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future Premier. He is a sceptic governed career, without a soul enormously interested in re- to stop it or guide it; kicking ligion, an aristocrat enormous- violently over the traces from ly interested in liberty. “To the very first; rushing in six have the reputation of an idler years, from eighteen to twentyand to be in truth a plodding four, * to absolute destruction, and unwearied student, — this worn out in mind and body at any rate pleased him.” For by incessant and insane excitethe rest, he is careless, good- ment. Tolstoy makes one of tempered, without a touch of his characters say that “all sava indignatio, whatever the the variety, all the charm, all circumstances; ready to let the the beauty of life, is made up whole reins of management, as of light and shadow.” In this far as home life or even the book there is a complete abinfluence of his home on his sence of light and shade, and public career is concerned, slip only the fuliginous lampblack from his fingers. He is of less of the shilling dreadful. Yet account than the lady's- maid, the heroine interests and abwho can at any time adminis- sorbs the attention, a result ter the sedative of a month's which is a striking tribute to notice. He accordingly fulfils Mrs Ward's talents as a novelMrs Ward's idea of masculine ist, but does not in our judgdignity. It is an impossible ment render the book either character. He has married a wholesome or agreeable. She self-willed child, scarcely more was a wild cat at school, she than half his age, out of a said ; do you know why? “Bewretched home, given her cause some of the other girls wealth and high social posi- were more important than Ition, and surrounded her with much more important — and everything, including his own richer and more beautiful, and love, that she most values. people paid them more attention. Yet he is represented as a And that seemed to burn the mere log of wood in regard heart in me.” She described to her, and is sedulously de- to the hero, before his infatuprived of all control, or even ated love-making, that her one influence, over the successive aim was “to be envied, pointed situations which arise, ina at, obeyed when I lift my manner which one feels instinc- finger, and then to come to tively does not correspond with some great, glorious, tragic real life or with any possible end,” and obligingly added that matrimonial relations.
she would “never look at a The heroine is far and away man who did not think it the the best drawn character in glory of his life to win me.” the book. In real life, for her The accommodating hero is so own good and for the peace absorbed in watching the flashand quiet of all concerned, she ing of her face and eyes, the would have been placed under play of the wind in her hair, severe restraint. În fiction she and the springing grace with pursues an unmanageable, un- which she moved, that his one
han half home, social posith much an wion, and surincluding hijalues. penal that seemeshe descriptu
eted positihe conclud his wife is hap
idea of the future is, Poor mother whose career has been child ! what is to be done with all that it should not be, and her? The poor child settled who has to be pensioned by that for herself. She married the enthusiastic husband. But him, led him a life of torment the hero is so satisfied with his to which he tamely submitted position, wealth, and family, without loss of affection, finally that he concludes that “society went off, as was quite appro- must accept his wife; and priate in the circumstances, Kitty, once mellowed by hapwith another man, and died in piness and praise, might live, misery and comparative want. laugh, and rattle as she In one of the constantly re- pleased.” The provoking cause curring crises of her short of the disastrous engagement, matrimonial career-for even in made by a mature statesa novel you can't stand more man of thirty-two with a girl than six years of this sort of of eighteen, was that whilst thing, in real life probably in a “very ecstasy of remuch less—she had the satis- solve” at his window in the faction of reminding her hus- dead of the night, a flower, band that she had warned him. weighted by a stone tied into “I remember saying to you a fold of ribbon, fell beside him, that sometimes my brain was thrown from outside. He stole on fire. I seem to be always down the staircase, made for in a hurry-in a desperate, des- an ilex avenue, caught the perate hurry! to know or feel young lady, and was then and something—while there is still there engaged, meeting all time_before one dies. There warnings with the sage reis always a passion, always mark, “I should be bored an effort. More life, more life, with the domestic dove. I even if it lead to pain and want the hawk, Kitty, with its agony and tears.”
