Page images

These ominous curses were prophetic. The departure of Zaira for the Continent brought De Courcy's apostasy to a crisis. Her father having died suddenly, deprived her of every clue, as she thought, to discover where her child existed; and the discovery of how far her affections were like to hurry her, was another motive for her departure. She saw De Courcy once more, however, and the result of their interview was, his obtaining permission to attend her to the Continent on the footing of a companion, who, at the expiry of a twelvemonth, might claim possession of her hand. There is a letter of the deserted and heart-broken Eva to her faithless lover, which abounds with touches of beautiful and natural feeling. She thanked him for the wholesome cruelty which had restored to heaven a heart which, for his sake, had begun to love the world. She forgave him, and concluded with this pathetic prophecy.

"You will return in spring; in spring, you will be back with your triumphant beautiful bride: perhaps you will visit this room from some lingering feeling; you will see the flowers, the books, the music you once loved, all in their place, where you formerly wished to see them; and perhaps you will ask, where am I.—“ Í came, says the eastern tale you told me, " to the tombs of my friends, and asked where are they? and echo answered, Where?" II. 276.


In the hope of rendering her juvenile lover all that was worthy, as she already accounted him all that was amiable, Zaira had yielded to the culpable weakness of becoming accessory to his breach of promise. She had not doubted that she could attach him to her by the double charms of beauty and talent, added to those of superior intellect. But Paris-that Paris in which even the lover of the Princess of Babylon became disloyal-was doomed to prove the vanity of her expec


The fidelity of a man is like the virtue of a female when it has succumbed in one temptation,-the sense of fine feeling is lost, and it seldom resists another. Yet, we are far from thinking the second defection of Charles de Courcy, amiable and generous as he is painted, as half so probably motived as his first offence against the code of constancy. His desertion of the simple and narrow-minded Eva for a woman of such brilliant talent and powers as Zaira, while it was highly blameworthy, is but too probable an occurrence. But that, unsated by possession, and witnessing the prodigious effects produced by Zaira's talents on all that was brave and illustrious in Europe, and which was then (in 1814) assembled in Paris, he should have wantonly deserted the sacred object of his affections, and preferred to her, for ever so short a space, a certain Eulalie de Terranges, so inferior to her in all respects, exceeds

every extended limit of indulgence which we can allow to a susceptible and fickle disposition, fixes upon Mr Maturin's hero the odious character of a male coquette, and makes us almost identify a character so effeminate with that ascribed by the satirist to a countryman of De Courcy's

A motley figure of the Fribble tribe,

Which heart can scarce conceive or pen describe,
Nor male nor female neither, and yet both
Of neuter gender, though of Irish growth,
A six foot suckling, mincing in its gait,
Affected, peevish, prim and delicate.

[ocr errors]

Lest we should appear, however, to have judged too harshly of De Courcy, we will briefly recapitulate the various motives alleged for his a second time breaking the most solemn ties that a man can form, and deserting Zaira in Paris, as he had deserted Eva in Dublin. The blaze of Zaira's mental superiority seems to have become too scorching for De Courcy to bear, when he was no longer screened by the opportunity of retiring to contrast its brilliancy with the more calm moonlight character of Eva. She had pretensions, besides, to guide and to instruct him; and no man cares to be guided and instructed by a woman. Moreover, in the opinion of an experienced Frenchman, Zaira was trop exigeante, too determined to dazzle and to delight, and to inspire every moment with rapture of one description or another. Pleasure itself, so protracted,' says this connoisseur, so exaggerated, must become pain. It is like the punishment of Regulus, cutting off the eyelids to turn the light of the sun into torture.' Besides, there was the dissipation of Parisian society, and the shame of being seen one of the train of an actress-he a gentleman of fortune and birth; and there was the discovery, that Zaira had been a wife and a mother, which she had imprudently left him to receive from others; and there was a letter of expostulation from his kind guardian, conjuring him to avoid a disgraceful alliance, and not to suffer himself to be trailed over the Continent, the overgrown pupil of a female pedagogue. Lastly, there was a natural love of change, and some regret after the discarded Eva. If all these reasons cannot palliate De Courcy's second apostasy to the reader, we must abandon him to their severest condemnation for deserting Zaira, and announce his speedy return to Ireland. It was in vain that she degraded herself by following him even in the streets-it was impossible to recal his affections. The arrival of Montgomery, with intelligence-that Eva was in a deep decline, brought his resoJution to a crisis, and he quitted Paris. From this period there is little more occasion for narrative. The author traces the various steps by which Eva approaches to the harbour where there is

rest from each earthly storm-the affectionate services of her adopted mother-the selfish speculations of Wentworth, and the more basely selfish brutalities of the vile Tartuffe Macowen. With the history of Eva's graduated decline, is contrasted the despairing state of Zaira; her conferences and controversies with Cardonneau, a French sceptical philosopher; her escape from his snares; her resolution to become a devotee, and her horror at finding herself unable to entertain that warmth of enthusiastic zeal necessary to give effect to the Catholic nostrum of penance; her resolution to put herself to death, with all the preparations which she solemnly adopted; and her abandoning her purpose, startled by an impressive dream or vision, which impelled her to follow her versatile lover to Ireland. All these moods of a despairing mind are well described, but too much protracted. The mind becomes weary of accumulated horrors, having all reference to the same person and set of events, and belonging to a catastrophe which is inevitable, and full in view. The skill of the author, his knowledge of the human mind, his talent at expressing sorrow, in all the varieties of her melancholy language, proves unequal to the task-during the first perusal at least-of securing unwearied attention. His labours seem as if they were employed to diversify or adorn a long strait avenue of yews and cypresses, terminating in the full view of a sepulchre.

