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Art. V.—1. Sagen unci Romanlische Erz'dhlungen. (Legends and Romantic Tales.) Von Ludwig Rellstab. 3 vols. 12mo. Berlin, 1825, 1829
2. Algier und Paris, im Jahre 1830. (Algiers and Paris in 1830.) Von Ludwig Rellstab. 3 vols. 12mo. Berlin, 1830, 1831.
3. 1812. Ein Hhtorischer Roman, zweite Auflage. (1812. An Historical Novel, 2d edition.) Von Ludwig Rellstab. 4 vols. 8vo. Leipzig. 1836.
We have, as occasion offered, made our readers acquainted with divers new German novelists, and nearly as many new styles of German novels, if not with all those styles enumerated by one of them (for which we refer to our 36th number, page 439.) We have now again to introduce a new German novelist to the English public, but one who does not, like our last friend, Baron Sternberg, confine himself to a single species of the many recently discovered or invented, classed, named, and registered, in the literary peerage. Far otherwise. In the ten volumes of Rellstab's, the titles of which head the present article, we find the ordinary romance, the fashionable artistic novel, the obsolete—obsolete by a full half score of years—supernatural romance, and the historical novel, after the fashion, however, not of Sir Walter Scott, but of Tromlitz, in which a very little love, and somewhat, though not much more of individual interest, serve as means of developing and displaying history and national character, as modified by times and circumstunces. Of all of these we must speak in turn, according to their relative merits, importance and popularity.
The preternatural legends must needs, in our enlightened age, be utterly disdained; and we are further bound to confess, that they are the most common-place of Rellstab's writings. Upou them, therefore, we shall not waste another word.
The artistic novels are, to us at least, so far original, that they are uniformly musical, and offer a somewhat extraordinary commixture of critical disquisition upon fugues, cadences, discords, and their resolution, melody and chromatic science, or shall we rather say upon the comparative excellencies and defects of Mozart and Rossini—with metaphysically romantic schemes for musically ascertaining the moral and intellectual staudard of a lover—with the actual poisoning by a highly admired composer of a promising and talented young competitor, his rival in love as well as in musical glory. We doubt if either the disquisitions, or the investigations of character, would be interesting to the general reader, or perhaps even intelligible to the unprofessional.
The romantic tales are neither more nor less than romances; though we must say that one of them, the Augsburg Goldsmith, is as pretty a story, and we apprehend, as faithful a portraiture of the German free-Imperial citizens of the fifteenth century, as we have met with. We should like well to give an abstract of it with ample extracts,—but as Rellstab's reputation rests upon his more considerable productions, it is to them that we are bound to devote our attention; and first to that which was first published, although latest in date of story.
Algiers and Paris in 1830 consists of what the author is pleased to call two novels, although a novel in two parts would be the more correct designation, if indeed one series of adventures, utterly incomplete until the end of the last volume, may properly be capable of even so much division. Some of these adventures occur in Africa, immediately prior to, and during, the siege of Algiers,—others, integrally connected with them, in France, the catastrophe being partly brought about by the conflicts of the three July days; in which conflicts the triumphs of the people appear mainly due. to an outlawed Napoleonite veteran, who returns at the critical minute from Algerine captivity and thraldom. We will extract one of the African scenes.
Two French brigs have, prior to the landing of the French besieging army, been wrecked upon the Barbary coast. The crews have got on shore, and, after some deliberation, made up their minds to repair to Algiers, and there surrender as prisoners of war to the Dey. They set forward on their melancholy expedition.
"They had reached the foot of a low rising ground, when Jean, who with the merriest countenance possible, but sad ill-boding heart, walked close behind Victor and Adolphe, touched the latter, and, pointing to the hill, said, 'See you that, lieutenant? That looks something like a chamois outpost, but I fear will hardly whistle the herd to flight.'
"The brothers looked; upon the hill stood a man, who, by the long white cloak fluttering down from his head, was, although at least six hundred yards distant, at once recognized as a Moor. He seemed to be gazing anxiously around. Suddenly he turned, and disappeared behind the hill.
