Read Pelham; commenced it yesterday, and concluded it to-day. It is a new style of novel, and, like all that is very clever, will lead to many copyists. The writer possesses a felicitous fluency of language, profound and just thoughts, and a knowledge of the world rarely acquired at his age, for I am told he is a very young man.
This work combines pointed and pungent satire on the follies of society, a deep vein of elevated sentiment, and a train of philosophical thinking, seldom, if ever, allied to the tenderness which pierces through the sentimental part. The opening reminded me of that of Anastatius, without being in the slightest degree an imitation; and many of the passages recalled Voltaire, by their wit and terseness.
I, who don’t like reading novels, heard so much in favour of this one—for all Paris talk of it—that I broke through a resolution formed since I read the dull book of ——, to read no more; and I am glad I did so, for this clever book has greatly interested me.
Oh, the misery of having stupid books presented to one by the author! ——, who is experienced in such matters, told me that the best plan in such cases was, to acknowledge the receipt of the book the same day it arrived, and civilly express the pleasure anticipated from its perusal, by which means the necessity of praising a bad book was avoided. This system has, however, been so generally adopted of late, that authors are dissatisfied with it; and, consequently, a good-natured person often feels compelled to write commendations of books which he or she is far from approving; and which, though it costs an effort to write, are far from satisfying the exigeant amour propre peculiar to authors.
I remember once being present when the merits of a book were canvassed. One person declared it to be insufferably dull, when another, who had published some novel, observed, with rather a supercilious air, “You know not how difficult it is to write a good book!”
“I suppose it must be very difficult,” was the answer, “seeing how long and how often you have attempted, without succeeding.”
How these letters of commendations of bad books, extorted from those to whom the authors present them, will rise up in judgment against the writers, when they are “gone to that bourne whence no traveller returns!” I tremble to think of it! What severe animadversions on the bad taste, or the want of candour of the writers, and all because they were too good-natured to give pain to the authors!
Went to the Theatre Italien last night, and saw Malibran in la Cenerentola, in which her acting was no less admirable than her singing. She sang “Non piu Mesta” better than I ever heard it before, and astonished as well as delighted the audience. She has a soul and spirit in her style that carries away her hearers, as no other singer does, and excites an enthusiasm seldom, if ever, equalled. Malibran seems to be as little mistress of her own emotions when singing, as those are whom her thrilling voice melts into softness, or wakes into passion. Every tone is pregnant with feeling, and every glance and attitude instinct with truthful emotion.