« AnteriorContinuar »
of expression, which has its counterpart also in the American. This peculiarity seems to be founded in a desire to assimilate the language of strong emotion to that of mercantile correspondence, and manifests itself in an eloquence which resembles that of business circulars.
But as business correspondence is intended to conceal emotion, it forms a poor model for style, and hence it is particularly the duty of critics to be on the alert to detect its presence and expose it. The words and parts of sentences italicized in the above extracts, have a tang of Mantalini and Chawls Yellowplush. In reading the paragraph describing how Catherine was taken care of by the Lintons, one recognizes somewhat of the tone of another eloquent personage:—
"'Undoubtedly,' says Cousin Feenix. 'In
point of fact, it's quite a self-evident sort of
thing. I am extremely anxious, Major, that
friend Dombey should hear me express my very
great astonishment and regret, that my lovely
and accomplished relative, who was possessed
of every qualification to make a man happy,
should have so far forgotten what was due to—in
point of fact, to the world—as to commit her
nelf in such a very extraordinary manner. I
have been in a devilish state of depression ever
since; and said indeed to Long Saxby last
nirrfit—man of six foot ten, with whom my
friend Dombey is probably acquainted—that it
bad upset me in a confounded way, and made
me bilious. It induces a man to reflect, this
kind of fatal catastrophe,' says Cousin Feenix,
that events do occur in quite a Providential
nanner ; for if my Aunt had been living at the
irne, I think the effect upon a devilish lively
voman like herself, would have been prostra
ion, and that she would have fallen, in point of
act, a victim.'"
But the taint of vulgarity with our author xtends deeper than mere snobbishness; e is rude, because he prefers to be so. n the outset he represents himself as a isanthropist, and confesses to a degree
reserve 'which it would puzzle a psylologist to explain:—
"The 'walk in' was uttered with closed »th, and expressed the sentiment,' Go to the ;uce!' Even the gate over which he leaned inifested no sympathizing movement to the >rds; and I think that circumstance deterned me to accept the invitation: I felt intercd in a man who seemed more exaggeratedly \i-Tved than myself."
"While enjoying a month of fine weather at the sea-coast, I was thrown into the company of a most fascinating creature, a real goddess, in my eyes, as long as she took no notice of me. I' never told my love' vocally; still, il looks have language, the merest idiot might have guessed I was over head and ears; she understood me, at last, and looked a return— the sweetest of all imaginable looks—and what did I do? I confess it with shame—shrunk icily into myself, like a snail, at every glance retired colder and farther; till, finally, the poor innocent was led to doubt her own senses, and, overwhelmed with confusion at her supposed mistake, persuaded her mamma to decamp."
This is a phase of human nature which we had rather not understand. If it ever was real with any living man, he was a very bad-hearted one, and a conceited. More likely the real truth with one who would write himself so affected a personage, was just the reverse—that some gay girl, seeing in him a person on agreeable terms with himself, experimented on him for her diversion, till she made him "deucedly miserable." It is evident that the author has suffered, not disappointment in love, but some great mortification of pride. Possibly his position in society has given him manners that have prevented him from associating with those among whom he feels he has intellect enough to be classed, and he is thus in reality the misanthropist he claims to be. Very likely he may be a young person who has spent his life, until within a few years, in some isolated town in the North of England. It is only by some such supposition that his peculiarities of style and thought can be accounted for. He is one who is evidently unfamiliar with, and careless of acquiring, the habits of refined society.
We regret the necessity of proving his intentional and affected coarseness by examples. In the first place, several of the characters swear worse than ever the troops did in Flanders. Now, setting out of the question the morality or immorality of this practice, it is, as we have already observed, an offence against politeness; not such a great one, however, but it is esteemed venial when used effectively by military or naval gentlemen, who have seen some service. It is not permitted to
civilians in general society, though a little Mantalini " demmit," escaping between the teeth in the heat of an argument, is readily overlooked. But common, rough swearing is a worse breach of decorum than disregarding the conveniences for tobacco saliva. And how much more in writing than in conversation! For a writer is presumed to be deliberate; he corrects his proofs at leisure. If a writer, therefore, permits his characters to swear, and that
frossly, (not like gentlemen,) he does it nmcingly; he is aware that it is not customary or mannerly, and every time he does it, he is, therefore, intentionally rude. But the writer's disposition to be coarse is, perhaps, still more clearly shown by examples like the following:—
"I was surprised to see Heathcliff there also. He stood by the fire, his back toward me, just finishing a stormy scene to poor Zillah, who ever ana anon interrupted her labor to pluck up the corner of her apron, and heave an indignant groan.
