The following are copies of reviews published in "The Athenaeum":

 

The Athenaeum, No 965, Page 416, 25 April 1846.

Emilia Wyndham.  By the Author of "Two Old Men's Tales", 3 Vols, Colburn.

We may augur, from the increasing frequency of her appearances, that the author of 'Two Old Men's Tales' is disposed to enter the lists against our lady writers of fiction for the championship; and, without presuming to adjudicate on this delicate question, we must say that she exhibits one requisite for supremacy in a measure greater that any of her contemporaries.  She is the most earnest of our tale-tellers.  Her scenery is no property-combination of bank and tree, such as will serve alike for the storm scene in 'Lear' of the village dance in a pastoral ballad-opera.  Her characters, though rarely original, are, without question, her own old acquaintances.  Best of all when the passion of the story rises, the power of the teller rises therewith.  She never arrives at a crisis of terror of emotion which "the pen is unable to describe".  The reader is hurried forward by the interest she excites - made indignant or tearful by the eloquence of her broken dialogue; he is taken by her into the "dark closet", where her "beings of the mind" are struggling with Fate.  It is true that there are certain disappointments in her Tales; their catastrophes are often ill wound up.  In 'Emilia Wyndham', we are left too uncertain of what became of the "Mother-cat" (as Browining's Huntsman to the Duchess would have called Mrs Danby the elder), - what of Emilia's father.  Then we meet impossibilities hard to digest; for instance, in this new tale, the miracles wrought by the maid Susan, - which, to us, seem little less wondrous, though less numerous, than the coupe de théâtre of her predecessor, Susan Hopley.  In style, again, our author is too interjectional, freakish, and incomplete.  The Old Men who wield rule and ferule (less genial, of course, than the Old Men who tell the tales) cannot sit tamely by, and see all the spasms and starts of the melodramatic French novel spoiling the manner of an admirable English novelist, without loudly crying, "Pande!"  But, whatever be the faults of our author, feebleness is not one.  Neither to be just, do they increase.  'Emilia Wyndham' is better written than 'Mount Sorel', though with not such unaffected vigour as will make a novel classical.

The heroine is daughter to the admirable wife of a silly, selfish projecting husband, who wastes a liberal property in trumpery extravagance and dealings with a knavish attorney.  The last touch is given to the destruction of the family fortunes, at the very moment when the poor mother's life is ebbing away.  She has roused herself to lay the dismal future before the eyes of Emila; a girl, who, like many other richly endowed creature, had longed to be a Queen Elizabeth, or a martyr - anything rather than a machine moving in a narrow circle of dull, daily trial.  This longing, however, is not to be fulfilled, though our heroines life began with an incident so promising as an attachment to a brilliant young soldier, serving in the Peninsula.  More grinding misery is in store for her.  She had surprised her feeble father closetted with the blood-sucker - the "little mean-looking attorney":-

