Much variety and amusement will be found in these volumes but, in the tale of the Ruffian Boy,’ this justly celebrated writer departs from her usual practice of inculcating an important moral in every narrative: since this is a tale of fear and sorrow in which we cannot sympathise with the character, and from which no higher lesson can be learned than the old rule that young ladies in a ball-room must not refuse one partner and afterward dance with another.
The story called 'White Lies’ is more useful and more natural, though it begins with a faulty expression, bordering on an Hibernicism: viz. ‘Clara Delancy and Eleanor Musgrave were passing the morning together alone.’ The misrepresentations which are supposed to uttered, and the excuses made for them, so much resemble the falsehoods and sophistry that may be found in real life, as to afford an impressive and valuable lesson: but it would be still more convincing if Mr. Davenant, who detects and punishes the ‘white lies’ of his neighbours, did not himself prevaricate in order to conceal his intention of fighting a duel. (see volume ii. page 182) ‘Let us,’ Mr. Davenant and myself I mean, said Fielding, ‘enter the pit arm-in-arm, and speak together as if we were friends.’ – ‘And do you meanwhile,’ said Davenant, ‘go before us, O’Bryne, and say we are coming on the best terms possible.’ – ‘O’Bryne, on pretence of wanting to speak to a friend going abroad, took care to leave the ladies; and Davenant’s refusal to accompany them on account of the lateness of the hour and a bad head-ache, put the finishing stroke to their suspicions.’
Perhaps the most ingenious and original of these narratives is that which is entitled 'The Confessions of an odd-tempered Man.’ Some persons, who have no real sorrows, supply that happy defect in their destiny by encouraging peevish sensibilities and capricious fancies, regardless of the annoyance which they cause to others, if they can enjoy “the luxury of grief” in a gloom of their own diffusing. Mrs. Opie has developed this obliquity of temper with so much skill, that the tale affords not only a profitable example, but an interesting view, not often taken, of the “mingled yarn” of human feelings.