never seems to have occurred to him. that we should reintroduce to the reader As he endows them with every gift to the most delightful of coxcombs, the begin with — personal beauty, genius, most triumphant of dandies – that fine culture, courage, readiness and deter-fleur of social humbug and falsity, who, mination - so he makes their progress notwithstanding his Chesterfieldian traintriumphant through a subjugated -world. ing and universal irresistibility, is yet a Success is the very condition of their ex- true friend and a true lover, and altoistence; even the poetical trifler who gether worthy of his good fortune. The does nothing, manages by mere doing consummate skill with which so young a of nothing to attract to himself the writer managed to mingle these most difeyes of the world, and acquires a reputa- ferent attributes to make us perfectly tion for which there is no cause that we aware of the illimitable powers of mancan see except the young author's de- agement, flattery, and even polite lying, lightful certainty of success — the tradi- so gaily exercised by his hero, and yet to tion of fame and glory which has become retain our respect for his real virtue, is inevitable in his mind. We do not say one of the greatest triumphs ever won in that success is his god, for this would be literature. We do not remember any to give but a weak and ineffectual de- other leading character in fiction so enscription of his prevailing sentiment. tirely artificial, yet so true. Pelham's Success is his atmosphere - he under- faithlessness, his astounding fibs, his stands nothing else, believes in nothing self-adaptation to every sort of manelse. That all those paths by which his not to say woman ; his perfect toleration young heroes — shadows of his own buoy- of any code of morals, or rather no ant and intense self-consciousness — set morals; his clear realization that politics out over the earth, must lead one way or are a craft to live by, and the world in another to glory, is a simple necessity of general an oyster to be opened, — which nature to him. He is not even influenced almost in any other hands would disgust by the fact that the reader wills it so, and and repel the reader, are hear so skilfully that — howsoever the true lover of art or interwoven with the real honour of the the true student of human nature may man, his disinterestedness, his readiness prefer that fiction should accommodate to serve and help, his power of just reflecitself to the more ordinary rules of actual tion and courageous action, that all our life the public loves above everything moralities are silenced on our lips. If else “a happy ending.” No such second- any of Sir Walter's virtuous heroes had ary cause affects the young Bulwer. He committed himself by one-tenth part of too, like the public, abominates failure — the adventures through which Pelham nay, he is incapable of it; it does not moves so lightly, what depths of ignocome within the limit of misfortunes pos miny and remorse would he have sible to his nature. His young men suc- dropped into! Even Mr. Thackeray's ceed as he does, as they breathe, by careless young man, whom he laughs at sheer necessity of being. In this point and quizzes through three volumes, could he differs from all other modern writers, not venture upon half the humbug remost of whom, bound by the timidity of sorted to by Pelham, without losing the less daring natures, or disabled by the little hold he has upon our regard. But sneers of criticism, allow in general that so judicious is the combination, so spirheroes, like other men, must content ited the embodiment of this typical man themselves with a modest level of good of the world, that we accept him as we fortune, and cannot all hope to reach the would have accepted him had we known very empyrean of success. But Bulwer him in person, acknowledging all his artiallows no such limitation. He will have ficiality, his insincerity, his dauntless dethe highest round on the ladder, the termination to make himself agreeable at brightest crown within reach. His diplo- any cost, without letting these peccadilmatist must subdue all opposition; his loes at all affect our admiration of himauthor must fill the world with his re- self and of the real fund of merit in his nown ; his adventurer must conquer fame character. This is almost a contradicand fortune ; his very dreamer, as we tion to what we have said above of the have said, must attract to himself the youthfulness of Bulwer's earliest works; universal attention, wonder, curiosity for such a mingling of good and evil is and admiring envy of the world.