"He made her a very low and obsequious bow, which she returned with a slight courtesy, and went up to her mother's room.  The wind roared around an whistled, shaking the windows of the staircase as she passed; and howling along the passages and the house.  Every now and then, a heavy shower of rain and sleet pattered against the windows.  Nothing could be more dreary than the night; nothing more sad and cheerless than her feelings, so desolate and so solitary as she felt, so wearied, so disconsolate.  There was something in her father's temper almost insupportably trying to her patience, not that her mother's illness brought her into contact with it.  She felt too low to venture immediately into her mother's room.  She took a few turns in the long gallery into which the bedrooms opened, and approaching the window at the further end of it, looked out.  What a dreary prospect is the dark November day in a lonely country house; and to one 'of imagination all compact,' as was this hapless young creature, and over whom the aspect of nature exercised so powerful an influence, its effect was particularly depressing.  The indigo-coloured heavy clouds rushed on before the wind - now darkening the landscape, now falling down in floods of rain - while the trees rocked and waved, tossing up their branches and leaves in that wild, lugubrious manner, so desolate and so mournful.  Not a living creature was to be seen from the window, which looked over the park and shrubberies; not a sound to be heard but the cheerless moaning of the wind, and the fast patter, from time to time, of the rain.  It was very cold too; and she shivered, and wrapped her shawl about her, as she stood mournfully reflecting upon the present and the future.  From the mother dying in the neighbouring room - from the father, at this very moment shut up with the man whom she had just been taught to dread as the author of so much future misery - from the whirling trees and pelting storm before her - her thoughts travelled far away: to him they fled, as it were, for comfort, who was then in that distant land, and from whom, lately, no sign of remembrance had come, but whose image still dwelt warm in her heart, and was never recurred to without a sweet gleam of hope and encouragement.  Again her memory passed over all those many scenes in which he made a part - the games of her childhood, in which the tall, beautiful youth, in his ensigns uniform, had assisted her with his mischievous frolics - the young captain, who had again visited them when she was a girl of fourteen, and whose conversation and affectionate gallantry had been so inexpressibly flattering and delightful; and the last charming, charming visit!  His conversation, as sitting by her, bending over her, and watching her as she worked or idled over her netting - the delightful descriptions of what he had seen and felt - the still more delightful discussions upon what they had mutually thought and felt - the little pointed compliment - the look of love and approbation - the hasty colour - the impatient push backwards of his chair when her father was peevish or unreasonable, making her feel as if the shield of some generous protector were fore ever ready to be thrown over her - the tender reverence of his manner to her mother - her mother's pleasant almost merry ways with him - all came back in a stream of recollection, cheering, animating, and composing her spirits, till the night wind was heard no more to roar and whistle, the melancholy clouds assumed a lighter hue, and she turned to her mother's room composed and comforted.  Her mother was not asleep, but she seemed more easy and comfortable; she stretched out her hand when she came in, and asked who was come.  'I heard the doorbell ring - who can have come to-night?  It seems such a wild night.  Not poor Mr Finch (the apothecary), I hope, upon a most useless errand?'  'No mama it cannot be Mr Finch, for I know he had to go so far to-day to visit one of his distant patients, that he said if you could spare him, he would not call in to-night?'  'Who was it then?'  'I believe it was Mr Rile.'  'Ah!' said Mrs Wyndham, very much alarmed, 'on such a night as this!  Something must be fearfully the matter.  Where is he?'  'He was shown into the dinning room.  I met him just as I was going out.'  'How did he look?'  'He only made me a very low, cringing bow, and looked, as I thought, a very mean, disagreeable sort of man.  Don't distress yourself, sweet mamma.  I dare say nothing particularly has happened.'  There was a knock at the door, and Simpson entered.  'If you please, Miss Wyndham, master is asking for you.'  'Good heavens!  I had forgotten to tell her of that,' said Mrs Wyndham, suddenly, 'Emilia! Emilia!' cried she, endeavouring to raise her voice, but her daughter did not hear her.  'Simpson, Simpson!  Stop her!  I must speak to her!  I must speak to her before she goes down to her father!' cried the mother, in so much agitation that she could scarcely articulate.  The dining-room door was heard to shut.  'She is gone into master, ma'am,' said Simpson.  'Go down Simpson.  Open the door; say I want to speak to Miss Wyndham for one moment - that I must speak to her immediately.'  Simpson went down, and soon returned with - 'Master says, Miss Emilia shall come directly; he only wants her for a few moments.'  'What were they doing?'  'Master had some papers before him, and Mr Rile was talking to Miss Emilia, explaining something!&ldots; A nasty fellow, I hate the sight of him!' (aside) 'My poor child!  Go down again, Simpson,' she exclaimed, hardly able to breath from agitation; 'tell her to come to me instantly.'  Simpson returned with - 'Master is very angry, and asked me how I dared to interrupt him; and told me to open the door again at my peril.'  The mother's face was convulsed, as it were with sudden passion; she started, to the astonishment of Simpson, suddenly to her feet, and stood, like some spectral figure, before the terrified woman.  Ordering her in a low, imperative tone to give her her large wrapper, and hastily thrusting her feet into her slippers, she stept forward, and laid her hand upon the lock of the door.  'For Heaven's sake, madam!' cried her terrified woman-servant, 'what are you about?  It is as good as your life is worth.'  But her mistress shook at the handle of the door with a firm and resolute hand, opened it, and passing along the gallery with a swift and commanding step, descended the stairs, opened the dining-room door, and presented herself, as one risen from the dead, to her astonished husband and shrieking daughter.  She went straight up to the table, and laid her cold, wasted hand upon the attorney's arm.  'What is that, sir?' she said, in a voice hollow, but imperative; 'what is that paper I saw but this instant in your hand?  Give it to me.'"

The poor mother's presentiments had been too truly founded: the last thousand pounds (Emilia's thousand pounds) had been signed away.  With the mother's death comes immediate and irremediable ruin.

