31 MARCH 1855, Page 17


TEE first part of Thorney Sall is a story of the commonest occur- rences of daily life among the humblest middle-class, rendered interesting by the social condition in which the actors are placed, the peculiar circumstances that precede their own appearance on the stage, and the skilful truth with which the characters are drawn. The latter part of the story exhibits perhaps equal skill on the part of the author, certainly equal cleverness in the exe- cution. There is less closeness and connexion in the occurrences; the narrative is fragmentary ; the purpose with which the writer began is not carried out to any true conclusion ; characters are killed off arbitrarily, probably with a view to some partial effect, though if so it misses the aim.

The boyish determination of Warren Hastings to purchase the family estate of Daylsford probably suggested the idea of Thorney Ball; but the circumstances are all different. Confiscations and extravagance have reduced the once proud fortunes of the Randals, a family in a Northern county, to the possession of little more than Thorney Hall, and that has to be sold to avert the disgrace of the eldest male survivor of the race. After his death in exile, the children of a poor clergyman alone remain to uphold the name of EandaL One of these children is a watchmaker in the town

• Thorney Hall. A Story of an Old Family. By Holme Lee, Author of " Maude Talbot." Published by Smith, Elder, and Co.

North and South. By the Author of "Mary Barton," "Ruth,"-&c. In two volumes. Published by Chapman and Hall.

The Village Millionaire. By Miss Lamont, Author of" The Fortunes of Woman." In three volumes. Published by Hurst and Blackett.

of Burndale ; and his character, the characters of his wife, children, and intimates, with the simple incidents of their life, form the interest of the early part of the book. In the picture of these things there is a breadth in minuteness, a truth, and a finish, which equal if they do not surpass any word-painting that we have met. It has this further mark of actuality, that sorrows and trials are mitigated as in nature, not presented alone, as is often proper to be done in art for the sake of greater pathos. The chief family troubles are when the eldest boy, Alan, runs away, in consequence of his father straining the bands of discipline too tight ; and when the younger sister, Marian—" Sunshine " as she is called—de- taches from his engagement the betrothed of her sister Grisell. The chief trial is when the family is broken up on the death of the parents, and it becomes necessary for Hugh Randal to seek some employment.

The interest arising from the finished delineation of simple truth, perfect keeping, and a genuine provincial homeliness of character elevated by the feeling of gentle birth, ceases with the emigration of Hugh and his sister Orisell to London to take a situation in the countinghouse of a maternal relation. Another interest, however' opens, had it been steadily pursued by the writer. Hugh, a boy of strong character and resolute will, is th9 only one who brooded over the fallen fortunes of his family, ad from an early period has resolved to restore them by purcfriising Thorney Hall. To accomplish this, he steadily submits to the drudging toil of his business, oasts aside a growing attachment ; and there is a prospect of the novelist impressing upon the reader the important lesson that a man should not reject every blessing and postpone every duty that springs up in his path of life, to attain a remote object of doubtful good. This is clearly seen by the writer; but not followed out. The struggle with narrow circum- stances in the first act of the London career is consistently con- nected with the Burndale life ; but it soon falls into the events of a commonplace novel—possibly even below that, though excellence of writing is still maintained.

The narrative is very quiet, even in the most troubled parts ; which renders the book more effective when taken in large por- tions than in small. Here is the family reconciliation after Ma- nn's private marriage with Mr. Langley, the night before the couple are going abroad for Langley's health.

"On entering the parlour, I found my father sitting gloomily over a book, and my mother sewing, while Hugh pored sedulously over his Euclid. They made way for me to approach the fire, and I sat down on a low stool at nay mother's feet. Her hand passed caressingly over my head, caused me to look up, and I saw that she had been weepin" ff I had been selfish in my sorrow—alas ! hers had been perhaps as deep. It was time to amend, and I instantly resolved to begin. "She liked being read to aloud, for her sight was weak ; yet for months had I neglected giving her this amusement. My own pleasure in books was gone : it was difficult to get away from the chapter of life that I had conned so recently. Much rather would I have sat dreaming on; but conscience said, 'Do the right !' and I asked my mother if I should read to her. Her grateful reply was worse than a reproach to me. Neglected trifles in kindness sometimes amount to great wrongs : I had forgotten this. "From the shelf I reached down her favourite book : it was an old one, and had been read through often ; still she preferred it to any other but her Bible. It was the 'Life of Colonel Hutchison,' written by his wife. When I began, my father laid his volume aside and listened. The book was not closed till supper-time: it did us all good.

