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Art. IX. Anna St. Ives: a Novel. By Thomas Holcroft. izmo.
7 Vols. 11. 15. fewed. Shepperson and Reynolds. 1792. IMPROBABILITY on the one side, and triteness on the other,
are the Scylla and Charybdis of novelists. To fall into the latter, and to perish in oblivion, is the certain fate of feeble minds, destitute of that native vigour which is the parent of originality. To be borne away by the former is not unfrequently the misfortune of writers, whose fancy is not steadily kept under the direction of good sense and a correct taste. It is easy to perceive which of these errors is most pardonable. A ftill current of ordinary incident and trivial sentiment can only lull the reader to repose, and bear away the writer to some quiet recess in the temple of Dullness: but the genius, which sometimes takes an extravagant fight, is capable of making delightful excursions into the regions of fiction. To convict a writer of occasionally overstepping the bounds of nature, if it be a reflection on his judgment, is at the same time a compliment to his talents. We may therefore be allowed, without fear of offending the very sensible author of this novel, or its numerous admirers, to give it as our opinion concerning the principal character of his piece, that, though it may merit the praise of originality, it is liable to critical cenfure as a violation of probability.
Anna St. Ives, in her leading features, is a child of imagination, of which we may venture to assert that no archetype exists in nature.-A young lady, with high and rigid notions of propriety, taking a young man, the son of her father's gardener, as a kind of sentimental friend and favourite, on a journey to London and Paris;—giving such encouragement to his hopes as authorized him to say that, to the end of time he should persist in thinking her his by right;'-declaring, that 4 as the ought, she loves him infinitely; -and, in the burst of paffion, sealing her love with a kiss, in which the purity of the will fanctified the extravagance of the act;'--and notwithftanding all this, under the notion of controuling the passions, and of living for the cause of virtue, relinquilhing the connection which promised entire felicity, and admitting the addresses of a young man of brilliant talents, of libertine principles and manners, the brother of her female friend, with the romantic design of correcting his errors, and of restoring his mind to its true ftation ;--inviting her philosophical friend, whom she has refused to marry, to aflift her in executing her project ;-in unsuspecting fimplicity communicating her design to her new lover, and catechifing him concerning his power and inclination to conform to her fyftem :-- after promising him marriage, laying open to him the whole story of her former attachment, not excepting even the circumstance of the kiss, as an instructive lesson of morality ;-entering into philosophical conferences with him concerning the progress of mind toward perfection, and the different order of things which must inevitably be the result, till, at laft, the concedes, that, in a perfect state of society, no domestic appropriation can subsist; and, while she admires his candour and force of thinking, does not perceive that he has been laying a snare for her ruin ;-and, without discovering her danger, perfifting in this philosophical reverie to the instant in which the hypocrite unmasks, and, on the principles which she has admitted, demands, as an act of justice, the rights of an husband :- all this is so remote from every thing which we observe in real life, that we must pronounce it highly improbable, if not wholly unnatural. In the romantic character of Anna St. Ives, there is, however, much to admire. As a fpecimen of her noble sentiments, we shall copy the catechism by which the examines Clifton, to discover whether his mind be capable of an alliance with her opinions and sentiments :
• You expect one kind of happiness, I another. Can they coalefce? You imagine you have a right to attend your appetites, and pursue your pleatures. I hope to see my husband forgetting himself, or rather placing self gratification in the pursuit of universal good, deaf to the calls of passion, willing to encounter adversity, seproof, nay death, the champion of truth, and the unrelenting enemy
of error. I think, Madam, I dare do all that can be required of me. • I know your courage is high. I know too that courage is one of the first and most essential qualities of mind. Yet perhaps I might and ought to doubr, nay to ask, whether you dare do many things?
• What is it, Madam, that I dare not do?