the last thing which youth recognizes as “ Pelham,” which is the best of his early possible, in most cases. That he had works, is the most striking instance of even in his earliest beginning so much of this characteristic. It is not necessary | a higher insight as enabled him to realize this profoundest truth of human nature, I less degree, wfth the followers of this is perhaps as great a testimony to his first triumphant hero. The disowned power as anything that could be said. son, Clarence Linden, makes for himself

But to return to the consideration with a position in the world which his elder which we started — Pelham is the very and undistinguished brother, heir to all impersonation of success. Over the the family honours, might well envy. whole book there is diffused a subdued Maltravers acquires a European fame. radiance of continual triumph. Be it Godolphin wins his countess, wealth, the scholar's shrewish wife or the grande honour, every thing that heart can aspire dame in a Parisian salon, be it the clever to ; and even Philip Morton, after the rogue or the philosophical and titled vo- wild and theatrical heroics of his youth, luptuary, wherever Mr. Pelham tries his reaps such a harvest of honours as fall to inimitable powers he must overcome all the lot of few. The author cannot bear obstacles. With a whisper, with a look, to offer to his children any reward less with a well-timed compliment, he sub- perfect - it is their birthright. The very dues every one whom he encounters. fact of so many men and women of genius Nothing comes amiss to him; and the all appearing together about the same certainty of inevitable triumph is so period of the world's history — all flutterstrong in his mind that he hesitates at no ing the dovecots of social quiet, and winexertion of his skill, whether great orning wondrous honours, above all and small, whether arduous or easy. This everywhere success, is the strangest thing unbounded confidence in himself makes to realize. The critic, if he had the him enter unknown and with few intro-heart, would demand some counterpoise ductions the most brilliant circles in to all this brightness; and here and there Paris, calmly certain to win all the laurels such a counterpoise is, indeed, afforded possible - and leads him secure through to us in the blighted splendour of Glanthe labyrinth of the thieves' den in Lon-ville, and the melodramatic misfortunes don. Probably, with the mixture of dar- of Mordaunt. But with these fine pering and coolness peculiar to him, he sonages we have not sympathy enough would consider the perils of the last the to accept them as shadows in the picture least alarming of the two. A vulgar- — they are not half so lifelike, nay, they minded observer might call Pelham’s are dead as mummies beside our inimconfidence impudence; but it is not im- itable dandy, our knight of universal conpudence: it is the delightful sense of a quest. This is the great fundamental good fortune which has never failed him ; distinction of the young Bulwer's heroes. which he indeed deserves, but which no They are all successful men. Sometimes man ever secures by merely deserving it. they are practical and enjoy their sucHis luck is simply unbounded. If at any cess; sometimes they are sentimental time it may happen to him to be discon- and despise it: but at least they come Certed or even discomfited for a moment, out invariable winners out of every strugout of that very discomfiture will come gle. It is the condition of their existence the means of Success. Success — always that they succeed. Success! He is one of those born to And by the side of these accomplished rule the world, and to turn every stream heroes, so fertile in resource, so fortunate into the channel that suits him ; and in friends, so gifted in conversation, perhaps this very consciousness is the what a curious apparition is that of the one that most powerfully influences us old man of the world, whom the author in our admiration for him. We go forth loves to introduce, not by way of obvious with him in the fullest confidence, know- moral, yet surely with a certain sense of ing that however discouraging the cir- the obverse of the picture, and consciouscumstances may appear, they will but ness that the darker side of worldliness whet the courage and make more con- should somehow be brought into evispicuous the triumph of our hero. How dence! The sketch of Savile in “ Godoldexterously he manages Lord Guloseton phin," for instance, is one of singular - how he humours Job Jonson !- how vividness and force. He is not an old he wins over even Mrs. Clutterbuck! villain like Lord Lilburn in “ Night and He is gaily invincible without effort, Morning," but only a perfectly suave, irwithout overstrain. He cannot be beaten reproachable Epicurean, occupied about - his own pride and his author's alike his personal comfort as the younger men forbid it. Pelham was born but to con- are about their progress and reputation, quer,