In the above extract, we have neither touched the great scenes, not the great characters.  Foremost among these is Mr Danby, a Cymon of the law, who has seen Emilia in happier days, been fascinated by her, but is almost terrified, when circumstances which thrust him on the protection of the maiden, compel him also to offer him marriage.  We are not sure that the course of Mr Danby's deeds is consistent.  We hardly think it possible that so much sweetness and duty as poor Emilia showed, could have been so long in finding due reward from one cherishing such feelings towards her - but his character produces a powerful effect, if it does not excite the interest of a reality.  Danby, too, has a mother, who does not make his married life smoother.  How is it, by the way, that an author who must step aside from her narrative, to have a fling at Mrs Caudle, as the caricature of a "vulgar penny-a-liner," should not be able for the purpose required, to evoke any personage newer or more refined than the Stepmother, such as the Burneys and Smiths and Opies painted her?  Mrs Danby, the elder, is nothing better than the shewish miser of sentimental comedy - a companion to similar ladies of Mrs Trollope's imagining.  Let us have no more such calling of names, unworthy of an author in the main so eloquent and true-hearted!  Another character who plays a main part in poor Emilia's trials, is her little friends Lisa - a creature as brilliant and sparkling and passionate as a hummingbird! - of a naughtiness, we imagine, too long established and all pervading, for any influence of faithful friend or fearful accident to reduce into her domestic practicability.  No matter: in spite of this - nay, too, and we must add, of a slight touch of vulgarity which we can hardly imagine was condemplated - we cannot help being bewitched, till we acquiesce in Emilia's absolutely perilling her own happiness to save her old playfellow from shame and destruction.  How this is done we will not narrate: enough to hint that Lisa has married the Colonel of Emilia's halcyon days; and that Mr Danby is, by false representations, stirred up to imagine that his wife's interest in her ill-guided friend means, in reality, something far more tender - a revived passion for the husband.  The masquerade scenes - the chase - and all that they involve for the guardian angle of the piece, are wrought up and indicated with a power rare in these days.  It is much, too, to be able to state, in conclusion, that the close of the tale will displease on one - not even "the fusty critics;" and this in spite of the touch of poetical justice, which, as we have said some thousand times, is, essentially, unjust.

 

The Athenaeum, No 1159, Page 38, 12 January 1850.

The Wilmingtons. A Novel. By the Author of 'Two Old Men's Tales.' 3 vols. Colburn

Though this tale is more tedious in its preamble - more precipitous in its conclusion than can be accredited - though it my be divined that more than one character elaborately introduced was originally destined to play a part subsequently altered or retrenched, - 'The Wilmingtons' contains scenes which no living author save the lady who personates the 'Two Old Men' could have written so well. Few will be able to escape from her new story when they have once entered on it: few will question the vitality of some of its characters, and the force of some of its situations.

The head of the Wilmington family - a showy, vain, unscrupulous man, who, though a coward and feeble, finds it more easy to brave the commission of a forgery than to submit to retrenchment, - is a daw in peacock's feathers, - the like of which is encountered in every world of action or enjoyment - and so far the portrait may be warranted as true to universal human folly. In the scene which we are about to extract, the miserable nature of the pretender is shown in all its misery. A few preliminary lines will explain it. In a crisis of the most perilous nature Mr. Wilmington had been supported by the money of Mr. Craiglethorpe, an old bosom friend of his, a rich merchant in India. This money had been gambled away in ruinous speculation: and on Mr. Craiglethorpe's return to England being announced, it became necessary to take measures for replacing it. But the ship in which the Indian merchant embarked was lost: it was believed that he had perished. On receiving this news, Mr. Wilmington availed himself of a moment's chance to commit a forgery, whereby he became possessed of an enormous property which would otherwise have belonged to  Mr. Craiglethorpe. The shipwrecked man, in whose loss no reader believed, did get home at last; and, in a fit of desperate audacity, Mr. Wilmington and his wife agreed to dispute his identity. The wanderer (beggared, let us add, by his shipwreck) made his way to their sumptuous villa at Wimbledon: the following being his second attempt to extort recognition.-

