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THE EFFECTS OF THE PERUSAL OF NOVELS, ON THE
CHARACTER AND HAPPINESS OF STUDENTS. ?
WHATEVER may be the delete- having:
having. They are rather a posirious effects of novel reading on tive injury, inasmuch as they minds in general, or any class of exclude those subjects, which, in individuals in particular, in no case themselves, are really useful; and does it prove so disastrous, as when so far from its being an accomindulged in by a student. Far plishment for a student to be be it from me to condemn, without familiar with such topies, I am reserve, every species of fiction, as persuaded that it ought to be unworthy of perusal and injurious considered a disgrace, and so it is in its tendency. Fiction may be, by all wbose good opinion on such and, to the honour of the present matters, is worth possessing. age, has begun to be, the medium The other reason That it tends of conveying much useful instruc- to form a neat and proper style in tion, especially to the young. My writing—is the most plausible; remarks have reference only to those nevertheless, it cannot bear the test books generally termed novels, and of scrutiny. Those who read nowhich, by this name, are too well vels know well that the style of the known to need description.
narrative is seldom or never thought The propriety and utility of this of.
It is the story—the story, species of reading is generally main- that engrosses all their attention tained on some of the following nor is it expected to be otherwise. grounds:
It has been the author's highest 1. It fills up pleasantly an idle aim to have his novel of a fascihour.
nating character; and did it not in 2. It creates an ease and ele
this chagance in common conversation.
racter, it would be thrown by in 3. It tends to form a neat and disgust.
disgust. But the question ought proper style in writing.
not to be, whether this species of Historical novels
be said to reading tends, in any degree, to the have an additional recommenda- formation of a good style—but tion—that of conveying useful whether it does so, more than that knowledge.
for which it is substituted, and this, As to the first of these reasons in case of a student, if his time -A student has, or ought to have,
would otherwise be employed as no idle hours to spare.
Either it ought to be, none can pretend to proper exercise or proper reading maintain. As for the useful knowmust be excluded by such an in- ledge, said to be derived from the trusion. Besides, an idle hour'
an idle hour' perusal of historical novels, it is, devoted to this fascinating em- at best, but a mixture of fiction ployment, but paves the way and fact, of falsehood and truth, for the devotion of the succeeding and before the reader can be suphour, which ought not to have posed to be able to distinguish bebeen idle, to the same amuse- tween the one and the other, he ment.
must be supposed to be acquainted As to the second - That it creates with the true history; in which
ease and elegance in conver- case, of course, he does not stand sation—it may well be replied, in need of such information. that if the books are actually un- I have now considered some of worthy of perusal, the topics the grounds on which this kind of which they will afford for con- reading is justified, and it is time versation, not worth the to examine whether there are no
positive evils resulting to the stu- at best, of innocence. In them we dent from this practice.
read of the innocent oath,' and of In the first place, it tends to form the noble, manly spirit, that could a babit of reading other works su- not brook an insult.' The vices of perficially. For, as novels are the heroes and heroines of the tale, almost universally perused with are set
for the imitation of great rapidity, the reader acquires others. They are not mentioned the habit of perusing other books in
in that uncoloured way in which the same manner, than which no- the bible pourtrays the failings of thing can be more destructive to a good men, but they are clothed student's progress. It will also make in a garb of poetry and romance, him disrelish all other kinds of and so palliated by excuses, literature. He finds in novels a that they assume, to the youthful vivacity, an inexpressible some- mind, rather an air of nobleness ; thing in the narration, even of me- and thus that is unwittingly taken lancholy tales, which, for the time, into the bosom, which, at the last, ravishes the soul, and holds the
shall bite like a serpent, and sting mind in perfect thraldom, but which
like an adder. he will look for in vain in other In these books too, not unfrewritings. Let a student but become quently, religion is described by what may be termed an habitual those who know little or nothing reader of these productions, and about it, and, in a manner accorthen those books which ought to be ding rather with the author's fancy his delight, will be to him what than with the word of God, and water is to the drunkard, and whole- more calculated to fill the mind some food to the epicure. Though with pride, than the heart with his better judgment tells him they humility. are useful, he hates them;-like The novel-reader is thus intromany other medicines, they are
duced into an ideal world where bitter.
the stream of life flows smoothly Nor is this all. For while such along—where disappointments are reading creates in him a disrelish not vexatious, and where peace for all that is wholesome, it also
without holiness crowns all the exrobs him of his time-intrudes upon
ertions of man—a state well suited to almost every lesson, and unfits the our degraded nature. After having mind for the accomplishment of its
soared to such a world as this, it is approaching task ; so that the hard to descend to this grovelling severer studies will be early thrown
earth, where sickness, sorrow, and aside to give place to this favourite disappointments are realities. He amusement.* In these books vice is on the contrary filled with deis clothed in the garb of virtue, or,
sires that can never be gratified,
and with murmurings against the * The introduction of the Waverley No. providence that has assigned him vels into Christian families, has produced such a lot-his fellow-beings apa very injurious effect, by indisposing the minds of the young for historical reading.
pear to be unfit companions for It is surprising how little our standard
him—the sources of their hilarity historians are now read. Hume, Rapin, and happiness are husks to his Clarendon, &c. are almost neglected books. soul-discontent and melancholy The miserable result has been painfully
are depicted on his brow- his peace manifested in the erroneous notions promulgated by divines and senators, with
is disturbed-his mind distracted reference to popery, &c. in the various and he becomes altogether unnerved discussions which have attracted public by what at first appeared an innoattention. The careful study of Clarendon cent, but what will invariably be alone would have prevented many of those rash innovations which have been loudly
found a dangerous recreation. hailed under the name of REFORM.