and following that grand aim with a steadThe same thing is true, though in a fastness, which becomes respectable by

dint of mere continuance, and grows into | or the torments of a conventional hell, something like a moral quality in its per- That wise, keen, cultivated, unloving in. fect seriousness and good faith. Savile's telligence, which up to its last moment of death, which is accomplished with per- mortal breath is visibly as individual, as fect calm and coolness — the philosopher potent in its self-concentration, as clearbeing determined to retain his comfort sighted and as dauntless as in its prime, to the last moment, and dying quite un- what an amazing mystery is its disappeardisturbed by any invasions of the emo-ance beyond our ken and vision! This, tional or spiritual —is a curious concep- we feel, is not such stuff as either angels tion to have occurred to a young man. or devils are made of — and what then? It has, we believe, a deeper truth to na- It is curious in the very first rejoicing outture than the more amiable dreams with burst of romance to catch this first tone of which the imagination of mankind, al- the wonder which seems to have haunted ways pitiful of the last scene in a tragedy, his life and beguiled him into much study, has surrounded the conventional death- and perhaps some credulity, in his later bed. That the approach of death must days. awaken emotions of a profound and pen-l Bulwer, however, always retained a etrating character is one of the delusions fondness for the character which no other which nothing but experience will banish hand has drawn so well, – that of the acfrom the general mind : and it will al-complished, polished, able, experienced, ways seem incredible that a man should clear-sighted, and selfish man of the be able to die without thinking of God world ; with amiability but without heart; and of the judgment to come. For this possessing no moral code save that which reason the picture of the death-bed of the enjoins upon members of society the nephilosophical man of the world, so strict-cessity of not being found out, and no ly in accordance with his life, is not only spiritual consciousness of any kind. He a very original and striking sketch, but grew more merciful as he grew older, manifests the existence in the young ripening this same impersonation into writer, even at this early period, of that warmer and kinder and more human profound and searching curiosity (to call shape, replacing the Savile of his reit by no higher name) into the last issues morseless youth with the Alban Morley and mysteries of life and death which of mellower days; but it always remained afterwards tempted him into the realms one of his favourite characters, and it of Magic and Mystery, and seems during seems to us unquestionably one of his his whole life to have existed with unusual best. It is our natural standard, the ideal strength and persistency within him. upon which we fall back when we wish to When we find him at so early a period identify the philosopher of society ; just tracking the steps of his worldly sage as Pelham has been, for more than one down into the last darkness, we can un- generation, consciously or unconsciously, derstand better his fanciful investigations the model of the brilliant young diplointo the mystery of the life elixir in later / matist, the splendid neophyte of a school days ; and the strange and weird imper-I of politicians which we fear is dying out sonation of that thirst for mere existence among us — a class of men educated not which could buy life even by the sacrifice only at school and college, but by conof soul, with which he astonished and stant and much diversified studies in life, troubled many readers further on in his and inheriting the worldly wisdom and career. Already, amid all the glow and knowledge of men acquired by their exuberance of youth, amid the throng of fathers, the training of a race. the young heroes, victorious in love, in Something of the moral curiosity which war, in diplomacy, and in song, with we have attributed to Bulwer in respect whom the young author sweeps along tri- to the last mystery of existence, no doubt umphant, had this wonder seized him. moved him to the composition of those Not the wonder and curiosity, so com- stories which we have called Romances mon to men, as to what must occur when/of Crime. To trace out, through the disthe last boundary line is passed, and we mal tragedy of Eugene Aram, how the ourselves have entered upon the new ex- mind of a scholar could be moved to the istence beyond death with all its incom- meanness of robbery and brutality of prehensible changes. Bulwer's curiosity murder, is a morbid exercise of this great takes a different form. His mind in- sentiment, and the effect to ourselves is a stinctively selects that type of being which most disagreeable one, characterized by it is most difficult to translate in imagin- all the faults and few of the merits of the ation either into the beatitudes of heaven author's peculiar genius ; but yet it is a