"Presently other heads peeped, here and there, over the top of the sandy, billowy ridge, which was in a few minutes crowned with Arabs. The shipwrecked wanderers soon ascertained that, should the Moors meditate an attack, resistance was out of the question, the foe being armed with long guns, and at least ten to one in number.
"' These Arabs are rapacious,' observed Captain Bruat; ' if promised a ransom they would possibly themselves conduct us to Algiers. But how can we make them understand us?'
• "A young, slim, adroit, and bold-looking sailor now stepped forward, and said, ' I am a native of Malta, sir, where the Moors often come. I have sailed with them for years, and know their language. If you will give me authority to treat with them, I have good hopes to insure our safety. But then you must do punctually, as I shall direct.'
"The.captains looked at each other, ascertained each other's approbation, and then Captain Assigny spoke. 'So be it, my lad; if thou canst play the interpreter, go to them. But be cautious, and recollect that the lives of all thy comrades hang upon thy words.'
"' Never fear, captain,' exclaimed tiie Maltese, boldly, ' I think to get us all out of the scrape, for well do I know this tricky and malignant race.'
"With that, he took out a handkerchief, wound it in token of peace, about his left aim, and rapidly and with an easy air, walked towards the foe. The rest halted to await the result of his mission. . "When the interpreter came near the Moors, many of whom were on horseback, he bowed low with crossed arms, then lifting his right hand, pointed to heaven, as a sign that he desired to be a messenger of peace. Three surly-looking greybeards, with wild countenances, alighted and approached him. The Maltese shouted to them in the Moorish-Arabic dialect,—' I come in peace; I solicit protection for myself arid my friends of the magnanimous Moors, the sons of the Prophet. We are shipwrecked sailors.'
"' Of what country art thou, Frank? questioned the Moor imperiously.'
"' We are all English,' answered the Maltese impudently. 'See, there the wrecks of our stranded vessels, in which we were bringing you, the True Believers, means to assist you in driving away your French enemies.'
"The mistrustful Moor examined the Maltese with piercing gaze. Suddenly he drew his dagger, sprang upon the humbly bending suppliant, grappled him fiercely by the neck with his left hand, and set his pointed blade upon his breast, with the words, ' Thou liest, vile Frank! Conipss, thou art not one of those islanders!'
"' As true a Briton as thou art a Mussulman,' replied the Maltese, audaciously, whilst the Moor keenly watched him, to ascertain by his anxiety whether he spoke truth or falsehood.
"The stout-hearted interpreter looked him coldly, almost carelessly, in the face.
"' Dost not tremble, Christian?'
"' Not I. For I am certain thou wilt not kill me. No one will give thee money for my dissevered head; nay, the Dey, thy master, might, like enough, punish thee for cutting it off. Whilst if thou takest me and my comrades safe to the great town, our King, be assured, will give thee many piastres for every head.'
"The Moor beckoned his two companions. They drew their sabres, brandished them over the head of the Maltese, and exclaimed, ' Confess, Christian! Thou art cheating the sons of the Prophet.'
"The Maltese laughed loudly, and repeated what he had said.
"' Thou art undaunted, and we believe thee. But if thou provest to have deceived us, we will tear out thy dissembling tongue, and fill thy lying mouth with molten lead. Now go, tell thy comrades that the magnanimous sons of the Prophet grant them their protection.'"
This promised protection, although in the end it commits a good number of the shipwrecked sailors to the Algerine bagnio, does not prevent their previous plunder and ill usage, or, upon a sudden alarm of a French landing, the murder of many. Amongst the sceiies with the Arabs, a few are striking; but as we entertain some doubts of our author's perfect familiarity with Beduin manners, the specimen already given may suffice, the more especially as the larger share of our time and space must be allotted to the last and the most esteemed of Rellstab's publications.
