4 FEBRUARY 1888, Page 18


"I DAVE never seen a novel in which there was so much to read," was the verdict pronounced on Paul Pato"' by an unpro- fessional critic whose opinion the present writer has sometimes the advantage of consulting. "Never" is perhaps too strong; substitute "hardly ever," and the praise is not extravagant. It is not only in the choice of subjects that Mr. Marion Crawford, travelling freely as he does over such expanses of time and space, shows such versatility ; it is also in the treatment of them. Here, for instance, he gives us an exciting and romantic story, and yet finds opportunity for as subtle studies of his characters in particular, and human nature in general, as if he were an American novelist leisurely sauntering on at the rate of one incident per volume.

The story opens in Constantinople with two dramatis personw, —Paul Patoff, an attackg to the Russian Embassy, and his elder brother Alexander. They go to the Agia Sophia to see the ceremonies of the last week of Ramazan, and there Alexander mysteriously disappears. He has all the wilfulness of the true Russian, and he has persisted in attracting the attention of two veiled women in the Valley of Roses. In that fact is the only possible clue to his fate. But he vanishes absolutely into space, and all the efforts of the Embassy, and of those whom the Embassy puts in motion, fail to discover him. Here comes in the unlucky fact of his being the elder brother. A suspicion crosses many thoughts that Paul may have got him put out of the way ; in the mind of the mother of the two men, the suspicion becomes a certainty. She has always idolised the elder of the two brothers, and regarded the younger with something like aversion. This aversion is now changed into a maniacal hatred, a hatred which henceforth becomes a powerful agent in the working out of the drama. The scene is now transferred to England, and the tale changes, for the time, its character. Paul falls in love with his cousin, Hermione Carvel, a very charming idealisation of English womanhood. But his love is crossed by the dreadful suspicion aroused by his brother's disappearance. It can never, he feels, come to a happy end, unless the mystery is cleared up. Cleared up it is, by the help of Mr. Paul Griggs, who tells the whole story as the " messenger " in a Greek tragedy might tell it, and of a certain Balsamides Bey. Gregorios Balsamides is one of those brilliant figures which the author knows how to draw with such graphic force and with such an air of thorough knowledge. And as he is a striking creation, so is the story of how he and his allies discover the missing Russian one of the most vigorous bits of narrative that has ever been written. With the discovery, the tale, in the hands of most novelists, would have ended. And, indeed, it would have been dramatically complete. But actual human lives are not rounded off like dramas, and as a matter of fact, Paul has to go through much before he comes to the wished-for end. There is an old superstition among fishermen that if you save a man from drowning, be will some day do you a mischief. So Paul, the reader will discover, had reasons for wishing he had left Alexander alone. This young man is one of those to whom • (1.) Paul Bator. By C. Marion Crawford. 3 vols. London Macmillan and Co.—(2.) Major Laurence, By the Hon. Emily Lawless. 3 vole. London : John Murray. 1887. Nature gives faces very unlike themselves. He has, in particular, verydangerous eyes, eyes which give the author occasion to make the very acute remark that the eyes, by which it seems we ought to judge, are really very deceiving. "As a matter of fact, the passions leave no trace in them, though they express the emotions of the moment most justly." Whether the mischief they did was irreparable, the reader must discover for himself. He will be repaid by finding a really surprising amount of able and suggestive writing. The delicate analysis of Hermione's feelings when she discovers that there are other men in the world besides Paul, and the very ingenious speculations as to the effect of a mixture of races which we find in Vol. I., pp. 228, seq., may be quoted as instances of truly excellent work.

Miss Lawless herself suggests that her hero is something like Major Dobbin in Vanity Pair. Indeed, the resemblance will probably strike most readers, who will find an Amelia in Lady Eleanor, a George Osborne in Algernon Cather, and a Becky Sharp in Mademoiselle Riaz. But tho re- semblance is merely superficial ; the difference is essential, and is curiously suggestive of the change which has come over the writing of fiction. The unworthy husband, the wife who can hardly be disillusioned, and the loyal friend who so heroically conceals his love, are the common property of novelists ; but Miss Lawless makes them her own in a way that shows the latest literary development. Major Lawrence is not a simple soldier, honest and loyal, but just a little stupid. He is a student who might have done great things had Fate so willed it. Algernon Cather is no vulgar sensualist; he is an msthete of exquisite taste, with quite a subtle malignity in indulging his caprices and his dislikes. The picture of him, a dying man who knows that he is dying, as he goes on lying, plotting falsehood, and, when that is no longer possible, contriving vexation, against the woman who devotes herself to him, is a picture as powerfully sombre as we have ever seen in fiction. As for Lady Eleanor herself, she is an admirable study. One is perhaps inclined to wonder that she should have ever been taken in by the worthless man whom she marries. But the wonder is a mistake. Women with the finest instincts and the acntest intellects make such mistakes daily. Providence has wisely ordered that they should not see too deeply into men—if they did, some of the best would never marry at all—and this beneficent defect of sight sometimes becomes absolute blindness. The picture of the wife accepting her fate, and devoting herself to the duty which it entails, is nothing less than admirable. It is painful; nothing more genuinely painful could well be ; but it is BO skilfully contrived that there is nothing revolting in it ; and there is always the relief of the loyal Major, and of one of the most delightful old ladies to be found in the whole gallery of fiction, Lady Mordaunt. When we add that Miss Lawless draws children—first Ellie, and then her little daughter —as skilfully as she draws women, and that the tone of culture in all that she writes is most manifest, we have said enough to send readers to Major Lawrence.