quick wings and its daring, The novelist can easily dis- bright eyes." He got more pense with any effort to remove than he wanted. The hawk in a reasonable manner the had its own destructive way difficulties in the way of a from first to last; and Lady wholly ill-assorted and improb- Caroline Lamb herself is at able engagement. Credit the last eclipsed. man with infatuated philan- The marvellous incident was dering propensities and a desire that amongst the warnings to protect, and the problem is addressed to him she threatsolved. In this case, however, ened him with overpowering the obstacles are overwhelming. fancies which she must follow, Mr Ashe, the hero, held an and admitted that she had one unassailable position—wealthy, at the time for a certain of high rank, the heir to a Geoffrey Cliffe, with whom, peerage, an assured ascendancy after an insane career, she in public. The heroine, Lady finally elopes. This man, a Kitty Bristol, comes of a thor- fascinating journalist, a poet oughly bad stock, with a whose poems we are not allowed to sample, and an tions of the heroine, this tiine excellent candidate for the brought to bear upon her gallows, balked of his legiti- intended and intending husmate end by the retributive band out of sheer malignity. hand of a paid assassin, is At the end of the book this early introduced on the scene. eminently respectable young It is not a very well-drawn lady, regardless of her church character, for from first to last embroidery, is credited with an it is difficult to understand the act of diabolical wickednesssource of his magnetic influ- a treacherous betrayal of Lady ence. The authoress refers it Kitty into Cliffe's power at the to his poems, which excited in very moment when, with a Kitty a "passion of the im- returning sense of right, she agination.” He had passed is endeavouring to escape from through, she says, a wealth of his influence back to her lawtragic circumstance, and had ful husband. This incident, been face to face with his own however sensational, is impossoul in the wilds of the earth- sible on the face of it. No one whatever that may mean. The could possibly descend to such poems must have been remark- a depth of infamy unless the able productions, since in spite whole previous life had led up of having outraged the Non- to it, and had been consistently conformist conscience to an base. extent which cost him an elec- Cliffe's eventual triumph tion, he exercised, possibly with over Lady Kitty's virtue is their aid, as much fascination not entirely due to his poems. over the orthodox young lady Here we come upon another of the piece, Mary Lyster, as ghastly incident. Cliffe had over the heroine herself. Miss been abroad for some years, Lyster does not receive fair and his relations with the play at the hands of the heroine had subsided, and inauthoress. She plays a dis- stead a friendship or attachtinguished part in the plot, ment had grown up with Mary and is a social success, es- Lyster. No sooner had our timable in all her relations. heroine observed this, than But she offers sincere homage “Could she carry him off ?” to the respectabilities, and is occurred to her. “Her vanity accordingly pursued with ran- insisted that Mary could not cour all through the book. prevent it.” The deterrent She is introduced on page 1 reflection followed, “I am a as devoted to a fine piece of little beast; why shouldn't church embroidery, designed she be happy ?” but overfor her by Burne-Jones; was hearing some disparaging remarked out first as Mr Ashe's marks made upon her by the intended wife, only to be young lady, she determined on triumphantly displaced by Lady vengeance, and forthwith beKitty; and second as Mr Cliffe's gan a wild flirtation which, intended wife, again to be dis- after some engrossing vicissiplaced by the superior attrac- tudes, ended in her ruin and Cliffo's assassination. No one loses half its evil by losing all can dispute the ability with its grossness. One impatiently which the character of the recalls Mrs Sarah Grand's exheroine is drawn. There is the pedient of tilting her characters love for her husband combined into a river, in the new light of with incessant acts of unre- a stroke of genius. It would strained vanity, necessarily be less commonplace, it would blighting his political career, so afford equal scope for courage far as it was intertwined with, to the parties concerned, and or dependent upon, his social it would be admirably adapted or matrimonial life. There are to assuage their justifying pasoccasional gleams of right feel- sions. But to our authoress ing for both husband and child, aliter visum. Meanwhile the continually darkened by morbid husband, his mother, and fampromptings