son, that Mrs. Gaskell first thought of writ- | on the success of the work there came trouing; and “Mary Barton" was the solace ble also. “ Mary Barton ” gave natural, of a mother's sorrow. It always seemed to perhaps not unreasonable, offence to the me that her face bore the impress of suffer- mill-owners and cotton lords, who formed ing; that her smile, sweet as it was, was sad the leaders of the society in which her poalso; that death, according to the saying of sition caused Mrs. Gaskell to live; and she a French writer, had passed by her, and was of too sensitive a nature not to feel touched her in passing. Throughout her censure deeply. In truth, if I were advisworks there breathed something of the ing an incipient authoress, and if I did not same gentle sadness. Her view of life was know that my advice was absolutely certain a cheerful one enough. One of the chief not to be taken, I should tell any lady who charms of her writings is the enjoyment she thought of writing novels, that she had far shows throughout in all the pleasures of better not do so, for her own happiness' sake. home and family; but still, in all her works, I have known now a great number of authere is a certain subdued weariness, as thoresses, but I never yet have known one though this world would be a very dreary who could bear hostile criticism or ill-natured one if we were not all to rest ere long. comment with equanimity. Somehow or

I take it that the fact of her literary other, the intense personality — if I may life having begun so late explains, to a use the word — of female nature causes wogreat extent, both her strength and her men to identify their private with their litweakness as a novelist. There is no sign erary reputation to an extent unintelligiof haste and immaturity about any of her ble to men. To this general rule Mrs. Gasnovels. Her style was never slovenly; her kell was, I imagine, no exception; and the word-painting was perfect of its kind; and censure which, justly or unjustly, was beher characters had none of the exaggera- stowed upon her Life of Charlotte Brontè," tion so universal almost amidst women wri- gave her for a time a distaste for writters. Everybody who ever read “ Cran- ing. Of all her works, this, viewed as ford,” knows the inhabitants of that little a literary production, is, to my mind, the sleepy town as well as if he had been in the ablest. As a biography, it is almost unhabit of paying visits there for years. We equalled. “ Currer Bell” may or may not are on speaking terms with all the personages have been all that her biographer fancied : of “Wives and Daughters;” we can see the but, as long as her books are read, she will Gibsons, and Hamleys, and Brownings, as survive in the memory of men as Mrs. Gaswell as if we had called upon them yester- kell painted her — not as she seemed to day. But, somehow, we never get further those who knew her less intimately and than an intimate acquaintance; we never perhaps less well. The very success of quite learn to know them as we know the “ Mary Barton ” told for a time almost Père Goriot, or Colonel Newcombe, or Jane against its authoress. At the period of its Eyre, or Adam Bede. I doubt if any man, appearance public interest in the factory no matter what his genius, could rise to the subject was very strong; and the novel had highest rank of painters, if he never han- a remarkable bold upon the popular mind, dled a brush till he had reached middle age; quite apart from its literary ability. Of all and in the same way an authoress, the pas- Mrs. Gaskell's books, it was, I believe, the sion time of whose lífe had gone by before most largely sold, and the one which has she began to write fiction, must always lack commanded the most permanent circulasomething of that dear-bought experience tion. And, as a necessary result of this inwhich, for good or evil, is to be acquired cidental popularity, the ensuing novels of only in the spring-tide of our existence. the authoress were comparatively unsuc

Seldom has any author obtained celebri- cessful. Passion, as I have said, lay out of ty so rapidly as Mrs. Gaskell. Like Byron, her domain ; and both “ Ruth” and “ Sylshe might almost say that she awoke one via's Lovers ” rested on a delineation of morning and found herself famous. Of all passions with which the writer was either recent literary successes, Mary Barton," unable, or, as I rather believe, unwilling to with the exception perhaps of Jane Eyre,” grapple firmly. The literature of passion was the most signal. During the period that can only be treated worthily by persons its authorship remained a secret, there were who, whether for good or bad, are indifferfew people, even amongst her own friends ent to the thought how their work may and neighbours, who suspected the quiet be judged by the standard rules of the solady, whose home lay in Manchester, of hav- ciety in which they move; and this was not ing written a book of which the world was the case with one of the most sensitive and talking. With the celebrity that ensued | delicate-minded women who ever wrote in


