Imágenes de páginas

to that of herds of cattle; or the moving objects in a public road, to the dull monotony of lawns and woods.-The most romantic spot, the most picturesque situations, and the most delightful assemblage of nature's choicest materials, will not long engage our interest without some appropriation; something we can call our own; and if not our own property, at least it may be endeared to us by calling it our own home.'-p. 235.

Having thus far traced the history of the art of English gardening, an interesting subject of inquiry remains to be considered.What will be its future progress, and ultimate fate? Shall we descend from the proud pre-eminence we have attained, or shall we continue to advance uniting comfort with picturesque effect, till Albion smile one ample theatre of sylvan grace?'

[ocr errors]

Horace Walpole feared the abolition or restriction of the modern taste in gardening from its solitariness, arising from the change which had, even in his time, taken place in the style of living in the country, where, however, 'superb palaces were still created, becoming a pompous solitude to the owner, and a transient entertainment to a few travellers.' Our style of living is now indeed changed, but from causes of which he could form no idea, and it is not wholly to be attributed to their solitariness that our nobility do not continue to reside upon their estates, while some of the parks of our country gentlemen are become farms, and others are transferred to successful speculators on the necessities of the times, or on the various demands that a long continued war has produced.

Many of these new possessors of the domains of our ancient families have neither taste nor inclination to improve their scenery, but continuing to-act upon the principles by which their landed property has been acquired, they are rather solicitous to increase than to enjoy it; regarding their newly purchased estates as investments of money, from which they must derive the greatest possible return of profit, at the expense, perhaps, of every local association and attachment. They only wish to improve their rental, until other speculations shall transfer the estates to new proprietors. Others consider their estates as occasional retreats from the bustle and anxiety of business. Their objects are privacy and seclusion. They surround the whole place, perhaps, with a lofty pale and a thick plantation, and improve it according to their own taste, with white rails, serpentine walks, spruce firs, and Lombardy poplars, a sheet of water and a Chinese bridge. Novelty usurps the place of propriety; and to men whose former lives have been exclusively devoted to mercantile pursuits in London, almost every thing is new in the country. Their ideas of perfection are contained in a few words, ' I know what pleases myself.

But the man of good taste endeavours to investigate the causes of the pleasure he receives, and to inquire whether others receive pleasure


also. He knows that the same principles which direct taste in the polite arts, direct the judgment in morality: that the knowledge of what is good, whether in actions, in manners, in language, in arts, or science, constitutes the basis of good taste, and marks the distinction between the higher ranks of polished society, and the inferior orders of mankind, whose daily labours allow no leisure for other enjoyments, than those of mere sensual, individual or personal gratification.'

Many of our new proprietors of estates are, however, gentlemen of liberal education, who have hitherto only wanted leisure to discover the true value of these scenes of active benevolence and tranquil enjoyment; to them it is reserved to extend the dominion of elegance around their own habitations, and diffuse cheerfulness and comfort among those of their dependants. This is an English gentleman's proper scene of action. He is no where so respectable as at the head of his tenants and his peasantry, and never so well employed as in promoting their welfare. The art of landscape gardening will, above all others, induce him, first to create, and afterwards to enjoy a comfortable home; and the reciprocity of good offices between the higher and lower classes of society, produced by the residence of the former upon their estates in the country, is an object of the greatest national importance. This is the true end of all plans of improvement, and we have therefore read with satisfaction the Fragment on the Duke of Bedford's cottage, (as it is called,) at Endsleigh, where Mr. Repton observes:

"It is with peculiar pleasure that I have been called upon to exercise my utmost skill on this subject, since every thing that can contribute to the enjoyment of its scenery, I know, must also contribute to the improvement of the neighbouring country, in its agriculture, its mineralogy, its civilization, and the general happiness of all who dwell within the influence of this cottage on the banks of the Tamar.'—p. 226.

We may appear to have dwelt too long upon this subject: but the history of its art, is a part of the history of our country; and according to an author who united good taste with profound erudition, Our skill in gardening, or rather laying out grounds, is the only taste we can call our own; the only proof of original talent in matters of pleasure. This is no small honour to us: since neither France nor Italy have ever had the least notion of it, nor yet do at all comprehend it when they see it.' And we agree with Mr. Repton, that

'Perhaps after all, the pleasure derived from a garden has some relative association with its evanescent nature and produce. We view with more delight a wreath of short lived roses, than a crown of amaranth of everlasting flowers. However this may be, it is certain that



the good and wise of all ages have enjoyed their purest and most innocent pleasures in a garden, from the beginning of time.'--p. 147.

We must now take our leave of Mr. Repton and his pleasing art, referring to the book itself such of our readers as have a taste for landscape gardening, or a desire to improve their grounds; convinced, that they will find it both interesting and entertaining. It is embellished with numerous highly finished and beautifully illustrative engravings; and his Fragments' are worthy of Mr. Repton's former volumes, and of his professional reputation.

[ocr errors]

ART. VIII. Tales of My Landlord. 4 vols. 12mo. Third Edition. Blackwood, Edinburgh. John Murray, London. 1817. THESE Tales belong obviously to a class of novels which we

have already had occasion repeatedly to notice, and which have attracted the attention of the public in no common degree,we mean Waverley, Guy Mannering, and the Antiquary, and we have little hesitation to pronounce them either entirely, or in a great measure, the work of the same author. Why he should industriously endeavour to elude observation by taking leave of us in one character, and then suddenly popping out upon us in another, we cannot pretend to guess without knowing more of his personal reasons for preserving so strict an incognito than has hitherto reached us. We can, however, conceive many reasons for a writer observing this sort of mystery; not to mention that it has certainly had its effect in keeping up the interest which his works have excited.

