Halleck's New English Literature eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 491 pages of information about Halleck's New English Literature.

A century before, Pope said that most women had no characters at all.  His writings tend to show that this was his real conviction, as it was that of many others during the time when Shakespeare was little read. The Heart of Midlothian presents in Jeanie Deans a woman whose character and feminine qualities have won the admiration of the world.  Scott could not paint women in the higher walks of life.  He was so chivalrous that he was prone to make such women too perfect, but his humble Scotch lass Jeanie Deans is one of his greatest creations.

[Illustration:  SCOTT’S DESK AT ABBOTSFORD.]

When we note the vast number of characters drawn by his pen, we are astonished to find that he repeats so little.  Many novelists write only one original novel.  Their succeeding works are merely repetitions of the first.  The hero may have put on a new suit of clothes and the heroine may have different colored hair, or each may be given a new mannerism, but there is nothing really new in character, and very little in incident.  Year after year, however, Scott wrote with wonderful rapidity, without repeating his characters or his plots.

General Characteristics.—­All critics are impressed with the healthiness of Scott’s work, with its freedom from what is morbid or debasing.  His stories display marked energy and movement, and but little subtle analysis of feelings and motives.  He aimed at broad and striking effects.  We do not find much development of character in his pages.  “His characters have the brilliance and the fixity of portraits.”

Scott does not particularly care to delineate the intense passion of love.  Only one of his novels, The Bride of Lammermoor, is aflame with this overmastering emotion.  He delights in adventure.  He places his characters in unusual and dangerous situations, and he has succeeded in making us feel his own interest in the outcome.  He has on a larger scale many of the qualities that we may note in the American novelist Cooper, whose best stories are tales of adventure in the forest or on the sea.  Like him, Scott shows lack of care in the construction of sentences.  Few of the most cultured people of to-day could, however, write at Scott’s breakneck speed and make as few slips.  Scott has far more humor and variety than Cooper.

Scott’s romanticism is seen in his love for supernatural agencies, which figure in many of his stories.  His fondness for adventure, for mystery, for the rush of battle, for color and sharp contrast, and his love for the past are also romantic traits.  Sometimes, however, he falls into the classical fault of overdescription and of leaving too little to the imagination.

In the variety of his creations, he is equaled by no one.  He did more than any other pioneer to aid fiction in dethroning the drama.  His influence can be seen in the historical novels of almost every nation.

JANE AUSTEN, 1775-1817

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Halleck's New English Literature from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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