"The old man re-entered the front hall; looking round in a sort of imploring, piteous manner. You must pity the man. Remember, he had never been taught better things. One generous, disinterested tender affection he had cherished in his bosom - it was being cruelly crushed. You must pity his pangs. Then he went to the window and looked out. How the trees were grown and changed - they were now, from small shrubs become large plantation trees; but he could not look at them, changed as they were, without a rush of memories of what he had been in that house in times gone by. The footman was long in returning; at last he came, and brought the scrap of paper in his hand. "Master knows nothing about you. - Doesn't know what you mean by the things here on the paper - Sorry he can't see any one - positively is busy - is going out.' But this time Mr. Craiglethorpe was too quick for the servant; he did not wait to here the sentence finished, but passing him, hastily mounted the stairs with hurried steps laid his hand on the well0known dressing-room door, opened it, and entered. The valet had left the room but in his place Mrs. Wilmington was standing talking earnestly to her husband. The door opened; they both turned round: she gave a faint shriek; he turned deathly pale, but stood still. 'Wilmington! Is it you who refuse me an entrance into your house?' Craiglethorpe began, with an accent of melancholy rather than angry reproach - 'You, Wilmington!' - 'Who are you, sir?' cried Lizzy, placing herself between him and her husband, casting a glance, as she did so, at the latter, which said - 'Now be firm, or you are lost for ever.' - 'Woman! Stand by,' said Craiglethorpe, advancing; 'how dare you put yourself between him and his old friend? Why, Wilmington,' holding out his hand, 'you have not surely forgotten me.' - But Wilmington was silent. He looked nervous, hurried, confused, uncertain; but he made not a movement to accept and clasp the hand thus offered. - 'Wilmington!; and he went close up to him - 'old friend!' and he laid his hand upon his shoulder - 'Nay, lad, what's the matter; for, sure I am, you know me?'- 'He does not, sir,' interrupted Lizzy; 'he's petrified at your audacity. To be sure loving Mr.Craiglethorpe as he did, it can't but be very painful to have an imposter. - 'Imposter!' D-n you woman! you know me as well as I do  myself.' - Passion was awakened at last. He shook the shoulder he held, and cried, - 'Come to your senses - speak out. Let us have done at once. If - May heaven forgive me, if I am unjust! - If - Good God! - what am I saying? - if - Wilmington! Wilmington! . . . If - if - speak, only speak; say you won't - say you daren't. What! After all - all  -'Can't you speak - won't you speak, Mr. Wilmington?, cried Lizzy angrily. 'What do you stand there for as if you were turned to stone? Speak, tell this old man&ldots;' - He could not speak; he could only turn away to release his shoulder from the grasp of his friend, and cover his face with his hands. His wife followed him, whispering her remonstrances in his ear, urging every suggestion she could think of to confirm him in her purpose. There was a door which opened to her bed-room. She took hold of his arm, and led, or rather pushed him through it. He suffered her to do as she would; and she closed the door after him. - 'There,' she said, returning with something very like triumph in her face, 'there - I hope this scene is ended; and now, sir, that you see how excessively painful this farce, which you are pleased to play, proves to my husband's feelings, perhaps you will be good enough to put an end to it.' - He was a stout-hearted, hard nerved man. He had never in his life, perhaps known what it was not to be perfectly master of himself under the most trying circumstances; but he stood there now perfectly bewildered - amazed - confounded - his ears tingling, and his spirit faltering - something rose to his eye - the unwonted visitor - he dashed it away with the back of hi hand. Then he glared, rather than looked, upon that hard-hearted, beautiful, bad creature - then he stopped to listen. He thought to have heard his friend's returning steps  - there was only that little door between them - but they were severed, oh! Far more widely than if it had been a hemisphere - will he relent and come back? - can he have the heart to stay away? He resisted the urgency with which she kept pressing commanding, insisting upon his going. He kept pushing her aside impatiently with his elbow which said, as plain as elbow could, 'Be quiet, hold your noise,' - then he stood stock-still and listened again. The expression of his face was strangely touching. At last he approached the door. She would have prevented him; but he shook her off. 'Wilmington,' he said, and laid his hand upon the lock. The key turned within. 'Wilmington, - you are there. Speak.' Silence. 'Wilmington, speak. It is  the third and last time. Speak now, - or I swear this is that last time I will ever speak to you more, till we meet together at the day of judgment.' Silence. He still stood and listened; but he had sworn, and would not speak again. He seemed unwilling to take his hand from the lock; unwilling to sever this tie - so close - so strong. His face worked strangley - his colour changed; now a dark lurid red - now deadly pale. He hesitated - he shook the lock.  At last he knelt down and looked through the key-hole. The key was in it. He would not be satisfied. It seemed as if he could not bear to believe that Wilmington was still in the room; that he could have heard him - that he had not escaped by some other door. But she set him right as to that - 'You need not  make any doubt about that,' said she, seeming to understand him, 'for he is there. The other door is fastened. And I think the best thing you can do is to take yourself away.' Again he shook the lock with violence. Again he listened, - but he would not speak. Then he looked round the room, as if taking leave of everything there. Upon the dressing-table stood a very rare piece of Japan china, a present in former days from himself. This was the only article connected with the memory of former days that was still in the room. He took it up, and, before she could interfere, threw it out of the window, and then, without turning his head again, went out of the room and down stairs, crossed the two halls, and so out of the house. He was seen to look up at the house again as he walked slowly down the gravel-road. And I have been told his eye lowered, as if a blast came from it. I fear that in the bitterness of his spirit, he cursed it and its inmates, - and them and theirs, wheresoever they might be.

Of course, after a time, the forgery which led Mr. Wilmington to so desperate an exhibition of ingratitude is detected; but suspicion in place of falling on himself lights on his son. Throughout the tale we have been invited to study Henry Wilmington as a noble and worthy contrast to his father: - a reserved ungraceful man, but with a mind of the highest tone and affections of the most generous warmth. These are centred on one of those exquisite and devoted women, whom no one imagines more delicately or paints better than the 'Two Old Men.' Having become painfully alive to his father's hollowness and want of principle, Henry had withdrawn with his wife to a remote corner of England. Accused of the forgery, it at once flashes across his mind who the real culprit must have been: and in naming this culprit lies his solitary chance of acquittal from the punishment of death, and of restoration of his admirable Flavia, - the wife who had displeased her proud and worldly family by insisting on marrying him! - All such considerations, however, and, still more, that sense of truth and falsehood which makes it a sin to connive at a false accusation by omission or commission, are forgotten by this virtuous son of a vicious father, in the enthusiasm of what is called "filial duty." Henry Wilmington refuses to clear himself, is found guilty, and sentenced to be executed.