England. "North and South,” and “ Cran-, any novel in numbers, must die before the ford,” perfect as they were as specimens of word “ finis” is written at the close. And, home portraiture, had not somehow that when a writer dies, leaving his tale half sustained interest that is necessary to con- written, those who followed its fortunes eastitute an eminently successful novel. Then, gerly feel as if something of their own bad too, during the period which followed the died with the writer's death. appearance of “Mary Barton,” we have In a fantastic German story, there is a had a remarkable succession of distinguish- strange fancy, which has often recalled ited female writers. Currer Bell, George self to me. It was suggested that, whenever Eliot, Miss Yonge, Miss Braddon, and the a novelist or dramatist died, the personages, autboress of " George Geith,” all came, one whom by his fictive art he had called into after the o: her, before the public, after Mrs. being, met him on the threshold of the unGaskell had made her mark. To institute seen world to greet him, as their creator, any comparison between the various merits and to thank or curse him for his share in of these different candidates for public fa- the fact of their existence. If this dreamvour is a task for which I have neither the fancy had in it aught of truth, I can picture space nor the inclination. I only allude to to myself no tribe of author-created visitants them in order to point out how it was that with whom I would sooner find myselt surfor a time Mrs. Gaskell's reputation suffer- rounded on awaking beyond the grave than ed, as it were, a partial eclipse. It was not the cohort of those who might claim the authat the public thought less of her, but that thor of " Mary Barton” as their spiritual they thought more of others; and in litera- parent. Becky Sharpe, or Valerie, or Jane ture, as on the stage, there is scarcely room Eyre, or Maggie Tulliver, or Lady Audley, for more than one prima donna assoluta. But or Consuelo, would seem too like weird her latest work won back for her more, 1 ghosts from the nightmare-laden world think, than any of its recent predecessors, the I had left behind me for ever. But affections of a fickle public. “ Wives and Ruth, gentlest and purest of Magdalenes Daughters," introduced to the world with who have repented almost before they had 20 flourish of trumpets, and with little pre- sinned, and Philip, “ tender and true," and liminary puffing, appeared in a magazine Lady Ludlow, and Miss Matty, and Cynwithout the writer's name, and without - thia Kirkpatrick, would have so little of as far as I know — any trouble being taken fault to answer for, that the burden of havto let the fact of its authorship become ing called them forth to sin and suffer generally known. Yet it acquired almost would weigh but lightly on my

conscience at once a singular popularity. Whether as their responsible creator. the novel — which, dying, she left half pub- To

say this is no small praise. It is not lished — exists in manuscript, I, not being a slight matter that an author can look back in the secret, cannot tell. From some at the last glimpse of life, and feel that he internal indications, and from my own ex- has left behind him no written word which perience of authors, I should fancy it did can make those who read it otherwise than not. If so, there are thousands of readers better; and this acknowledgment is justly of every age, who will feel it a personal dis- due to Mrs. Gaskell

. Other novelists have appointment that they are never to know written books as clever, and many have Whether Molly Gibson married Roger Ham- written books as innocent; but there are ley, or how poor Cynthia worked out her few, indeed, who have written works which fate at last. Such a disappointment is sure grown-up men read with delight, and chilly one of the highest testimonies to a wri- åren might read without injury. It is imter's genius., I heard, not long ago, of an possible to determine now the exact posiold lady, whose life had not been a very ton which Mrs. Gaskell will hold ultimately happy one, and who was content enough to amongst English writers of our day. It will be die when the time appointed came.

In her a high one, if not amongst the highest. Miss last illness, when her strength was failing, Ausien's popularity has survived that of though her mind remained clear and vigor- many writers of her time, whose merits ous, she took much delight in reading a se- were perhaps greater in themselves. So, rial story then appearing in print. I think if I had to say which of those novels we talk it was Mr. Collins's “ No Name.” Speaking most of now will be read when we all are one day, to the friend who told me the anec- dead and buried, I should give the preferdote, of her passing life, she said, simply, ence to “ Cranford ” and “North and "I am afraid, after all, I shall die without South," above novels which I deem to excel ever knowing what becomes of Magdalen them in innate power.

These pleasant Vanstone.” It is an odd thing, surely, to homeland stories – these vivid delineations think how many readers, who begin to read of the lives of common men and common wo

[ocr errors]



men, will survive, as long as people care to than Mrs. Gaskell; we have greater still know what our England was at the days in left; but we have none so purely and alto which our lot is thrown. Within the last few gether English in the worthiest sense of years we have lost greater English writers that noble word.


THE FORDS OF JORDAN, 1859. 'Tis scarce a hundred steps and one

Across this ridge of frost and fire, Before the Eastward view be won.

Stray on, and dally with desire, Then lift eyes, and behold.

