30 DECEMBER 1882, Page 21


MRS. PARR'S last novel cannot exactly be called an amusing, nor even a particularly cheerful one, for there is an under-current of tragedy throughout, which at times almost comes to the sur- face; but there are many good things in it, and the characters, though slightly sketched, are life-like. Plot there is none, or, at any rate, none that is not palpable from the beginning; for, given a bright lovable girl of seventeen, living abroad with a scapegrace • Robin. By Mrs. Parr. London : Richard Bentley and Son. father; and also a fascinating young man, with no particular income, thrown much into the young lady's society, with all the ease of Continental life, and the results will probably suggest them- selves to the youngest reader. Add to this a wealthy, worthy, but comparatively uninteresting suitor, presenting himself at a time when the fascinating one is apparently faithless, and the story is told. The subsequent arrangement by which Robin, after her mar- riage of convenience, meets the old love again, and learns that he never was faithless, is almost inevitable. It does Mrs. Parr credit that out of such common-place materials she has managed to construct a good story, but it must be owned that she is obliged occasionally to use rather clumsy machinery to work it out. For instance, the way in which Robin is kept in ignor- ance of her former lover's neighbourhood is certainly impro- bable; but the real strength of the book lies in the characters, and these are almost all well drawn. We feel that we know them all, and the minor personages are as true to nature as the chief ones ; indeed, we aro sometimes' disposed to regret that we do not see much more of one person than of another, for there are some we should like to know better. Like most threcs volume novels, the story may be divided thus :—Vol. I., intro- duction of the principal personages, and necessary particulars of their family history. Vol. IL, the performances of the minor personages, and some needful misunderstandings. Vol. III., performances of all the personages ; explanations, and final tableau. The first part of the story is laid in Venice, where the life is described con amore, and where we learn to know the heroine, her father, and her two lovers. Mr. Voriker we only see as a dying man looking back upon an ill-trained boyhood and an ill-spent manhood, — a man whose wife had, for a time, drawn him towards better things, but who, on losing her, had fallen back vary much into his old ways, except that, as far as his lights go, he takes good care of his only child, Robin. She has, of course, had little or no training of any kind ; she has lost, her mother when quite a child, and since then has led a vagabond, out-at-elbows, Con- tinental life, with her father; but though childish, and even unrefined, she is honest, true-hearted, and capable of develop- ing well, if wisely guided. Jack, though by no means a fault- less guide himself, has tried to teach her what be can ; it is not, therefore, wonderful that she should fall violently in love with him, in a childish fashion ; but, unhappily for herself, with that intense constancy inherited from her mother, which her father never dreams that she possesses. In face of his own approaching end, he thinks it wise and prudent to get rid of such a dangerous suitor as Jack, whom he honestly be- lieves to be such another one as himself, for he is incapable of perceiving that beneath Jack's carelessness, extravagance, and apparent fickleness, lie a latent firmness and self-control such as the older man never in his life possessed, which set Jack at once on a pedestal much above Mr. Veriker. Robin stifles her feelings, believing that they have never been re- turned ; and then she finds her father dying, herself alone, and Christopher Blunt at her feet, passionately in love, bound to her by family ties, able to give her and her father every comfort ; far better than any man she has ever known, everything, in short, except a man she could love. The cruelty of the story is the deception practised on Christopher ; intentionally by Mr. Veriker, unconsciously by Robin. Christopher never for a moment believes that Robin is in love with him ; but believing that she has never yet loved, he thinks he may teach her the lesson, and in view of her forlorn future and Mr. Veriker's fast approaching death, he feels himself justified in offering a home to the girl he loves. Only after his marriage does he waken to the miserable truth that his wife's heart belongs to another, and then ensues a long, sad struggle between good and evil, in all the three, husband, wife, and lover. We are always inclined to question whether the minute study of a forbidden passion can be either wholesome or profitable; but if the thing is to be done at all, we own that Mrs. Parr does it well, neither treating the sub- ject flippantly, nor enlisting our sympathies unduly on the wrong sine. Nothing but Christopher's innate nobleness and single- mindedness could pull him through the fiery trial of a time when everything, including the influence of his own father, conspires to turn his wife against him ; but he does pull through it, and the state of penury and privation into which he and Robin are suddenly plunged draws her to him as nothing else could have ever done. He brings out all the best side of her nature, and Robin, when we take leave of her, is an infinitely better being than when we first make her acquaintance : under what circumstances we do take leave

may be guessed, but we will leave it to readers to discover for themselves. The elder Mr. Blunt's sufferings as a self-made man trying to become accustomed. to " good society " are well told, but the man himself is so repulsive, that nothing but his passionate devotion to his son can make us toler- ate him at all ; and as it is, we have too much of him. Mr. Cameron is charming, and Georgy Temple probably becomes so after her marriage ; while the Rector is one of the pleasantest people in the story. The dialogue is, as a rule, common-place, and sometimes even trivial; but some of the passages between Mr. Veriker and his daughter are decidedly good ; and so is the following, between Georgy and her father, when she is trying to bring herself to confide her love-affair to him :—

" 'Yon think well of Cameron, father ; you like him, don't you ?' —' Oh, yes ;' and the Rector made a show of swallowing something ; I'm doing my best. Seeing I am likely to get him given to me as a son in-law, I suppose it's right to try and make the effort.'— Georgy's face termed crimson for a moment I do believe, after all, he has been saying something to you ; has he ? Has he said anything to you about me ?'—The Rector shook his head. No,' he said ; but he has been saying something to you, I see.'—' Oh, well, really, papa, I believe I first put it into his head.'—' Your sex generally do, my dear.'—' No; but I mean I thought of it first.'—' I am even prepared to credit that, too.'—' No ; but joking apart, he couldn't believe it was possible. I saw that.'—' And you helped him to a solution of his difficulty ?'—' Well, you know, when two people are of one mind, it makes things easier, doesn't it F'—' If they happen to he of one household, certainly it does.'—' Oh, that makes me think of mother. How shall we tell her P What will she say F'—` Say it's my fault, that's certain, for wanting a curate to help me.'—' So she will. I never thought of that'"

The said mother, Mrs. Temple, is well painted, too ; the in- dolent, well-born lady, who lets everything go wrong in the house and parish, throws everything upon her daughter Georgy,

and then regrets the want of "repose of manner" in the present day. Mrs. Parr disfigures her book by a little of the bad Eng- lish too prevalent now ; there is an extremely liberal use of " buts," " ands," and " verbs," and a tendency to turn sub- stantives into verbs, whether they are wanted as such or not ; but the style is generally clear and simple, and there is much to repay reading in the story.