Изображения страниц


had enjoyed herself very much. Mrs. Erskine went rapidly up stairs, and Georgy followed, but stood with her hand upon her door, and listened as she heard Air. Erskine's voice down stairs, and his footsteps as he went into his sitting-room. She would not have prolonged her visit there a day, if by her own wish she could have done so; and yet she reckoned up every hour that yet remained to her, like a miser his hoard: every footstep that she heard, and every time she looked at him, she computed as a sort of gain. Then a twinge of vexation came upon her, as she still heard those words, “Was I not in a detestable humour that morning ?' They had been said with a faint tone of royalty, which made the remembrance of them intolerable to her.

“She felt that she was in a false position. What had she come there for? and the words returned to her again, carrying with them a homily of their own. Then she tried to turn against him, to criticize him, and to reflect coldly; but she could not find in her heart one harsh thought. All that he said was well said ; all that he did was well done. She loved him in all ways, as mothers love their children : for his virtues, and still more for his faults. Then she started again, and her heart beat violently as she heard his footsteps when he came up stairs and shut the door of his room. Life was very long she thought, as she lay down that night, and remembered that one more day would end this.

“ The next morning passed quickly. Georgy never saw Mr. Erskine, and in the evening she was left alone again. There was a lurking hope in her breast that perhaps he would come again; it had grown up in spite of herself. She had not seen him all day, and so—perhaps : but it grew late, and her vision was not destined to be realized. She sat at the window, watching the line of lamps that were urging the departure of the summer twilight. Those lamps and that dull, bald street, they meant home to her; and tomorrow she would leave home, and never find it again. She always knew his footsteps and felt his approach; but this time Mr. Erskine had pushed back the curtain which hung between the drawing-rooms, and was standing by her before she was aware.

“Oh! you have come,' she said, abruptly. “Why, did you expect me?' No, not at all,' she answered (still more abruptly), and took up her work; sitting with her back to the window, where she could not by any possibility see.

“'You can't see.'
"I forgot,' she said, laughing, and turned towards the window.

You are very industrious.'
Well, one must do something.'

I never heard you moralize so sternly before.' Then there was a short pause. She had never mentioned Grainthorpe to him when she could help it; never spoke to him of her quarrel with her uncle ; and if he ever alluded to it, always resolutely passed over the subject--now he mentioned it suddenly.

“Georgy-Miss Sandon, you are not very happy at Grainthorpe?'

“She looked up at him and coloured. Tell me, if it is not an impertinent question : you were engaged by your uncle's desire, not your own?'

“No, no, I did it-it was my doing, I wanted to get away-I did it,' she said, rather incoherently.

"My child, was it only to get away from Grainthorpe that you engaged yourself?' She got up quickly, and going to the window, sat down there, and said, 'It was very foolish of me; but I shall make myself quite happy at Grainthorpe: I am not going to marry at all.'

Not?” • No.' “She did not see him half smile at her effort to brave it out unconcernedly. She had never looked so childlike as when she uttered that deliberate decision, No; and she was too unconcerned to look at him. He sat down beside her in the window, and bent very near her. He had bent down so once before ; and her heart beat as it had done once before, by the piano at the Grange. There was so much deference, and so much gentle respect in his manner, and yet it was so calmly assured-it always fascinated and mastered her. “ • Do you love no one, then ?'

He took her hand; but his sentence appeared so completely finished, that she drew back, and snatched her hand away. It seemed as if he were cross-questioning her at pleasure. For one instant he looked at her as she crimsoned, and her eyes grew angry and full of tears; then he said, quite humbly :

« « Could you ever be my wife? Do you love me enough ?'

“She did not lift her eyes, and as if the words were very difficult to speak, she said : “You know I do.'”

[ocr errors]


This is not our last parting, we trust, from Ashford Owen.

On the subject of “ North and South,” we have more disposition to be contentious. It has much of the great power of its author; but the plot is sadly disjointed, and the interstices are “viewy.” The characters do not move gradually through, the narrative, but, so to say, get through it, in kangaroo fashion, by a series of little successive springs, and the characters are rather subordinated to the "views,” than the “views” to the characters. The story is clearly rather incoherent, and the incident invented, as emergency dictated, to get up periodic interest when the book became too discussional. The style, too, is sometimes touched with something morbid, from which “ Cranford ” was, we think, quite free. We refer to references to the descriptions of emotion, which are overdrawn, and especially to one common symptom of false sentiment, in which many novelists indulge--the description of minute changes in the physical expression in periods of deep feeling. This is, we



are convinced, unartistic as well as false taste. The minute physical changes are not observed in themselves, but only in the change of expression which they produce, in all cases of deep emotion. It is a mistake both in taste and art, to draw attention to “curving throats,” “ dilating lips,” &c. &c., as the symptoms of emotion. These things may produce the expressional effect, but the very interest of the result in expression prevents observations on the physiological medium. It would require a scientific man, intending to prepare “plates” of the different emotions, to note these things. And the mind instinctively shrinks from the record of them. The grief and the love and the fear should absorb the attention, and not the resulting state of muscular action. It is uncomfortable, and always suggests the presence of an unparticipating spectator with a note-book. Mr. Henry Lennox is one of the best sketches in the book ; and his more successful rival, Mr. Thornton, is also a masterly piece of drawing. Mr. and Mrs. Hale, too, are skilfully delineated, and we regretted to lose them unnecessarily from the scene. The action of the tale is “retarding” enough in one sense, but not in the German sense, for the delays do not bear on the plot; they are not fresh obstacles to be overcome, but interjectional distractions. There is sufficient excuse for this, however, in the periodic form of the tale; but art will not endure piece-meal generation : and the author has this time sacrificed art in the interest of popular amusement.

