5 JUNE 1880, Page 19


Ws should regret more than we do that we have delayed so long to notice this novel,—which is much above par, and in one way unique,—if we did not feel that it was not meant to serve the office of staying the insatiable appetite of the besiegers of circulating libraries, but to be a permanent picture of a phase of rural life which railways and telegraphs are gradually de- stroying; and, still more, of one of the most beautiful specimens of a type of English scenery of which we trust that no land- laws or repeal of entail and primogeniture will rob this country. The scene of the story is laid in a village on the edge of a chase that lies in a deep hollow of the Yorkshire moors—moors that contrast strikingly—whether in the grey wildness of -winter or the purple of autumn—with the secure shelter of the valley and the rich green of the woodland. The first volume and the greater part of the second form a pastoral of no little beauty, where the primitive and affec- tionate little community, to which belong the actors in our story, move about over the moors or under the trees of the chase, and where the scenery is rather indicated by the circum- stances of the story, and the occupations and movements of the actors in it, than forced upon the reader by laboured descriptions, or those florid word-pictures which rather cloy and weary than carry the imagination to scenes of refreshment and beauty. When Hugh Beverley is finding his way across the moors, and comes upon the keeper, who guides him down the steep hill-side, and past the great deserted quarry, and lets him into the chase—through a door in the wall—where he stumbles along in the dark over the roots of the trees, we know, with- out being told, amidst what sort of true English country scenes we are. We scent the moor-air and the crushed shoots of the young bracken, and we are carried back to the.summer holidays of our boyish days, as we stumble with our hero along the rocky path by the beck-side in a gorge of the moors, and hear the gurgle of the stream under the rashes and the treacherous overhanging peat-sods, or the brawling of the little cascade where a rock intercepts its course. And again, when the artist is seeking for a subject for his picture, and wandering about the glades of the chase for the most striking group of beeehes, the brightest patch of turf, or the * A Sylvan Queen. By the Author of oBachere Secret." Loadcus Haat sad Blacken, longest vista of alternate shade and sunlight, we go at once, in thought, to our own remembrances of favourite haunts in Sherwood or the New Forest, and recall our old delight, Bug. .gested by the merest hint of our author. And there is no need

for elaborate description of the village street when our artist arrives in it in the twilight, after a hard day's work, and is nearly meeting the shrivelled old squire riding up it on his cob, but is stopped for a gossip by the old men smoking round the village-tree, while his landlady looks out impatiently from the quaint hostelry, lest his dinner should get cold, and whilst he himself is wishing it were already eaten, in order that he may have a long evening in the parsonage garden with the Canon and his niece.

There is no scenery more lovely, and none more truly English, than that of some of the remnants of forest-laud still known it8 "chases," though in many of the most striking of them there are, alas ! no longer any deer at all, much less the grand red. deer, to chase. No fences anywhere ; a hill-side here clothed with down-like turf, and dotted with gorse-brake and thorn.

bush, with many a hoary old giant of a tree now nearly leafless; there, covered thick with its native forest; or open, gently-un- dulating country, where gorse and heather and bracken fill every hollow and brighten the higher levels, whence many a lovely glade stretches like a bay into the dark forest, and separate into innumerable, endless vistas ; or, a bare turfy ridge, froxar

which you look down upon a far-stretching plain of soft billowy and many-coloured foliage. It is into scenes like these that our author takes us ; and there she leaves us, happy with a hero who

can appreciate and paint them.

This gentleman devotes his leisure hours to cultivating the society of the village rector—learned and cultivated, but shrewd and simple, who can both talk well and work hard—and of his niece, whose only faults are a little shade of hauteur, and. a

decidedly wrong view of her duties to herself in the choice of it husband. The Rector's sister is perhaps the best drawn member of this happy quartet—with her thorough inability to understand the talk to which she listens proudly, but by which she is bored. In the village, nothing can be more happy than the sketches of the jolly landlady; the gossipy, plausible, pedlar; the nervous, plaintive housekeeper to the squire ; and the taciturn, but civil and trustworthy gamekeeper. The Sylvan Queen is his daughter, and her beauty, her ambition, her coquetry, her thorough, clever, household womanliness, and her genuine and passionate devotion to her father, are sketched with an ability so great, that we venture to think it ought to have avoided the inconsistency of representing this strong nature as yielding reputation and an apparently absorbing ambition to the will of a weak, vain fool. So strong and so beautiful a woman would have won with ease, from such a man, so poor a prize as his name without resigning anything she valued ; her allegiance

to her devoted father, for instance, and, above all, her own char. aster. This is the weak point of the story, as the manner in which the place and the people are made to harmonise and the reader to feel the beauty of the scene is its strength ; establish. ing the claim to uniqueness of which we spoke at the come mencement of our notice.

Our author's opinions, as they are incidentally expressed—for there is nothing didactic in the book—on social politics and the questions of the day are thoroughly liberal and broad, and tend

invariably to even-handed justice, without regard to rank or sex. Passages of unusual thoughtfulness and originality and of beauty and humour are scattered thickly through the book, and betray a writer on other subjects than fiction. Humour is a marked characteristic of our authoress, and not the least at- tractive chapters, by any means, are the exceedingly amusing and clever ones that deal with the humbler characters of the story, —the landlady, the squire's housekeeper, and the pedlar. Mrs. Boynton and the pedlar discuss many subjects with a shrewd- ness and humour very provocative of laughter. Here are Mrs. Boynton's views of woman-franchise. The pedlar thinks the widowed landlady should marry again, and intends to put in his claim :— " Yon say true, Mrs. Boynton,' said Joshua, snbmissively. Nob but what I must say it is a great upstay to a house, we'll say like this of yours, to have a man about the premises as has a responsible in- terest in things, and can hold himself up to customers, and argy with them that shows themselves contrairy, and be a bit of a bulwark, as you may say, to the weaker party in the business.'—' Tuts! Mr. Duffill,' cried the landlady ; that's a thing as you won't prove by argying. Facts is facts, and I'm a fact myself. Just you tell me, since you have so mach to say about it, where you'll find a public this , side of Bt. Bede's, with a man to the fore, that is carried on better nor the Danvers' Arms ; or one that is cleaner and comfortabler, and the rent allays ready, and the liquors of the best, and the cus- tom, too, and never a word against it that anyone has to say ? It's my opinion, Mr. Daffill, if you set out to look for ono, it would be a•

