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amples, Mrs Hill's account of her little boy's death in Cecilia, and the parting of Sir Hugh Tyrold and Camilla, when the honest baronet thinks himself dying.
It is melancholy to think that the whole fame of Madame D'Arblay rests on what she did during the earlier half of her life, and that every thing which she published during the fortythree years which preceded her death, lowered her reputation. Yet we have no reason to think that at the time when her faculties ought to have been in their maturity, they were smitten with any blight. In the Wanderer, we catch now and then a gleam of her genius. Even in the Memoirs of her father, there is no trace of dotage. They are very bad; but they are so, as it seems to us, not from a decay of power, but from a total perversion of power.
The truth is, that Madame D'Arblay's style underwent a gradual and most pernicious change,-a change which, in degree at least, we believe to be unexampled in literary history, and of which it may be useful to trace the progress.
When she wrote her letters to Mr Crisp, her early journals, and the novel of Evelina, her style was not indeed brilliant or energetic; but it was easy, clear, and free from all offensive faults. When she wrote Cecilia she aimed higher. She had then lived much in a circle of which Johnson was the centre; and she was herself one of his most submissive worshippers. It seems never to have crossed her mind that the style even of his best writings was by no means faultless, and that even had it been faultless, it might not be wise in her to imitate it. Phraseology which is proper in a disquisition on the Unities, or in a preface to a Dictionary, may be quite out of place in a tale of fashionable life. Old gentlemen do not criticize the reigning modes, nor do young gentlemen make love, with the balanced epithets and sonorous cadences which, on occasions of great dignity, a skilful writer may use with happy effect.
In an evil hour the author of Evelina took the Rambler for her model. This would not have been wise even if she could have imitated her pattern as well as Hawkesworth did. But such imitation was beyond her power. She had her own style. It was a tolerably good one; and might, without any violent change, have been improved into a very good one.
She determined to throw it away, and to adopt a style in which she could attain excellence only by achieving an almost miraculous victory over nature and over habit. She could cease to be Fanny Burney; it was not so easy to become Samuel Johnson.
In Cecilia the change of manner began to appear. But in Cecilia the imitation of Johnson, though not always in the best taste, is sometimes eminently happy; and the passages which are so verbose as to be positively offensive, are few. There were people who whispered that Johuson bad assisted his young friend, and that the novel owed all its finest passages to his hand. This was merely the fabrication of envy. Miss Burney's real excellences were as much beyond the reach of Johnson, as his real excellences were beyond her reach.
He could no more have written the Masquerade scene, or the Vauxhall scene, than she could have written the Life of Cowley or the Review of Soame Jenyns. But we have not the smallest doubt that he revised Cecilia, and that he retouched the style of many passages. We know that he was in the habit of giving assistance of this kind most freely. Goldsmith, Hawkesworth, Boswell, Lord Hailes, Mrs Williams, were among those who obtained his help. Nay, he even corrected the poetry of Mr Crabbe, whom, we believe, he had never seen. When Miss Burney thought of writing a comedy, he promised to give her his best counsel, though he owned that he was not particularly well qualified to advise on matters relating to the stage. We therefore think it in the highest degree improbable that his little Fanny, when living in habits of the most affectionate intercourse with him, would have brought out an important work without consulting him; and, when we look into Cecilia, we see such traces of his hand in the grave and elevated passages, as it is impossible to mistake. Before we conclude this article, we will give two or three examples.
When next Madame D'Arblay appeared before the world as a writer, she was in a very different situation. She would not content herself with the simple English in which Evelina had been written. She had no longer the friend who, we are confident, had polished and strengthened the style of Cecilia. She had to write in Johnson's manner, without Johnson's aid. The consequence was, that in Camilla every passage which she meant to be fine is detestable; and that the book has been saved from condemnation only by the admirable spirit and force of those scenes in which she was content to be familiar.
But there was to be a still deeper descent. After the publication of Camilla, Madame D'Arblay resided ten years at Paris. During those years there was scarcely any intercourse between France and England. It was with difficulty that a short letter could occasionally be transmitted. All Madame D'Arblay's companions were French.
She must have written, spoken, thought, in French. Ovid expressed his fear that a shorter exile might have affected the purity of his Latin. During a shorter exile, Gibbon unlearned his native English. Madame D'Arblay had carried a bad style to France. She brought back
VOL. LXXVI. NO, CLIV.
a style which we are really at a loss to describe. It is a sort of broken Johnsonese, a barbarous patois, bearing the same relation to the language of Rasselas, which the gibberish of the Negroes of Jamaica bears to the English of the House of Lords. Sometimes it reminds us of the finest, that is to say, the vilest parts, of Mr Galt's novels; sometimes of the perorations of Exeter Hall; sometimes of the leading articles of the Morning Post. But it most resembles the puffs of Mr Rowland and Dr Goss. It matters not what ideas are clothed in such a style. The genius of Shakspeare and Bacon united, would not save a work so written from general derision,
It is only by means of specimens that we can enable our readers to judge how widely Madame D'Arblay's three styles differed from each other.
The following passage was written before she became intimate with Johnson. It is from Evelina :
• His son seems weaker in bis understanding, and more gay in his temper ; but his gaiety is that of a foolish overgrown schoolboy, whose mirth consists in noise and disturbance. He disdains his father for his close attention to business and love of money, though he seems himself to have no talents, spirit, or generosity to make him superior to either. His chief delight appears to be in tormenting and ridiculing his sisters, who in return most cordially despise him. Miss Branghton, the eldest daughter, is by no means ugly; but looks proud, ill-tempered, and conceited. She hates the city, though without knowing why; for it is easy to discover she has lived nowhere else. Miss Polly Branghton is rather pretty, very foolish, very ignorant, very giddy, and, I believe, very goodnatured.”
