We have omitted this miscreant’s flippant allusion to Madame de Sevigne and his own damnation, uttered in a spirit which (to use the author’s own words upon another occasion), “mingled ridicule with horror, and seemed like a Harlequin in the infernal regions flirting with the furies:”—But we must not forget to mention, as little characteristic touches in this scene of preposterous horrors, that the monster who describes it was also a parricide, and that the female, on whose dying agonies he had feasted, was his only sister! After this appalling extract, we need not pursue our quotations from pages which, as more than one of the personages say of themselves, seem to swim in blood and fire; and we shall conclude with the following passage from a dream—
The next moment I was chained to my chair again,—the fires were lit, the bells rang out, the litanies were sung;—my feet were scorched to a cinder,—my muscles cracked, my blood and marrow hissed, my flesh consumed like shrinking leather,—the bones of my leg hung two black withering and moveless sticks in the ascending blaze;—it ascended, caught my hair,—I was crowned with fire,—my head was a ball of molten metal, my eyes flashed and melted in their sockets:—I opened my mouth, it drank fire,—I closed it, the fire was within,—and still the bells rang on, and the crowd shouted, and the king and queen, and all the nobility and priesthood looked on, and we burned and burned! I was a cinder, body and soul, in my dream. II. 301.
These, and other scenes equally wild and abominable, luckily counteract themselves;—they present such a Fee-fa-fum for grown up people, such a burlesque upon tragic horrors, that a sense of the ludicrous irresistibly predominates over the terrific; and, to avoid disgust, our feelings gladly take refuge in contemptuous laughter. Pathos like this may affect women, and people of weak nerves, with sickness at the stomach;—it may move those of stouter fibre to scornful derision; but we doubt whether, in the whole extensive circle of novel readers, it has ever drawn a single tear. The Society for the Suppression of Mendicity has fortunately cleared our streets of the offensive vagrants who used to thrust their mangled limbs and putrid sores into our faces to extort from our disgust what they could not wring from our compassion:—Be it our care to suppress those greater nuisances who, infesting the high ways of literature, would attempt, by a still more revolting exhibition, to terrify or nauseate us out of those sympathies which they might not have the power to awaken by any legitimate appeal.