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356

CRABBE

SOMETIMES INDULGED TO EXCESS.

alyzing all the little traits that indicate character, and all the little circumstances that influence it, have sometimes led him to be careless about his selection of the instances in which it was to be exhibited, or at least to select them upon principles very different from those which give them an interest in the eyes of ordinary readers. For the purpose of mere anatomy, beauty of form or complexion are things quite indifferent; and the physiologist, who examines plants only to study their internal structure, and to make himself master of the contrivances by which their various functions are performed, pays no regard to the brilliancy of their hues, the sweetness of their odours, or the graces of their form. Those who come to him for the sole purpose of acquiring knowledge may participate perhaps in this indifference; but the world at large will wonder at them — and he will engage fewer pupils to listen to his instructions, than if he had condescended in some degree to consult their predilections in the beginning. It is the same case, we think, in many respects, with Mr. Crabbe. Relying for the interest he is to produce, on the curious expositions he is to make of the elements of human character, or at least finding his own chief gratification in those subtle investigations, he seems to care very little upon what particular individuals he pitches for the purpose of these demonstrations. Almost every human mind, he seems to think, may serve to display that fine and mysterious mechanism which it is his delight to explore and explain ; — and almost every condition, and every history of life, afford occasions to show how it may be put into action, and pass through its various combinations. It seems, therefore, almost as if he had caught up the first dozen or two of persons that came across him in the ordinary walks of life, - and then fitting in his little window in their breasts, and applying his tests and instruments of observation, had set himself about such a minute and curious scrutiny of their whole habits, history, adventures, and dispositions, as he thought must ultimately create not only a familiarity, but an interest, which the first aspect of the

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HIS TALES OF THE HALL.

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subject was far enough from leading any one to expect. That he succeeds more frequently than could have been anticipated, we are very willing to allow. But we cannot help feeling, also, that a little more pains bestowed in the selection of his characters, would have made his power of observation and description tell with tenfold effect; and that, in spite of the exquisite truth of his delineations, and the fineness of the perceptions by which he was enabled to make them, it is impossible to take any considerable interest in many of his personages, or to avoid feeling some degree of fatigue at the minute and patient exposition that is made of all that belongs to them.

These remarks are a little too general, we believe and are not introduced with strict propriety at the head of our fourth article on Mr. Crabbe's productions. They have drawn out, however, to such a length, that we can afford to say but little of the work immediately before us. It is marked with all the characteristics that we have noticed, either now or formerly, as distinctive of his poetry. On the whole, however, it has certainly fewer of the grosser faults — and fewer, too, perhaps, of the more exquisite passages which occur in his former publications. There is nothing, at least, that has struck us, in going over these volumes, as equal in elegance to Phæbe Dawson in the Register, or in pathetic effect to the Convict's Dream, or Edward Shore, or the Parting Hour, or the Sailor dying beside his Sweetheart. On the other hand, there is far less that is horrible, and nothing that can be said to be absolutely disgusting ; and the picture which is afforded of society and human nature is, on the whole, much less painful and degrading. There is both less misery and less guilt; and while the same searching and unsparing glance is sent into all the dark caverns of the breast, and the truth brought forth with the same stern impartiality, the result is more comfortable and cheering. The greater part of the characters are rather more elevated in station, and milder and more amiable in disposition ; while the accidents of life are more mercifully managed, and fortunate

358 CRABBE

- PLAN AND CONDUCT OF THE WORK.

circumstances more liberally allowed. It is rather iemarkable, too, that Mr. Crabbe seems to become more amorous as he grows older, — the interest of almost all the stories in this collection turning on the tender passion – and many of them on its most romantic varieties.

The plan of the work, — for it has rather more of plan and unity than any of the former, — is abundantly simple. Two brothers, both past middle age, meet together for the first time since their infancy, in the Hall of their native parish, which the elder and richer had purchased as a place of retirement for his declining age — and there tell each other their own history, and then that of their guests, neighbours, and acquaintances. The senior is much the richer, and a bachelor — having been a little distasted with the sex by the unlucky result of an early and very extravagant passion. He is, moreover, rather too reserved and sarcastic, and somewhat Toryish, though with an excellent heart and a powerful understanding. The younger is very sensible also, but more open, social, and talkative --- a happy husband and father, with a tendency to Whiggism, and some notion of reform — and a disposition to think well both of men and women.

