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thing else in coinmon with the rest of mankind ; the other seems to belong to a different species, a creature formed and bred at sea, having a set of ideas, and modes of speaking and acting, perfectly distinct from those possessed by the men who live on shore. The one has merely the technical phrases and vices, the homeliness and simplicity, peculiar to his profession; the other is not so much an individual character as an abstract of the humour of the whole British navy. The one is an every-day kind of person, whom we have seen an hundred times; the other is a most amusing but imaginary being, whom we have never met with, but in the inimitable pages of his creator. In like manner,
Colonel Jack' is a common thief; one of the multitudes that infest the streets of the metropolis, and every session sees him hung at Tyburn. But 'Jonathan Wild' is a compound of elaborate villany, whom nature never made ; the materials, indeed, she furnished, but the workmanship is Fielding's, and his alone. An acquaintance with one or two of the tribe, a slight study of the “Newgate Calendar,' or an occasional visit to the office in Bow street, would suffice to enable the inventive genius of De Foe to delineate the features of an ordinary pickpocket; but the rogue of Fielding is the productioạ of one who had made villany his study, and contemplated it in every possible variety. He is the quintessence of knavery, and the traits which went to the composition of his character were gathered from all the numberless villains that had appeared at the bar of the Westminster, Justice. He cannot fail, therefore, of being the most striking figure of the two when he is so much larger than life. But the other is the real thief who picks our pockets, and then dives down an obscure alley to elude pursuit. Our acquaintance, Captain Dalgetty (we beg his pardon for introducing him in such company), is, we will venture to affirm, an infinitely more amusing personage than any cavalier who ever served in Flanders or elsewhere, but it is precisely because he is more amusing that we lose our confidence in his reality. The Ritt-Master is not sufficiently dull and common-place to rank among the genuine productions of nature, and will scarcely, we fear, be cited as historical authority by the grave and the learned of after ages, as is understood to have been the case with the far less striking but more rational cavalier of De Foe. Not to enumerate unnecessary examples, it appears to us that their authors have drawn their characters as the ancient painter did his portrait of Helenthey have not confined themselves to the imitation of any one particular figure, with the ambition of producing merely a living resemblance, but, from materials which their large acquaintance with the various and most striking forms of nature supplied, have created beings of their own much more remarkable than any that move upon earth, and these they have endowed as richly, and exalted as high above the level of common life, as wit, and humour, and imagination enabled them. But in their splendid creations we discern too clearly a style different from that of true nature, to be deluded into a persuasion that these are her productions; and if we ever work ourselves up to a weak belief of what we read, it is only when reason suffers herself to be hoodwinked, that we may better enjoy the pleasures of the fiction. In this respect De Foe may be said to have been strong in his very weakness, and to have triumphed by the absence of the qualities which constitute the might of those with whom we have compared him. If he has none of the distinguished merits of these authors, neither can he be charged with the errors which grew out of them ; if he enjoyed not the qualities which are requisite to transport and astonish mankind, he was the better fitted to triumph over their discernment, and deceive them more effectually ; for, whilst the possession of one extraordinary power enabled him to delude them into a belief that his fictions were realities, he was not tempted to injure the exactness of the imitation by an effort to improve upon the original. His imagination, if such it can be called, which contemplated nothing but realities or matters of fact, though its visions were wonderfully distinct and accurate, never risks breaking The delusion by taking flight, and soaring beyond the atmosphere of breathing men,
Either the judgment reined it in with so strong a hand, as to compel it to go soberly on foot, or nature had not provided it wings wherewith to fly. He had no treacherous fancy to mislead bim by spreading false colours and gay illusions on the objects he was about to represent, and cheat him into a belief that he was drawing from the actual, when he was disclosing only some vision of an ideal world. His was not a melancholy soul, which looked on the dark side of things, nor a merry one, that sought and found occasion for a laugh in every event of life ; it was neither gloomy nor gay, but had a sort of cheerful sedateness which prevented him from being too sombre or too brilliant for truth. In short, he beheld nothing but what was, and saw everything just as it was. He could not be more bountiful to the creatures of his invention than nature had been to him, and not being eminently gifted with wit and humour himself, he was safe from the temptation of making his imaginary persons more witty and humorous than would have been consistent with the simplicity and homeliness of their characters. So far was he from colouring his scenes too highly, or flattering his subjects by the force of imagination, that he seems, if anything, to be less careful to heighten her realities than expose her deformities. Neither was he anxious to select such scenes for the purpose of | representation as combined the greatest number of picturesque and striking forms, but