G. 0. SEPTEMBER 1833.
Review of Books.
A MEMOIR OF MISS MARY JANE GRAHAM, late of Stoke
Fleming, Devon. By the Rev. Charles Bridges, M. A. Vicar of Old Newton, Suffolk. Second Edition, with a Portrait. 12mo. pp. : 448.
Seeleys. 1833. The public approbation of this to which the little girl listened, and interesting piece of biography, has wondered what could make them like to so far anticipated our notice of talk about such things. But, at the close the volume by the rapid sale
of it, the old woman took the child of the first edition, that it may
affectionately by the hand, and said to
her-'My dear child, make the Lord appear almost unnecessary for us
Jesus your friend now that you are so to occupyour pages with the
young; and when you come to be as old recommendation of a work whose
as I am, He'll never leave you nor forsake extensive circulation is already you.' God the Spirit sent these simple fully secured. Nevertheless, as
words to the poor sinful child's heart. there may
readers of our She walked home in silence by her nurse's publication who have not yet side, thinking how she could get Jesus to perused Mr. Bridges' Memoir of be her friend. Then she remembered how Miss Graham, and many more who
often she had slighted this dear Sayiour; have not bestowed upon it the
how she had read of Him in the Bible, attentive study it deserves, we shall
and been weary of the subject : how she not think our time ill-bestowed, in
had heard the minister preach Jesus, and
wished the long dry sermon over ; how -even thus late- presenting them with a short account of it.
she had said prayers to Him without
minding what she said ; how she had Mary Jane Graham was born in
loved her books, her play, and her toys, London, in the year
1803. A few
and her play-fellows-all, all better than years before her death, she retired
Jesus. Then the Holy Spirit convinced with her father (on bis relin her of sin. She saw that no one good quishing business) to the village thing dwelt in her, and that she deserved of Stoke Fleming, near Dartmouth, to be cast away from God for ever. in Devonshire-a spot which was
Would Jesus love her now? would he chosen chiefly from regard to her
ever forgive her? She feared not, but she delicate state of health. She was
would try! She would make herself very the subject of early religious con
good, and then, perhaps, Jesus would be
her friend. But the more this little girl victions, and even at the age of
tried to be good, the more her naughty seven had acquired habits of secret
heart got the better of her; for she was prayer. The following is an ex
trying in her own strength. She was led tract from her own account (in a
to give up trying in that way; and many letter to a friend written at the
long nights did she spend in praying, with age of twenty-three) of this early strong crying and tears, to Jesus, that He work of grace on her heart.
would teach her how to get her sins
pardoned. .. He put it into her heart to I knew (she writes] a little girl, who read the Bible.... One day her attention was much like other children, as full of was fixed on these words, “The Lamb of sin and vanity as ever she could hold.... God which taketh away the sin of the The God of love did not think this sinful world.'. Who can describe the raptures child too young to learn of Jesus. He so which filled the bosom of this little child, ordered it, when she was just seven years when made to comprehend that old, that she was led by a pious servant blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin.” into some alms houses belonging to Row Now she knew that He had loved her and land Hill, who had just been preaching at given himself for her; now the Spirit of them. The servant and an aged woman God shed abroad the love of God in the entered into a long conversation together, heart of a weak and foolish child, and
" filled her with peace and joy in believ so repulsive was it to her proud ing.". Since then she has spent nearly heart, that she was led to question seventeen years of mingled happiness and pain . But she has had Jesus for her vigorous understanding soon, how
the truth of the Bible itself Her friend, and He never has, and never will forsake her.-Pp. 3–7.
ever, acquiesced in the clear eviHer school career commenced
dences for the Inspiration of the soon after she was seven years
Scriptures; but her heart resisted old. About the age of ten she
her convictions; and thus, for a seawas placed at a school where son she departed from God, and her religious impressions were
sought for peace of mind in forgetcherished by the familiar exhor
fulness of the great concern, and in tations of the husband of her giving herself up to intellectual stupreceptress, and by devotional ex
dies. This season of darkness was ercises with her companions. At
but transient. Through the Divine this time she committed to memory
mercy she was, after a few months' the whole of the prophecy of captivity, brought out of her prison Isaiah; and at the age of twelve,
house to the full light and liberty the whole Book of Psalms, during which this return to her first love
of Scriptural truth. The means by an interval of two months' illness which occasioned her removal from
were effected, were partly the conschool. She now enjoyed, at home,
flict of her own mind, partly some the ministry of the late excellent
severe providential afflictions. Mr. Crowther, vicar of Christ Her whole life, (says Mr. Bridges) now Church, Newgate Street; under appeared to be one continued act of sin whose faithful instruction she was and folly. Her convictions, however, of brought to Confirmation, about the sin-being wholly unconnected with any age of sixteen. In the following discovery of the way of forgiveness—natuyear, her mind underwent an ex
rally tended to despondency.”—P. 20. traordinary and afflicting change, The sentence which we have of which she has herself given a quoted in italics appears to us to detail, in a work entitled “The be altogether irreconcilable with Test of Truth.'
