Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 133.djvu/379

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
373
THE DOVE OF HOLY SATURDAY.

from it. But she is untrue on this account, that, being represented a lady of birth and breeding, she taunts her sister-in-law after the manner of a housemaid.

The world of fiction could not get on without its men, any more than could the world around us. The machinery of both spheres would be stopped at once if deprived of the masculine element therein. The novels we are commenting on form no exception to the rule of novels in this respect; they amply represent the genus man, and do it very favorably moreover. Miss Muloch's young heroes are much as other young men; but her heroes par excellence are not. In fact, these are not usually young men at all, but middle-aged ones, who seem to have trampled life's faults under their feet, and its follies also, except that of falling in love, which last they are prone to indulge in at a period when the interesting operation is oftener over than otherwise; in a word, they are too good, for they are generally endowed with the combined virtues of men and women, which is hardly fair, considering that we find them not so endowed in reality, or at any rate not often so. These heroes seem to gaze upon us with mild, placid eyes - to loom upon us from pedestals, like the demigods of old, and are more suggestive of the golden ages of the world, of a far-oft Arcadia, than this very wicked nineteenth century of ours.

Sentiment plays the most prominent part in the writings of Miss Muloch, who seems to have made the theme her lifelong study. The result is a minute analysis of almost every feeling that is ours from the cradle to the grave. These feelings are spread before us in a kind of network, delicate and dexterous as the web of a spider. Start not, reader; the simile is not ignoble, for a spider's web is a beautiful thing, particularly when seen with tender prismatic tints playing upon it. And as the sun's rays play upon the spider's web, so do the reflections of a very poetical mind color the web of human sentiment, which Miss Muloch weaves for the delectation of her readers. It is a tribute to this writer's power that she knows how to deal thus minutely with sentiment, to strain certain fibres of feeling until they nearly snap under the analytical tension to which they are subjected, and yet to preserve her muscular energy of style and thought. Only occasionally does she near the boundary line which divides sentiment from sentimentality seldom does she cross it; but when she does do so, the result is not invigorating, and bears out our previous comparison between her writings and the blossoms of the seringa-tree, which blossoms, be it remembered, sometimes burden the breath of June with an odor sweet but faint and rather oppressive withal.

It has been hinted above that the author of "John Halifax, Gentleman," is not perfect in her management of our mother tongue. Nor is she. Her style, graceful and charming as it is, too often displays a disregard of the mechanism of language. The words seem to come as they choose, leaving the sentences to take care of and shape themselves as they can: thus, the construction of these is frequently faulty and the meaning dubious. But the flaws to which we are drawing attention, dwindle to mere specks when laid to the charge of a writer who has given us, so much to be grateful for as the subject of this sketch.

Miss Muloch conduces to the moral elevation, as well as to the deli ht of her readers, and has therefore succeeded in what should be the highest aim of the novelist; she has done good, and deserves to share the criticism once passed upon the writings of Felicia Hemans, which says that these writings are the reflections of a beautiful mind; also, she might come under the mantle of that eulogy passed by Dean Stanley over the grave of Dickens, to the effect that he, the author of "Pickwick," had never written a line, which might not with impunity be read by a little child.Ella.




From Macmillan's Magazine.

THE DOVE OF HOLY SATURDAY.

Saturday in Holy Week is a great holiday for the Florentines, and still more for the contadini or peasants, of all the country round. They come trooping into the city, all dressed in their holiday clothes, from miles and miles away. The streets are crowded with the easygoing, good-natured, laughter-loving people, who have jokes and proverbs on the tips of their tongues and know full well how to apply them. In old days spring and summer clothes were always bought on this day and the shops were decked out displaying their most tempting wares. This custom is a thing of the past, but the Colomba, or dove still speeds her fiery course down the centre of the old cathedral, and sets fire to the wonderful erection outside the great front door, of squibs, crackers, and catherine-wheels which are