contented himself with the most ordinary portion of the common field of men and manners. It is to be wished, indeed, that he had been more scrupulous or more ambitious in his choice of subjects, for most commonly his inimitable skill is lavished on objects which hardly seem worth the trouble of representation. But he was a painter after the Flemish fashion, took every line and feature with laborious accuracy, and if he did but produce a staring likeness, seems to have cared very little what the thing represented was. Yet, in one or two instances, the subject is worthy of the artist, and in that, in particular, by which De Foe is popularly known, the design is as well
chosen as the conduct of the story is admirable. It was indeed a happy moment in 1 which the idea of that most perfect and delightful of all fictions was conceived ; and if
the perusal of any work deserves to be accounted an epoch in a man's life, we know of none that is better entitled, from the interest it creates, and the irresistible hold it takes on the imagination, to be considered in the light of one. After the lapse of many years, its scenes and incidents remain imprinted on the mind in colours ever fresh and enduring, like some long-remembered scene of youth ; no time can obliterate, and no fresher images banish it from our recollection. That island, placed “far amidst the melancholy main," and remote from the track of human wanderings, remains to the last the greenest spot in memory. At whatever distance of time, the scene expands before us as clearly and distinctly as when we first beheld it : we still see its green savannahs and silent woods, which mortal footstep had never disturbed ; its birds of strange wing, that had never heard the report of a gun; its goats browsing securely in the vale, or peeping over the heights, in alarm at the first sight of man. We can yet follow its forlorn inhabitant on tiptoe with suspended breath, prying curiously into every recess, glancing fearfully at every shade, starting at every sound, and then look forth with him upon the lone and boisterous ocean with the sickening feelings of an exile cut off for ever from all human intercourse. Our sympathy is more truly engaged by the poor shipwrecked mariner, than by the great, the lovely, and the illustrious of the earth. We find a more effectual wisdom in his homely reflections than is to be derived from the discourses of the learned and the eloquent. The interest with which we converse with him in the retirement of his cave, or go abroad with him on the business of the day, is as various and powerful as the means by which it is kept up are simple and inartificial. So true is every thing to nature, and such reality is there in every particular, that the slightest circumstance creates a sensation, and the print of a man's foot or shoe is the source of more genuine terror than all the strange sights and odd noises in the romances of Mrs Raclette.
The writer of the Biographical Preface to Cadell's Edition of Robinson Crusoe, has these remarks :-“ The first thing that must strike every one who compares De Foe with any other writer of fictitious narrative, is the unequalled, intense reality which he throws around every part of his fiction. With such exquisite powers of fancy and of wit as he possessed, no one ever had the same command over himself to use those powers, wherever it was fit they should be used, without suffering the pleasure of employing them to lead into unnecessary ornament. He never describes anything merely for the sake of the description; everything is strictly subservient to the main matter in hand ; nothing is omitted that can serve the true and main purpose of the story; nothing added only for the sake of displaying the powers of the writer. Above all, in three of his novels, where the chief personage is made to tell his own story, it is wonderful what superiority this part of his skill gives De Foe, even over authors of much higher powers, in one sense of the word, than himself. Others may invent incidents of a more happy nature, but it is the charm of De Foe that, let his incidents be as common-place as may be, we read them at the full stretch of interest ; simply because, for the moment, the irresistible belief is upon us that these things really occurred exactly as they are set down in the book before us. Nobody ever skips over a page or two in one of his tales, because he is in a hurry to get on, and suspects that the story will be just as intelligible without what he is passing over as with it. We are bound to the page by the grave character of the history, at the same time that we read it with the delight of happiest fiction. Every thought that passed through the mind of the hero is set down, and we feel that there would be a want of candour in refusing to see what it was; we are gained over to his side, even if he be a villain, by the honesty with which he lets us into the secrets of his inmost heart. The nature that is so communicative cannot be entirely depraved; the charm of frankness and confidence overcomes and subdues us. The reader is made the father confessor of him that addresses him, and it would be a breach of duty to turn a deaf ear to anything he has to say.