Hewn out without hands, they rise ;

All the crests of Abarim. Whence the Prophet look'd of old, Back — o'er misery manifold, Forward — o'er the Land unrolled

Underneath his way-worn eyes. Quivering all in noontide blazo

Abarim, long Abarim

Glows, with very brightness dim. Even as when the Seer look'd back On the mazed grave-marked track ;

Over Edom, furnace-red,

O’er a generation dead, When he knew his march was stayed. Fiends and angels watched and waited

As the undim med eyes closed slowly,

As the vast limbs withered wholly From their ancient strength unbated, As into the Vale of Shade,

Seeing, not seen, he passed away;

And none knoweth to this day Where the awful corpse is laid. The Dead Sea salt, in crystal hoar,

Hangs on our hair like acrid rime; And we are grey, like many more,

With bitterness and not with time. Two hours of thirst, before we reach

Yon jungle dense, and scanty sward ; For many a league the only breach

Where Jordan's cliffs allow a ford. Lo, spurs of Sheffield, do our will,

And, little Syrian barbs, be gay ; All morn we spared you on the hill,

Now,- o'er the level waste — away,

With your light stag-like bound. So cross the plain, nor slacken speed, And brush through Sodom-bush and reed, And tearing thorn, and tamarisk harsh, Wild growth of desert and of marsh,

Cumbering the holy ground. Reach Jordan's beetling bank, and mark The winding trench deep-cloven and dark ; The narrow belt of living green ; The secret stream that writhes between ; Death's River - sudden, swift, unseen He is changed from his gay going ;

Could we know the arrowy stream, Once, whose tender talk in flowing

Cast us softly into dream ?

Whirling now with fitful gleam
In his precipice's shade,
Like a half drawn Persian blade,

Of black steel, darkly bright?
At his birth he went not so,
Swelling pure with Hermon's snow,

But joyous leapt in light.
Must he fare to the Sad Sea,
Through waste places, even as we?
Yet he makes a little mirth,

Racing downwards evermore;
And the green things of sweet Earth

Cling a little to his shore :
Even so it is : so let it be.
But strip, and try your might with him :

He is the type of that black wave,
Wherein the strong ones fail to swim ;

The likeness of the Grave. Also his waters wash us free From salt scurf of the Bitter Sea. Stem his dark flood with shortened breath,

And take the lesson as you may : That the Baptismal stream of Death

Doth cleanse Earth's bitterness away. -Cornhill Magazine. R. ST. J. T.




monotony of her illness had made her lose all count of time. When Roger left England, his idea was to coast round Africa on

the eastern side until he reached the Cape; And now it was late June; and to Molly's and thence to make what further journey and her father's extreme urgency in push- or voyage might seem to him best in puring, and Mr. and Mrs Kirkpatrick's affection- suit of his scientific objects. To Cape ate persistency in pulling, Cynthia had Town all his letters had been addressed of yielded, and had gone back to finish her late; and there, two months before, he had interrupted visit in London, but not before received the intelligence of Osborne's the bruit of her previous sudden return to death, as well as Cynthia's hasty letter of nurse Molly had told strongly in her favour relinquishment. He did not consider that in the fluctuating opinion of the little town. he was doing wrong in returning to EngHer affair with Mr. Preston was thrust into land immediately, and reporting himself to the shade; while every one was speaking of the gentleman who had sent him out, with a her warm heart. Under the gleam of full explanation of the circumstances relating Molly's recovery everything assumed a rosy to Osborne's private marriage and sudden hue, as indeed became the time when actual death. He offered, and they accepted his roses were fully in bloom.

offer, to go out again for any time that they One morning Mrs. Gibson brought Molly might think equivalent to the five months a great basket of flowers, that had been he was yet engaged to them for. They sent from the Hall. Molly still breakfasted were most of them gentlemen of property, in bed, but had just come down, and was and saw the full importance of proving the now well enough to arrange the flowers for marriage of an eldest son, and installing his the drawing-room, and as she did so with child as the natural heir to a long-descended these blossoms, she made some comments on estate. This much information, but in a each.

more condensed form, Mr. Gibson gave to “ Ah! these white pinks! They were Molly, in a very few minutes. She sat Mrs. Hamley's favourite flower; and so upon her sofa, looking very pretty with the like her! This little bit of sweetbriar, it flush on her cheeks, and the brightness in quite scents the room. It has pricked my her eyes. fingers, but never miod. Oh, mamina, look “Well !” said she when her father stopat this rose! I forget its name, but it is ped speaking: very rare, and grows up in the sheltered “Well! what ? ” asked he, playfully. corner of the wall, near the mulberry-tree. “Oh! why, such a number of things. I've Roger bought the tree for his mother with been waiting all day to ask you all about his own money when he was quite a boy : everything. How is he looking ? ” he showed it me, and made me notice it." • If a young man of twenty-four ever does “I daresay it was Rɔger who got it now. take to growing taller, I should


that he You heard papa say he had seen him yester was taller. As it is, I suppose it is only day.”

that he looks broader, stronger “No! Roger! Roger come home !” said muscular.” Molly, turning first red, then very white. “Oh! is he changed ? ” asked Molly, a

“ Yes. Oh, I remember you had gone to little disturbed by this account. bed before papa came in, and he was called “No, not changed; and yet not the same. off early to tiresome Mrs. Beale. Yes, He is as brown as a berry for one thing ; Roger turned up at the Hall the day before caught a little of the negro tinge, and a yesterday.”

beard as fine and sweeping as my bay-mare's But Molly leaned back against her chair, tail.”. too faint to do more at the flowers for some “ A beard! But go on, papa. Does he time. She had been startled by the sud- talk as he used to do? I should know his denness of the news. Roger come home!” | voice amongst ten thousand.”

