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Art. IV. 1. The Monastery; a Romance. By the Author of Wa.
verly. In three Volumes, 12mo. Second Edition. Edinburgh.
1820, 2. The Abbot. By the Author of Waverley. In three Volumes,
12mo. Edinburgh. 1820. IF F the Author of Waverley had but as sound a judgement as
he has a fertile invention ; had he, in addition to his more splendid qualities, a little more taste and a little more self-denial, his tales, somewhat reduced in compass, somewhat more few
and far between,' would be some of the most delightful productions that ever made
the Intellectual Power Bend from his awful throne a wondering ear,
And smile.' But that the Author's taste and judgement do not always serve him, no more striking proof needs have been given, than The Monastery, which might have passed either for some first essay of his unripe fancy, or for the dregs of exbausted genius, bad not the latter supposition been set aside by the hasty appearance of a Sequel, in which Jedidiah is himself again. A Sequel it can with scarcely any propriety be termed, since the connexion between the two series is exceedingly slender, and the general character of the two tales is altogether different. In the Mopastery, the interest is made in a great measure to depend upon the mysterious agency of a supernatural being, a clumsy counterpart of the Mermaiden of Ravenswood, but much more sociable, tangible, and musical, and her poetical effusions are the prettiest things in the work. In the Abbot,' the whole
machinery of the White Lady' is struck out; the alleged reason being, that the public taste gives little encouragement to those • legendary superstitions which formed the delight alternately and the terror of our predecessors.' In plain English, the Author has had the intimation very distinctly conveyed to him, that the thing did not take, that it was considered as a failure; and it must have been conveyed to him under high authority, for him to pay attention to the suggestion. He is not wont to consult the critics in these matters. But in our humble judgement, he does the public taste much wrong in attributing to so general a cause as a disrelish for such legendary superstitions, its dissatisfaction with his own bungling management of them. The White Lady of Avenel belongs to a beautiful class of fictions which are still capable of being turned to good account either in poetry or romance, if the artist minds his lights and the keeping. In The Bride of Lammermuir,' the occasional touches of the supernatural, so finely in unison with the dark and stormy colouring of the tale, tend wonderfully to enhance
the real interest, and to strengthen the bold which the story takes on the imagination. But the White Lady does not harmonize with the heterogeneous materials out of which the • Monastery' is built. The Author does not seem, indeed, to have made up his mind at first what she is to do, and towards the end of the tale, he is evidently at a loss what to do with her. At first, she would seem to be a mere pranksome water-sprite, who has a mind to make of a fat friar food for the kelpy; next, she distinguishes herself as the fairy guardian of a black-letter Bible. Her very existence, we are told, is mysteriously identified with the House of Avenel; yet, she readily obeys the incantation, and attaches herself to the destiny of a peasant's son wholly unconnected with that bonourable house. She is as local a goddess as any naiad, or any wonder-working virgin in the Romish calendar; nevertheless, she is a great traveller, and sails a thousand miles in an afternoon. Lastly, to complete this string of inconsistencies, her golden zone has wasted to the fineness of a silken thread, at the close of the first tale, in token of the approaching fall and extinction of lofty Avenel.' But, though a prophetess, she is for once mistaken : Fate and the Author of The Abbot' have willed it otherwise, or have changed their minds; for she is said to have been subsequently seen ' with a zone of gold around her bosom, as broad as the baldric
of an Earl.' A similar want of any predetermined plan is strikingly evident throughout the dramatic business of the Monastery. We shall scarcely have patience to conduct our readers through the whole tale, but will try to sketch its feeble outline,
The widow of Sir Walter Avenel, who has fallen in the battle of Pinkie-Cleuch, has, with her only daughter, taken refuge in the Tower of Glendearg, tenanted by a Kirk-vassal's widow. Her bouse and lands have been seized, on the retreat of the English, by Julian Avenel, the younger brother of her deceased lord, on the pretence of its being a male fief; and she has no resource but to waive her rights, and to accept of the bounty of the usurper. Daine Elspeth Glendinding, the ferrar's widow, has, the reader will have anticipated, two sons, Halbert and Edward; and Mary of Avenel is their school-fellow and playfellow. The first incident that disturbs the monotony of their retirement, is the illoess of Mary's mother, on which occasion one of the good fathers is sent for from St. Mary's monastery, who is shocked at discovering that the dying lady has been in the habit of reading a copy of the Holy Scripture rendered into the vulgar tongue. That copy lie feloniously decamps with, but loses it in his way home, being so rasli as to take up the While Lady, behind him. Vol. XIV. N. S.
As Father Philip came close to the water's edge, at the spot where he was to enter it, there sat a female under a large broken scathed oak tree, or rather under the remains of such a tree, weeping, wringing her hands, and looking earnestly on the current of the river. The Monk was struck with astonishment to see a female there at that time of night. But he was, in all honest service,—and if a step farther, I pat it upon his own conscience,-a devoted squire of dames. After observing the maiden for a moment, although she seemed to take no notice of his presence, he was moved by her distress and willing to offer his assistance. « Damsel," said he, “ thou seemest in no ordinary distress; peradventure, like myself, thou hast been refused passage at the bridge by the churlish keeper, and thy crossing may concern thee either for performance of a vow, or some other weighty charge."
. The maiden uttered some inarticulate sounds, looked at the river, and then in the face of the Sacristan. It struck Father Philip at that instant, that a Highland Chief of distinction had been for some time expected to pay his vows at the shrine of Saint Mary's; and that possibly this fair maiden might be one of his family, travelling alone for accomplishment of a vow, or left behind by some accident, to whom, therefore, it would be but right and cautious to use every civility in his power, especially as she seemed unacquainted with the Lowland tongue. Such at least was the only motive the Sacristan was ever known to assign for his courtesy; if there was any other,. I once more refer it to his own conscience.
• To express himself by signs, the common language of all nations, the cautious Sacristan first pointed to the river, then to his mule's crupper, and then made, as gracefully as he could, a sign to induce the fair solitary to mount behind him. She seemed to understand his meaning, for she rose up as if to accept his offer, and while the good Monk, who, as we have hinted, was no great cavalier, laboured, with the pressure of the right leg and the use of the left rein, to place his mule with her side to the bank in such a position that the lady might mount with ease, she rose from the ground with rather portentous activity, and at one bound sate behind the Monk upon the animal, much the firmer rider of the two. The mule by no means seemed to approve of this double burthen; she bounded, bolted, and would soon have thrown Father Philip over her head, had not the maiden with a firm hand detained him in the saddle.
• At length the restive brute changed her humour; and, from refusing to budge off the spot, suddenly stretched her nose homeward, and dashed into the ford as fast as she could scamper. A new terror now invaded the Monk's mind-the ford seemed unusually deep, the water eddied off in strong ripple from the counter of the mule, and began to rise upon her side. Philip lost his presence of mind, which was at no time his most ready attribute, the mule yielded to the weight of the current, and as the rider was not atten. tive to keep her head turned up the river, she drifted downward, lost the ford and her footing at once, and began to swim with her head down the stream. And what was sufficiently strange, at the same moment, notwithstanding the extreme peril, the damsel began
to sing, thereby increasing, if any thing could increase, the bodily fear of the worthy Sacristan.
| Merrily swim we, the moon shines bright,
Good luck to your fishing, whom watch ye to night?
Priest or layman, lover or monk.” Í Vol. I. pp. 176.–180. Father Philip's mule arrives first at the monastery, and the aların is raised; but before the whole village could be roused, the dripping apparition of the poor Sacristan allayed the fears of the holy brotherhood.
• What betwixt cold and fright the aflicted Sacristan stood before his Superior, propped on the friendly arm of the convent miller, drenched with water, and scarce able to utter a syllable. After various attempts to speak, the first words he uttered were,
“ Swim we merrily--the moon shines bright.”
merry night have ye chosen for swimming, and a becoming salutation to your Superior !"
« « Our brother is bewildered," said Eustace ; " speak, Father Philip, how is it with you?”
« Good luck to your fishing,". continued the Sacristan, with a most dolorous attempt at the tune of his strange companion.
• “Good luck to your fishing !" repeated the Abbot, still more surprised and displeased; “ by my halidome he is drunken with wine, and comes to our presence with his jolly catches in his throat. If bread and water can cure this folly”
"“ With your pardon, venerable father," said the Sub-Prior, • of water our brother has had enough; and methinks, the confusion of his eye is rather that of terror, than of aught unbecoming his profession. Where didst thou find him, Hob Miller ?”
"“. An it please your reverence, I did go but to shut the sluice of the mill—and as I was going to shut the sluice, I heard something groan near to me-but judging it was one of Giles Fletcher's hogs, for so please you, he never shuts his gate, I caught up my lever, and was about~Saint Mary forgive me to strike where I heard the sound, when, as the saints would have it, I heard the second groan just like that of a living man. So I called up my knaves, and found the Father Sacristan lying wet and senseless under the wall of our kiln. So soon as we brought him to himself a bit, he prayed to be brought to your reverence, but I doubt me, his wits have gone a bell. wavering by the road. It was but now that he spoke in somewhat better form.”
« “ Well!" said Brother Eustace, “ thou hast done well Hob Miller ; only begone now, and remember a second time, to pause, ere you strike in the dark.”
• “ Please your reverence, it shall be a lesson to me," said the miller ; “ not to mistake a holy man for a hog again, so long as I live.” And making a bow with profound humility, the miller withdrew.
« « And now that this churl is gone, Father Philip,” said Eustace, “ wilt thou tell our venerable Superior what ails thee? art thou vino gravatus, man? if so, we will have thee to thy cell.”
«« Water / water! not wine," muttered the exhausted Sacristan.
« « Nay,” said the Monk, “if that be thy complaint, wine may perhaps cure thee;" and he reached him a cup, which the patient drank off to his great benefit.
< " And now," said the Abbot, “ let his garments be changed, or rather let him be carried to the infirmary; for it will prejudice our health, should we hear his narrative while he stands there, steaming like a rising hoar-frost."
." I will hear his adventure,” said Eustace," and report it to your reverence.” And, accordingly, he attended the Sacristan to his cell. In about half an hour he returned to the Abbot.
“ How is it with Father Philip?” said the Abbot ; " and through what came he into such a state ?”
« “ He comes from Glendearg, reverend sir,” said Eustace; “ and for the rest, he telleth such a legend, as has not been heard in this Monastery for many a long day.” He then gave the Abbot the