We do not know if the imagination of our author will sink in the opinion of the public when deprived of that degree of invention which we have been hitherto disposed to ascribe to him; but we are certain that it ought to increase the value of his portraits, that human beings have actually sate for them. These coincidences between fiction and reality are perhaps the very circumstances to which the success of these novels is in a great measure to be attributed for, without depreciating the merit of the artist, every spectator at once recognizes in those scenes and faces which are copied from nature an air of distinct reality, which is not attached to fancy-pieces however happily conceived and elaborately executed. By what sort of freemasonry, if we may use the term, the mind arrives at this conviction, we do not pretend to guess, but every one must have felt that he instinctively and almost insensibly recognizes in painting, poetry, or other works of imagination, that which is copied from existing nature, and that he forthwith clings to it with that kindred interest which thinks nothing which is human indifferent to humanity. Before therefore we proceed to analyse the


work immediately before us, we beg leave briefly to notice a few circumstances connected with its predecessors.

[ocr errors]

Our author has told us it was his object to present a succession of scenes and characters connected with Scotland in its past and present state, and we must own that his stories are so slightly constructed as to remind us of the showman's thread with which he draws up his pictures and presents them successively to the eye of the spectator. He seems seriously to have proceeded on Mr. Bays's maxim What the deuce is a plot good for, but to bring in fine things?'-Probability and perspicuity of narrative are sacrificed with the utmost indifference to the desire of producing effect; and provided the author can but contrive to surprize and elevate,' he appears to think that he has done his duty to the public. Against this slovenly indifference we have already remonstrated, and we again enter our protest. It is in justice to the author himself that we do so, because, whatever merit individual scenes and passages may possess, (and none have been more ready than ourselves to offer our applause,) it is clear that their effect would be greatly enhanced by being disposed in a clear and continued narrative. We are the more earnest in this matter, because it seems that the author errs chiefly from carelessness. There may be something of system in it however: for we have remarked, that with an attention which amounts even to affectation, he has avoided the common language of narrative, and thrown his story, as much as possible, into a dramatic shape. In many cases this has added greatly to the effect, by keeping both the actors and action continually before the reader, and placing him, in some measure, in the situation of the audience at a theatre, who are compelled to gather the meaning of the scene from what the dramatis personæ say to each other, and not from any explanation addressed immediately to themselves. But though the author gain this advantage, and thereby compel the reader to think of the personages of the novel and not of the writer, yet the practice, especially pushed to the extent we have noticed, is a principal cause of the flimsiness and incoherent texture of which his greatest admirers are compelled to complain. Few can wish his success more sincerely thau we do, and yet without more attention on his own part, we have great doubts of its continuance.

In addition to the loose and incoherent style of the narration, another leading fault in these novels is the total want of interest which the reader attaches to the character of the hero. Waverley, Brown, or Bertram in Guy Mannering, and Lovel in the Antiquary, are all brethren of a family; very amiable and very insipid sort of young men. We think we can perceive that this error is also in some degree occasioned by the dramatic principle upon which the





author frames his plots. His chief characters are never actors, but always acted upon by the spur of circumstances, and have their fates uniformly determined by the agency of the subordinate persons. This arises from the author having usually represented them as foreigners to whom every thing in Scotland is strange,-a circumstance which serves as his apology for entering into many minute details which are reflectively, as it were, addressed to the reader through the medium of the hero. While he is going into explanations and details which, addressed directly to the reader, night appear tiresome and unnecessary, he gives interest to them by exhibiting the effect which they produce upon the principal person of his drama, and at the same time obtains a patient hearing for what might otherwise be passed over without attention. But if he gains this advantage, it is by sacrificing the character of the hero. No one can be interesting to the reader who is not himself a prime agent in the scene. This is understood even by the worthy citi zen and his wife, who are introduced as prolocutors in Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle. When they are asked what the principal person of the drama shall do?-the answer is prompt and ready- Marry, let him come forth and kill a giant.' There is a good deal of tact in the request. Every hero in poetry, in fictitious narrative, ought to come forth and do or say something or other which no other person could have done or said; make some sacrifice, surmount some difficulty, and become interesting to us otherwise than by his mere appearance on the scene, the passive tool of the other characters.

The insipidity of this author's heroes may be also in part referred to the readiness with which he twists and turns his story to produce some immediate and perhaps temporary effect. This could hardly be done without representing the principal character either as inconsistent or flexible in his principles. The ease with which Waverley adopts and afterwards forsakes the Jacobite party in 1745 is a good example of what we mean. Had he been painted as a steady character, his conduct would have been improbable. The author was aware of this; and yet, unwilling to relinquish an opportunity of introducing the interior of the Chevalier's military court, the circumstances of the battle of Preston-pans, and so forth, he hesitates not to sacrifice poor Waverley, and to represent him as a reed blown about at the pleasure of every breeze: a less careless writer would probably have taken some pains to gain the end proposed in a more artful and ingenious manner. But our author was hasty, and has paid the penalty of his haste.

We have hinted that we are disposed to question the originality of these novels in point of invention, and that in doing so, we do not consider ourselves as derogating from the merit of the author,


« AnteriorContinuar »