15 AUGUST 1846, Page 18


"I PRTTHEE deliver them like a man of this world," says Falstaff to Pistol, when the latter was charged with the "happy news of price "of the King's death: and this delivery is not only a touchstone of style, but of the cast of genius. The style may vary from the loftiest flight of Shakspere to the humblest writer of sensible prose, and the mind exhibit extremes as wide apart ; but a writer who observes a due proportion between his thoughts and his expressions, who allows his ideas to colour his diction, • instead of swelling his diction with the view of exalting his ideas, is "a man of this world." He may not be true in his exhibitions—" for what is truth ? " But he reflects things such as he sees or thinks them ; and according to their character and his own will be the durability of his work. 0 the other hand, the 1 matter ; and even his matter is less selected for its own qualities than its capabilities for writing. Many men of talent belong to this school ; which produces works of great power and success, from the " King Cam- byses vein " upwards ; but one characteristic pervades them all—effect is substituted for reality ; and that effect is sought either by selecting the peculiarities and exceptions of nature, or by endeavouring through the means of style to produce a-something greater, not always than the nature itself contains, but than the writer can see in it.

The author of The MO Old Men's Tales is of this school; but in his previous works he rather selected some peculiarities of persons and cir- cumstances, which if never actually existing might well enough be true under the given conditions. Such, perhaps, was " The Admiral's Daugh- ter " ; only the heroine fell too easily ; and the subject of the sentimental virtuous committing adultery was alike unpleasing and improper. Mount Sorel was a better theme : a man of high lineage, reduced fortunes, and indomitable family pride, cast among a modern movement and characters such as the " citizens " of the Corresponding Society, together with the distresses to children springing from family quarrels, common enough in those days. The theme also admitted of a more laboured treatment, such as this writer always adopts ; the workman continually appearing, and calling attention to his work. Still, strength rather than nature pre- dominates : there are scenes of power, there are passages of fine though somewhat laboured description; there is often a very skilful delineation of abstract character and passion, and sometimes a story of interest, though its march is generally slow ; but upon the whole the result is heavy, the impression that of artifice rather than art. The writer, in short, belongs to a school which long since accomplished in literature 'that which is only just achieved in mechanics, the art of manufacturing speak- ing automatons.

The subject of Father Darcy is historical, and the time that of Flivabeth and James. The public topics are the rule of Eliza- beth; the three leading religions sects, Protestant, moderate Romanist& and the advocates of the doctrines then broached by the Jesuits, which confounded the distinctions of right and wrong in favour of the advancement of Popery. The two chief public events are the out- break of Essex and the Gunpowder Plot. The views of the author are very adverse to those of the Jesuits; and his object is to expose the arts by which they were successful in turning the weaknesses, vices, and vir- tues of human beings, to their own political and religious purposes. In this the writer fails. History does not admit of being treated like a single character, formed by peculiar circumstances as an exception to the mass of mankind. It must be exhibited according to more general rules; and the subject neither bears the singularities, the forced composition, nor the ostentatious display of workmanship, which characterize this writer. As a whole, the public descriptions, the narrative of the tale, the philosophical speculations, and above all the manner in which they are embodied, are too abstract and analytical. It is a chemist exhibiting the elements of living creatures, not the creatures themselves. Father Darcy is one of those unnatural creations of surpassing ability and vil- lany in which this class of minds delight ; and he makes the other cha- racters as unnatural as himself. Catesby, the principal of the Gun- powder Plot, is driven desperate in youth by Darcy inveigling his mis- tress to take the veil, but she is still used to stimulate him to desperate deeds for religion : most of the other persons are in the same category,— singularities, not adapted to their position at the best, while several are mere monstrosities.

If we could put aside our ideas of the natural and probable, Father .Darcy might be praised as a book of consistent construction, and con- siderable thought and knowledge, as well as of powerful composition. There are single parts which have the conjoint effect of rhetoric and nature, where the thing itself is an exception. Such is this picture of Catesby as the time approaches to execute the plot. Winter is bringing him the news of Monteagle's having carried his celebrated anonymous "letter" to the Privy Council.

"Thomas repaired immediately to the small obscure lodging still occupied by Catesbv at Lambeth: he was at home. Thomas knocked at the door of the small heck parlour which he usually occupied, and was immediately admitted. "He found his friend standing by the window, looking out upon the country which lay before him. The day was perfectly still, but it was dark and cold, and heavy lowering clouds obscured the face of the heavens: the trees were bare of their leaves, the aspect of nature dreary and sad; but what was that, compared to the deep shadows of inexpressible melancholy which clouded the countenance of the wretched man!