searching and anxious investigation into to their origin, is not of a kind which a moral problem. The still earlier ro- could ever gain the sympathy of humanmance of “ Paul Clifford” is neither so ity. We shrink from the investigation of dismal nor so tedious. It is an attempt such dread events. We prefer not to to show how the evil influences of educa- know how by one tortuous way after antion could corrupt a young spirit natur- other the murderer is led from blood to ally honourable and pure. And no doubt blood. It is the least seductive of all the attempt is thoroughly successful ; and kinds of guilt, and we believe may be no one who reads the narrative of the safely trusted to lead no one into imitayoung highwayman's early days will be at tion; but perhaps for that very reason it any loss to perceive how and why it was is the least popular. There are readers that he came to take up with that perilous enough who love to be stimulated and exprofession. It is, however, very much cited by descriptions of the rise and demore difficult to find out how a true velopment of another kind of passion brother of the school of Pelham and Lin-descriptions really much more dangerous den, a gay, noble, generous, chivalric, and and much more likely to tempt and lead commanding hero, finding his place natu- astray than all the spiritual anatomy of rally among gentlemen, and possessed not“ Lucretia ;” but while we admit the latonly of the instincts but the manners of ter to be less pernicious, it is more inhuthe best society, should have been man. Lord Lytton himself, who seems to brought up among the thieves and ribalds have considered this investigation of of the lowest dens of London, without moral mysteries as one of the rights of even the consciousness to elevate him, his office, was evidently somewhat bewilthat he himself was of better blood. This dered and disconcerted by the storm of is the great error of the conception ; but opposition which rose against this work. it is a weakness of a generous kind, and Almost sternly, as well as indignantly, he one which naturally belongs to the roman- repels the accusation of having lent the tic age and spirit. It is far less easy to “ weight of his name and authority to the account for the much more elaborate ef-defence and encouragement of crime ; " fort made by our author in “Lucretia," to and with very good reason ; for, certainly, trace the full development of crime, out of all works of fiction ever composed, of mere heartlessness and ambitious long-“ Lucretia” is the least adapted to “ening for the possession of an old man's courage” crime. But he misses, we fortune, to the darkest deliberation of think, the real point in the charges guilt, long premeditated and often repeat- | against him when he attributes this unied murder. He himself tells us with in-versal disapprobation to the public dislike dignation that the book in which he em- of painful impressions. The cause is bodied this dark history was attacked by deeper. Men and women are almost all the critics as a book of immoral ten- subject to movements of the passion of dency; and it is evident that this re- love, the passion most discussed in books, proach struck him to the heart. So deep and accordingly follow with a certain inwas the blow that he did what no writer evitable interest even its darkest and should allow himself to be tempted to do: guiltiest developments. But few of us he published a reply to the remarks of are moved with homicidal impulses, and, his assailants, and a defence of the at- therefore, human sympathy totally fails tacked novel. Such defences are always in their analyzation. The first may do us futile. It is true, indeed, that the horri-harm — they are distinctly immoral and ble crimes of Lucretia are followed by evil in their tendency; yet even the sternsuch tremendous justice, and are through-| est moralist can scarcely shut his ears out presented to us in such a gloomy and entirely to them, unless they stoop to the revolting light, that even in her softest | lowest and coarsest depths. But our inmoments we are never allowed to pity or terest fails in the other, however finely take part with the guilty woman ; and in and tragically drawn. Human nature has this point of view the book is infinitely no sympathy with the murderer as it has more moral than Maltravers, for instance, with the lover, however guilty. in which something very like vice is made On this point, accordingly, the author, to look like a more than ordinarily ethe-carried away by his art and by his inclireal virtue. Nobody can say that crime nation to investigate the secrets which he is recommended or excused in the gloomy saw before him, parted company with his pages of " Lucretia ;” but the curiosity audience to his evident astonishment. It which investigates the workings of such is clear that this was not only a surprise, a mind, and endeavours to trace its crimes, but something of a shock to him; and consequently here