"' And you, you worthless 'he broke out
as I entered, turning to his daughter-in-law, and employing an epithet as harmless as duck, or sheep, but generally represented by a dash."
Had the writer been simply, unconsciously coarse, he would, in this instance, have said " slut " or "bitch," without adverting to the harmlessness of the word. But by alluding to its harmlessness, he at once uses it, and offers a defence of it. This as plainly evinces a conscious determination to write coarsely, as if he had quoted and defended a passage from Rabelais. He knew the word to be a low word, though not an immodest one, and he determined to show his bold independence by using and defending it. He was anxious to extend the resources of the English language. This and hundreds of other sentences show that he has got the maggot in his brain, that low words are the strongest, and low manners the most natural. He desired to write a book with "no nonsense about it," and he has, therefore, been led into the affecting boorishness..
Many persons, we dare say, especially among the young who have read the book merely as a story, and because it excited them, have been so carried away by its power as hardly to notice these great faults in its style. But if they will take
isolated paragraphs from any chapter, they will perceive them at once. Fancy two ladies sitting in a splendid parlor and interchanging their sentiments in the following brilliant dialogue:—
"' How can you say I am harsh, you naughty fondling?' cried the mistress, amazed at the unreasonable assertion. 'You are surely losing your reason. When have I been harsh, teu me?'
"' Yesterday,' sobbed Isabella,' and now!'
"' Yesterday!' said her sister-in-law. 'On what occasion?'
"'In our walk along the moor; you told me to ramble where I pleased, while you sauntered on with Mr. Heathcliff.'
"' And that's your notion of harshness?' said Catherine, laughing. 'It was no hint that your company was superfluous; we didn't care whether you kept with us or not; I merely thought HeathclifTs talk would have nothing entertaining for your ears.'
"'Oh, no,'wept the young lady,' you wished me away because you knew I liked to be there.'
"' Is she sane?' asked Mrs. Linton, appealing to me. 'I'll repeat our conversation word for word, Isabella, and you point out any charm it could have had for you.'
"' I don't mind the conversation,' she answered: 'I wanted to be with'—
"' Well!' said Catherine, perceiving her hesitate to complete the sentence.
"'With him; and I won't be always sent off!' she continued, kindling np. 'You area dog in the manger, Cathy, and desire no one to be loved but yourself!'
"' You are an impertinent little monkey '■ exclaimed Mrs. Linton, in surprise," &c.
This is the talk of two scolds. We surely need caution no lady reader of Wuthering Heights, against adopting such an use of language as is here put into the mouths of two of their sex.
Doubtless there are quarrels, and pontings, and occasions among boarding-school misses, where they let out their opinions of each other as freely as Catherine and Isabella; but it is inconsistent with our notion of the delicacy and self-respect of a lady, to suppose she could listen to, much less utter such expressions. This we say because hundreds and hundreds of girls, whose papas take this Review, have read the last new novel, (cried over it perhaps.) and may possibly see these pages. They ought to be strongly cautioned against this wretched mode of speaking. They are the formers and judges of our manners, and if they allow such writings as this to influcnce their taste, our social assemblies will shortly exhibit such scenes as have gained for Tammany Hall its peculiar notoriety. Mr. Tin Hunter will soon venture not to call on Miss Argent of a morning, without examining the caps on his revolver; the fashionable dress for the opera will require the handle of a bowie knife to protrude from above the coat collar; Count Barbarini will promenade Broadway with a double barrelled rifle, and the Rev. Dr.
will confer with the pious females of his parish in the armor of a French cuirassier. The influence which this book cannot but have upon manners, must be bad. For the coarseness extends farther than the mere style ; it extends all through ; and the crude style and rude expressions are too much in keeping with the necessary situations. It deals constantly in exagge•ated extremes of passion. From the beginning to the end, there is hardly a scene vhich does not place the actors in the nost agonizing or antagonizing predicanent possible. Let the reader run over he principal events of the story in his jind, and consider what a series of scenes - would make, if dramatized and placed pon the stage.
