense of some great sin and shame. As a creature half-choked and drowned, just dragged living out of some watery ooze, with all the foul moisture and the slimy filth clinging to her garments, this woman seemed and felt. The con- sciousness of a complete moral contamination, from which she had barely emerged, still remained with her, and not all the perfumes of Arabia could have cleansed it away."

On the outside cover of the book is a representation of a serpent twined along a pen, with its forked tongue striking wherever the pen touches, so as to convey the idea of venom and ink flowing simultaneously. This design indicates another evil rampant in society which the author attacks, and against which he makes his point thoroughly good; this second evil is the "personal journalism" which eagerly snaps up every breath of club gossip and scandal, and publishes it, without caring whether it be true or no. Mr. Buchanan disclaims any intention of giving "photographs or caricatures of living individuals ;" but he allows that he has constructed "out of the editorial chit- chat of a journal an amusing personality,—not, I think, un- generously conceived." And in the sketch of Lagarare of the Plain Speaker, with his imperturbability, and wonderful stories of Eastern and Continental personal experiences, most people will fancy they recognise an attempt portrait. When his ill- natured innuendoes have nearly brought upon him personal chastisement from the hands of a stranger, a friend of the latter's begs him not to excite himself, on the ground that :—

" It's only Lagardere." The man is insufferable." Everybody

knows that.' 'He deserves to be horsewhipped.' 'Bless you, he has been horsewhipped over and over again ; I think he rather likes it, and whenever it occurs he publishes a full account in his own journal. Come, you're no match for him, with his poisoned shafts. He'd find out the weak point in your armour at once.'" But to counterbalance this, a different and more amiable side to his character is depicted in the following amusing scene, describing how he presents an excellent charitable institution with a cheque for £50 :-

"' He entered mysteriously, carefully closed the door, and before I could address him he handed me that cheque, with the intimation that it was to be paid over to you.' "It seems to me rather a good sort of idea," he said, in his drawling way ; "so I have brought you a trifle I won from Banbri Pasha last night at nap." 'Really, Mr. Lagardere,' I said, I didn't give you credit for so much sympathy with mis- fortune.' I added : 'I shall have much pleasure in making public acknowledgment of your liberality.' As I spoke the words, he trembled violently and clutched me by the arm "For God'a sake," he cried, "do nothing of the kind!" 'Excuse me,' I said, it is only just. To be frank, I, in common with many others, have hold your style of journalism in the utmost detestation. In one case, at least, I know that you have helped to wreck a human life ; it is only fair to proclaim that you are perhaps penitent, and—' Ho interrupted me with an expletive. "Nothing of the sort," he exclaimed ; "I don't profess to be a saint, and I won't have my character taken away. Damme, Sir, what would the readers of the Plain Speaker think, if they thought I had any common-place compunctions ? They'd all go bank to the Whirtigig, vote me a mollycoddle, and, as a journalist, I should be ruined." 'So I took the cheque, on the con- dition that I should not disturb the public in its happy confidence in the moral perversity of the donor.'"

It is noticeable in reading this book how much romance and poetry are traceable in all the characters. There is no really calculating, highly-practical petson amongst them, but all are more or less hot-blooded and. impulsive,—the author seems to have stamped his own fanciful, poetic identity upon the crea- tures of his imagination. Sutherland, the knight-errant, already alluded to, is, of course, romantic ; the generous, loving husband is a romantic merchant ; White, the lazy, gentle- tempered, unworldly man who had constituted himself Madeline's guardian is a romantic Bohemian; the Peartree family are romantic bargees; the pure-minded, spirited, gifted, affec- tionate, and impetuous heroine is thoroughly romantic ; even the villain has a touch of romance about him, which appears in his dread of being proclaimed a coward, and his fury at having been " profaned " by the threat of a blow. Perhaps this romance and unpracticality accounts for the readiness with which Gavrolles' statements as to his marriage were accepted, without their genuineness being inquired into,—an amount of credulity that seems possible enough on the part of an inex- perienced girl like Madeline, but which is hardly in keeping with the characters of two men of the world, one of whom was also a man of business. There is some slight carelessness in small matters to be complained of ; Sutherland is defined at his first appearance as "a man of thirty," and is again supposed to be "about thirty" some years later ; this is all the more re- markable as Gavrolles, who at the first period had been also a "man of thirty," has during the same lapse of time become "a middle-aged man." And how comes Mr. Buchanan to be guilty of the absurdity of talking of a High-Church person as going

daily to "hear morning and evening mass f" (the italics are ours).