his anatomy of crime the old professors of occult arts, who reended abrupt’y — a fact which every true fused to be bound by mortal conditions, admirer of Lord Lytton hailed with pleas- and set all their faculties to work at the ure. We do not suppose that in the other inconceivable task of extorting a kind of still wilder and stranger field of occult eternity from nature. To mankind in geninvestigation to which he more than once eral any such attempt to interfere with recurred there was so complete a separa- the common fate and constitution of the tion and failure of sympathy between his race has always seemed unhallowed work; readers and himself; yet it is certain that but it has undoubtedly exercised a strong the class to whose interest he appeals in fascination over many individual men. the weird romance of “ Zanoni," and in It is this idea which Lord Lytton has the still more weird adventures of the endeavoured to embody in Zanoni. He “Strange Story,” is a different class from has attempted to place before us two huthat which applauded “ Pelham," or which man beings who have achieved Immorgave a new, nobler, and wider reputation tality - one being the representative of than any he had gained in his youth to the Everlasting Age, beyond passion, bevond author of the “ Caxtons." Yet the mys- personal feeling-calm, benignant, bloodterious unseen world which surrounds us, (less, an intellect rather than a man; but of which we know so little by our reason, yet an intellect with all the moral sentiand so much by our fancy, about which ments intensified and strengthened, spotevery one believes much which his mind less in integrity and goodness, though rejects, and feels much which his senses dead to human affections. The other are unconscious of, must ever have a possesses an immortality of Youth, full charm, not only for the fanciful and vis- of the capacity to enjoy, and alas ! also ionary, but for all to whom facts and cer- to love, and as a necessity of that love to tainty do not sum up the possibilities of sorrow and despair ; to be subject to all existence. We have said that the germ the penalties which make length of life of that spiritual curiosity which led to a punishment rather than a blessing. We such conceptions as those of Zanoni, | need not remind the reader how Zanoni Mejnour, and Margrave, appears to us to loves, how his everlasting calm is broken, show itself in the singular picture of the how simple manhood, with all its cares worldly philosopher's death-bed, above and anxieties, breaks into the perfection referred to. The idea of that calm and of his being; and how finally he gives up unimpassioned, yet intense love of life the life which had come to hang upon the which makes the sage of society decline existence of another, in order to save that to lose in sleep the hour or two of exist- other — the trembling and wholly human ence which remained to him, might well wife, whose love has drawn him out of his develop into the acceptance of any or- lofty solitude and elevation. Zanoni dies, deal which would prolong that life, wheth- because to outlive love was impossible to er it was the mysterious spiritual struggle him, and all around him, wife and child, with the powers of darkness embodied in were mortal. But Mejnour lives, who one romance, or the wild magical concoc- loved not ; whose sphere was thought and tion of the material Elixir in the other. not affection. This is the moral of the There is something wildly attractive to wild fable, and yet not all its teaching; the imagination in such a thought, as is the moral itself has been dwelt upon beevident by its constant reappearance in fore in many a primitive legend of nymph poetic literature. There is, we suppose, / and fairy, through which humanity has no more widely-spread superstition than always glorified its own conditions, by inthat which conjures up the figure of the sisting upon the misery of immortality everlasting wanderer — the Fuif errant without love ; but to this familiar lesson of Christendom ; and it is touchingly | Lord Lytton has added an original sug. characteristic of humanity that this gestion. In all ancient fables of the kind strange figure should be always to the the desire for earthly immortality has been popular imagination the victim of a curse, la wildly presumptuous and irreligious dea creature doomed and miserable, not a sire, the art that aimed at it a “black art," superior being, honoured and elevated and the end generally attained by that imabove men. What an affecting revelation memorial bargain with the devil, the posof the humility of human nature and loyal sibility of which has thrilled humankind reception of its great law and condition for centuries. But the bargain which of mortality lies in this widespread and Faust made is totally different from the universal myth ! Not such, however, was ordeal by which Mejnour and Zanoni fight the idea of the mystic philosophers, of their way into immortality. Theirs is not

« VorigeDoorgaan »