6 JULY 1867, Page 18


RAYMOND'S HEROINE.* Tins is a thoroughly pleasant novel,—a well conceived story, bold with a good deal of art, though without any of that power of portraiture which ensures a story a long succession of readers after its freshness has passed away. No one can help liking the book, for the whole spirit of it is fresh, simple, and healthy, and the story never flags in interest from the first page to the last. But there is no single figure which makes a powerful impression on the reader, and no single scene that recurs with any haunting force to the memory when the book is finished. There is much harmony and evenness of execution about the whole, but no vividness of effect anywhere. Minnie's childhood and her separation from her parents, when she is first purchased by her aunt, are well drawn ; the temptations by which she is overpersuaded to choose the rich home and give up the poor one are well drawn ; her engagemeut to the dissipated young peer, and the disgust which makes her break that engagement, are well drawn ; the struggle between worldly feeling and her revived affection for father and sister is well drawn ; and, yet taken as a whole, Minnie Haroldson only half lives before us ; we see more of her circumstances, and the peculiar influences which at times tyrannized over her, than of herself ; and we can scarcely believe in the completeness and abrupt- ness of her reconciliation to poverty and the roughnesses of a lot -associated, by those who have never experienced it, with vulgarity. We find too little of the spoiled and petted heiress when she returns to the ungainly life of the poor farm cottage, and see too little of the jarred nerves which circumstances so much poorer than she had been used to would have produced. So, too, Mrs. Fanshawe and her husband, and Lord Fitzjohn, and John Haroldson, and the retired nautical hero Captain Pally; and Walter Lee the ruined swindler, are all well sketched up to a certain point, sketched so as to express well the circumstantial scenery to which they belong, sketched so as to harmonize perfectly with the landscape of external life in which they have moved, but none of them stand out from it in strong individual relief. But with Raymond Lee, the hero, the matter is much worse. He is a virtuous lay figure, of the grand, misan- thropic, beauty-loving kind, of no individual character at all. Still, on the whole, the dissolving views are fresh, effective, and move so rapidly that one is never fatigued. And if now and then the figures look a little dim, a little like transparent wreaths of circumstance, that is only what the majority of the figures in ordinary life are too apt to seem now and then, even to the eyes of the most intimate knowledge. And the descriptions of poor little Minnie's first departure from home, of the temptations which are so artfully applied to her to induce her to stay with her rich aunt, and of Walter Lee's waking dreams in his last illness, rise decidedly above the ordinary level of the book, and though not pictures of high power, are pictures of great freshness and promise.

The story turns, as stories have often turned before, on the moral obstacle interposed to a marriage between the daughter of a man who is supposed to have killed another in passion, with the son of the man thus supposed to have fallen a victim. Of course the

" Raymond's Hervint. 8 Tots. London: Hurst apd Blacken. 1887.

reader very early anticipates that the imagined murder will turn out a mistake, and is on the look out for somebody to skulk into the story in a mean disguise and declare himself, as eventually hap- pens, for the disreputable swindler who was supposed to be thus murdered. But a much bolder solution of the difficulty would have been for Minnie Haroldson, who had questioned other false and unworthy social assumptions, and discovered them to be shams, to have asked herself this question also, — why a marriage of love between the son of a man killed by her own father and herself should be in any sense an unholy and accursed union, an assumption which for some reason unex- plained she and her father both take for granted. Why there should be a curse instead of a blessing on, the love of one genera- tion succeeding to the hatred of the preceding one, there is not even the slightest attempt to explain. It is obvious that a superstitious belief in a sort of physical curse is at the bottom of the horror felt ; for directly it is found out that the one man was not killed by the other—though the gun was fired to kill him, and for fifteen years John Haroldson had believed himself a murderer —all objection to the marriage vanishes at once. Hence, it is obvious that the guilt of the murderous act and passion is not sup- posed to be any sufficient ground for separation. The guilt of course remains absolutely the same after, as before, the discovery that the supposed victim was not killed. It is not a moral chasm, but in some sense, we suppose, a physical horror, which separates the daughter of the slayer from the son of the slain. We are told that both father and daughter thought it would be nothing less than "a sin" for such a marriage to take place. Why "a sin ?" Is love between those whose fathers have been guilty of the worst hatred a sin ? And if love is not a sin, why should marriage be a sin, of which the only true condition is love ? There seems a trace of an idea that the spilling of blood between one man and another should, instead of widening the distance, operate like a tie of consanguinity, and bring the marriage of descendants almost within the forbidden degrees. But this is the oddest of all fancies, for certainly a quarrel of the fiercest kind carried to the shedding of blood between the fathers could not cause the feelings, or any of the feelings, of consanguinity between the offspring. Probably the idea is that under the awful shadow of such a tragedy the tender minuteness and familiarity of lovers' feelings would be impossible and unnatural. And there would be much in that if the tragedy had been known by either or both the lovers before the pas- sion had sprung up. But that is not the situation. The supposition is that the deepest and most passionate • love had preceded the knowledge by either of the tragedy which had made the father of one the cause of the other's death. It is not pretended for a moment that this revelation either did or could have extinguished the love between the two. In fact it only gives to the love of the one who knew it a warmer and more melancholy depth. And if the love were not extinguished beneath the awfulness of the tragedy, there could not be any reason why the natural tie should be broken. It is a mistake, too, that Minnie is not allowed to tell her lover of the true cause of the refusal she gives him. It was quite certain that her lover would never have sought to endanger her father's life, and he had clearly a right to know the cause of his mysterious dismissal, and aright to discuss with Minnie whether her ground for refusing him was a sufficient one. The book would have been a bolder and more interesting one if this deeper question had been openly raised between the lovers, and the diffi- culty had not been got rid of by the reappearance of the man sup- posed to be murdered. In a novel devoted to trace the emancipa- tion of an independent girl's mind from the social conventionalities of " the world," the attempt to estimate the claims of this finermoral superstition, and to gauge its real force over the lovers' minds, would have been specially appropriate. As it is, Raymond's Heroine is a very pleasantly written and agreeable novel, though not one of the first class, not one that is likely to live beyond its season or two, though it will be liked very much while it is still fresh.