Mr. Lockwood visits Mr. Heathcliff, and attacked by sheep dogs in his parlor. e visits him again and is caught in the low; the dogs fly at him, his nose bleeds, Huh pours a pint of ice water down his ick and puts him to bed in a haunted lamber, where he has a terrible dream. Mrs. Dean then begins her tale, and in e first chapter we have a fight between eathcliff and Hindley. Then Mr. Earnaw dies in his chair. Heathcliff and ithy run away to the grange, and he is graded for it. They lead a dreadful life th Hindley, who becomes a drunkard. Igar Linton visits Catherine and falls in •e; 6he, after nearly knocking him over th a blow on the face, accepts him. But we will not continue the catalogue scenes of the most disgusting violence, which the remainder of the book is lost wholly made up. Catherine's elec1 of Linton and her reasons for it, as it he main incident of the story, may be st properly taken to examine the naInes* of the passion. She at last kes a confidant of Nelly:— * Nelly, I see now, you think me a selfish
wretch, but did it never strike you that if Heathcliff and I married we should be beggars? whereas, if I married Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power.'
"' With your husband's money, Miss Catherine?' I asked. 'You'll find him not so pliable as you calculate upon; and, though I'm hardly a judge, I think that's the worst motive you've given yet for being the wife of young Linton.'
"' It is not,' retorted she, 'it is the best! The others were the satisfaction of my whims; and for Edgar's sake, too, to satisfy him. This is for the sake of one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself. I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be, an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliffs miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all elso perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and, if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods : time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Healhcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he's always in my mind—not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself—but as my own being; so don't talk of our separation again— it is impracticable; and'
"She paused, and hid her face in the folds of my gown; but I jerked it forcibly away. I was out of patience with her folly.
"' If I can make any sense of your nonsense, miss,' I said,' it only goes to convince me that you are ignorant of the duties you undertake in marrying, or else that you are a wicked, unprincipled girl.'"
Now, if Catherine could have found Heathcliff the same night; if he had not run away just at that juncture, and left her to a long brain fever, and finally to a marriage with Linton; if they could have met but an instant, the reader is made to feel that all would be well. What she here utters was but the passing fancy of an extremely capricious, ungoverned girl; her better reason, could it have availed in time, might have brought her to her senses. And so we are wrought upon to love her to the last.
But is this natural passion? Would the most imperious, impetuous and wayward young lady that can be imagined, ever
have reasoned with herself, situated as she was, in the manner here represented? So far as men may judge of female character, by considering it a reflection and counterpart of their own, this certainly is false and unnatural. Let any of our young gentlemen readers look fairly and honestly into their own hearts and ask themselves, whether they can fancy themselves to be in such a position with regard to two of what Hook calls the "opposing sex," that they could argue the question in their minds in this manner: "Here is one young lady whom I love as I do my own soul; I cannot live without her; nothing on earth shall separate us. But at the same time I cannot marry her, because we should be poor; I will, therefore, take this other rich one, who likes me well enough, in order that it may be better ' in a pecuniary point of view ' for my real love!" We do not ask if any young man would act on such grounds, but only if he can fancy a state of mind, in which he could for an instant seriously propose to himself to act thus. If there be any who can, he does not and cannot know, what true manly affection for a woman is: he may marry, and continue his species on the face of the earth, and leave a long epitaph behind him, but he will never have understood the love that Shakspeare could paint; Juliet and Desdemona will have died in vain for him. For the affection that our best English poets have sung, requires the soul to be so constituted as to be disgusted with the very idea of marriage with another, while it has an affection for one. We do not understand, thank Heaven, this gregarious love, that favors Julia with fear and Susan in pride. However it may be in Paris, in England, and, we hope, in the dominions of President Polk, our young gentlemen have not yet arrived at that pitch of refinement, where they can turn away from the flame that burns brightly on the altar of one propitious divinity, ■ and sacrifice themselves upon the cold shrine of another. Nor will we be so uncharitable as to believe that our Anglo-Saxon damsels are yet so sophisticated as to require or admit more t han one true love at a time; "t^hat there are many among them, who, eir own accord, would debate with lives and resolve to marry a rich order to benefit a poor sweetheart.
If it be so, it were well that our professional and literary young men, who are compelled to a life of celibacy, should be permitted to know a truth which would enable them to bear their enforced condition with perfect resignation.
We admit the facts are often seemingly against us. Fathers and mothers, with the aid of the family "Great Medicineman," viz., the priest, can often break down their daughters' wills, and sell or dispose of their domestic produce, according to the quality of the article and the state of the market; but the will, in such instances, is very apt to prove troublesome to the purchaser, and sometimes ends in a home consumption. These examples do not, therefore, affect the general truth.
But it will be urged, and the author, with a great deal of tact, endeavors to make it so appear, that poor Cathy was unconscious of the nature of her love for Heathcliff: she had been brought up with him; they had played together all their lives ; a kind of sisterly feeling for him was all that she was actually conscious of.
