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to a battalion reeling before the enemy's charge or shot." Of Swift, Esmond says,-“I have always thought of him and of Marlborough as the two greatest of that age a lonely fallen Prometheus, groaning as the vultures tear him;" and with a few such strokes, he gives etchings of other celebrities in letters and politics. One may observe with astonishment that the youthful writer who delighted in suburban chronicles, in mean lives and paltry incidents, has risen, by middle age, to the rank of an illustrious painter on the broad canvas of history. The annals of literature contain few, if any, other examples of so remarkable a transformation.

It is evident that Thackeray, like Scott, was an industrious collector of material for his novels from all sources; we may refer, for an instance, to a scene which will have left a passing impression upon many readers, where, as the French and English armies are facing each other on two sides of a little stream in the Low Countries, Prince Charles Edward rides down to the French bank and exchanges a salute with Esmond. falls quite naturally and easily into the narrative, and reads like a very happy original conception; yet the incident, which is quite authentic, may be found in the papers obtained in the last century from the Scottish convent at Paris by Macpherson.


In the "Virginians," which might have had for its second title "Forty Years Later," the chronicle of the Esmond family is continued; with North America during the French war for the battlefields, Braddock, Wolfe, and Washington for the military figures, and Esmond's grandsons as the person. ages round whom the story's interest centers. It is a novel of very great merit, skilfully constructed, full of vivacious writing and delineation of character; and the novelist avails him

self, with his usual adroitness, of the celebrated incidents of this period and the salient features of English society in the middle of the last century. Yet we must reluctantly admit that Thackeray has passed his climacteric, and that, as a work of the historical school, this book cannot claim parity with Esmond. George Warrington was on Braddock's staff at the fatal rout and massacre on the Ohio; his brother Harry was with Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham; they witnessed a battle lost and a battle won, and each saw his commander fall. But George's recital of his hairbreadth escape lacks the stern simplicity with which his grandfather told the story of Marlborough's wars; and the device of his being saved from the Indians by a French officer, who was his intimate friend, is so ingenious as to be a trifle commonplace. The author does not sketch in any details or personal adventures from the great fight under the walls of Quebec; he has fallen back, at this part of the story, into personal narrative, and the "Warrington Memoirs" only describe how the news or Wolfe's victory and death was асclaimed in London. In the War of Independence, George Warrington, who takes the British side, records the feelings and situation of an American loyalist, a class to whom only Mr. Lecky, among historians, has done fair justice. There is much acute and wellinformed reflection upon the state of the colonies at this time, the strong currents of party politics, and the exasperation which brought about the rebellion; but, on the whole, this part of the narrative has too much resemblance to real history. It has not enough of the imaginative and picturesque element to lift it above the comparatively prosaic level of an interesting memoir, though some good scenes and situations are obtained by making the two Warrington brothers take op

posite sides. When we learn that, in 1759, the English Lord Castlewood repaired his shattered fortunes by marrying an American heiress, we are inclined to suspect that our author has taken a hint from the fashion of a century later.

In the story of "Esmond" Thackeray dropped the satirical tone, and indulged, very rarely, indeed, in the habit of pausing to moralize, as writer to reader, upon social hypocrisy, servile obsequiousness, and whited sepulchres generally. In the "Virginians" he is less attentive to dramatic propriety; he begins again to turn aside and lecture us, in the midst of his tale, upon the text of De te fabula narratur. Sir Miles and Lady Warrington are scandalized by their nephew's extravagance, and refuse all help to the spendthrift.

How much of this behavior goes on daily in respectable society, think you? You can fancy Lord and Lady Macbeth concocting a murder, and coming together with some little awkwardness, perhaps, when the transaction was done and over; but my Lord and Lady Skinflint, when they consult in their bedroom about giving their luckless nephew a helping hand, and determine to refuse, and go down to family prayers and meet their children and domestics, and discourse virtuously before them

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And so on, for a page or two, in a tone that some may think almost as sophistical as the reasoning by which the Skinfiints might excuse to themselves their pharisaical behavior. Such interpolations are artistically incorrect, and out of harmony with the proper conception of a well-wrought work of fiction, in which the moral should be conveyed through the action and the dialogue, and the meditations should be left to be done by the reader himself.