On the false morality and false feeling of the above course of action, which, without being exhorted to imitate it, we are certainly invited to admire, we will not trust ourselves to lecture. The workings of the heart are strongly, passionately portrayed by our author, - up to the point when, as has been told, the catastrophe is suddenly huddled together with more than her usual recklessness, and with more than her usual defiance of the reader's interest to excite which such strength has been set in motion - Be her faults what they may, however, the author will become weary of writing novels, we suspect, ere we shall become indisposed to read them.

 

The Athenaeum, NO 1255, Page 1198, November 15, 1851.

Ravenscliffe. By the Author of  'Emilia Wyndham,' &c. 3 vols. Colburn & Co.

This novel contains a few scenes not surpassed in power by those in "The Admiral's Daughter' which announced an addition to the phalanx of English authoresses so remarkable as that of 'The Two Old Men.' At the commencement of  'Ravenscliffe.' Too, and during the first half of the tale, its plot is so carefully knit as to warrant the supposition of greater thought and pains than ordinary having been taken. - Some vacillation is to be observed in the delineation of the principal male character. The unpopular Randal Langford, of the first chapter, who is horsewhipped in a public walk at Cambridge by a hot-blooded Irish Catholic, - ourselves almost acquiescing in the justice of the castigation, even while we pity its victim's misery - must have been a Cymon too saturnine and bitter ever to approach an Iphigenia so delicate as Eleanor Wharncliffe. True, she does not love him sufficiently to desire to marry him; but she is represented as clinging to him tenderly and fearlessly, and as finding in his manly ruggedness a welcome exchange for the worldliness of her own family. Later in the tale, again, when Randal becomes a father, we find him inspiring an impassioned and respectful affection in a son as amiable as the sire is semi-savage. This latter phenomenon belongs to the strained view of the parents' claims and privileges ever present to our authoress, - on which we commented while speaking of  'The Wilmingtons.' Whether it be defensible or otherwise in point of morals, it is here again injurious as damaging the probability which is essential to the novel-reader's entire credence in the novel. - Though Eleanor Wharncliffe did not desire to marry this cross-grained here, she was forced into doing so by circumstances. To the weaving of the net by which she is enmeshed we have referred when commending the construction of the first half of the story. No reader can bear her company without feeling in some degree the same sense of powerlessness to cope with the fascinations of dark destiny which is conveyed by the stories of Richardson's Clarissa and Scott's Lucy Ashton. This is praise enough - yet not too much. We have always considered the bridal scenes at Castle Ravenswood as nearly unrivalled in modern fiction; and it is not without reflection that we declare that Eleanor Wharncliffe's wedding-day may stand next after - though not indeed by the side of them. The following fragments will explain themselves.-

"'Come, come, Miss Eleanor,' continued the old servant, 'time flies apace. Please to be getting up. There's your hair to be done you know, and that in itself will take me three-quarters of an hour- 'Get up - get up' answered she mechanically - 'and what? - what for? - what - ?' 'Why to be married, sure and certain,' said Cary, half laughing. 'Get up to be sure you must, Miss Eleanor, and lose no time.' She attempted no resistance - she got up. For a little while she seemed perfectly passive and patient under the hands of Cary, and suffered herself to be dressed life a victim adorning for, but ignorant of, the coming sacrifice. But when after having completed the plaiting and arrangement of the most beautiful hair in the world, her maid was proceeding to place the orange-flower coronet upon her head, a sudden rush of recollections seemed to come over her; she uttered a fearful cry, tore the flowers from her, and cast them desperately upon the floor. - 'What am I about? - What are you about? - What are we doing?' - she screamed wildly - 'Doing - doing, Miss Eleanor! Compose yourself my dear, dear young lady, for goodness sake.' **

Randal Langford, we may mention, had begun to imagine the possibility of a hand without a heart being given to him, - and had therefore pressed earnestly for a few moments' private interview with the bride elect ere they should go to church. But to grant this was not in the tactics of Eleanor's mother. -