The visit lasts two or three weeks in autumn: and the Tales which make up the volume, are told in the after dinner tête-à-têtes that take place in that time between the worthy brothers over their bottle. The married man, however, wearies at length for his wife and children ; and his brother lets him go, with more coldness than he had expected. He goes with him, however, a stage on the way; and, inviting him to turn aside a little to look at a new purchase he had made of a sweet farm with a neat mansion, he finds his wife and children comfortably settled there, and all dressed out and ready to receive them! and speedily discovers that he is, by his brother's bounty, the proprietor of a fair domain within a morning's ride of the Hall — where they may discuss politics, and tell tales any afternoon they

think proper.

Though their own stories and descriptions are not, in our opinion, the best in the work, it is but fair to intro

SQUIRE GEORGE'S HISTORY.

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duce these narrative brothers and their Hall a little more particularly to our readers. The history of the elder and more austere is not particularly probable

nor very interesting ; but it affords many passages extremely characteristic of the author. He was a spoiled child, and grew up into a youth of a romantic and contemplative turn - dreaming, in his father's rural abode, of divine nymphs and damsels all passion and purity. One day he had the good luck to rescue a fair lady from a cow, and fell desperately in love:— Though he never got to speech of his charmer, who departed from the place where she was on a visit, and eluded the eager search with which he pursued her, in town and country, for many a long year: For this foolish and poetical passion settled down on his spirits; and neither time nor company, nor the business of a London banker, could effect a diversion. At last, at the end of ten or twelve years — for the fit lasted that unreasonable time being then an upper clerk in his uncle's bank, he stumbled upon his Dulcinea in a very unexpected way — and a way that no one but Mr. Crabbe would either have thought of — or thought of describing in verse. In short, he finds her established as the chère amie of another respectable banker! and after the first shock is over, sets about considering how he may reclaim her. The poor Perdita professes penitence; and he offers to assist and support her if she will abandon her evil

The following passage is fraught with a deep and a melancholy knowledge of character and of human nature.

She vow'd she tried ! Alas! she did not know
How deeply rooted evil habits grow!
She felt the truth upon her spirits press,
But wanted ease, indulgence, show, excess;
Voluptuous banquets : pleasures -- not refined,
But such as soothe to sleep th' opposing mind
She look'd for idle vice, the time to kill,
And subtle, strong apologies for ill;
And thus her yielding, unresisting soul,
Sank, and let sin confuse her and control:
Pleasures that brought disgust yet brought relief,
And minds she hated help'd to war with grief.” — vol. i. p. 163.

courses.

360

CRABBE

CAPTAIN RICHARD.

As her health fails, however, her relapses become less frequent ; at and last shedies, grateful and resigned. Her awakened lover is stunned by the blow — takes seriously to business — and is in danger of becoming avaricious; when a severe illness rouses him to higher thoughts, and he takes his name out of the firm, and, being turned of sixty, seeks a place of retirement.

He chose his native village, and the hill
He climb'd a boy had its attraction still;
With that small brook beneath, where he would stand,
And, stooping, fill the hollow of his hand,
To quench th' impatient thirst — then stop awhile
To see the sun upon the waters smile,
In that sweet weariness, when, long denied,
We drink and view the fountain that supplied
The sparkling bliss and feel, if not express,

Our perfect ease, in that sweet weariness.
“ The oaks yet flourish'd in that fertile ground,
Where still the church with lofty tower was found;
And still that Hall, a first, a favourite view," &c.
The Hall of Binning! his delight a boy,
That gave his fancy in her flight employ;
Here, from his father's modest home, he gaz'd,
Its grandeur charm'd him, and its height amaz'd :-
Now, young no more, retired to views well known,
He finds that object of his awe his own;
The Hall at Binning! — how he loves the gloom
That sun-excluding window gives the room ;
Those broad brown stairs on which he loves to tread;
Those beams within ; without, that length of lead,
On which the names of wanton boys appear,
Who died old men, and left memorials here,
Carvings of feet and hands, and knots and flowers,

The fruits of busy minds in idle hours." — vol. i. p. 4–6. So much for Squire George — unless any reader should care to know, as Mr. Crabbe has kindly told, that Gentleman was tall,” and, moreover, “ Looked old when followed, but alert when met.” Of Captain Richard, the story is more varied and rambling. He was rather neglected in his youth; and passed his time, when a boy, very much, as we cannot help supposing, Mr. Crabbe must have passed his own. He ran wild in the neighbourhood of a seaport, and found occupation enough in its precincts.

6 The

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