good while before you came back to say you had found I don't deny it, Mrs. Boynton,' said Joshua, submissively again. was only a-saying there might be cases where "two was better far than one," as the poem says. I would never go for to say that a woman wasn't the ekal of a man, let him be who he may. Far be it from me?— ' Ekal of a man !' cried the landlady, interrupting I should (my myself they wasn't ekals, whatever you may say, Mr. Dnffill. As far as my experience goes, a woman that is any credit to herself is a good deal more than ekal to a man. Look at the Danvers' Arms, and look at the Red Lion since the Missis there died ; and tell me whether a woman isn't ekal to more without a man than what a man, poor thing! is without a woman ?'—' Mebby she is, Mrs. Boynton,' said Joshua, hastily acceding, mebby she is. I'm sure I don't deny it. But what I mean is—now there's votes ! It's a bit of a let- down to a place, like this, we'll say, when them that pays rent and rates, and that has their names down on the parish lists as ockypier, Can't accommodate their landlord with their vote when election time comes round. I have known when the two parties has run as near as within half-a-dozen of one another, and every single vote has been worth well on to the rent of a farm to them that could get hold of it. You mind of that time, Mrs. Boynton, when the Honourable Slattersby, from the other side of the county, put up against his lordship's Mem- ber, and came in as near as nothing ?'—' Mind of it ! I should think I do,' rejoined the dame. 'It was just after me and my first had come to the Danvers' Arms. It set us on our legs, it did, for the Slattersbys were treating right and left, though they knew that litarholm parish belonged mostly to his lordship ; and it stood to reason his lordship had to do the same. Not as there was any doubt which way our vote would go, and her ladyship coming round her own self in her carriage, and "Mrs. Markham," says she, for it was

before Boynton's time, "I suppose your vote is all right ?" Your vote !' echoed Joshua. Bless your heart, Mrs. Boynton, it was none of yours. That it what I was a-saying of. A woman has nayther part nor lot in a vote. They do say that since that election went against the Slattersbys they have weeded out every woman ockypier on the estate. There is never a widow let to stay on a farm, if her husband dies, because it makes a voteless to the landlord ; nor a pub- lic that they'll let a woman rent. It was just a handful of votes they wanted, that they could have made up, if it hadn't been that in the nature of things a woman ockypier counts for nothing.'—' More shame that it should be so !' cried Mrs. Boynton, warmly. As if a woman hadn't a headpiece same as a man, to know what a vote meant, and which way to give it. And more shame to the Slattersbys, too, that they should make it a crime to be a woman, and turn them off the land, let them farm as well, and pay their rent as regular, as they will. There should never a Slattersby set foot in Parliament, if I had my will and way ; for the man that can treat an honest woman so, isn't the man, according to my thinking, that's fit to make the laws for her.' "

Till we get towards the end of the second volume, there is, indeed, nothing to wish altered except a want of simplicity of style, which we cannot help regretting very much, and which is peculiarly out of keeping with the remarkably delightful home- liness of the subject. The use of foreign, unusual, and learned words—of which we could give a long list—when ordinary and equally good ones are at hand ; the inversion of the natural order of the words, "out of the heart of her," &c. ; and expres- sions such as "trenched brows," "widespread dole" (meaning "grief "), "ingathering glances," "wandlike figure," "trick- ling sunshine," " tarnlike eyes," and the like. But where there

is so much to enjoy, it is only necessary to remind an author like this, how much a want of simplicity distracts attention and carries the mind of the reader from the story to the author. When, however, our authoress loses herself most com- pletely in her subject, as she does in the scenes that most powerfully move her and her audience alike, this artificiality disappears; as, for instance, in the beautiful and very touching scenes at the death-bed of the good Canon, and when Mrs. Boynton comforts, with such womanly tact and love, the dying hour of the game-keeper's unhappy daughter. From these and

such as these everything like sentimentality and affectation is entirely absent.

. But when we get past the middle of the second volume, although there are many scattered passages and even chapters which we would not part with on any account —the dying scenes we have mentioned, for instance, and some of the most amusing encounters between Mrs. Boyn- ton and her friends—yet the completeness of the picture is gone, and a number of sensational, improbable, and painful events take place, which destroy for us the sanctity of the spot we have learnt to love and to rest in. This is a great disappointment, and we lay the chief blame of it all on the publishers, who, for some inexplicable reason, which we have in vain tried to discover, always decline to publish novels that are not spun out into three volumes. A very attractive idyll would have been completed in two volumes, but the unfortunate authoress had to send a third. So all the peace must be broken up ; the lover must be told lies and go away miserable; the lady must be transported from her happy home to the gloomy and shabby house of a curmudgeon of a guar- dian, and there be made to engage herself and her property to his ne'er-do-weel heir ; who therefore has to betray, instead of marry, his "sylvan queen;" who consequently dies and breaks her father's heart ; who in revenge and misery hurls himself over a precipice, clasping the seducer in his arms ; whose death at length liberates the heroine, fortunately just in time to pre- vent her marriage, and just as her lover revisits the scenes of his bliss and his despair, and comes to mourn,—but stays, of course, to rejoice.