The Great Romance. By The Inhabitant. Vols. i. find 11. Dunedin: Printed at the Daily Times Office.
This is evidently the work of a young and unpractised writer. It is full of crudities of style and matter which lay it open to criticism on almost every page ; but there ia something1 about it a little out of the common way. It exhibits an exuberant fancy, and an adroicness in avoiding obvious difficulties, that redeem it from absolute inanity, though the absurdities of its plan and the impossibilities of its details render it a fair mark for ridicule. The two "volumes" are, in reality, only pamphlets; and, as there is yet more to come, we can only faintly guess what the whole will be. The interest is well sustained so far, and lovers of Jules Verne's delightful voyages of discovery into the unknown will find amusement for an hour or two in "The Great Romance," even as far as it has gone. The writer, who takes the name of J. R. Hope, goes to sleep in 1950 under tlits influence .of a chemical sleeping-draught of wondrous potency, and wakes up in 2143 in another state of existence. Finding his old friends and his ladylove greatly sublimed and glorified, he is naturally anxious to rise to the same level. He determines to start off with his friends, Weir and Moxton, in an aerial boat which he finds ready to hand; does so, and arrives at the planet Venus, where he is left by his frionds, and is beginning his explorations when the second part closes. The Jc.«criptions of tha voyage are ingenious, thougi; we cannot say that the writer has the wonderful art possessed by Jules Verne of makicj* everything appear quite natural. Here is a, weirdlike description of an incident of the voyage, which is the only one we have space to extract, and, absurd as it is,, there is a certain degree of power of imagination about it which might be turned to better account:—
This was the thirtieth day of our journey. So far everything had prospered—all ,our machinery worked beautifully. An even temperature, which did not vary, except at our pleasure; our supply of air equal to that of a new country (sic), and our speed, as we found from observations, had not slacked since the second day we left the earth, or sinoe we had been entirely free from its attraction. We had met no meteor, no aerolite had dashed across our way ; both our offensive and defensive iastriiments were as when we parted from our last friends, and .ill our munitions of war were as yet in full stock. But this day, as I looked out of our watch-tower, I saw, right ahead of us, an increase in the darkness —an aerial fogbauk—a Magellan Cloud; and as we got nearer it stretched away farther than the eye could see on every side. We then threw forward the intensest light of our electric lamp—its rays .seemed to touch it and stop, yet we knew from a variety of tests, it (the Magellan Cloud) had no substance —not the least attractive power, and - though earlier we could have avoided this huge dcvil —Moxton called it. And as we afterwards found it—canker in the universe — this death of matter—as death here is the death of life. This unutterable thing, which dissolved all things— everything—not into their original atoms, but into itself, into vacuity—nothingness. We could have avoided it—but before we ' had made up our minds, the iatense speed of our noble boat carried us into its midst, no ray of light pierced it—a sense of unnerving fear swept over us and vibrated from soul to soul as we found ourselves in this unknown thing. " Moxton was the first to recover himself. He quickly took our instrument provided for the purpose of testing the exterior air, which could be thrust out as you push out a telescope, then opened, enclosed a small sample of the atmosphere and could be withdrawn. This Moxton did, and detaching it, placed it in a glas3 vacuum chamber, and opened it. But what was our surprise and horror to see a small black patch float out into tho receiver. It was then Aioxton gave it the name—' It's a bit of that old-fashioned thing,' he said, — .' the devil.' But his eyes were not, as ours, on the curious little black cloud, but on the outside of the instrument in which he had caught it. His strong thought dragged our eyes there too; —although it had been exposed but a few seconds to this infernal gloom, it was cankered, its polished surface dulled and roughened. We drew down part of our signal staff, which was also of polished steel. Into it also this infernal atmosphere was marauding, and we comprehended in an instant our awful danger, for the whole exterior of our beautiful boat must be in the same manner disintegrating. This unreal blackness must be feeding among all her delicate wings, weakening each minute her glorious frame. Quicker than any word could be spoken we all knew our i>est course—our only hope—Moxton opened the box in which lay the springs of our defensive powers. ""Hold on," he said, then laid his hands on the springs of our defensive organs —though prepared for the effect, the rebound that in this thin air would drive us go fiercely onward, and griping was within our reach—both Weir and I were thrown well nigh the length of the cabin. The conBtant and enduring recoil of tho perpetual discharge trebly accelerated the Star Climber's speed, and although she weighed, say a hundred tons, there was absolutely nothing to stop her. For 10 minutes did the smoking steam of fire and noise bellow through, and fight in this .horrible space—then Moxton again touched ;the handles, and the voice of our deliverer •ceased. The speed we had attained must be frightful, yet the hideous darkness was yet us—the minutes seemed hours, for we .knew we were going faster than a shot from a ■gnit, then at the same second the same thought penetrated us., I sprang to our lookout tower, dosing down the outer casement, made haste to disconnect one of the glasseswhile Moxton turiied to our stores for a new one —but Weir, thoujjh later in thought, was quicker in action—with a turn of a handle, which was close to us, lie sent the electric current through our outsuie signal-lamp, and 2us the light came back, bhirred and faint through our roughened; half-depayed windows, we knew that we were out o^that horrible gloom, for as we entered it Weir^qad tried this same lamp, but then not one of tluose glorious vibrations had come back, all had been ( quenched by that enemy of nature and life. \ " We adjusted the new glass, threw hack the outer casement, and there, behind us lay the horror we had passed through—a black fogbank stretching away on either side farther vthan the eye could reach, and in height and ■depth it filled from zenith to nadir the purple heaVb.us."
