We estimate so highly this lady’s literary talents, and we so cordially approve the tendency of the present work, that we reluctantly qualify our opinion of its merits by first noticing its defects. Mrs. Opie has delineated some traits of uncontrolled temper with a refined as well as a powerful pencil, but she might have excited greater interest if she had treated the subject less didactically; and a few additional scenes, of which a violent or a corrected temper formed the outline, would perhaps have been more amusing and useful than Mr. Egerton’s Dissertations on self-controul. The fair author rather mistakes her powers in trying to be lively, and in penning long conversations, although some of the occasional speeches are excellent. The simplicity of the story is injured by the introduction of improbable circumstance, such as Clara dying “to a moment,” and the frequent fainting fits of the whole party. The hero also ‘falls senseless on the floor;’ and again he ‘sinks into the arms of the person next him,’ which has a strained and effeminate effect.
Even the styles of this novel, though so easy and unaffected that it amuses and edifies without fatiguing the reader, is sometimes disfigured by a degree of tautology and inelegance, which can only be pardoned on the principle that induced Pope to rank among the privileges of Genius, “the freedom of saying as many careless things as other people, without being so severely remarked upon.”
On the other hand, we cannot too much extol the new and exemplary character of St. Aubyn; his noble refusal of the challenge is well imagined; and the description of his sensations at his mother’s funeral, on reflecting that he had done his duty, must strengthen the virtuous resolutions of all who read it. – In the second volume, are some admirable observations on selfishness; and from the touching and beautiful passages which occur in various parts of this work, we may infer that, if it be less attractive than Mrs. Opie’s former productions, the reason is that she has diverged from the pathetic style of writing, in which she so eminently excels, for the amiable purpose of being more generally useful to her readers.