"His haggard and sallow cheek was overhung by brows which were s savage, and lowering; his eye burned within its socket likes fiery coal; his

were nearly concealed by his rough unshaven beard; and his hair, of amazing thickness but all neglected, hung over his rich embroidered cone's.. His dress was handsome as it had ever been, but all faded and in disorder. Never was misery, never was remorse, never was despair, written in characters more dismal upon a human countenance; but it was the misery, the remorse, the despair of the for ever lost.

"There was not the slightest tisp of occupation to be seen in the room; no pens or papers upon the table—no books or writings: he seemed so absorbed in his own miserable thoughts as to have found all employment irksome and in- supportable. He was standing with his face leaning against the panes of the window, when his friend knocked: he turned round and bade him enter.

"Thomas Winter himself was much changed: his cheek was pale and extenu- ated, and his pleasant blue eye had lost its lustre; but he, like the subject of the gloomy pit, suffered far less in spirit than did the unhappy leader. He

flung his conscience, as it were, into the keeping of his friend; and to follow him, whatsoever the enterprise, had-in it something of satisfaction. He was spared, by this submission of the understanding, all those agonies of remorse which agitated

the desperate contriver of this plot.

" you dream bad dreams, Robert, last night ? ' was Winter's first address, as he looked upon his friend's haggard face; or have you already heard what I come here to tell you ?

" ' I cannot very easily have bad dreams,' said Robert; for it is long since I have known what it was to sleep. The innocent sleep,' said he, with a sort of passionate melancholy of tone. Sleep is for the innocent—or the indifferent,— which is it? for to tell truth, Winter; putting his hand to his brow, things get confused here • and I scarcely know whether to detest myself as a monstrous

n t co ler and, e rhetorician looks more to his words than his I criminal, or glorify myself as a martyr—whether to despise or to envy most those . who are contented to sit still under their injuries. But your eye is more troubled than usual today- : what news ? ' " ' The news will soon be abroad,' said Winter, endeavouring to recover his spirits, '"That God and man have conspired to punish the wickedness of these times; and that they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them." That is the intelligence now lying before his Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council; and perhaps it might be as well, Mr. Catesby, before amusing ourselves with the old chapter of the casuists—which I thought had decided the question in our favour long ago—to consider what were best to be done to save our own heads; and whether we had not better try the air

• on the other aide of the water.'

"During this speech Catesby had stood perfectly still, his eyes fixed upon 'Winter's face.

"'Explain yourself,' he said.

"The narration was soon made.

"'I have thought so from the first,' said Catesby, after he had stolid some time motionless and perfectly silent. Tresham has betrayed us. I have long thought, Thomas Winter,' taking his friend's hand and wringing it in his, 'that I was a doomed man; that not the deliverance of my church and party, but the destruction of all who have loved and trusted me, was to be my portaon. The infatuation which led me to confide in Tresham seems fatal. But, so help me Heaven !' said he, with a strangefervency, as I persevere to the last. This news • will soon get abroad; and some cravens of our league will in all probability desert us; but I have put my hand to the plough, and I will not look back. If all the horrors of my own thoughts have been without power to shake my resolution, neither shall the fear of what man can do.' " The following is part of a scene at Dunchureh ; whither many Doe manists had been summoned, in order to rise after the success of the plot, but without knowing what the plot was.

"Still, in spite of the high spirits they were in, as the evening advanced, and the time approached when it would be possible for one riding post-haste to have arrived from London with the intelligence of what had been done on the morning of the 5th, they, whaled all been taught to expect that day as the one upon which the rising in the metropolis was to take place, began to hold their breath, listen, and look anxiously from time to time at each olier.

"'What a cursed din those rascals without keep up!' said Stephen Littleton, impatiently. 'It is impossible to hear, though a company of horse were gall lopping in at the town-end.' "'Listen,' said Everard, authoritatively.. "A sort of broken gallop, as of horses forced forward, yet faltering and stum- bling at every step, was now heard. An instantaneous silence in the crowd with- out succeeded ; and, while the company round the table sat in mute expectation, the door opened—and, bespattered with mire—their hats and feathers drooping over their faces—drenched with rain which streamed from their cloaks and collars— their countenances pale, jaded, and sunken, and a sort of wild desperation and hurry in their eyes and gestures—Catesby, Pierey, Rookwood, Keyes, and Robert Winter, entered the room.

"Sir Everard started from his seat, uttered a cry of dismay as his eyes fell upon Catesby, and sank back again into his chair. "The rest of the company, with looks aghast, remained as if nailed to their . seats, their eyes rivetted nponthe miserable party.