"At nine o'clock Lady Wharncliffe entered her daughter's room; whilst Randal, feeling every moment more distressed and irritable, vainly endeavoured to beguile his impatience by pacing up and down the hall, pausing from time to time to cast a look up the stairs, or at the door by which Lady Wharncliffe had vanished. Then he would place himself before the tall, narrow, arched windows of the hall, and watch the sleet and rain driving against the small panes, or listen to the swell of the winds, which, at intervals, shook the casements as if they would burst them through, and groaned and whistled around the house or among the trees. The hall-clock told the quarter-past nine, and then Sir John Wharncliffe, accompanied by Everard, and the other young men, sallied forth from a small breakfast-room, where they had been taking chocolate over a blazing fire, and began to look for their hats, great-coats, and gloves; for the carriages were by this time prepared to come round. There they found Randal. 'Heyday!' cried Sir John; 'You here! My good fellow. It is dreadfully cold. There is chocolate in the little breakfast room, and a roaring fire. Do come in and take something before starting. You have a good four miles to go, and over a rough north country road.' - 'No, thank you, Sir John; I am waiting to see Lady Wharncliffe. 'Everard,' taking him aside, 'listen to me. I must see your sister.' - 'Well,' answered Everard affecting to laugh, and glancing at the clock; 'then just have patience for fourteen minutes longer, and I take it the carriages will be at the door, and down the lovely bride will come' - 'But you do not or will not understand me, Everard. Every one seems in a league, I think, wilfully to misunderstand me this morning. I want - I wish - I must - and I will  - speak to Eleanor for a few minutes alone, - before she comes down to enter your father's carriage.' He spoke earnestly, angrily, passionately. Everard cast a hasty, alarmed, scrutinizing, glance at him. The glance did not escape Randal. But the other recollected himself, and, with a laugh which he intended to sound careless, turned away, saying - 'You must be clever if you get it. Women, the deuce take them, can think of nothing but their dress on a wedding morning. I'll be bound they are all too busy with her toilette to remember you. But,' - observing the increasing gloom of Randal's face - he added, 'but, if you really do wish it, I'll run up stairs to my mother and see what can be done.' And lightly he ascended the stairs. The red door closed after him. He did not return any more than his mother had done. Randal remained standing at the foot of the stairs, his eyes riveted upon the red door. He could scarcely contain his rage and impatience. And now the carriages are heard coming round. Sir John Wharncliffe's draws up to the door; whilst the sleet and rain beat pitilessly against the windows, and the wind roars and howls furiously. Mrs. Langford, who had been sitting quietly over the fire in her own dressing room, now entered the hall, accompanied by two or three young ladies who were to officiate as bridesmaids. They had arrived early that morning, and had been taken up-stairs to breakfast and warm themselves. The hall began rapidly to fill with the wedding-guests and their attendants. Servants were seen hurrying up and down, preparing people for the departure; helping the gentlemen to their cloaks and great-coats, and holding shawls and cloaks, whilst the young men attended upon the young ladies. There was much laughing, chattering, and bustle going on; whilst the wind without burst out at intervals into the most furious blasts - howling and shrieking; and the rain and sleet drove more violently then ever against the clattering windows. Surely such a day of tempest had scarcely ever been known in the country! 'What weather! What the deuce shall we do? We shall all be blown over. How horrid cold!' &c. &c. &c.; - and small feet kept stamping in pretty impatience upon the marble floor of the apartment, and there was great calling for boas and mantles, with - 'Oh, wrap me up well. For goodness' sake!' and, - 'Do give me my victorine!' and,  - 'Quite a shame to muffle yourself up so!' - and so on. And, in the midst of this confusion of cheerful voices, and pretty affectations, and all the lively hurry incident to the occasion, there that tall dark figure stood - his eyes riveted upon the red door, and suffering from an agony of mingled vexation, anger, distrust, and impatience impossible to describe.  ** At last, Sir John Wharncliffe himself began to grow impatient as he saw his fine horses standing waiting at the door, exposed to all the fury of the wind, rain and sleet - and began to swear a little and to exclaim in no measured terms against women for their endless delays, - and at last ordered one of the female servants, in attendance, to go up-stairs and inquire when Lady Wharncliffe would be ready. She obeyed and passed through that red door, which as it stood there so obstinately closed, as it were, against him alone, seemed, at last, to fret Randal beyond bearing. Feeling desperate, and resolved to force an explanation at any risk, he set his foot upon the stairs, and was beginning impetuously to ascend. - when the hated obstacle was suddenly thrown aside, - the door flew wide open, - and, at the head of the stairs, as about to descend, the bride at last appeared; she was leaning upon her brother's arm, and supported, as it were, behind, by her mother. Her white dress floated round her, - the beautiful hair was half-hidden, half displayed by the light folds of the rich Brussels veil. Her fair forehead was surmounted by the pale greens and the white blossoms of her bridal coronet; - and beneath them appeared a face far paler than all these. The cheek was colourless, bloodless, ghastly, - wan, greenish shades were around her lips and beneath her eyes, which were wide open, and seemed to gaze into vacancy with a dreamy unmeaning stare. She moved forward as if impelled by others only, and by no will of her own; - in a strange, spectral, silent manner. He was inexpressibly shocked. It was with a feeling approaching almost to horror that he stood here for a moment gazing upon the altered face of her he so passionately loved; - then, no longer master of himself, he was rushing vehemently forward to address her, - even now, - but Everard waved him imperiously back, - saying, in an angry tone, - 'Are you resolved to drive my father mad? For Heaven's get along, Eleanor, - do you hear how it rains? You will be drowned before you get into the carriage' and he passed, with her, hastily on, - and even whilst he was speaking the hall-door was opened, and such a whirlwind of rain and storm bust in that everything was thrown into the most unutterable confusion. And in the midst of this, scarcely sensible of what was going on, he saw that pale spectre hurried forward, followed by Lady Wharncliffe, - who saluted him with a nod and a smile as she passed. - The first sound which awakened him from the sort of trance into which he fell was the loud banging to of the carriage-door, - the cry of 'All right!' by the two footmen, as they sprang up behind, - and the rolling away of Sir John Wharncliffe's carriage. What followed was all confusion, - the wind roared through the door, and hissed against the casements; the rain poured down in torrents with deafening violence. People laughed, and cried out; and the young ones enjoyed the hurry and disorder to the utmost; - but he heard nothing, - for the roar of many waters was in his ears, - and he stood there like one bewildered. He started, and was awakened; for now his grave and formal mother came up to him in her coldest and most composed manner, - and, as if this morning were the most ordinary morning in his life, addressed him with, - 'You go with me, Randal; and Miss Montague and Mr Wharncliffe are of our party. Come, if you please; the carriage is at the door I believe, and we must not keep anybody waiting this horrid day,' &c. And his servant came up with hat and gloves, which he took mechanically, and followed passively into the carriage, whilst the winds lifted their loud voices, and whistled, and roared, as if in wild and gloomy mockery; the huge trees bend and bowed their huge branches to the earth, as if in a bitter irony of congratulation; the vanes upon the roofs shrieked and cried, and all nature seemed rushing together in wildest uproar, like that which was raging in his own breast."