It happened that Mr. Gibson was un- “ I did not catch any Hottentot twang, if usually busy on this particular day, and he that's what you mean.

Nor did he say, did not return until late in the afternoon. • Cæsar and Pompey: berry much alike, But Molly kept her place in the drawing- 'specially Pompey,” which is the only speciroom all the time, not even going to take men of negro language I can remember just her customary siesta, so anxious was she to at this moment.” hear everything about Roger's return, which " And which I never could see the wit as yet appeared to her almost incredible. of,” said Mrs. Gibson, who had come into But it was quite natural in reality; the long the room after the conversation had begun;


and did not understand what it was aiming at. I are evidently good friends; and she loses Molly fidgeted; she wanted to go on with her strange startled look when she speaks her questions and keep her father to definite to him. I suspect she has been quite aware and matter-of-fact answers, and she knew of the squire's wish that she should return that when his wife chimed into a conversa- to France; and has been hard put to it to tion, Mr. Gibson was very apt to find out decide whether to leave her child or not. that he must go about some necessary piece The idea that she would have to make some of business.

such decision came upon her when she was “Tell me, how are they all getting on completely shattered by grief and illness, together ?" It was an inquiry which she and she has not had any one to consult as did not make in general before Mrs. Gibson, to her duty until Roger came, upon whom for Molly and her father had tacitly agreed she has evidently firm reliance. He told to keep silence on what they knew or had me something of this himself.” observed, respecting the three who formed “You seem to have had quite a long conthe present family at the Hall.

versation with him, papa !” “Oh!" said Mr. Gibson, “ Roger is evi- “ Yes. I was going to see old Abraham, dently putting everything to rights in his when the squire called to me over the firm, quiet way.”

hedge, as I was jogging along. He told me " Things to rights. Why, what's wrong?" the news; and there was no resisting his inasked Mrs. Gibson quickly. “ The squire vitation to come back and lunch with them. and the French daughter-in-law don't get Besides, one gets a great deal of meaning on well together, I suppose ? I am always out of Roger's words; it did not take so so glad Cynthia acted with the promptitude very long a time to hear this much.” she did ; it would have been very awkward "I should think he would come and call for her to have been mixed up with all upon us soon,” said Mrs. Gibson to Molly; these complications. Poor Roger! to find and then we shall see how much we can himself supplanted by a child when he manage to hear.” comes home!"

“ Do you think he will, papa ?” said “ You were not in the room, my dear, Molly, more doubtfully. She remembered when I was telling Molly of the reasons for the last time he was in that very room, and Roger's return; it was to put his brother's the hopes with which he left it; and she child at once into his rightful and legal fancied that she could see traces of this place. So now, when he finds the work thought in her father's countenance at his partly done to his hands, he is happy and wife's speech. gratified in proportion.”

“I cannot tell, my dear. Until he is “ Then he is not much affected by Cyn- quite convinced of Cynthia's intentions, it thia’s breaking off her engagement ? " (Mrs. cannot be very pleasant for him to come on Gibson could afford to call it an “engage- mere visits of ceremony to the house in ment” now.) “I never did give him credit which he has known her; but he is one who for very deep feelings."

will always do what he thinks right, whether “ On the contrary, he feels it very acute- pleasant or not.” ly. He and I had a long talk about it, Mrs. Gibson could hardly wait till her yesterday."

husband had finished his sentence before she Both Molly and Mrs. Gibson would have testified against a part of it. liked to have heard something more about “ Convinced of Cynthia's intentions! I this conversation; but Mr. Gibson did not should think she had made them pretty choose to go on with the subject. The only clear! What more does the man want ? point which he disclosed was that Roger “He is not as yet convinced that the letter had insisted on his right to have a personal was not written in a fit of temporary feeling. interview with Cynthia'; and, on hearing I have told him that this was true; although that she was in London at present, had de- I did not feel it my place to explain to him ferred any further explanation or expostu- the causes of that feeling. He believes that lation by letter, preferring to await her re- he can induce her to resume the former turn.

footing. I do not; and I have told him so ; Molly went on with her questions on oth- but of course he needs the full conviction er subjects. ** And Mrs. Osborne Hamley? that she 'alone can give him.” How is she?"

“Poor Cynthia ! My poor child !" said “Wonderfully brightened up by Roger's Mrs. Gibson, plaintively.' " What she has presence. I don't think I have ever seen exposed herself to by letting herself be her smile before ; but she gives him the over-persuaded by that man!” sweetest smiles from time to time. They Mr, Gibson's eyes flashed fire. But he

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »