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into new fantastic perplexities ; so, in the “ long trail” which we are compelled to follow in these volumes, we are unable to pause awhile for judicious deliberation, when a seeming improbability, or an event without a sufficient cause, for a moment awakens our scepticism. We swim rivers, navigate cataracts, recognise the marks of the desert, climb mountains, and penetrate fogs and armies, as easily—and mind rifles and tomahawks as little as did Hawk-eye and the natives, whom we accompany in their perils.
Sober judgment can only exercise its functions on a second perusal. If any doubt had remained as to the author's power as an imaginative writer, it must be removed by this experiment. He is a poet ; and if his creations should not be immortal, it will be the work of the perverse and incalculable accidents of time; for multitudes, less worthy, have a niche in the temple of memory. But a poet, with all his license, immemorially claimed and granted, is bound to make the creatures of his fancy act consistently with their assigned attributes, and with the circumstances into which they are thrown. If he introduces, for example, a fiock of harpies, they must act with proper voracity; and not say grace, and sit down to dinner like Christians. If he mounts a hero on a flying horse, the man and the nag must do no more feats than the qualities bestowed on them will justify as probable. And if, as in the present instance, he deals with human agents only, however the wildness or peculiarity of their education may be supposed to have influenced their feelings and actions, he is still bound to show sufficient cause, and assign intelligible motives for their conduct, consonant with the premises either conceded to him from historical facts, or assumed by himself at the outset.
With such feelings from a first perusal, and such ideas of what is becoming in the management of a romance, we sit down to give our passing notice of “The Last of the Mohicans ;"not to write a review of it, or to make long extracts. The latter would be a work of supererogation ; for whoever has not read it by this time, is either a Galleo about such matters, or an exceedingly wise man, who does not care to dilute his graver meditations with the notions of your ballad-mongers and romancers. The former task would require an investigation of the raw materials from which this splendid fabric has been woven; for which we candidly confess we have not immediate time and opportunity. The task must therefore be left to our more sedate trimestrial brethren, who appear
be. fore the public only with the seasons, pouring forth the col. lected wisdom of a quarter of a year; while we, who are but “knights of the moon, Diana's foresters," must exhibit our
faces as regularly as she does her horns, with such light as we may be able to borrow in the intermediate intervals. Your quarterly people have time to observe the progress of every thing, until its arrival at maturity; and to gather the full harvest in their garners, from which they may draw forth their stores at pleasure for the use of the community. But we must pluck the flowers and fruits as they blossom and form, or, for us, they will be withered and tasteless.
A brief analysis, with such occasional comments as may suggest themselves, is therefore all we shall attempt in speaking of this novel. One word, in passing, of the preface, which, barring the beginning and the end, is the best our author has written; inasmuch as it is useful in explaining particulars, wbich might otherwise confuse the mind in perusing the story. The beginning and the end are not, by any means, the most intelligible prose we have recently encountered. Our author's forte does not consist in writing prefaces, but romances'; and it were better for his fame if the former were suppressed in subsequent editions, since posterity will wonder, as much as his cotemporaries do, at the drift of these enigmatical prolegomena. The writing of a preface is generally a gratuitous taxation of the author's wits; but in cases of absolute necessity, there ought to be a distinct tribe of literati, whose particular profession and business it should be to open the case ; for when the party concerned does it himself, it infallibly leads to egotism, affectation, or obscurity. Dryden, indeed, did for his own productions what a modern review could not have done as well; and the introductions to the Waverley novels are morceaux fit for the private reading of the gods
But we find we are willing to play about the brink of this well of imagination too long, timorous of exploring its depths. We are introduced at the commencement to two delightful females, daughters of one sire, though by different mothers ---personifications of Claude Halcro's. “ Day and Night.” In the veins of the former ran a mixture of Creole blogd; or, in other words, one of her female ancestors, in the Occidental Indies, was of African extraction. This sufficiently accounts for her differing in complexion and character from her fair-haired and bright-eyed sister, the daughter of a Scottish mother: but what capital points the author meant to make out of this distinction, we confess ourselves obtuse enough not to have discovered. Cora, the eldest sister, is sometimes made to assume all her dignity, when a casual observation suggested the recollection of her descent; but the effect is unpleasant, and in no wise poetical. Munro, the father, when he learns from Duncan Heyward, (who, as in the Wa
verley novels, is the romance hero, though not the hero of the romance,) that he is a suitor for Alice, the younger sister, gives vent to a transient paroxysm of indignation, as if he suspected that the young soldier, born in southern latitudes, slighted bis elder daughter on account of the sable tinge in her escutcheon. But Duncan was certainly at liberty to make his election, independent of any such peculiarity. Cora had likewise a secret partiality for Duncan, which her maiden pride and delicacy properly controlled; but we cannot discern how the purposes of the fiction can be helped, by the supposition that his preference of her younger sister was in anywise to be ascribed to his prejudice of education against the descendants of negroes. It was natural, too, for Uncas to be more attracted by the fuller proportions and brilliant colour of the noble girl, who was ready, at any moment, to sacrifice herself for the more fragile Alice; but this does not rendera frequent, inartificial, and painful allusion to an bereditary taint, at all necessary. Enough, however, of this. The difference between the sisters is finely conceived and beautifully supported throughout.