This is more unnatural than the other. We can more easily fancy a girl marryinf a man who merely pleases her, in order to benefit one whom she loves, than that being of a marriageable age, she should ts-x know the nature of her feelings toward; one man while on the point of uniting h-x self in wedlock with another. Can w suppose such a state of things as a you?: lady actually about to marry one man. resolving upon it, and all the while ber s^-"timents in such divorcement from her fusion, that she is innocently unconsekKS which of the two she would rather be fof ever joined with, in the chaste and h.bond of wedded love, that
"Mysterious law, true source Of human offspring, sole propriety In Paradise of all things common else f
This would be a condition of existear not admitting the virtue of cbastitv. B* it is one which recent writers are so otui in the habit of assuming, that it is tirpshould be said in the name of at least «a half of the generation, upon whom a=-' devolved the mighty task of peopling u> vast continent, we hope that it never n isted, or if it did, the subject was isii4eased condition. No writer has grrcr'
more exquisite pictures of female delicacy and purity than Godwin, yet his Henrietta regards her Clifford with no such passionless iciness. Indeed, were such damsels possible, we see not why there should ever be any more denouements to love tales; all would be accomplished when the parties were brought within speaking distance of iach other. And the course of love would un as smooth as the Dead Sea; each over might say in the words of Marvell:—
The physical condition of our bodies, the hanges which take place on arriving at n age proper for marriage, do not allow I" the ignorance which our author requires s to suppose in his heroine, not only in lis place, but especially after Heathcliff's ssence and return, when she is the wife f Linton and about to become a mother, fe desire to put it to the common sense
discriminating readers, whether this is )t a radical error in the delineation of ese ideal characters. Are they real begs, or impossible combinations of qualiis? Could Mrs. Linton, after Heathff's return, desire his presence without ing conscious that her feelings towards ■n were such as his presence would only ider more intolerable, unless, as the au3r leaves us no room to suppose, she ;ant to be untrue to her husband? We nk that when any one considers the itter, he will find in what we have said ore, a very plain explanation of what > been talked of as a puzzling characMaking all allowance for the influ:e of education, and giving the fullweight to that natural maidenly reserve, ich in the early growth of affection ches love to hide itself and affect indif»nce; there is in these characters an ence of all that natural desire which 'iild accompany love. They are abstract bodiless. Their love is feline; it is ?risb.
fet the work is carried on with such rer that it excites a sense of shame to 1 back to many of its most " thrilling" ies, and reflect that we were able to
read them with so little disgust. How horribly overwrought is the passage where Heathcliff finally embraces the dying Catherine:—
"In her eagerness, she rose and supported herself on the arm of the chair. At that earnest appeal, he turned to her, looking absolutely desperate. His eyes wide, and wet at last, flashed fiercely on her; his breath heaved convulsively. An instant they held asunder; and then how they met I hardly saw, but Catherine made a spring, and he caught her, and they were locked in an'embrace from which I thought my mistress would never be released alive. In fact, to my eyes, 6he seemed directly insensible. He flung himself into the nearest seat, and on my approaching hurriedly to ascertain if she had fainted, he gnashed at me, and foamed liko a mad dog, and gathered her to him with greedy jealousy. I did not feel as if I were in the company of a creature of my own cpecies; it appeared that he would not understand, though I spoke to him; so I stood off and held my tongue in great perplexity."
We will not inquire into the possibility or naturalness of Heathcliff's treatment of his son. That there are fathers, however, in the real world who are capable of murdering their children to gratify their selfish passions, there can be no shadow of doubt.
The explanation already given of the character of Catherine will apply in a more general form to all—to the whole design and scope of the story. The characters are drawn with dramatic force and made to seem alive, yet when we lay the book aside, they collapse, they die, they vanish; and we see that we have been cheated with illusory semblances. The children know too much about their minds and too little about their bodies; they understand at a very early age all the intellectual and sentimental part of love, but the "bloom of young desire" does not warm their cheeks. The grown-up characters are the mere tools of fixed passions. Their actions and sayings are like those of monomaniacs or persons who have breathed nitrous oxide. When they hate, they swear and fight and pull out each other's hair. When they are grieved they drink themselves to madness. When they love—we have seen how they behave in the extract just given. Agony is heaped on agony, till the deficient mass topples down headlong. The fancy gives out, and like a tired hound, rushes reeling to the conclusion.