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A History of English Prose Fiction by Tuckerman

In Wilson's Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life


Following the great Sir Walter in the description of Scottish life and manners, are many well-known writers. John Galt, in the "Annals of the Parish," gave many humorous descriptions of national character. In Wilson's "Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life," in "The Ettrick Shepherd," in the works of Scott's son-in-law, Lockhart, are scenes and characters still very familiar to novel readers. Jane Porter embodied rather ideal views of history in "Thaddeus of Warsaw," and "The Scottish Chiefs." The talents of Miss Ferrier, of Mrs. Oliphant, and of Mr. William Black have kept up the interest which the world has learned to take in every thing appertaining to the land which Sir Walter Scott taught it to know and love so well.[204]

[Footnote 203: Mrs. Cockburn to Rev. Dr. Douglas, 1777; Lockhart's "Life of Scott."]

[Footnote 204: Other novelists belonging especially in Scotland and of considerable reputation, are Maria Porter, Elizabeth Hamilton, A. Cunningham, Mrs. Johnstone, Hogg, Picken, Moir, Sir T.D. Lauder, Hugh Miller, George MacDonald.]

IV.

First among the contributors to the novel of Irish life and manners may be mentioned Maria Edgeworth, by whose successful labors Scott was first inspired to undertake his own. In Miss Edgeworth's works, Ireland found a true exposition of her wrongs and her virtues; and also of her follies and errors. The evils of absenteeism were powerfully illustrated in the novel of the same name. In "Castle Rackrent," the trials and difficulties of landlord and tenant were described with genuine sympathy and dramatic force. The peculiarities of Irish temper and character have been studied by Miss Edgeworth with a fidelity which has given her novels the same national stamp and value which belong to those of Scott. Like him, too, she did much to raise fiction in character, scope, and influence. Whether describing Irish, English, or fashionable life, she is always true to nature, always pure and elevated in tone. Her works are neither marred by the coarseness of the past, nor by the false delicacy of the present. She studiously avoids error and exaggeration in every form. Sentimentality and mock heroism have no place in her pages. While she is wanting in poetry, she is singularly rich in the scenes and characters of every-day life, and her novels are marked by a common-sense knowledge of the world which never degenerates into commonplace.

Miss Edgeworth has been ably followed by several students of Irish life. William Carleton's "Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry," the novels of Samuel Lover and of John Banim are still well known. Thomas Crofton Croker, with whose amusing description of the "Last of the Irish Sarpints," the reader is probably familiar, has studied his countrymen's superstitions and peculiarities with great success. Charles James Lever has long retained a well-deserved popularity by the production of about thirty jovial dashing novels, among which the most celebrated is "Charles O'Malley, the Irish Dragoon."[205]

[Footnote 205: Among other novelists of Irish life and manners may be mentioned Lady Morgan, Mrs. S.C. Hall, Gerald Griffin, T.C. Grattan, Justin MacCarthy, and others.]


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