We find these young ladies, in the third year of what is commonly called the French war, leaving the camp of General Webb, at Fort Edward, to visit their aged father, Munro, the commandant at William Henry, on Lake George, distant about five leagues from the former place. The army of the French general Montcalm, with his fierce Indian allies, a mixed multitude both of Iroquois and Delawares, numerous, according to the reports that reached the English camp, as the leaves of the trees," was pouring down to the assault of William Henry. Here we must mention our second difficulty. Filial piety had urged these maidens to penetrate the wilderness, to visit a father whom they adored; but the motive is scarcely sufficient to justify their leaving the safer quarters of Webb, for a besieged and ill provided fortress ; where, however amiable on any other occasion, they could do no possible good, and must necessarily be rather in the way than useful. To accomplish the journey of fifteen miles, they leave Fort Edward, not with the powerful body despatched by Webb to assist Munro, but escorted solely by Heyward, and under the guidance of an Indian runner, of malign aspect, who had already apostatized, or rather been expelled from his native tribe ; and who, as was known to the party, had no good reason to love Munro or his family; having been once flogged, in a most exemplary manner, for intoxication, by the orders of that veteran disciplinarian. The reason assigned by Heyward for preferring the route he took, “that enemies might be found skirting the column, where scalps abound the most," seems scarcely a satisfactory
solution of this too great confidence in the runner. Previous to the setting out of the party, we are made acquainted with another of the dramatis personæ of this narrative, who drops from the clouds; of a shape strangely uncouth, and attire equally singular. This person was a singing-master, with a “tooting instrument," as Hawk-eye calls it, in his pocket. Why he came to the camp, why he followed the route of the little party, and persisted in attaching himself to them and their fortunes, the author does not explain. His character is minutely drawn, and amusing; and he is of undoubted service in carrying through the plot; still we cannot help inquiring,
Que le diable allait il faire dans cette galère ?" As he is the bore of the romance, we cannot help making a general observation about the species, in the tales of this writer, which must have struck every one. They stick too close to their own peculiarity, with a want of variety, which we do not find even in real bores; and which is sometimes tiresome, and by no means ingenious. Their “single mindedness" is unaccompanied with the “ viridity of intellect,” which, in her husband's opinion, distinguished the schoolmaster's lady in “Sayings and Doings.” Captain Polworth, or Polly-warreth, as the paddies called him, could talk of nothing but mastication and deglutition; and David Gamut never opens his mouth, unless it be to uplift a stave, or to descant on psalmody.
Reinforced by: the pertinacious “ tooting-man,” the party follow the guidance of the runner “Magua," until, it appears, he gave them to understand he had lost the track, and suspicions of his fidelity crossed the mind of Heyward. We are now introduced to three interesting characters ; in supporting two of which-the scout, (our old friend Leatherstocking of the Pioneers,) and the young Mohican, Uncas, the last of the tortoise blood--the author has put forth his power with admirable success. The father of Uncas, Chingachgook, whom the readers of the Pioneers must also remember as an old friend, forms the third person of the groupe, whom the travellers encountered on their journey. We can find nothing to quarrel with Hawk-eye about, unless it be the too frequent repetition of his “ silent and heartfelt laugh." Not but that he had a right to perform this noiseless agitation of his diaphragm, as often as he found it natural or refreshing ; but the reader does not require to be perpetually reminded of this accomplishment of the woodsman, or “gift," as he would have styled it. Uncas is an Indian Apollo; a living personification of one of those active and graceful forms, which an Indian's fancy might dream of, as bounding over the hunting grounds of his Elysium, light
er than the air he seemed to tread, with eye, and limb, and thought alike untiring. No legend of which the love of an Indian has been the theme, has ever approached in beauty the occasional references made by our author to the respectful attachment of this young Mohican to Cora-to the delicacy with which its manifestations appeared, and to its tragic termination.
From the moment when Magua makes his sudden escape froin Heyward, the intense interest of this narrative begins, and does not flag an instant until the conclusion. As, however, it will be utterly impossible for us to follow the trail of this story through all its windings, we must condense our remarks, stating our doubts, and our particular points of admiration, as concisely and intelligibly as our limits admit. In the first place, then, no reason is assigned why the ancient Sagamore, and Uncas, were “out lying on this trail,” except it was to keep Hawk-eye company. The people over whom they had authority were at Fort Edward. When the hunter is talking in the Delaware tongue to Chingachgook, why does his poet, in his translation, employ idiomatic vulgarities, such as natur, &c.? In the character, conduct, and operations of Magua, although we are willing to allow ample scope and license for the subtlety and revengeful spirit of an Indian, are there not some things unaccounted for, and many pushed too far beyond the verge of probability ? How he meant to mislead the party at first, and failed in effecting his purpose, is very obscurely hinted at. His own escapes are always too miraculous ; and, in one instance, when Hawk-eye, after the deliverance of the ladies and Heyward from their first capture, recalls his Indian friends from the pursuit of their powerful, cunning, and deadly enemy, the reasons he assigns are actually too weak; and we are compelled to ascribe the escape to the judicial blindness of the worthy trio, or to the irresistible course of destiny. In a high wrought romance, we have no right to find fault with the extraordinary nature of circumstances, which, however startling and unexpected, are possible. But the motives of the agents must be sufficient, and consistent with their actions, or our credulity is staggered. That an Indian should be capricious in his revenge, at one time ready to immolate his victims, at another thirsting for their more protracted and dreadful torments, we can well conceive : but not that he should so often, in such hazardous circumstances, permit the golden opportunity to escape.
The slaughter by the Indians, after the capture of William Henry, is not more mysteriously narrated in the romance than it is in history. According to the latter, the wrath of the savages