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-youths of generous dispositions, volatile and impressible, unable to resist a pair of dark eyes, fringed with long dark eye-lashes; “meaning no harm,"_but liable at any moment to fall into fearful temptations. And often do we meet with the Hetty Sorrells; pretty, vain, selfish, and eager to grasp at the least hope of being "made a lady.” The result, in this narrative, is indeed terrible; but does not every newspaper, especially during the assizes, furnish just the counterpart of the picture ?
The contrasts offered, to the sinful and suffering couple, are not so obviously true to nature. The originals from which the portraits of Adam Bede and Dinah Morris are drawn, have doubtless existed, and some such characters may now exist. In the case of the poor Methodist class-leader, Dinah, we may hope and believe, that in a less resplendent degree, such characters, in shrinking, silence and reserve, have been, and are, not very rare.
But Adam Bedes are certainly not common; though we will not venture to doubt that such men have lived, and are yet living.
And this brings us to the fault,—the short-coming, of the book, —that fault to detect and point out which is our chief motive for thus noticing these volumes.
Adam Bede, the hero of the tale,—the “model man,"—is a journeyman-carpenter in the village of Hayslope. He is the especial favourite of the Rev. Adolphus Irwine, the vicar,—who is also rector of Broxton, and vicar of Blythe. (The period, we must repeat, is at the close of the last century.) These two, the vicar and the journeyman-carpenter, are the author's representatives of manly virtue. The vicar is intellectual, high-minded, generous, and unbigoted. The mechanic is an honest, energetic, clever, and affectionate English mechanic. And yet both the one and the other have little of what most men now term “ religion.” The vicar does not reside, or keep a curate. He rides over on each Sunday afternoon to “do duty;" when he preaches a short moral sermon, during which the farmers go to sleep. Adam is an affectionate, dutiful son, a good and honest workman, and is generally esteemed and liked. Yet, in one moment of deep excitement, he swears" by God ;” and when he has an errand to do in a town thirty miles off, he borrows a horse, and rides over on Sunday.
The author is aware that these things will startle some readers, and she advances the plea, that she is merely drawing a true picture of things as they were in the year 1799. Thus runs her apology :
“ • This rector of Broxton is little better than a pagan !'-I hear one of my lady-readers exclaim. How much more edifying it would have been if you had made him give Arthur some truly spiritual advice. You might have put into his mouth the most beautiful things,- quite as good as reading a sermon.'
“ Certainly I could, my fair critic, if I were a clever novelist, not obliged to creep servilely after nature and fact, but able to represent things as they never have been, and never will be."
We join issue with the author on this point. We have no doubt that her portrait of the Rev. Adolphus Irwine is a just and faithful one. But we demur to the truth of the rest of the picture.
It is not necessary for us to pass judgment on such men as this rector of Broxton is represented to be,-men of honour, of education, of intellect, and of kind and benevolent feelings; but rather indolent, luxurious, and, in the pulpit, sleep-inspiring. Many such may have the “the root of the matter" in them, and be found in their place on the right-hand of the Judge on the great accounting-day. But we cannot allow them to be held up, as a class, to admiration; while an utter silence is observed as to the real state of their parishes. These are not the men who " themselves and them that hear them.”
According to the writer before us, Mr. Irwine was beloved by his people, and was much preferred by them to "the zealous Mr. Ryde, who came there twenty years afterwards.” And the story keeps us among the people of Hayslope for some two or three years, during which time we see a good deal of the farmers, traders, mechanics, and labourers; and are allowed to discern little or nothing of vice, of ignorance, or of selfishness. According to the writer's view, the village and its vicar were well suited and well-contented ; and when the more zealous Mr. Ryde came, who “insisted strongly on the doctrines of the Reformation, " few clergymen could be less successful in winning the hearts of their parishioners than he.”
Now this is plainly unfair and unjust. Doubtless many a worthy, respectable old gentleman has slept on, and permitted his people to sleep on, for twenty years, and has been succeeded by an indiscreet enthusiast, who, with more real than knowledge, has created a ferment of controversy among the people in less than six months. But what does such a contrast prove ? That a quiet spirit of somnolency is the right spirit in which to handle questions concerning man's eternal destiny? Or that a parish is in a healthy condition when the people attend one single service on the Sunday, and doze through a short, moral sermon? Surely not.