"Catesby, undismayed even in this last extremity, met the doubting, inquiring, dissatisfied looks that surrounded him' with his usual air of dauntless defiance; and, walking straight up to the table, and laying his band upon it, with a clear, ' Steady- voice he said= Too true, gentlemen, the enterprise in London has been discovered ;rid defeated. The Government is aroused; the news will be abroad in twelve hours more; and unless we find means to provide for our safety, we are all dead men.'

"A murmur of general dissatisfaction spread throughout the assembly, in- creased by the voices of all the gentlemen assembled at supper in the other rooms, who came crowding in great agitation and excitement into the apartment.

"Threatening looks were fixed upon the speaker, as the company, rising in a ..Jert of angry impatience from their seats, crowded round him, with eyes that de- • ananded explanation, and brows that lowered with displeasure. All had risen but Everard ; he had falln back in his chair, and had covered his face with his hands. "It is too true,' repeated Catesby, haughtily looking round, and affronting ' -with an air of proud indifference the looks of displeasure that met him on every aide; the enterprise upon which I and twelve honourable gentlemen bad staked --their lives has been blown. One of our company [Fawkes] is already in the .Arands of-this detested Government: but he is bold, faithful, and true, and -we need -leer no treachery from him. The rack and the scaffold may be his portion; but question whether in his solitary dungeon in the Tower, he shows so pale or so fallen a countenance as any of those I see around me here. We have done what we could, nor is it our fault if there laas been a traitor in the camp. It remains only to learn whether any of this present company are bold enough to draw their --swords in support of a good cause not yet entirely lost; or whether the twelve - brave menathe ascended the breach shall be abandoned by their companions, and

• left there to die.'

"The countenances around him softened somewhat at this speech; and the gentlemen, returning to their seats, asked in a low voice, and as if questioning among each other, what was next to be done.

"At length Sir Robert Digby, a man of more age and authority than the rest, elevating his voice above the others, said= Before we proceed farther in this business, we would at least be glad to be enlightened as to that of which we have lill now been kept ignorant. What was the precise nature of the undertaking in which we were summoned hem by our friends to assist? What was that plot, -nthich, if we are to judge by the appearance of Mr. Catesby and his companions, - has been so signally defeated? Everard,' turning to his nephew, you know the • confidence I have ever reposed in you. Such has been the reliance, young as you are that-has been placed in your Judgment and integrity, that your slightest in- tinistion has been sufficient to assemble this honourable company around you. I - ask you now, and I demand of Mr. Catesby, what was the plan for the general good' which we here stand called upon to support? and what is the nature of the discovery which has been made by his Majesty's Government ? ' "As he spoke, scales as it were seemed to fall from the eyes ofEverard. In one instant, and-as if with supernatural brightness, the light of truth for the first time - dashed before his eyes; and as the stem and searching eye of his uncle fell upon .:.hisn, anemia% to penetrate his inmost soul, his sank before it, and an expression of the most painful confusion and dismay was visible in his countenance.

"But Catesby, still erect and dauntless, his hand resting firmly upon the table, in a voice that never faltered, and with a countenance the colour of which not for one moment changed, at once disclosed the nature of the intended plot. "A general cry of irrepressible horror greeted the explanation. Men fell back - from him as from one tainted with some dreadful plague: leaving him and his

• desperate and wretched company standing in a group alone at the end of the room, exposed before the eyes of the whole indignant assembly.

"There was scarcely one present who bad not a friend, a kinsman, an intimate . acquaintance at least, sitting in the chambers of that Parliament condemned to this hideous destruction; and every heart sickened with unutterable horror at the idea of so merciless and indiscriminating a slaughter. • "Catesby, his brow darkening, his eye beaming with desperate and hopeless defiance, kept his ground, and stood there as a mark for the execration written on ,-every countenance, and muttered bymany a tongue. The gentlemen behind him his fellows in this dreadful crime, with eyes aghast and staring, seemed thunder- struck with astonishment at this unexpected reception of their design. "But Everard lifted up his face, glanced hastily round at the assembled com- pany, then sunk his had upon his arras on the table, and uttered one low, deep groan. "Then old Sir Robert Digby, that man of unquestioned honour and integrity, rose from his seat, and standing up, said in a loud and distinct voice= Gentle- men and Catholics, members of an honourable and noble church, we have neither art or part in this devilish enterprise. Those who, instead of drawing the generous sword, and perilling life in open battle for the honour of God, have been skulking in corners, and mining in dark cellars—content to scatter destruction alike on ene- mies and friends, and to escape by flight from the censequenees of that explosion which they themselves have prepared—may seek supporters elsewhere than from among us.......Farewell, Everard: I could have wished to have left the descendant of your honoured grandfather in a nobler and better company.'"