"'It is like a shadow of the old times come back, Grisell,' said my father : he called me to him and kissed me. The moment was propitious: I took courage and whispered Marian's name to him : my mother also added her voice of entreaty.

" Let it rest, wife,' he said with unsteady voice ; 'let it rest. How can I give the hand of amity to the man who has stolen my child ?—mud Marian cannot be divided, even in that, from her husband. Poor helpless little thing ! '

"He said afterwards that Mr. Langley was a man of strong passions and fine intellect, but no principle, and that he feared Marian would live to re- pent her rash marriage very sorely ; but he hoped not—he prayed God not. We knew he was relenting when he spoke thus, and took hope, for he made no answer when we told him that they were going very soon to leave Eng- land, and what for : but his gloomy eye softened visibly ; there was much tenderness under his rough exterior.

"Half an hour later in the evening, we were sitting round the fire all rather sad at heart, when the parlour-door opened, and Marian entered alone. She went up to my father without hesitation, and, holding out her hands, said, Father, bid God bless me once more, before I leave you all.' "He looked up in her agitated face : Marian, my child !' he exclaimed, surprised into natural feeling by the suddenness of her appearance, when, no doubt, his heart was yearning towards her. He kissed her, much moved. He let her rest her bright head on his breast, where it had rested so often, before the shadow came which made her now so still and wan. With her cheek against his, she whispered something to him in her old winning way a frown darkened his brow for a moment, but for a moment only. He glanced at me : Grisell, Mr. Langley is outside,' he said.

" Let him come in,' was my reply. Marian sprang to the door and brought in her husband amongst us. " We gathered round the tea-table once more, and for the last time all together.

On the morrow little Sunshine and Mr. Langley left Burndale. It was a comfort to us afterwards to recollect that we did not part unreconciled, when that came between us which puts forgiveness out of our reach and makes repentance and regret in vain."

North and South.—The author of "Mary Barton" displays that intellectual quality understood by the word power. She has power in conception, power in depiction, power in expression. She has little or none of the larger and loftier faculties implied by genius and imagination, which enable their possessor to ex- hibit the spirit of things whereof only a glimpse has been ob- tained. The life and its concomitants with which she is familiar —the factory districts, and the society of a country town—she de- lineates truthfully, though somewhat hardly. When she passes into a higher sphere she is indebted to speculation for her ideas.

Her persons are rather abstractions than living beings; some of

their traits are ingeniously conceived, hut exhibited more purely than is ever the case in living beings. Other of their qualities partake of the notions which the vulgar entertain about the aria- taaracy. -Under the most favourable circumstances there is a want of dramatic spirit and geniality. Her persons as well as her scenes „and dialogues want the warmth of life.

In North and South the writer is for the most part on her strong ,round. The North is a manufacturing town with its inhabitants xi the cotton district. The South is chiefly represented by an _amiable ex-clergyman and, his family. The circumstance which „induces Mr. Hale,. with his wife and daughter Margaret, to quit ,.the-South and his living in the New Forest, is a doubt relating to the Church. He goes to Milton Northern to add to his small in- come by teaching the classics to youthful manufacturers whose prudent fathers deem that a university would unfit them for the Countinghouse, or to young men who wish to supply the defects of an imperfect education. The mild, conscientious, gentlemanly Mr. Hale, who has been shut up all his life in college or a secluded ,country living, is a very respectable specimen of the South, though not the most distinctive or remarkable of the male kind that might have been selected. Mrs. Hale, the daughter of Sir John eresford, is an amiable but rather helpless woman, with a dash

oi the fine lady, and is certainly a very poor representative of Southern females. The daughter is the heroine—and an agree- able corception rather than creation—who stops short of being charming y a very slight touch of brnsquerie, and a somewhat overstraineu contempt for trade and traders, though her own social position is not really so high as that of many commercial people. The North is characteristically represented by Mr. Thornton, a manufacturer of respectable family, but who has had to work his way through difficulties and poverty in consequence of his father's extravagance and reckless speculations ; and by his mother, a woman of vigorous mind, hard disposition, much pride in opposing the pride of gentility or aristocracy, and with a somewhat stately bearing. Thornton is designed as a beau ideal of a Manchester manufacturer; straightforward in action, resolute in will, large- Minded in what concerns the manufacturing business abroad or at home, but a little sensitive with refined people, and rather preju- diced against them. Though not personally hard-hearted, he seems so, from taking k large view of business life, and carrying to their extreme conclusions the modern dogmas of political economy in relation to wages and capital. Wishing to renew and extend his all but forgotten school acquaintance with classical literature, Mr. Thornton becomes a pupil of Mr. Hale. A sort of family acquaintance springs up inconsequence. Although somewhat mortified at the reserve and indifference of Margaret, Thornton ends by falling in love, with a depth and intensity of feel- ing belonging to his character. Rejected at first, he is finally sue- oessful„aAer an interval of delay, varied fortune, and suspense ; the North becoming softened into a less harsh and. selfish way of regarding the masses, and the South modifying its prejudices. There are other persons and other interests than those directly connected with Thornton and Margaret, where the North at least is strongly represented. Among these are the workpeople, as well under the varying circumstances of every-day life as during a