We must, therefore, place the "Virginians" below "Esmond" in the order of merit. Nevertheless, these two

novels, with "Barry Lyndon," are most important and valuable contributions to the English historical series. Nothing like them had been written before, and nothing equal has been written after them, with the exception of "Romola" and "John Inglesant." They possess one essential quality that ought to distinguish all fiction founded on the history of bygone times,-they are, so far as posterity can' judge at all, faithful and effective representations of manners. Now, the inferior practitioner in this particular school, being prevented, by indolence or incapacity, from mastering his period and acquiring insight into its ways of thought and living, is too often content to cover up his deficiencies by indenting freely on the theatrical wardrobe and armory. He deals largely in the costumes of the day; he supplies himself plentifully with old-fashioned phrases; he is fond of old furniture; he is strongest, in fact, upon the external and decorative aspect of the society to which he introduces us. Most of the romances written in imitation of Scott had this tendency; and this same feebleness underlies the superfluous minuteness of detail that may be observed in the decadent realists of the present day. Nothing of this sort can be alleged against Thackeray, who works from inward outwardly in his creations of character, and whose personages are truly historical in the sense that they move and speak naturally, according to the ideas and circumstances of their age, the dialect and dress being merely added as appropriate coloring. It is, indeed, a peculiarity of Thackeray's novels, which distinguishes him alike from the romancer and the modern naturalist, that they contain hardly any description, that he is never professedly picturesque, that he relies entirely on passing strokes and effective details given by the way. In Scott we have superb descriptive pieces of scenery, of

storms, of the interiors of a castle or a Gothic cathedral; and some of the best living novelists are much given to elaborate landscape painting. But we doubt whether half a page of deliberately picturesque description can be found in any of Thackeray's first-class works. He will sometimes sketch off the inside of a house or the look of a town, but with natural scenery he does not concern himself; he is, for the most part, entirely occupied with the analysis of character, or with the emotional side of life; and he seems constantly to bear in mind the Aristotelian maxim that life consists in action. His principal instrument for the exhibition of motive, for the evolution of his story, for bringing out qualities, is dialogue, which he manages with great dexterity and effect, giving it point and raciness, and avoiding the snare-into which recent social novelists have been falling -of insignificance and prolixity. The method of easy, sparkling, natural dialogue for developing the plot and distinguishing the personages is said to have been first transferred from the theatre to the novel by Walter Scott. At any rate, the use of it on a large scale, which has since been carried to the verge of abuse, began with the Waverley novels; where we find abundance of that humorous vernacular talk in which Shakespeare excelled, though for the romance Cervantes may be registered as its inventor. In Thackeray's hands dramatic conversation, as of actors on the stage, becomes of very prominent importance, not only for the illustration of manners in society, but also for dressing up the subordinate figures of his company. He is now no longer the caricaturist of earlier days; he employs the popular dialect and comic touches with effective moderation. And he avails himself

very freely, in the "Virginians," of the privilege which belongs to the historical novelist, who is allowed to

make the reader acquainted with the notabilities of the period, not only for the movement of his drama, but also for a passing glance or casual introduction, as might happen in any place of public resort or in a crowded salon. Franklin, Johnson, and Richardson, George Selwyn and Lord Chesterfield, cross the stage and disappear, after a few remarks of their own or the author's. For military officers, who figure in all his novels, he has ever a kindly word; and also for sailors, although it is only in his last (unfinished) novel that he takes up the navy. For English clergymen, especially for bishops, he has no indulgence at all; and he seems to be possessed by the commonplace error of believing that the prevailing types of the Anglican Church in the eighteenth century were the courtier-bishop and the humble obsequious chaplain. The typical Irishman of fiction, with his mixture of recklessness and cunning, warm-hearted and unveracious, is to be found, we think, in every one of Thackeray's larger novels, except in the "Virginians;" the Scotsman is rare, having been considerably used up by Walter Scott and his assiduous imitators. We may notice (parenthetically) that our own day is witnessing a marvellous revival of Highlanders and Lowlanders in fiction, from Jacobite adventures to the pawky wit and humble incidents of the kailyard. In the "Newcomes" we return regretfully to the novel of contemporary society; wherewith disappears all the light haze of enchantment that hangs over the revival of distant times, even though they lie no further behind us than the eighteenth century. Such a change of scene necessitates and completes the transition from the romantic to the realistic; for how can a picture of our own environment, which any one can verify, avoid being more or less photographic? In one sense it is a continuation of the historic novel,

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which has only to put archaic literary costume to as a presentation of social history brought up to date; the method of minute description, the portrayal of manners, are the same, with the drawback that the celebrities of the day must be kept off the stage. Any eighteenth-century personage might figure, with effect, in the "Virginians," while Macaulay and Palmerston could hardly have been sketched off, however briefly and good-naturedly, in the "Newcomes." In all essential respects the tone and treatment are unaltered in the two stories; although the ironical spirit, restrained in the historical novels by a sense of dramatic consistency, is again among us having great wrath, as Thackeray surveys the aspect of the London world around him. The character of Colonel Newcome, his distinguished gallantry, his spotless honor, his simplicity and credulity, is drawn with truth and tenderness; and some of the lesser folk are admirable for their kindliness and usefulness. But what a society is this in which the Colonel is landed upon his return from India! He calls, with his son, at his brother's house in Bryanston Square:--

"It's my father," said Clive to the 'menial' who opened the door: "my aunt will see Colonel Newcome."