“ It is no easy matter, however, to decide by what particular art De Foe has continued to make his stories so much more real in their aspect than any other novelist ; the chief secret, perhaps, is nothing but his delight in giving all the details of the action or course of thought he is engaged in. Other writers give us the main points, and please us by the opportunity they afford us of filling up the interstices by the exercise of our own imaginations for ourselves. Such is not the way of De Foe; he must be allowed to tell you all, or he will tell you nothing. He stops in the midst of the darkest horrors of the plague to give a long account of some old woman stealing beaver hats out of a warehouse ; a trifling matter surely, and not worthy for itself of being told among the mass of black thoughts and doings to which the moral corruption of the pestilence gave rise. But then how completely this trifling circumstance establishes in our minds the conviction that we are listening to the narrative of a true and authentic eye-witness ; not of one that had heard of the horrors of the plague, and is employing his imagination to body forth a picture of which the outline only had been supplied by his memory, but of one that had walked the streets of London during the awful visitation, with all his personal feelings and interests alive in his mind; surveying the dreary, calamity-struck city, with the eyes of a man and a Christian ; but still remembering his own concerns, and watching, like a careful brother, over the safety of his absent brother's store-shop. When the author of · Tom Jones,' or · Roderick Random,' or Gil Blas,' introduces one of his characters, and gives you a full description of his person and attire, it is evidently for the purpose of amusing us ; when the author of · Waverley' and `Ivanhoe' does so, it is from the delight he feels in communicating the vivacity of his own imagination to us, and bestowing the freshness of things seen on the phantoms of days gone by. When De Foe does the same thing, it is because the nature of the person in whose mouth
he puts the description, is such as to make that an essential part of his communication ; we should rather say of her communication, for he commonly takes care to put such details into the mouth of a female. Roxana, the vain, beautiful, high-dressed Roxana, nerer mentions a beau or a belle, but she unust tell us the colour of his breeches or the pattern of her petticoat. The coarser mind of Moll Flanders was never caught by such trifles as these ; but she dwells on the full muscular outline of her Lancashire husband's leg, and fills half a dozen pages with an account of the fat dishes they had at their wedding supper at the inn. Robinson Crusoe enumerates every nail he put into his cabin ; but then whatever Robinson Crusoe had was the work of his own ingenuity, and who can wonder at the pride of his detail ? The only novelist that ever rivalled De Foe in this point of his art was Richardson, but that is not the only particular in which Richardson is the imitator of De Foe.
“ It is not, however, by his circumstantiality and spirit of minute detail alone that De Foe gives this unequalled effect of truth and reality to his fiction. These are the first things that strike the reader's fancy ; but on laying down any one of his works, it is felt irresistibly that the essence of the charm lies in something far deeper than these. All other novelists, compared with him, are more or less painters of the ideal in human life; we do not mean of the beau ideal, for that many of them totally despise as well as he, but of its ideal of excitement. He paints not only the minute items of human life and action exactly as they are, but its whole scope and tenor also is viewed and represented by him, and by him alone, exactly as it is. Others carry their heroes and heroines
through all varieties of fortune, but they continue everything in order to make the ' interest progressive, and the last scene is always intended to be the exquisitely interest
ing catastrophe of a throughout interesting tale. De Foe, on the other hand, always shows himself to be perfectly aware that the prosaic part of existence is far greater than the poetic ; that mountains are ever succeeded and separated by valleys; that the most
romantic avenue often conducts into a dull and level wideness of plain; and that the | most picturesque of rivers expands into the tameness of utility before it melts into the all equalizing sea. Instead, therefore, of labouring to heighten the interest of one scene above that which has gone before, he is contented to make both natural; and never fears, if they be so, but that both will be sufficiently interesting. His lovers are not
always married, nor do his duellists always escape. The same laws by which men į and things are governed in the world, govern them in his representations of the world;
an unforeseen storm sinks the fairest vessel into the sea, with her equipment; absence cools the most ardent lovers ; time consoles the most despairing mourners; the son
neteer burns his sonnets, and learns to laugh at himself; and the widow's heart is | made to sing aloud for joy. His women are never angels, nor his misers sentimental.
