“Poor one!” said a female (herself a parent), “and they say the father fell yesterday; and now the mother! Alone in the world, what can be its fate?”
The infant smiled fearlessly on the crowd, as the woman spoke thus. And the old priest, who stood amongst them, said gently, “Woman, see! the orphan smiles! The fatherless are the care of god!”
The curiosity which Zanoni has excited among those who think it worth while to dive into the subtler meanings they believe it intended to convey, may excuse me in adding a few words, not in explanation of its mysteries, but upon the principles which permit them. Zanoni is not, as some have supposed, an allegory; but beneath the narrative it relates, typical meanings are concealed. It is to be regarded in two characters, distinct yet harmonious,—1st, that of the simple and objective fiction, in which (once granting the license of the author to select a subject which is, or appears to be, preternatural) the reader judges the writer by the usual canons,—namely, by the consistency of his characters under such admitted circumstances, the interest of his story, and the coherence of his plot; of the work regarded in this view, it is not my intention to say anything, whether in exposition of the design, or in defence of the execution. No typical meanings (which, in plain terms are but moral suggestions, more or less numerous, more or less subtle) can afford just excuse to a writer of fiction, for the errors he should avoid in the most ordinary novel. We have no right to expect the most ingenious reader to search for the inner meaning, if the obvious course of the narrative be tedious and displeasing. It is, on the contrary, in proportion as we are satisfied with the objective sense of a work of imagination, that we are inclined to search into its depths for the more secret intentions of the author. Were we not so divinely charmed with “Faust,” and “Hamlet,” and “Prometheus,” so ardently carried on by the interest of the story told to the common understanding, we should trouble ourselves little with the types in each which all of us can detect,—none of us can elucidate; none elucidate, for the essence of type is mystery. We behold the figure, we cannot lift the veil. The author himself is not called upon to explain what he designed. An allegory is a personation of distinct and definite things,—virtues or qualities,—and the key can be given easily; but a writer who conveys typical meanings, may express them in myriads. He cannot disentangle all the hues which commingle into the light he seeks to cast upon truth; and therefore the great masters of this enchanted soil,—Fairyland of Fairyland, Poetry imbedded beneath Poetry,—wisely leave to each mind to guess at such truths as best please or instruct it. To have asked Goethe to explain the “Faust” would have entailed as complex and puzzling an answer as to have asked Mephistopheles to explain what is beneath the earth we tread on. The stores beneath may differ for every passenger; each step may require a new description; and what is treasure to the geologist may be rubbish to the miner. Six worlds may lie under a sod, but to the common eye they are but six layers of stone.