"Missis not at home," said the man. "Missis is gone in the carriage. Not at this door. Take them things down the area steps, young man," bawls out the domestic to a pastry-cook's boy.

and John struggles back, closing the door on the astonished Colonel.

An astonishment that most Londoners of his time would have assuredly shared; unless, indeed, the West-end door-step has gained wonderfully by the scrubbing of sixty years. On the relations between masters and servants Thackeray was never more severe than in this book; he is irritated by the marching in of the household brigade

to family prayers; and he declares that we "know no more of that race which inhabits the basement floor, than of men and brethren of Timbuctoo, to whom some among us send missionaries," a monstrous imputation. He constantly resumes the moralizing attitude; and his pungent persiflage is poured out, as if from an apocalyptic vial, upon worldliness and fashionable insolence. Sir Barnes Newcome's divorce from the unhappy Lady Clara furnishes a text for sad and solemn anathema upon the mercenary marriages in Hanover Square, where "St. George of England may behold virgin after virgin offered up to the devouring monster, Mammon, may see virgin after virgin driven away, just as in the Soldan of Babylon's time, but with never a champion to come to the rescue." We would by no means withhold from the modern satirist of manners the privilege of using forcibly figurative language, or of putting a lash to his whip. Yet, if his novels are, as we have suggested, to be regarded as historical, in the sense of recording impressions, drawn from life for the benefit of posterity, such passages as those just quoted from Thackeray raise the general question whether documentary evidence of this kind as to the state of society at a given period is as valuable and trustworthy as it has usually been reckoned to be. He has himself declared that "upon the morals and national manners, works of satire afford a world of light that one would in vain look for in regular books of history,"-that "Pickwick," "Roderick Random," and "Tom Jones" "give us a better idea of the state and ways of the people than one could gather from any pompous or authentic histories." Whether Fielding and Smollett's contemporaries would have endorsed this opinion is the real question; for on such a point the judgment of Thackeray, who lived a century after them, cannot

be conclusive. It is probable that, to an Englishman of that day, the novels of these two authors appeared to be extraordinary caricatures of actual society, in town or country.

On the other hand, the story is excellently conducted, and each actor performs, with consummate skill, his part or hers; for in none of his works has Thackeray given higher proof of that dramatic power which brings out situations, leads on to the dénoument, and points the moral of the story, by a skil ful manipulation of various incidents and a remarkable numerous variety of characters. There is one chapter (ix. of vol. ii.), headed "Two or Three Acts of a Little Comedy," where he carries on the plot entirely by a light and sparkling dialogue which may be compared to some of A. de Musset's witti est "Proverbes." It is a book that could only have been composed by a first-class artist in the maturity of his powers, and for that very reason we must regret that it is steeped in bitterness; while Thackeray's rooted hostility to mothers-in-law misguides him into the æsthetic error of admitting a virago to scold frantically almost over the colonel's death-bed. The unvarying meanness and selfishness of Mrs. Mackenzie, and of Sir Barnes Newcome, fatigue the reader; for, whereas in the delineation of his amiable and high-principled characters, Thackeray is careful to shade off their bright qualities by a mixture of natural weakness, these ill-favored portraits stand out in the full glare of unredeemed insolence and low cunning.

In his last novel, broken off half-way by his death, Thackeray went back once more to that eighteenth century which, as he says in one of his letters, "occupied him to the exclusion almost of the nineteenth," and to the method of weaving fiction out of historical materials. We have already remarked upon his practice of opening with a

kind of family history, which explains the antecedent connections, relationship, and pedigree of the persons who are coming upon the stage, and marks out the background of his story. In "Denis Duval" he carries this preamble through two chapters, and arranges all the pieces on his board so carefully that an inattentive reader might lose his way among the preliminary details. One sees with what pleasure he has studied his favorite period in France and England, and how he enjoyed constructing, like Defoe, a fictitious autobiography that reads like a picturesque and genuine memoir of the times. Having thus laid out his plan, and prepared his mise en scène, he begins his third chapter with an animated entry of his actors, who thenceforward play their parts in a succession of incidents and adventures that are all adjusted and fitted in to the framework of time and place that he has taken so much pains to design for them. In this manner he touches upon the great events of contemporary history, like the French war, or illustrates the state of England by bringing in highwaymen and the press-gang; while a minute description of localities lends an air of simplicity to the tale of an old man who has (as he says) an extraordinarily clear remembrance of his boyhood.

The "Notes" which appeared in the "Cornhill Magazine," June, 1864, as an epilogue to the last lines written by Thackeray, when the story stopped abruptly, throw curious light on the methods of gathering his material and preparing his work. Just as he visited the Blenheim battlefield, when he was engaged upon Esmond, so he went down to Romney Marsh, where Denis Duval was born and bred, surveyed Rye and Winchelsea as if he were drawing plans of those towns, and collected local traditions of the coast and the country, of the smugglers, the Huguenot settlements, and the old war

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