and impulses which ily are represented as standing no one interferes to check. idly by, each urging the other The scandal of her proceedings to do something, each perfectly only leads her to reflect, “I helpless, until the scandal has began this to punish Mary, and reached such dimensions that now when I don't see Geoffrey, Lady Kitty's withdrawal to everything is odious and dreary. the country becomes imperaI can't care for anything." tive. But the result is that Cliffe We need not follow up the knows that she has designedly incidents of this sequestered broken off his marriage with life. Cliffe is abroad, and the Mary Lyster, that he had Prime Minister is royally envainly endeavoured to resist tertained, with Lady Kitty as her spell, “a fatal fusion of hostess. His white eyelashes their two natures” had come were an object of intense disabout, and retreat was im- like to her, and his refusal to possible. His reflection was, be drawn in regard to political “They still had the last justi- secrets roused the latent infying cards in their hands : sanity in her, and scenes ensued passion, and the courage to go which the husband must have where passion leads. When regarded as disastrous, though these were played, they might the effect of them on the mind look each other and the world of an old statesman and man of in the face. Till then they the world, who knew well the were but triflers, mean souls, sort of person he was dealing fit neither for heaven nor hell.” with, seems to us grievously Can anything be more un- exaggerated. However, all wholesome and unpleasant ? those incidents, as well as the The sequel eventually involves visit to Venice, where the rea twofold breach of the deca- doubtable villain of the piece, logue, very inartistic, and with the fascinating Cliffe, again none of the alleviations which appears on the scene, must be might vindicate Burke's over- read in the book. The sequessanguine estimate that vice tered life ends with a mad outburst before a room full of tirely of her own making. It guests, in which she drops appears that during her sequesheavily unconscious into her tration she had indulged her husband's arms. During her spite and animosity against fit, and to increase the sensa- many of his friends, including tional effect, her child dies in the Prime Minister and his convulsions, and the interesting wife, by writing an "atrocious” couple, with Lady Kitty now a book, in which she glorified complete wreck, withdraw to her husband, made caricatures Venice, her friends doubtful of all the political friends of whether she would ever recover his whom she hated, describthe sudden and tragic death of ing the Prime Minister, Lord her only child.
Parham, her recent guest, But Lady Kitty is, notwith- “with all sorts of details of standing her frail body and the most intimate and offensive stormy temperament, endowed kind, mocking his speech, his with as many lives as a cat. manners, his little personal She disregards a nervous ways, charging him with being collapse, pointing back to a the corrupt tool of Lady long preceding period of over- Parham, disloyal to his colstrain and excitement, with leagues, a man not to be suspicions of tubercular mis- trusted, &c., &c.” To make chief, and is very soon in a the episode still more outragefresh vortex of excitement, ous, she had been counselled with her disreputable mother and assisted in the publication and cortége appearing on the by a former friend of her scene, followed soon by Geoffrey husband's while staying under Cliffe on the one hand and his roof, a Mr Darrell, whose Mary Lyster and her father endeavours to extract an apon the other. In spite of nerv. pointment from Ashe after he ous collapse, complicated with had attained to Cabinet rank, impending tubercular mischief, and their failure, are duly she is projected again into the chronicled. The spite thus inmidst of all the storm and stress duced was wreaked on the of emotion and passion with unfortunate man through his which those names were con- demented wife; and Ashe, at nected in her recent history. last stung to resistance, disAnd over and above being plays for the first time, someenveloped in all the old en- what late in the day, a little of tanglements, to escape from that sæva indignatio which he which she had presumably been was represented as being enwithdrawn to Venice, at great tirely wanting in. He resolved inconvenience to her husband, at once to leave her, go to who was still a Cabinet England, and resign; and, in Minister, there was a new spite of passionate appeals tragedy in her domestic re- from his wife, he carried his lations with him ready to resolution into effect. burst over her head, and en- The poor mad creature was