At length, however, the various persons of the narrative, pursuers and pursued, are reassembled in Dublin. De Courcyhis own health destroyed by remorse and the conflict of contending passions, dares to solicit an interview with Eva-dares to confide his repentance to Mrs Wentworth, with whose character, naturally warm and even passionate, though now subjected to the control of religion, the reader has been already made acquainted. We have no hesitation in placing the meeting betwixt this lady and the penitent who had wounded her peace so bitterly, by the side of the pathetic scenes of the same sort in, Richardson. But we have been already too liberal in quotations; and the conclusion of the tale must be briefly summed up. In her wanderings through Dublin, Zaira finds her maniac mother on her deathbed; and learns from her the fact, that she had been the unconscious rival of her own daughter, and the means of her descending to an untimely grave. After this communication, made with the same wild and impressive dignity with which Mr Maturin has all along invested this person, the unhappy woman expires; and the yet more unhappy Zaira hastens to Wentworth Street, where she finds Eva just dead. De Courcy also slept, to awake no more; and the author thus closes his melancholy narrative.

The following spring, the Miss Longwoods, gay and happy, were escorted by youthful, titled bridegrooms into that very church. They entered it fluttering in bridal finery; and as they quitted it, their steps trod lightly on the graves of De Courcy and Eva.-Such is the condition of life.

.......... Zaira still lives, and lives in Ireland. A spell seems to bind her to the death-place of her daughter and lover. Her talents are gone, at least they are no longer exerted: The oracles may still be there, but it is only the tempest of grief that now scatters their leaves. Like Carathis in the vaults of Eblis, her hand is constantly pressed on her heart, in token of the fire that is burning there for ever; and those who are near her, constantly hear her repeat, "My child-I have murdered my child!" When great talents

are combined with calamity, their union forms the tenth wave of hu man suffering;—grief becomes inexhaustible from the unhappy fertility of genius, and the serpents that devour us, are generated out of our own vitals. III. 407, 408.

The length of our analysis, and of our quotations, are the best proof of the pleasure with which we have read this moral and interesting tale,—and may stand in place of eulogy. We have also hinted at some of the author's errors; and we must now, in all candour and respect, mention one of considerable importance, which the reader has perhaps anticipated. It respects the resemblance betwixt the character and fate of Zaira and Corinne,-a coincidence so near, as certainly to deprive Mr Maturin of all claim to originality, so far as this brilliant and well painted character is concerned. In her accomplishments, in her beauty, in her talents, in her falling a victim to the sion of a fickle lover, Zaira closely resembles her distinguished pasprototype. Still, however, she is Corinne in Ireland, contrasted with other personages, and sustaining a different tone of feeling and conversation and argument; so that we pardon the want of originality of conception, in consideration of the new lights thrown upon this interesting female, who, in the full career of successful talent, and invested with all the glow of genius, sacrifices the world of taste and of science for an unhappily-placed affection. On the other hand, the full praise, both of invention and execution, must be allowed to Mr Maturin's sketch of Eva-so soft, so gentle, so self-devoted-such a mixture of the purity of heaven with the simplicity of earth, concealing the most acute feelings under the appearance of devout abstraction, and unable to express her passion otherwise than by dying for

The various impressions received by good and by bad dispositions from the profession of methodistical or evangelical tenets, form a curious chapter in the history of our modern manners. Mr Maturin has used the scalpel, not we think unfair

ly, but with professional rigour and dexterity, in anatomizing the effects of a system which is making way amongst us with increasing strength, and will one day have its influence on the fate perhaps of nations. But we resume our criticisms. The character of De Courcy we will not resume;-it is provokingly inconsistent; and we wish the ancient fashion of the Devil flying off with false-hearted lovers, as in the ballad of the Wandering Prince of Troy, had sustained no change in his favour.

Indeed, such a catastrophe would not have been alien to the genius of Mr Maturin, who, in the present as well as in former publications, has shown some desire to wield the wand of the enchanter, and to call in the aid of supernatural horrors. While De Courcy was in the act of transferring his allegiance from Eva to Zaira, the phantom of the latter-her wraith as we call in Scotland the apparition of a living person-glides past him, arrayed in white, with eyes closed, and face pale and colourless, and is presently afterwards seen lying beneath his feet as he assists Zaira into the carriage. Eva has a dream, corresponding to the apparition in all its circumstances. This incident resembles one which we have read in our youth in Aubrey, Baxter, or some such savoury and sapient collector of ghoststories; but we chiefly mention it, to introduce a remarkable alteration in the tragedy of Bertram, adopted by the author, we believe, with considerable regret. It consists in the retrenchment of a passage or two of great poetical beauty, in which Bertram is represented as spurred to the commission of his great crimes, by the direct agency of a supernatural and malevolent being. We have been favoured with a copy of the lines by a particular friend and admirer of the author, to whom he presented the manuscript copy of his play, in which alone they exist. The Prior, in his dialogue with Bertram, mentions the dark knight of the forest,

So from his armour named and sable helm,
Whose unbarred vizor mortal never saw.

He dwells alone; no earthly thing lives near him,
Save the hoarse raven croaking o'er his towers,

And the dank weeds muffling his stagnant moat.

Bertram. I'll ring a summons on his barred portal

Shall make them through their dark valves rock and ring. Prior. Thou'rt mad to take the quest.-Within my memory

One solitary man did venture there

Dark thoughts dwelt with him, which he sought to vent,
Unto that dark compeer we saw his steps,

In winter's stormy twilight, seek that pass

But days and years are gone, and he returns not.
Bertram. What fate befel him there?

Prior. The manner of his end was never known.

« PreviousContinue »