This is not a fine style, but simple, perspicuous, and agreeable. We now come to Cecilia, written during Miss Burney's intimacy with Johnson; and we leave it to our readers to judge whether the following passage was not at least corrected by his hand :
• It is rather an imaginary than an actual evil, and, though a deep wound to pride, no offence to morality. Thus bave I laid open to you my whole heart, confessed my perplexities, acknowledged my vain-glory, and exposed with equal sincerity the sources of my doubts and the motives of my decision. But now, indeed, how to proceed I know not. The difficulties which are yet to encounter I fear to enumerate, and the petition I have to urge I have scarce courage to mention. My family, mistaking ambition for honour, and rank for dignity, have long planned a splended connexion for me, to which, though my invariable repug. nance has stopped any advances, their wishes and their views immoveably adhere. I am but too certain they will now listen to no other. I dread, therefore, to make a trial where I despair of success. I know not how to risk a prayer with those wbu may silence me by a command.'
Take now a specimen of Madame D'Arblay's later style.
This is the way in which she tells us that her father, on his journey back from the Continent, caught the rheumatism :
• He was assaulted, during his precipitated return, by the rudest fierceness of wintry elemental strife; through which, with bad accommodations and innumerable accidents, he became a prey to the merciless pangs of the acutest spasmodic rheumatism, which barely suffered him to reach his home, ere, long and piteously, it confined him, a tortured prisoner, to his bed. Such was the check that almost instantly curhed, ihough it could not subdue, the rising pleasure of his hopes of entering upon a new species of existence—that of an approved man of letters; for it was on the bed of sickness, exchanging the light wines of France, Italy, and Germany, for the black and loathsome potions of the Apothecaries' Hall, writbed by darting stitches, and burning with fiery fever, that be felt the full force of that sublunary equipoise that seems evermore to hang suspended over the attainment of long-sought and uncommon felicity, just as it is ripening to burst forth with enjoyment!'
Here is a second passage from Evelina :
• Mrs Selwyn is very kind and attentive to me. She is extremely clever. Her understanding, indeed, may be called masculine ; but unfortunately her manners deserve the same epithet. For, in studying to acquire the knowledge of the other sex, she has lost all the softness of ber.own. In regard to myself, however, as I have neither courage nor inclination to argue with her, I have never been personally hurt at her want of gentleness—a virtue which nevertheless seems so essential a part of the female character, that I find myself more awkward and less at ease with a woman who wants it than I do with a man.'
This is a good style of its kind; and the following passage from Cecilia is also in a good style, though not in a faultless one. We say with confidence- Either Sam Johnson or the Devil:
• Even the imperious Mr Delvile was more supportable here than in London. Secure in bis own castle, he looked round him with a pride of power and possession which softened while it swelled him.
His superiority was undisputed; his will was without control. He was not, as in the great capital of the kingdom, surrounded by competitors. No rivalry disturbed his peace; no equality mortified his greatness. All he saw were either vassals of his power, or guests bending to his pleasure. He abated, therefore, considerably the stern gloom of his haughtiness, and soothed his proud mind by the courtesy of condescension.'
We will stake our reputation for critical sagacity on this, that no such paragraph as that which we have last quoted, can be found in any of Madame D'Arblay's works except Cecilia. Compare with it the following sample of her later style :
If beneficence be judged by the happiness which it diffuses, whose claim, by that proof, shall stand higher than that of Mrs Montagu, from the munificence with which she celebrated her annual festival for those hapless artificers who perform the most abject offices of any authorized calling, in being the active guardians of our blazing hearths ? Not to vain-glory, then, but to kindness of heart, should be adjudged the publicity of that superb charity which made its jetty objects, for one bright morning, cease to consider themselves as degraded outcasts from all society.
We add one or two shorter samples. Sheridan refused to permit his lovely wife to sing in public, and was warmly praised on this account by Johnson.
• The last of men,' says Madame D'Arblay, 'was Doctor • Johnson to have abetted squandering the delicacy of integrity by nullifying the labours of talents.'
The club, Johnson's club, did itself no honour by rejecting on political grounds two distinguished men, the one a Tory, the other a Whig. Madame D'Arblay tells the story thus : A • similar ebullition of political rancour with that which so diffi• cultly had been conquered for Mr Canning, foamed over the • ballot-box to the exclusion of Mr Rogers.
An offence punishable with imprisonment is, in this language, an offence 'which produces incarceration. To be starved to death is, 'to sink from inanition into nonentity.' Sir Isaac Newton is, the developer of the skies in their embodied movements;' and Mrs Thrale, when a party of clever people sat silent, is said to have been provoked by the dulness of a taci
turnity that, in the midst of such renowned interlocutors, pro• duced as narcotic a torpor as could have been caused by a
dearth the most barren of all human faculties.' In truth, it is impossible to look at any page of Madame D'Arblay's later works, without finding flowers of rhetoric like these. Nothing in the language of those jargonists at whom Mr Gosport laughed, nothing in the language of Sir Sedley Clarendel, approaches this new Euphuism.
It is from no unfriendly feeling to Madame D'Arblay's memory that we have expressed ourselves so strongly on the subject of her style. On the contrary, we conceive that we have really rendered a service to her reputation. That her later works were complete failures, is a fact too notorious to be dissembled; and some persons, we believe, have consequently taken up a notion that she was from the first an over-rated writer, and that she had not the powers which were necessary to maintain her on the eminence on which good-luck and fashion had placed her. We believe, on the contrary, that her early popularity was no more than the just reward of distinguished merit, and would never have undergone an eclipse, if she had only been content to go on writing in her mother-tongue. If she failed when she quitted her own province, and attempted to occupy one in which she had neither part nor lot, this reproach is common to her with a crowd of