It is useless to argue about probabilities ■when the vi'hole plan of the romance is founded •on impossibilities, else we should say the writer had a very crude idea of the Magellan Glouds, and of the possibility of life outside an atmosphere, and bo on. Tv?," Coming Race" and a recent New Zealand work — " Erchomenon" —have.familiarised ti>e minds of most readers of this sort of literature to the possibilities of speculation, with«>]ectricity anc^ the flying-machine for materials. These books have, however, a foundation of philosophy, and the great defect of the little work before us is that at present it seems to have little but jvild fancy to commend it, and no substratum ■ <of philosophical idea 3on which to build its •shadowy superstructure. But, as we have said, there is more to come, and wehave no desire to be hypercritical.
The Two Lawyers.
By. W. M. Southan,
Dußedin: Printed by John Mackay.
This is another effort of local industry. The principle that no prophet is without honour Gave in his own country, applies doubtless in a measure to the authorship of novels and other works of local manufacture. We do not look for much from a Colonial writer, and the standard of writing which is considered high enough i;o entitle a man to publish in the Colony is not very exalted. Everything, however, • must have a beginning, and we are always unwilling to discourage crude efforts if they have iiny of the right stuff in them. The book "before us is crude enough, but it is above the average .of Colonial stories. The plot is laid .partly in Timaru and Christehurch, and partly in Tasmania. There is an honest lawyer'in -.the case, who confides in a dishonest one—the -.villain of the piece,—and makes him his partner. There is the ,usual amount of loveiinaking; and a wronged, but high-minded young woman, who is the best and strongest (character of the book. We give one or i)yo specimons-of the style. The following- is certainly a fair specimen of bathos, considering ■fchat the Maud who speaks is supposed to be a pattern of all the virtues }•=- ---i.'Mfciid, my dear," said IVlrs Pretyman, c-1 aii _-i.snre I do not know whai jp;e shall do without jwr poor dea?father [just dead], J feel I sna n n^ long survive his loss." " You n." UJ3'; k^P UP> motQer dear; you •know we mc^'^F sooner or later, and wo have this sola «e> *»* dear father was a good man when' t alive, *.n.dhas/ thank God, lejlhis family K cJ I* ovited for,' This certainly r^mmis .us ; eo W what of the American story of . vhe widows Megram announcing her husband s death, and \nndiflg up with the remark, "Loser MJy covered :by insurance." The story of ' The Two Lawyers is fairly well worked out, through a -tern.-; porarily successful career of villainy? to » e&t#s4 trophe in which the villain meets' his deserts. The struggles of Clara, one of the victims of deceit, to which she is herself made ail unwill-| ing party, are portrayed with some skill. The' old convict, her father, —a victim to a false accusation, for which he has been transported, but whose character is eventually cleared, —is also a good character. The following extract will give an idea of the writer's best style :— "They had no sooner than Clara dropped again into her penri\;e mood. ' Ah, how I long to be myself, and yet laow^can I ? I feel I am *n imposition, for I know J. not what people Jhink me. How gladly would I be honest, if i .only dared ! I know what the: result would be, biifc I feel inclined to confess all to Frank Perrym&K, and then he would tfcorn me as I deserve. Yet, if my poor father still lives, he would suffer, and ho alone; as ■Jor me, it does not matter much. Sometimes I .am ajmost inclined to risk all. He_ is generous. liobart owes his present position • tto Jiim. And how was it obtained but by my ;fa'kenes3, or perhaps I may say my want of to follow a/a honest course. Oh, j lO , •> I hate myself! and yet I did it not for ■~n Z e^-1(^ °^ m ¥ own> wo.uld giajdly change ?j&i ,a4|L, % -«th the lowest menial in this tGwn to possess U.^ Peace of B? ndAlhi^ \ n? ver llav&' andperhar^ »ever will. Oh God, do, I pvay thee, extend S>™ for it may be rebellious of i.^°> 1 feel Ido f ot Reserve all this ;' and, sinWii-'.'? ou .a couch, Glarfe wept , bitterly, and some ton-minutes later so Hobart " found her." , . •<.,. Of his worst the follCN™? 5s & specimen, and *"ia decidedly weak and slipshod :— " Louie found Maud fasV asleep for she had no troubles. She loved hei1 brother, mother, and also Louie— in fact, she uYW a general hker, and with everybody she was a &'reat favourite;
but she had no love trouble. Many of the young men who visited their house tried to court her, but she met all their advances in her ; usual lively way—in fact, she treated it all as a ' matter of fun, and she had never so far thought seriously enough of anybody to think them in f love, or to wander in that .direction herself. ;;bo she was doubly bleat; for who is there of the millions of this world's population who can so take the best part W this world's gifts and enjoy them, and leave the unpleasant parts far others? But such is life—we. are all the victims of circumstances and our disposition, which has more to do with our joys in this troublesome world than aught else." The book is very well printed, and is quite interesting enough to while away an hour or two in a railway train. Of the higher qualities of art, originality, and force and skill in the delineation of character it is almost entirely destitute. With patience the writer may improve, but his chief recommendation at present is that he works out his plot fairly well without any startling improbabilities ; but the intellectual and moral level of his principal characters is by no means high, and there is almost a total absence of humour in all of them.
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REVIEWS., Otago Daily Times, Issue 5247, 18 February 1882, Supplement
REVIEWS. Otago Daily Times, Issue 5247, 18 February 1882, Supplement
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