• Dare you receive a blow, or fuffer yourself falsely to be called liar, or coward, without seeking revenge, or what honour calls satisfaction ? Dare you think the servant that cleans your shoes is your equal, unless not so wise or good a mao; and your superior, if wiser and better ! Dare you suppose mind has no sex, and that woman is not by nature the inferior of man:• Madam
Nay, nay, no compliments ; I will not be interrupted-Dare you think that riches, rank, and power, are vsurpations; and that wisdom and virtue only can claim diftinction? Dare you make it the business of your whole life to overturn these prejudices, and to promote among mankind that spirit of universal benevolence which Thall render them all equals, all brothers, all stripped of their artificial and false wants, all participating the labour requisite to produce the necessaries of life, and all combining in one universal effort of mind, for the progress of knowledge, the destruction of error, and the spreading of eternal truth?
* There is such energy, Madam, in all you say, that while I liften to you, I dare do any thing, dare promise any thing.'
Though we cannot allow the character of the principal he. toine of the piece to be drawn from nature, we readily admit most of the other characters to be natural ; and we think the author entitled to great praise for the distinctness with which they are conceived, and for the spirit and energy with which they are expressed. Henley, the philosophical favourite of Anna, is a character of high merit and dignity; in which, noble principles, delicate sensibility, commanding talents, invincible fortitude, and unbounded generosity, are happily combined. Clifton, the subject of Anna's reforming plan,-though, in the latter part of the story, his character degenerates into the most abandoned depravity, - yet, at a more early period, displays a brilliancy of fancy, and a gaiety of humour, which are highly amusing. Of this character, we fhall give a specimen from a letter to his fifter Louisa, in which he supposes himself moulded after her romantic ideas:
• I am obliged to lay down my pen with laughing at the idea of Miss Louisa's brother, supposing him to be exactly of her modelling. I think I see him appear before her ; the seated in state, on a chair raised on four tressels and two old doors, like a strolling actress mimicking a queen in a barn! He dressed in black, his hair smugly curled; his face and his hoes Mining; bis white handkerchief in his right hand; a prayer book, or the morals of Epictetus in his left; not interlarding bis discourse with French and Italian phrajes, but ready with a good rumbling mouthful of old Greek, which he had composed, I mean compiled, for the purpose! Then, having advanced one leg, wiped his mouth, put his left hand in his breeches pocket, clenched his right, and raised his arm, he begins his learned dissertation on well-digefled principles, ardent defire of truth, incelant fruggles to foake of prejudices, and forth are chanted, in Dalal cwang and tragic recitative, his emanations of foul, bursts of thought, and flashes of genius!
• But you would not be satirical. Gentle, modest maiden! And surely it becomes the cutored brother to imitate this kind forbearance. My faculties were always lively? And I must pardon you, if you exped too much? Upon my soul, this is highly comic! Expeat ioo much! And there is danger then that I hould not equal your expectations - Prithee, my good girl, jingle the keys of your barpsichord, and be quiet. Pore over your fine folio receips book, and appease your thirst after knowledge. Satisfy your longing defire to do good, by making jellies, conserves, and caraway cakes. Pot pippins, brew raspberry wine, and candy orange chips. Study boros, bruises, and balsams. Difil surfeis, colic, and wormwood water. Conco&t hiera-picra, rhubarb beer, and oil of charity; and fympathize over sprains, whitloes, and broken fins. Get a charm 1o cure the ague, and render yourself renowned. Spin, lew, and knit. Collect your lamentable rabble around you, dole out your Rev. JUNE 1792.
charities, listen to a full chorus of blellings, and take your seat among the saints.
• You see, child, I can give advice as well as yourself; aye and I will bellow it most plentifully, if you happen to have any delire after more. I hate to be ungrateful; you shall have no opportunity to utrer your muity maxim u pon me--" That the sin of ingraticude is worse than the sin of witchcraft.” You shall have weight for weight, ineasure for measure, chicken; aye, my marker woman, and a lumping pennyworth. Brotherly for litterly offificns.''
The inferior characters are well drawn : but we have too much of old Abimelech Henley's vulgar absurdities.