“The writings of De Foe are valuable on many accounts, but for nothing so much | as for the insight they give us into the true character and habits of the English people, as exemplified in walks of life little understood or far less happily represented by the other novelists and painters of manners our island has produced. Without reading and studying the · Religious Courtship’ in particular, the Complete English Tradesman,' and the Family Instructor,' no man can hope to understand thoroughly the character , and manners of the middle classes of his countrymen. There cannot be a more perfectly | national writer than De Foe-every thought of his, every word, every image is intensely
English ; there is not one page in his works that does not remind one the author was born in London, and lived in the days of King William and Queen Anne. The homely way in which he looks at everything—the sagacious scorn with which he regards all pretences of the fine and the romantic-- his thorough-going, citizen-like, substantial perception of the prudent and the seemly_his broad, buffeting style of sarcasm-his deep, sincere, masculine pathos-everything about him, and his “round, unvarnished tales,” reminds us that he was an English tradesman, and makes us honour the name of an English tradesman for the sake of Daniel De Foe. When he walks forth into the country (and few of his works are more delightful than his tours through England and Scotland), he carries all the prejudices of the city life along with him, and describes whatever he sees exactly as he might have done by word of mouth to his next door neighbour after returning from an actual trip in the way of business. London, and London alone, he describes with all the warmth and fulness of a lover. It is easy to see that in her was centred his idea of all human grandeur and magnificence; and who shall say that he was mistaken? Whig and Dissenter as he was, no man loved and reverenced all the old institutions of his country, more fervently than Daniel. He triumphs in describing the superior pomp and dignity with which the majesty of England was surrounded at Whitehall, and half forgets his puritanism beneath the vaults of Westminster Abbey.
“De Foe's love for the sca, and the affairs of the sea, was another strong and prevailing part of his character as an Englishman; and it is traceable more or less in almost all his writings. Trade was his original destination, and he understood it thoroughly in all its branches ; his study of the trade of his country had filled him with a magnificent sense of her ocean greatness, and no man could have conceived some of tlie sublime meditations of Robinson Crusoe but a citizen of the Queen of Isles. It is now more than a hundred years since that book was written, and who shall say how 11 many young hearts have in that time been sinitten by its means with their first love for the element of their country's pride? Every English lad that reads · Robinson Crusoe' has his little canoe and his mimio ship, and so long as the British Jack sweeps the sea, the youngest boy that rocks upon the mast will exhibit there the usefulness of those lessons of resolution and contempt of danger which he owes to Robinson Crusoe.' It is here, indeed, that the chief value and the chief merit of this performance are to be found. The happy imagination of the incidents of the mariner's life, and the profound knowledge of man's nature which is exhibited in the workings of his solitary soul,-even these would be comparatively nothing, were it not for the rich moral aim to which they are made subservient. The superiority of man to all external evils, his destination to contend with difficulties, and his duty to sustain them, and his pious humility in overcoming them,—these are the ideas which this, the most moral of all romances, throughout displays and inculcates. How happy that the book, which, as Dr Johnson says, “ nobody ever laid down without wishing it longer," is not only the most charming of books, but the most instructive.”
The following criticism by Sir Walter Scott will worthily conclude this portion of the work. “ The fertility of De Foe was astonishing. He wrote ou all occasions and on all subjects, and seemingly had little time for preparation upon the subject in hand, but treated it from the stores which his memory retained of early reading and such hints as he had caught up in society, not one of which seems to have been lost upon him. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that he possessed a powerful memory to furnish him with materials, and a no less copious vein of imagination to weave them up into & web of his own, and supply the rich embroidery which in reality constitutes their chief value. His language is genuine English, often simple even to vulgarity, but always so distinctly impressive that its very vulgarity has an efficacy in giving an air of truth or probability to the facts and sentiments it conveys. Exclusive of politics, De Foe's studies led chiefly to those popular narratives which are the amusement of children and of the lower classes ; those accounts of travellers who have visited remote countries ; of voyagers who have made discoveries of new lands and strange nations ; of pirates and buccaneers who have acquired wealth by their desperate adventures on the ocean. There is reason to believe, from a passage in his « Review,' that he was acquainted with