Novels, Romances, Tales &c.
Madelain. By Mrs. Opie. 2 vols.
This story turns on a subject which requires the utmost nicety of treatment, to invest it with that interest, which, under skilful management, it is capable of inspiring. We mean the history of a young lady’s love-affairs, related by herself. In this professed delineation of the very arcane of the female heart, Mrs. Opie has not exhibited the pathos which graced her early works, before she thought herself called on to write for fashionable readers; and the delicacy which the theme demands she never possessed in any very great degree; it is therefore not surprising that it does not appear in
the present instance. The heroine of the story is a Scotch girl, who has been brought up away from her parents, of the humble rank of cottars, by a lady, who, after giving her a refined education, and introducing her into polite society, dies, and leaves her only a small legacy; she then returns to her native roof, among the Highlands. So far the story, which is conveyed in the form of a journal, is interestingly told: but the young lady gets a lover of the name of Dobbs, who is introduced with more coarseness than is necessary, and whose unfortunate name is sufficient anticipation of the fate of his suit. In opposition to this unfortunate swain is introduced Mr. Falconer the laird, who of course immediately inspires and is overcome by the tender passion, and, in far less time than propriety or prudence would warrant, the heroine submits to a private marriage according to the simple forms of betrothment before witnesses, which is enough in the land of cakes to make the ceremony binding. And this is one of the great faults of the work. The laird’s motives for keeping his marriage a secret are not sufficiently powerful to actuate any man in his senses; and his conduct afterwards is not much more rational. The ground of the attachment on both sides is likewise at first merely that of personal attraction, -- at all times a dangerous and paltry view of a subject so important as that of a connexion for life. The character of the heroine’s father is finely and consistently drawn: there are strokes of nature in the story, connected with the simplicity of manners belonging to the rank of the actors in it, which render it pleasing; and though as a whole it is not equal to Mrs. Opie’s early productions, it is greatly superior to those which she has lately laid before the public.