Few will deny the power of the above passages: - in spite of that power being impaired in our extract by separation from the scenes which precede and those which succeed them. There is no reserve, no flinching, no abatement of force in the working up of the catastrophe. How can a writer able to hurry us on through the wildest eddies of passion, without pause or exhaustion, to the very verge of the rapids, - nay, over the cataract, - deserve to be pardoned for the incoherence, the weakness, and the melo-dramatic want of nature which no less obviously distinguish the second half of her novel? She must abide sever reproof for trifling with the public whom she has fascinated, - for saving herself by a most ignominious scramble from the pains of tracing the consequences of the hurricane which she has shown herself capable of raising, and of ruling when at its wildest. - Nothing can be better than the scenes immediately after Eleanor's fearful wedding. Their narrator deserves all thanks for having spared us "madness in white satin" and the agonies of a broken heart. These things, indeed, Scott had too awfully indicated in his 'Bride of Lammermoor' for any one possessing the modesty and self-respect of an artist to attempt a second time. But from the moment when an heir is born to Randal Langford, nothing can be much worse - as regards probability and constructive skill - than "Ravenscliffe.' - The glimpse of a character afforded us in the sketch of  Priest Langford , the second son., does little to redeem the carelessness which has spoiled what might have been made one of the most remarkable among modern novels.

 

 

The Athenaeum, No 2451, Page 512, October 17, 1874.

Obituary of MRS MARSH

Just half a century ago, a banker was hanged before the debtors' door, Newgate, for forgery. This unusual circumstance was fatal to his bank, in Berners Street. The firm was that of Fauntlery, Graham, Stracey, and Marsh. The first partner came to ignominious end on the scaffold. The wife of the junior partner turned to literature, and came to rank among the most popular novelists of her time.

This lady was one of the four daughters of Mr. James Caldwell, a 'squire of the last century school, holding land, and a good deal of it; a lawyer also, and a well-remembered and honoured recorder of Newcastle-under-Lyne. Anne Caldwell was born on her father's estate, Lindley Wood, Staffordshire, towards the close of the eighteenth century, and she died upon it last week, the lady of the manor, landholder, like her father, and under her maiden - added to her married - name of Mrs. Marsh-Caldwell.

No stern necessity, but taste, a love of letters, and a well-grounded, yet not outspoken confidence in her powers, induced this lady to become an author. She was in no hurry about it. She did not challenge the public judgment, nor claim a share of the laurels awarded to other lady writers, till she had thoroughly tested her own capacity. When Mrs. Marsh published her  "Two Old Men's Tales' ('The Deformed' and 'The Admiral's Daughter'), ten years had elapsed since the melancholy closing of the Berners Street Bank. The book made a sensation, and every reader was conscious that the new author was a lady who had lived, so to speak, with her eyes open, and could see all that was before them. It was clear that she possessed acute observation, had much experience, and could not only describe the outward appearances of humanity, but that she could plunge beneath the surface, probe the mind, and the heart, and could charm or terrify by the description of what she found there.