We are under no necessity of opposing to this author's fancypicture of “ Hayslope" any fancy-picture of our own. position has no more force than another, and in that way no progress would ever be made. But the facts of the case are not in any doubt. Abundant proof might be adduced that the system which has been latterly dying out, of incumbents of two or three parishes doling out a morning service to one, and an afternoon service to another, and seeing little of the people except when “sent for," did not work that kind of result which is represented in the pages of Adam Bede. England, in its rural parishes, was not, at the close of the last century, in that state of tranquil happiness and innocent enjoyment which is depicted as existing in
the village of “ Hayslope.” On this point we might cite a variety of testimonies; but our narrow space will compel us to limit ourselves to a single well-known case.
Just about the time chosen for the story of Adam Bede—that is, at the end of the last century-two or three sisters, Hannah, Martha, and Sally More, left their former dwellings in London and in Bath, and fixed themselves in a new abode among the Mendip hills. Having been accustomed to an active life, and now having their time entirely at their own command, they soon began to enquire into the state of the villages around them; and they found them, in too many instances, in circumstances resembling those of “Hayslope ;" but then they also found,—what is kept quite out of sight in "Adam Bede," - the general prevalence of ignorance and vice.
The sisters visited all the parishes in their vicinity, and their report is nearly the same of all. In Mrs. Hannah More's Life, there are many letters and diaries descriptive of their labours, and of the opposition with which they were often met. One village they describe as “in a state of great depravity and ignorance. In another, they find "the poor sunk in a deplorable state of ignorance and vice.” In a third, they are shocked by “its extreme profligacy.” In a fourth, they say: "We visited every house in the place, and found every house a scene of the grossest ignorance and vice. We saw but one bible in all the parish, and that was used to prop a flower-pot. Eight people in the morning, and twenty in the afternoon, was considered a good congregation."
They found one populous parish, "in which there were not any boys or girls of any age who could tell who made them.” And when a school was established, “two farmers came to the door, very tipsy, vociferating that they would have no such methodistical
Open vice, among the girls, “afforded matter for horrid laughter and disgusting levity. In a word, most of these
' parishes were pronounced by Mrs. Hannah More herself to be “as dark as Africa."
Such is the grave and solid testimony which we oppose to the pleasant pictures furnished in Adam Bede. There is, indeed, one plain and palpable inconsistency which must strike most readers of this fiction. The brightest character in the whole story is that of Dinah Morris, who preaches on the village green, and spends most of her time in the labours of a home missionary. She is represented as commanding the veneration of all. The rector treats her with as much respect as if she were a lady;" and the young squire exclaims, “I could worship that woman!" And yet, if the happy, calm, and peaceful pictures of “Hayslupe" village were true and accurate, it is not easy to understand what occasion there could be for a woman to ramble about the parish preaching. Either the state of Hayslope, morally and religiously,
was deplorable, or else Dinah Morris was needlessly thrusting her sickle into another's corn.
On the whole, then, we admit Adam Bede to be a better book than the mass of novels, so far as we know anything about them. The author tramples under foot the old recipe for the composition of a novel. In her story, the young squire, though better than most young squires, commits a grievous sin, and suffers terribly in consequence of it; and the most beautiful girl of the whole company is also the weakest, the vainest, the most culpable, and the most unhappy. The hero, as we have said, is a mere artisan, and the brightest female character is a labourer for weekly wages. All this is more life-like, is truer, than the old circulating-library trash, in which the handsomest woman was married to the richest man, and fine clothes and fine persons were pictured as the main elements of human happiness. Still, with much truth, and a fine moral lesson, there is mixed up a very vague and imperfect view of “religion ;” and hence the general result is neither true to nature, nor is it of salutary tendency. The cautionary part of the book-its pictures of evil and of the results of that evil-are good, because they are true. But the model characters are drawn from the imagination ; and not being substantial and genuine, we can hardly expect from them any permanent good.