the account which we have exShe conceived that her mind tracted above of her early faith in received an injury from adopting, Christ, and of her perfect knowin her thirteenth year, Doddridge's ledge of the way of forgiveness; form of covenanting with God. (See an account, be it remembered, his Rise and Progress, chap. xvii.) given by herself at a period of life Mr. Bridges judiciously cautions when her judgment respecting her his reader against the conclusion early views and impressions might that this mode of dedication neces have been supposed to have been sarily partakes of an unevangelical mature. Mr. Bridges has briefly character, though in Miss Graham's noticed this apparent inconsistency, case (as in some others) it may remarking, that her infidelity was have ministered to a legal spirit; a black cloud, intercepting all and he refers the unhappy change present apprehensions of faith and of views, which we are about to intelligence, but this is scarcely a notice, to the metaphysical form satisfactory solution. The cloud of of her mind, unfavourable to a infidelity was at this moment dissimple reception of truth.' She persed ; and though a person who, fell into the snares of infidelity for the first time, is brought to The Divinity of Christ became to deep conviction of sin, and who her so
a stone of stumbling, and a is anxiously seeking forgiveness, rock of offence.” Though repeated might for a season be left in painexamination had fully satisfied her ful conflict, or even in complete that it was the truth of the Bible, yet ignorance of the way of accept
ance, yet it seems to us quite im Those
graces which had been mapossible that an individual, who tured in the school of afflichad for ten years (with the short tion, were beautifully displayed in interval of a few months of un her last illness; during which she belief) held sweet communion
was unusually favoured with a rewith the Saviour as the only refuge markable sense of the Divine
preof her soul, should, on her return
The prospect of death was to the guide of her youth, be in to her divested of its terrors. For utter ignorance of the way
of a little moment, indeed, a cloud ceptance. We are rather disposed was permitted to spread itself over to attribute this manifest discre her soul; but it was soon dispelled; pancy of narrative, to some con and peace and joy resumed their fusion and indistinctness in Miss reign within, till, without a sigh or Graham's own mind respecting the a struggle, she entered into her actual state of her religious views everlasting rest, Dec. 10, 1830. at different periods of her life, when Our limits render it impossible taking a retrospect of them at the
to give any adequate idea of this time of her drawing up her little amiable character; we subjoin, volume, entitled the Test of however, two extracts, which will, Truth,' and when describing them in we trust, stimulate many to proletters to her friends at a riper age.
the work for themWhatever might be the exact selves. The first shall be from an steps by which the returning pro excellent letter, written in 1827, to digal found her way to her Fa a friend on worldly amusements : ther's house, she did not long
With regard to the theatre, and amuse“wait at the posts of his doors”
ments of this kind, Christians must have without admittance. She was soon
little to do if they can find time for them. enabled to believe unto righteous But if they could find time, I confess I am ness; and she found the best proof at a loss to see what business they can of the credibility of the Christian find there........ I was once induced to revelation in the character of Christ, attend 'Matthews at Home,' and shall whom she again embraced as her never forget the sensation I felt, when he All in all. After this deliverance
told us how his father, who was a good she resided in London, where
kind of man, but too religious, had tried the ministry of the Rev. Watts
to keep him from coming on the stage,
When I looked round, and saw the mer. Wilkinson was eminently conducive to her advancement in know
riment expressed in every face, I could not
help saying to myself, “This is no place ledge and experience of scriptural
for me; there are no lovers of Christ truths, and she became actively
here; for “charity rejoiceth not in inidevoted to God.' Her intellec
quity,” as these poor deluded people are tual pursuits were still a source of doing. And now, I have proposed many high gratification to her; but, with
privations to you; and what have I to Christian simplicity and watchful offer you in return? Nothing, but the ness, she kept them subordinate to love of Jesus,..... Let us study all the better things, and the glory of God sweet relations in which he has revealed was the object dearest to her heart. himself in the Scripture-Father, Brother, That she was qualified to excel in
Friend, Husband, Lover...... It is but the highest pursuits of the human a little ray of this love that has as yet mind, is evident from the extracts
warmed my heart; yet I can tell you which Mr. Bridges has given from
that it is worth renouncing ten thousand her writings and letters; but the
worlds for.- Pp. 264-266. features of her Christian character, The following passages are in a which her biographer has well deli loftier strain ; in tenderness of senneated, form the most attractive timent, in glow of imagination, and valuable part of the volume. and in the descriptive beauty of