His historic novel, 1812, gives us much of Count Segur's history of the French campaign in Russia, individualized and partially novelized, if we may be allowed the expressions, by connecting the discouraging success of the advance, the sanguinary battle of the Moskwa, the conflagration of Moscow, and the unspeakable, sickening honors of the retreat, with the patriotic enthusiasm and energies of a Polish hero, and with the fortunes of a couple of German youths, the nominal heroes, whom the Pole protects from the malice of two subordinate French civilians. This historic novel, published in 1834, had last year reached the second edition, of which is the copy before us, and has been translated into Dutch and Danish, if not more languages. The immense influence exercised by the results of the Russian campaign over the destinies of the Continent might alone,- perhaps, account for the popularity of a novel, recalling and reproducing, under the attractive garb of fiction, the most impressive incidents of that campaign; and this our author has done with much effect. But his volumes possess other merits. Many of the characters are well conceived and drawn; Rasinski, the experienced, daring, and ever self-possessed warrior, the patriotic Pole, anticipating the resuscitation of his country from Napoleon's triumph over Russia, takes a strong hold upon the affections; the fantastic nature of the nascent loves of Ludwig and Bianca pleases the fancy; the sort of Richardsonian reality given, according to the now prevalent German fashion, to the persons brought forward, insensibly engages our interest as for our living acquaintance; many of the martial scenes are vividly portrayed, and powerfully is the gradual demoralization of the soldiery, amidst the disasters and sufferings of the retreat, depicted.
Yet, whilst allowing all these merits, we must confess that, as a whole, 18162 does not please us. As a work of art it is faulty. We apprehend that Segur's graphic history of that dreadful cam* paign is still too fresh in our memory for effective repetition, for admitting the tint of ideality indispensable to our pleasure in fiction. Thence an insane lover and a fugitive inamorata appear woefully out of place amidst, as out of keeping with, the horrors, physical and moral, of the retreat; while all our romance revolts against Marie, who, after nobly sacrificing the mutual attachment between herself and Rasinski to patriotism, transforms her hopeless passion for the magnificent Pole into a commonplace second love for that personification of German burschenschaft,\5e\nhar<i. Moreover we utterly dislike the sort of obscurity thrown over the fate of Rasinski, who, being last seen with Prince Poniatowski at the battle of Leipzig, is supposed to have been drowned with him. This is the third recent hero thus disposed of; Mr. James's Gipsy, and Signor Niccolini's Nabucco-Napoleon making up the trio. We would fain hope we are not yet foo old to relish novelty; but, even at the hazard of incurring that fearful imputation,—fearful in this age of juvenile ascendency,—we must confess our decided preference for the old fashion of elucidating all mysteries at the end of a narrative, which enabled the reader to lay down the last volume of a novel with a mind perfectly satisfied of the death or happiness—at least during the honey-moon—of the several parties.
But whatever be our objections to Rellstab's 1812, both its popularity and its merits require that we should give our readers some extracts from it, as also some general idea of the story.
Li;dwig Rosen, the son of a widow, living in narrow circumstances at Dresden, has, whilst travelling in Italy, been fascinated by the casual apparitions of the beautiful daughter of a seemingly wealthy family, whose very name and country he knows not. At -Duomo d'Ossola he again accidentally lights upon his incognita. He now sees her, unaccompanied, except by a seeming duenna and one old domestic, amidst a crowd, pale and agitated, and in apparently anxious expostulation with the French officer on guard at the town gate.
"Lndwig, pressing hastily forward, stepped out of the throng. Her eye fell upon him, and the sudden emotion of joyful surprise that passed over her features bespoke her recognition of him. He was about to accost her, but, as his lips unclosed to speak, she exclaimed in French, with manifest precipitation, 'There is my brother!' and hastened towards him. The astonished Ludwig apprehended some mistake, but, before he could sufficiently recover himself for a word of explanation, she addressed him in Italian, loud enough to be heard by all the spectators: * God be thanked, brother, that you are come!' then halfwhispered in German, 'I am lost if you disown rae!' She now turned Suddenly to the officer, took the paper he held out of his hand, and gave