Mrs. Marsh at once took her position, and maintained it for at least a quarter of a century. The novel-reading public looked eagerly for a new romance from her hand. "Romance!" well, that is hardly the word. Her novels were real histories; that is to say, they described social life and its possible, probable, or actual circumstances, with a truth and fidelity that was wonderfully attractive. That Mrs. Marsh was not invariably up to the high mark of her own powers, is undeniable. Take, for instance, the list of the novels that followed the "Two Old Men's Tales,' namely, "Tales of the Woods and Fields' (1836), "Triumphs of Time' (1844), 'Mount Sorel,' (1845), 'Aubrey' (1845), that popular story, 'Emilia Wyndham,' 'Father Darcy' (1846), - we note here also, for the sake of chronological order, Mrs. Marsh's historical work, 'The Protestant Reformation in France and the Huguenots' (1847), - 'Norman's Bridge; or, the Modern Midas' (1847), 'Angela; or, the Captain's Daughter' (1848), 'The Previsions of Lady Evelyn,' 'Mordaunt Hall,' 'Little Arnold,' 'The Wilmingtons' (1849), 'Time the Avenger,' 'Ravenscliff,' 'Castle Avon,' 'The Heiress of Haughton' (1855), 'Evelyn Marston' (1856), and  'The Rose of Ashurst' (1857). Each novel as it appeared was warmly welcomed, was read and applauded. Many of them, however, have fallen into oblivion. Still the best of them remain. The 'Two Old Men's Tales,' 'Emilia Wyndham,' and 'Norman's Bridge' will keep the author's name bright and honoured on the list of writers who have contributed to the delight and instruction (for there was a moral in all her stories) of mankind.

There was a double reason for her laying down the pen when she did. Mrs. Marsh had been a careful worker for many years. She had done enough; young competitors were entering the lists, and moreover, in 1858 the death of her only brother put her in possession of the Lindley Wood estate, on which occasion Mrs. Marsh, by royal licence, assumed the additional surname and arms of Caldwell.

Miss Edgeworth, Miss Austen, Miss Ferrier, Mrs. Gore, were all in the field before Mrs. Marsh. They form a true sisterhood, belonging to the same century, and of far finer quality than the anonymous novel-writers of the century previous. It is said of that era that half the boarding-schools for young ladies in England were kept by "mistresses," who had right to the same title in their former vocation. Some of the novels seem to have been written by the same sort of personage. The two young ladies in Hannah More's "Coelabs' name, among other novels they have been reading, 'Tears of Sensibility,' 'Sympathy of Souls,'

The Fortunate Footman,' and 'The Illustrious Chambermaid.' If it be objected that we owe this list to a novelist's imagination, we turn to Miss Mitford's account of her own circulating-library reading in the year 1806. The old leaven is mixed with the newer and better substance, for we find 'Midnight Weddings' and 'Amazement' in the same lot with 'St.Clair of the Isles,' and Miss Edgeworth's 'Leonora.'

Miss Edgeworth opened the present century admirably with her 'Belinda' (1801). The story, however, is not altogether free from old repulsive matter, and that because Society was not free from the old repulsive manner: just as the comedy which took merit from ceasing to be coarse seems to the later higher taste intolerably vulgar. In Miss Austen there is that power of description which has led some persons to rank her with Defoe, and that insight into human motives which has emboldened other persons to compare her with Shakespeare. Mrs. Gore painted Society as Cosway did his miniatures: it was wonderfully life-like, but with touches of too bright colour. Miss Ferrier was in every respect an artist, and portrayed the incidents of life with the minuteness and distinctness of a Dutch l . . . of cabinet pictures. Mrs. Marsh had something of all their qualities, but she had her special quality also. No writer had greater power than she of compelling tears. No book of its time produced more irrepressible bursts of tears than 'The Deformed,' or more solemn silent showers than that heart-rendering story of 'The Admiral's Daughter.' There was a fine sense of humour in her too; together with clearness of judgment on some of the problems of life, and what are called duties of one person to another; and a rare fidelity in bringing vividly before her readers the beauties of nature, or the domestic surroundings of a bride in the gloom of her new home on the sunless side of Chancery Lane. Another school has, unfortunately, succeeded, but its day has pretty well come to an end; and there is promise (amid infinite trash) of something better. Meanwhile, Mrs. Marsh's death has not, any more than her retirement, eclipsed (as Johnson sillily remarked of Garrick's decease) the gaiety of nations, but it leaves with us the honoured memory of an accomplished lady, who devoted to the noblest ends the high qualities which came to her by nature, or were acquired by education.

 

 

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