Adam Bede, we believe, is written by a lady. She may have sufficient reasons for wishing to withhold her name, nor is she obliged to reveal it. But there seems to us a palpable dishonesty in placing an ordinary, not a fictitious, name upon the title page. This is not a trifle: it is the difference between concealment and deception.
2. And now we must take up the second work on our list, which is from the pen of the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin—the sister of one of the most popular preachers in the United States. The Minister's Wooing, like Adam Bede, has obtained a very large circulation, and it is full of theology of a very questionable sort. We do not feel ourselves at liberty to pass over such a work as this without some censure.
The story (omitting all reference to a bye-play which goes on between Colonel Burr and a French lady) is of a very simple kind. The heroine, Mary Scudder, grows up with a juvenile attachment to a young cousin, James, who makes no profession of religion, and whose visits are therefore discountenanced by Mary's mother. James goes a long voyage; and in his absence Mrs. Scudder tries to lead her daughter's mind towards Dr. Hopkins, the " Minister” whose "wooing” thus comes to be described. A report comes home that James has been lost at sea. The mother thus succeeds, and gains Mary's assent to “the Minister's" suit. But, just before the wedding-day, the young sailor re-appears ; the Doctor is made acquainted with the former love of the young people; resigns his expected bride ; and so ends The Minister's
Wooing. The story, in itself, was not worth telling; its merits or demerits, such as they are, consist in the lessons of which the story is made the vehicle. And these lessons, we are bound to say, seem to us sometimes obscure, and at others absolutely mischievous.
Mrs. Stowe's chief drift or purpose seems to us to be, to vent her indignation against a peculiar form of ultra-Calvinism which was current in New England towards the close of the last century. She thus describes it :
“The preaching of those times was animated by an unflinching consistency, which never shrank from carrying an idea to its remotest logical verge. The sufferings of the lost were not kept from view, but proclaimed with a terrible power. Dr. Hopkins boldly asserts, that all the use which God will have for them is to suffer; this is all the end they can answer ; therefore all their faculties, and their whole capacities, will be employed and used for this end. .. .. The body can by omnipotence be made capable of suffering the greatest imaginable pain, without producing dissolution, or abating the least degree of life or sensibility. ... One way in which God will show his power in the punishment of the wicked, will be in strengthening and upholding their bodies and souls in torments which otherwise would be intolerable.'
“ The sermons preached by President Edwards on this subject are so terrific in their refined poetry of torture, that very few persons of quick sensibility could read them through without agony; and it is related, that when, in those calm and tender tones which never rose to passionate enunciation, he read these discourses, the house was often filled with shrieks and wailings, and that a brother minister once laid hold of his skirts, exclaiming, in an involuntary agony, 'Oh! Mr. Edwards ! Mr. Edwards ! is God not a God of
?' “ Not that these men were indifferent or insensible to the dread words they spoke: their whole lives and deportment bore thrilling witness to their sincerity. Edwards set apart special days of fasting, in view of the dreadful doom of the lost, in which he was wont to walk the floor, weeping and wringing his hands. Hopkins fasted every Saturday. David Brainerd gave up every refinement of civilized life to weep and the feet of hardened savages, if by any means he might save one. All, by lives of eminent purity and earnestness gave awful weight and sanction to their words.
“ If we add to this statement the fact, that it was always proposed to every enquiring soul, as an evidence of regeneration, that it should truly and heartily accept all the ways of God thus declared right and lovely, and from the heart submit to Him as the only just and good, it will be seen materials of tremendous internal conflict and agitation were all the while working in every bosom. Almost all the histories of religious experience of those times relate paroxysms of opposition to God and fierce rebellion, expressed in language which appals the very soul,—followed, at length, by mysterious elevations of faith and re-actions of confiding love, the result of Divine interposition, which carried the soul far above the region of the intellect, into that of direct spiritual intuition.
“ President Edwards records that he was once in this state of enmity, that the facts of the Divine administration seemed horrible to him,