i strike. The story s throughout of the present time, and contains scenes and passages of remarkable vigour and considerable effect. 'Except in occasional touches, there is a want of lifelike reality. The reader is more moved to praise the power of the writer than to lose eight,of her in the work. Here is an instance of power in the description of Milton streets and the people in them.

"The side of the town on which Crampton. lay was especially a thorough-

fare for the factory people. In the back streets around them there were many mills, out of which poured streams of men and women two or three times a day. -Until Margaret had learnt the times of their ingress and egress, she was very unfortunate in constantly falling in with them. They came rushing.along, with bold, fearless faces, and loud laughs and jests, particularly aimed at all those who appeared to be above them in rank or station. The tones of their unrestrained voices, and their carelessness of all common rules of street politeness, frightened Margaret a little at first. The

with their rough but not unfrieudly freedom, would comment on her dress, even touch her shawl or gown to ascertain the exact material ; nay, once or twice she was asked questions relative to some article which they particularly admired. There was such a simple reliance on her womanly sympathy with their love of dress, and on her kindliness, that she gladly replied to these inquiries as soon as she understood them ; and half smiled • back at their remarks. She did not mind meeting any number of girls, loud-spoken and boisterous though they might be. But she alternately **Jaded and fired up against the workmen, who commented not on her dress, '-laut on her looks, in the same open fearless manner. She, who had hitherto , felt that even the most refined remark on her personal appearance was an -impertinence, had to endure undisguised admiration from these outspoken .men. But the very outspokenness marked their innocence of any intention - to hurt her delicacy, as she would have perceived if she had been less frightened by the disorderly tumult. Out of her fright came a flash of in- Ilignation which made her face scarlet, and her dark eyes gather flame, as :she heard some of their speeches. Yet there were other sayings of theirs, -which, when she reached the quiet safety of home, amused her even while they irritated her.

"For instance, one day, after she had passed a number of men, severel of ithom had paid her the:net unusual compliment of wishing She was their iaseeetheart, one of ;the lingerers. added, Your bonny face, my lass, .makes

• theel.ay look brighter.' Aud another day, Juishe was unconsciously smiling Amine passing thought, she was addressed by a poorly-dressed, middle-aged workman, with 'You may well smile, my lass ; many a one would smile to have such a‘ bonny face.' This man looked so careworn that Margaret -amid not help giving him an answering smile, glad to think that-her looks, 1111e4as.theymere, should.bave had the power to call up a pleasant thought. ...1Ie.seenied to understand her acknowledging glance, and a silent reeogni- tion was established between them whene.ver the. chances of the day brought them across each other's paths. They had never exchanged a word ; ,no-

thing bad been said but that first compliment, yet somehow Mirgaret looked upon this man with more interest than upon any one else in-Milton."

North and South was originally published in "Household Words"; but it has been considerably extended since. This may have been of advantage in giving more of smoothness to the workmanship than "Ruth" possessed. On the other hand, it has probably induced a tendency to make the tale too much of a thread for over-development of everyday matters, and to substitute suc- cessive scenes for a well-compacted story.

The Village Millionaire takes its title from a youth of humble origin who leaves his village home determined to make his fortune. This he accomplishes by commerce ; and returns to the place of his birth, to settle down into a respectable man, and wind up by marrying a lady of title,—notwithstanding some irregular conduct, which the novelist should punish, whatever may be the case in life. A good many other persons take part in the story, having some relation at first or second hand to Benjamin Hardy, the millionaire. The most important are Angus Gordon, a countinghouse friend of Hardy, who goes to India ; and Harriet Avely, Benjamin's first love, whom he loses through the absorbing pursuit of wealth. The persons are of the present day, so far as they belong to any particular age. The spirit of the hook is altogether of the time. There is plenty of variety, if it be little more than the kind which arises from frequent change of scene. The reflections and descrip- tions relating to India show thought about the country. But there is a want of purpose and of art, which leaves the reader with- out any conclusion, or any idea of why the whole was set in mo- tion. The redeeming feature of the book is the homely large- hearted uncle of Benjamin, old Mr. Hardy the tanner.