Of Miss Sewell's tale we have neither space nor inclination left to say many words. It is one of the poorest creations of her delicate but limited genius. There is the conscientious and child-like girl, and the irresolute, “viewy” girl,—the same characters, very slightly modified, that we had in the “ Earl's Daughter" and elsewhere ;—there is the microscopic view of small temptations, and there is Miss Seweli's objective conscience, the faultless clergyman; there are a few smugglers, not much in her line, and a fine old general who is; and there are two good aunts impersonating respectively exigeant Duty, and self-denying Love, who are delicately true to life as formerly, but not differing much, except in name, from antecedent aunts (or mothers). The stage and the parts are changed, but her company of actors is the same.



Reports of Committees of Inquiry into Public Offices, and Papers

connected therewith. (Presented to both Houses of Par

liament by command of Her Majesty.) 1854. Papers relating to the Reorganization of the Civil Service.

(Presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of

Her Majesty.) 1855. L ITTLE as the readable character of blue-books is appre

ciated by the public, a great deal of our best and most thoughtful writing is laid up within their covers; and any one who should publish a judicious selection from their contents would surprise his readers by the number of weighty and often piquant observations which he would present to them. The remark applies forcibly to the collection of papers on the Civil Service, which has already excited so much discussion, and of which we propose to make some further mention. It contains, as every one now knows, the criticisms of many of the most eminent late and present Civil Servants of the Crown on the plan of Sir Stafford Northcote and Sir Charles Trevelyan for filling all government posts by the victors in open competitive examinations. It should be noted at the outset, that, taking the Report of those gentlemen, and the letter of Mr. Jowett appended to it, in connexion with each other, it is sufficiently apparent that the propounders are fully alive to the distinction between the many thousand inferior posts of an out-door and in-door character, and the comparatively few in which the higher mental faculties are called into action; and that they propose entirely different systems of examination for the two classes.

The proposal of so sweeping a change as the abolition of the whole system of patronage, and the making all appointments whatsoever depend on the fiat of an examining board deal ng with all candidates who may present themselves with due certificates of physical and moral fitness, is supported by a strongly-worded statement of the present deficiencies of the service.

“It would be natural to expect that so important a profession would attract into its ranks the ablest and the most ambitious of the youth of the country; that the keenest emulation would prevail among those who had entered it; and that such as were endowed with superior qualifications would rapidly rise to distinction and public eminence. Such, however, is by no means the case. Admission into the Civil Service is indeed eagerly sought after, but it is for the unambitious, and the indolent or incapable, that it is chiefly desired. Those whose abilities do not warrant an expectation that they will succeed in the open professions, where they must encounter the competition of their contemporaries, and those whom indolence of temperament or physical infirmities unfit for active exertions, are placed in the Civil Service, where they may obtain an honourable livelihood with little labour, and with no risk; where their success depends upon their simply avoiding any flagrant misconduct, and attending with moderate regularity to routine duties ; and in which they are secured against the ordinary consequences of old age, or failing health, by an arrangement which provides them with the means of supporting themselves after they have become incapacitated."

Frequent and prolonged absences from ill-health are also noticed, and the result is thus stated :

The result naturally is, that the public service suffers both in internal efficiency and in public estimation. The character of the individuals influences the mass, and it is thus that we often hear complaints of official delays, official evasions of difficulty, and official indisposition to improvement.

“ There are, however, numerous honourable exceptions to these observations, and the trustworthiness of the entire body is unimpeached. They are much better than we have any right to expect from the system under which they are appointed and promoted."

The expressions we have quoted have called forth numerous expressions of dissent, and some of indignation.

Sir Thomas Redington, Permanent Secretary to the Board of Control, thinks “that too unfavourable a view of the actual Civil Service has been taken."

Sir G. C. Lewis says: experience does not confirm the general description of the Civil Service given at the commencement of the Report. There are, indeed, in most offices inefficient persons who ought never to have been appointed, or ought subsequently to have been dismissed; but the large majority of clerks are efficient.” Mr. Murdoch, Chairman of the Emigration Board, expresses his “entire dissent from the disparaging terms in which the present Civil Service is spoken of.” Sir T. F. Fremantle, Chairman of the Board of Customs, believes “that the clerks and officers of the civil departments generally are faithful, diligent,


“ My

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »