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When some fond maid shall breathe to thee her tenderest tale of love,
See! there 'twas lying at my feet, its little life had fed,
my hot and bursting brow, in the icy arms of death!
Ourika. A Paris, chez L'Advocat, 1824. pp. 172. The popularity of this little work, during the winter of the present year, in the literary and sentimental coteries of the French capital, would have given it a title to our notice, on the ground of its being an indication of a prevailing taste in that quarter, even although it had not recommended itself by undeniable intrinsic merits. It is the production of the Dutchess de Duras, assisted, as some unbelievers in female powers pretend, by M. le Duc de Chateaubriand, a charge şufficiently confuted by the integrity of the narration, which puts all partnership invention out of the question, and by the perfect simplicity of the diction, which constitutes one of the chief charrys of the story, and is the very opposite to the accumxlated imagery and cumbrous decoration of that author's style. Besides, we live in a period too late to deny a woman the meed of a writer's praise. It is high time for the last of the legitimates of literature to acknowledge the intellectual independence of the physically weaker
and even to confess themselves conquered in some departments of the art which men seem once to have monopolized. Indeed, in all those compositiogs that require delicacy of perception and sentiment in their authors ; in nice discrimination of the shades of social manners; in complete apprehension of the mutations of social feeling, and in striking deVol. I. No. VI.
lineation of the peculiarities of individual character, so far as they are all exhibited within those spheres of action which admit of female inspection, women, whenever they have seized the pencil, have always shown themselves the painters truest to nature. Few of them, it is conceded, have reasoned originally and profoundly upon the higher interests of the species; fewer still have soared above our heads into the heaven of invention,' or advanced the conguests of the human mind, in regions of und scovered knowledge. But many have peculated successfully upon the society around them; many, with philosophical precision, have traced effects to their causes, in manners, conduct and character; and many more have discharged the obligation under which the possession of distinguished talent places them to their race, by guiding us in our search into, by no means the least interesting or the least curious subject in morals, the operations of their own feelings; an investigation which, without their voluntary evidence.men might forever have attempted unsuccessfully; for it requires but a limited experience to learn that the female heart is a labyrinth, where Ariadne herself must furnish the clue, or Theseus, with all his strength, would grope in it forever in vain.
The interest of the story before us is derived from its being, as we think, a natural development of the feelings of a girl, excluded, by her education and accomplishments, from all communion with the class of people among whom she was born, and by her complexion from becoming naturalized in any other. This separativ: from all above and below her, keeps her throughout her life in a peopled solitude ; and the author is eminently successful in making us feel constantly, that if it is not good for man, it is still worse for woman to be alone. An untold and unhappy passion completes the climax of her wretchedness; until the emotiots that circumstances have suppressed and religion has at last subdued undermine her constitution, and bring her prematurely to her grave. "'Tis a short tale and often told,' and it is surprising, how with such barrenness of incident, and so thorough a tritenes of sentiment, with so slight an awakening of curiosity, and so little reliance upon catastrophe, the attention of the reader should be kept rivetted throughout; and that he should be so little displeased with himself on closing the volame that he has allowed it to be 8601849
The name of the heroine is Ourika. She was brought from Senegal, at the age of two years, by tlie governot, and present- '! ed by him to his aunt, Madame de Burado This lady, who is described as possessing all the endowments of heart and head,
which could qualify her for fixing affection and influencing character, educates her as her own; furnishes her with all the means of improving her natural talents, as well as of acquiring every elegant accomplishment, and confers upon her in addition, the benefits of her own conversation, and that of the polished and intellectual society, by which she is herself surrounded. Ourika grows up in these circumstances without
any suspicion that she is disqualified by her colour from the enjoyment through her life of those privileges which have been, with such merciless benevolence, accorded to her infancy and youth ; and she learns, for the first time, from a conversation, which she accidently overhears, between her protectress and a plain dealing friend, that, by the accident of her African origin, she is doomed forever to a virtual solitude. This works an entire change in her feelings, and she finds her last and her only solace in the friendship and confidence of Charles, the grandson of M. de B- An alliance is formed between him and the beautiful Anaïs de Themines, to whom he becomes devotedly attached, and he makes Ourika the depositary of his raptures as a lover, and of his happiness as a husband, without suspecting that at every
word he utters, the iron enters her soul; although she does not herself know the nature of her feelings for him, until she is made conscious of them by the severe remonstrance of the same friend of her mistress, who first opened her eyes to her actual condition. The story concludes by her seeking refuge in a convent, where she gradually pines away, and dies ať peace with the world and with herself. Such is a brief outline of a story, the principal features of which, as we are in"formed, are drawn, not from the invention of the author, but from circumstances of actual occurrence.
We shall now present our readers with a few extracts, premising, that something of the simple charm of the language must escape in its transfusion into our own. The first relates to her early impressions.
• Clad in the orientalcostume, and seated at Madame de B_'s feet, I listened to the conversation of the most distinguished men of the time, long before I was able to comprehend it. had nothing of the turbulence of childhood. Before I had begun to think, I was thoughtful, and by the side of Madame de B—, I was happy. For me, to be in her presence, to hear her, to obey her, and, above all, to gaze upon her, was to love her. I had not a wish beyond it. It was impossible that I should feel out of my element when in the midst of luxury, and surrounded by all that was superior in understanding and amiable in character. I bad been acquainted with nothing else; but, without being conscious of it, I imbibed a thorough disdain for every thing that differed in spirit from the sphere in which I passed my life. "Good taste is to the mind what a correct ear is to sounds. While yet a child, the want of taste offended me. I perceived it before I was able to define it, and it became necessary to me from habit. I reached the age of twelve, without ever having entertained an idea of happiness apart from my actual condition. I felt no regret at being a new gress, for every body complimented me on my beauty ; besides, nothing discovered to me that this was a disadvantage. I saw scarcely any other children. Among them all, I had but a single friend; and the darkness of my skin did not exclude me from his affection.'
A friend of Madame de B—, whose character is depicted by a few brief but decided touches, represents to her in strong terms, the misery which she is preparing for Ourika, by forming her to sentiments, tastes and habits, which are completely irreconcilable with her caste, and of which the inevitable effect must be to render her an exile from her species. Ourika overhears this conversation, and there is great power in the description of the revolution in her feelings which it produces.
The loss of the illusions, by which, till that moment, 'I had been surrounded, made a dreadful alteration in my life! Some visions are like the light of day; when they are dissipated, every thing disappears. In the chaos of new ideas which beset me, I could not discover a trace of the thoughts which had formerly filled my mind; and an abyss, with all its terrors, was before me. The contempt by which I began to feel myself pursued; the society from which I was to be banished; the man, who was to be hired to consent that his children should be blacks! all these ideas conjured themselves up before me in succession, like phantoms, and fastened themselves upon me like furies; but above all, the abandonment of my condition ; the conviction that I was alone, alone for the remainder of my days. They were Madame De B's very words, and I repeated them to myself again and again, alone, alone, for ever! On the evening before this fatal day, what was it to me that I was alone? I did not know it; I could not feel it; I had need of all that I loved, I and never dreamed that not one whom I loved had need of me. But now, my eyes were opened, and wretchedness had already filled my soul with distrust. Every body was surprised at the alteration in me.. I was interrogated. I answered, that I was ill, and was believed. Madame de B. sent for Bartheez, who examined me with care, felt my pulse, and said coldly that nothing was the matter with