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deemed the greatest enemy of the effect which he hoped to produce. It may be added also, that the supernatural occurrences of The Castle of Otranto are brought forward into too strong day-light, and marked by an over degree of distinctness and accuracy of outline. A mysterious obscurity seems congenial at least, if not essential, to our ideas of disembodied spirits, and the gigantic limbs of the ghost of Alphonso, as described by the terrified domestics, are somewhat too distinct and corporeal to produce the feelings which their appearance is intended to excite. This fault, however, if it be one, is more than compensated by the high merit of many of the marvellous incidents in the romance. The descent of the picture of Manfred's ancestor, although it borders on extravagance, is finely introduced, and interrupts an interesting dialogue with striking effect. We have heard it observed, that the animated figure should rather have been a statue than a picture. We greatly doubt the justice of the criticism. The advantage of the colouring induces us decidedly to prefer Mr Walpole's fiction to the proposed substitute. There are few who have not felt, at some period of their childhood, a sort of terror from the manner in which the eye of an ancient portrait appears to fix that of the spectator from every point of view. It is, perhaps, hypercritical to remark, (what, however, Walpole of all authors might have been expected to attend to,) that the time assigned to the action, being about the eleventh century, is rather too early for the introduction of a full-length portrait. The apparition of the skeleton hermit to the Prince of Vicenza was long accounted a master-piece of the horrible ; but of late the valley of Jehosophat could hardly supply the dry bones necessary for the exhibition of similar spectres, so that injudicious and repeated imitation has, in some degree, injured the effect of its original model. What is more striking in The Castle of Otranto, is the manner in which the various prodigious appearances, bearing each upon the other, and all upon the accomplishment of the ancient prophecy, denouncing the ruin of the house of Manfred, gradually prepare us for the grand catastrophe. The moonlight vision of Alphonso dilated to immense magnitude, the astonished group of spectators in the front, and the shattered ruins of the castle in the back-ground, are briefly and sublimely described. We know no passage of similar merit, unless it be the apparition of Fadzean, or Faudoun, in an ancient Scottish poem.*
That part of the romance which depends upon human feelings and agency, is conducted with the dramatic talent which afterwards was so conspicuous in The Mysterious Mother. The persons are indeed rather generic than individual ; but this was in a degree necessary to a plan, calculated rather to exhibit a general view of society and manners during the times which the author's imagination loved to contemplate, than the more minute shades and discriminating points of particular characters. But the actors in the romance are strikingly drawn, with bold outlines becoming the age and nature of the story. Feudal tyranny was, perhaps, never better exemplified, than in the character of Manfred. He has the courage, the art, the duplicity, the ambition of a barbarous chieftain of the dark ages, yet with touches of remorse and natural feeling, which preserve some sympathy for him when his pride is quelled, and his race extinguished. The pious Monk, and the patient Hippolita, are well contrasted with this selfish and tyrannical Prince. Theodore is the juvenile hero of a romantic tale, and Matilda has more interesting sweetness than usually belongs to its heroine. As the character of Isabella is studiously kept down, in order to relieve that of the daughter of Manfred, few readers are pleased with the concluding insinuation, that she became at length the bride of Theodore. This is in some degree a departure from the rules of chivalry; and, however natural an occurrence in common life, rather injures the magic illusions of romance. In other respects, making allowance for the extraordinary incidents of a dark and tempestuous age, the story, so far as within the course of natural events, is happily detailed, its progress is uniform, its events interesting and well combined, and the conclusion grand, tragical, and affecting
* This spectre, the ghost of a follower whom he had slain upon suspicion of treachery, appeared to no less a person than Wallace, the champion of Scotland, in the ancient castle of Gask-hall.--See Ellis's Specimens, vol. I.
The style of the Castle of Otranto is pure and correct English of the earlier and more classical standard. Mr Walpole rejected, upon taste and principle, those heavy though powerful auxiliaries which Dr Johnson imported from the Latin language, and which have since proved to many a luckless wight, who has essayed to use them, as unmanageable as the gauntlets of Eryx,
et pondus et ipsa
Neither does the purity of Mr Walpole’s language, and the simplicity of his narrative, admit that luxuriant, florid, and high-varnished landscape-painting, with which Mrs Radcliffe often adorned, and not unfrequently incumbered, her kindred romances. Description, for its own sake, is scarcely once attempted in The Castle of Otranto ; and if authors would consider how very much this restriction tends to realize narrative, they might be tempted to abridge at least the showy and wordy exuberance of a style fitter for poetry than prose. It is for the dialogue that Walpole reserves his strength; and it is remarkable how, while conducting his mortal agents with all the art of a modern dramatist, he adheres to the sustained tone of chivalry, which marks the period of the action. This is not attained by patching his narrative or dialogue with glossarial terms, or antique phraseology, but by taking care to exclude all that can awaken modern associations. In the one case, his romance would have resembled a modern dress, preposterously decorated with antique ornaments ; in its present shape, he has retained the form of the ancient armour, but not its rust and cobwebs. In illustration of what is above stated, we refer the reader to the first interview of Manfred with the Prince of Vicenza, where the manners and language of chivalry are finely painted, as well as the perturbation of conscious guilt, confusing itself in attempted exculpation, even before a mute accuser. The characters of the inferior domestics have been considered as not bearing a proportion sufficiently dignified to the rest of the story. But this is a point on which the author has pleaded his own cause fully in the original Prefaces.
We have only to add, in conclusion to these desultory remarks, that if Horace Walpole, who led the way in this new species of literary composition, has been surpassed by some of his followers in diffuse brilliancy of description, and perhaps in the art of detaining the mind of the reader in a state of feverish and anxious suspense, through a protracted and complicated narrative, more will yet remain with him than the single merit of originality and invention. The applause due to chastity and precision of style,—to a happy combination of supernatural agency with human interest,—to a tone of feudal manners and language, sustained by characters strongly drawn and well discriminated, and to unity of action, producing scenes alternately of interest and of grandeur; -the applause, in fine, which cannot be denied to him who can excite the passions of fear and of pity, must be awarded to the author of The Castle of Otranto.
It only remains to add, that this little memoir, at least the greater part of it, was prefixed to a very handsome edition of The Castle of Otranto, printed for the late Mr John Ballantyne of Edinburgh, in 1811, and is transferred from thence to this work, originally undertaken by the same publisher.
CLARA REEVE, the ingenious authoress of The Old English Baron, was the daughter of the Reverend William Reeve, M.A., Rector of Freston, and of Kerton, in Suffolk, and perpetual Curate of Saint Nicholas. Her grandfather was the Reverend Thomas Reeve, Rector of Storeham Aspal, and afterwards of St Mary Stoke, in Ipswich, where the family had been long resident, and enjoyed the rights of free burghers. Miss Reeve's mother's maiden name was Smithies, daughter of — Smithies, goldsmith and jeweller to King George I.
In a letter to a friend, Mrs Reeve thus speaks of her father :“ My father was an old Whig; from him I have learned all that I know; he was my oracle ; he used to make me read the Parliamentary debates, while he smoked his pipe after supper. I gaped and yawned over them at the time, but, unawares to myself, they fixed my principles once and for ever. He made me read Rapin's History of England; the information it gave, made amends for its dryness. I read Cato's Letters, by Trenchard and Gordon ; I read the Greek and Roman Histories, and Plutarch's Lives ;-all these at an age when few people of either sex can read their names.”