In the midst of the bufiness of the story, the author finds occasions of introducing moral sentiments and philosophical observations. Many fuch are interspersed through the letters of Anna and Henley. From those of the former to Louisa, the following passage may serve as a specimen. Anna, regretting that she made a less rapid progress than me wished in her favourite project, indulges her romantic turn in the following refection:
· The march of knowledge is flow, impeded as it is by the almost impenetrable forests and morasies of error. Ages have passed away, in labours to bring some of the most simple of moral iruths 10 light, which ftill remain overclouded and obscure. How far is the world, at present, from being convinced that it is not only porfible, but perfectly pracicable, and highly natural, for men 10 af. sociate with moft' fraternal union, happiness, peace, and virtue, were but all distinction of rank and riches wholly abolished; were all the false wants of luxury, which are the necessary offspring of individual property, cut off; were all equally obliged to labour for the wants of nature, and for nothing more; and were they all afterward to unite, and to employ the remainder of their time, which would then be ample, in the promotion of art and science, and in the search of wisdom and truth!
· Tlie few arts that would then remain would be grand; not frivolous, not the efforts of cunning, not the prostitution of genius in distress, to flatter the vanity of insolent wealth and power, or the depraved taste of an ill-judging multitude; but energies of mind, uniting all the charms of fancy with all the severe beauties of confiftent truth.
• Is it not lamentable to be obliged to doubt whether there be a hundred people in all England, who, were they to read such a letter as this, would not immediately laugh at the absurd reveries of the writer?--But let them look round, and deny, if they can, that the present wretched system, of each providing for himself instead of the whole for the whole, does not inspire suspicion, fear, difputes, quarrels, mutual contempt, and hatred. Instead of nations, or rather of the whole world, uniting to produce one great effect, the perfection and good of all, each family is itself a ftare ; bound to the rest by interelt and cunning, but separated by the very same passions, and a thousand others; living cogesher under a kind of 6
truce, öut continually ready to break out into o; en war; continually jealous of each other; coctirually on the defenfive, because continually dreading an attack; ever ready to ufurp on the rights of others, and perpetually entangled in the most wretched contentions, concerning what all would neglect, if not despise, did nor the errors of this selfish ryttem give value to what is in itself worthless.'
The incidents of this performance are, on the whole, weil contrived, and arranged so as to keep awake the reader's at. tention. The narrative, though long, is never tedious: but, toward the close, the circumstances of distress and horror are too minutely detailed. The catastrophe would have been more satisfactory, if Clifton had fallen a sacrifice to his vices; his foul plot against Henley and Anna supposed a depravity of heart, which left no room for repentance.
In fine, though we think this novel by no means free from defects, it has originality and excellencies which will not fail to ensure its succels, and of these, in our opinion, the principal is, that each character has its appropriate sentiments and peculiar language, marked with that diversity which genius alone can produce.
E. * Mrs. Gunning's Novel will appear in our next Review.
Art. X. Medical Facts and Observations. Volume the First. 8vo.
pp. 224. 35. 6d. Boards. Johnson. 1791. This work is introduced to the public by its editor, Dr.
Simmons, in the following words: · The present collection of facts and observacions is intended as a sequel to the London Medical Journal. The indulgent manner in which that work was received by the public, and the numerous and valuable communications with which the editor was favoured by his correspondents, induced him to persevere in bringing it out, at stated quarterly periods, much longer than well suited his other avocations. But that mode of publication having at length been attended with great inconvenience, both to his profesional engagements and to ihe deliberate management of the work, he became defirovs of conducting his fucure labours in a way more convenient and satisfactory to himself.
He was aware, that, by making such as alteration in the plan of the Journal as might enable him to continue it as his leisure, he should retain the advantages which an established work might be expected to have over a new undertaking; but the respect he owed to his readers (many of whom might, perhaps, have considered any farther change in the mode of publication as too great a deviation from his original plan) induced bim rather to bring the Londen Medical Journal io a conclusion, and to begin a new Collection, the arrangement of which, so far as should relate to the periods of publication, might be better adapted to his or her avocations.