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every new essay more hazardous. In this, as in every other department of literature, the mind which is somewhat elevated dirlikes the beaten path ; and the importunate recollection of insípid productions, in which so much has been said about the affections of the heart, is a constant obstacle to the expression of genuine sentiment. Finally, this species of composition presents in itself difficulties which are sufficiently alarming, and which must be evident to all who reflect on the small number of novels that have attained the rank of eminent works.
Doubtless, a powerful imagination and a quick sensibility are requisite to enable an author to identify himself with all the various situations of life, and to preserve on all occasions that purity and simplicity of nature without which nothing can be great, beautiful, or durable. The concatenation of ideas may be subjected to invariable principles, of which it may always be possible to give an exact analysis. But sentiments are inspirations more or less happy, and these inspirations are perhaps only granted to souls which havo remained worthy of experiencing them. The example of some men of great talents whose conduct has been immoral will per haps be urged against this opinion ; but I am firmly convinced that, on examining their history, if they have been hurried away by strong passions, they have been punished by the most bitter remorse. то have led an estimable life is not enough for this task, but it is sufficient that the heart be not depraved.
A real terror would also prevail in society, were there not a language which affectation cannot imitate, and which no ingenuity can of itself call forth. This propriety of tone, if we may use the expression, ought to be particularly conspicuous in novels. Exaggerated sensibility, pride misplaced, the affectation of virtue, A 2
and all those formalities which so often fatigue us in real life, are to be met with in novels. As in observing the character of an individual, it may be said that by such a word, such a look, or such an accent, he discovered, unknown to himself, the extent of his understanding, or the feelings of his soul ; so in works of imagination, we may point out the situation in which the author has been deficient in true sensibility; in what parts talent has not been able to make up for the want of character; and where the mind has vainly sought what the heart would at once have suggested.
Events, in novels, should always be made subservient to the unfolding of the passions of the human heart; probability to a certain degree, must be preserved, that the illusion may not be destroyed; but works which excite curiosity merely by the invention of incidents, captivate only men of that sort of imagination which authorises
the saying that the eyes are always chil. dren. The novels which we never cease to admire, as Clarissa, Clementina, Tom Jones, the New Eloisa, the Sorrows of Werter, &c. have for their object the exciting or recalling a multitude of sentiments which ought always to reside in the soul, and which form the happiness or misery of our cxistence. These sentiments we do not akow,' because thcy are frem quently connected with our secrets, or with our weaknesses, and because men pass all their lives with men, and mutually conceal their feelings. .. History discloses to lis only those striking features of human character which are rendered manifest by the force of circumstances; but it does not enable us to perceive the secret impressions which by influencing the will of some, decide the fate of all. The discoveries to be made in this science are inexhaustible. There is only A 3
only one thing which is astonishing to the human mind, and that is itself.
“ The proper study of mankind is nian.'
All the resources of talent, all the de. velopments of the mind are therefore to be sought for in the profound knowledge of the affections of the soul ; and novels de serve to be esteemed only when they appear what we may call a sort of confes. sion, snatched from those who have lived as well as from those who are to live.
In an examination of the human heart, we discover at each step the influence of moral character on our destiny. There is 'but one secret in life, and that is the good or the evil we have performed. This secret is concealed under a thousand deceitful forms. Your sufferings have been long, though you did not merit them, You have prospered long by unworthy means,