Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Works of Imagination >> Page 29

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Page 29

Reviews/Essays | 1996
VERY false ideas are in general entertained
upon the subject of the nature and tendency of
works of fiction, not a few of which have been
condemned as exhibiting a wrong moral bias,
calculated, it is contended, to impart itself to the
reader. This is surely a mistaken view of the
matter. The writer of fiction is unquestionably
as much at liberty to avail himself of the highest
possible vices, as virtues, since it is the possi-
ble, and not the probable, merely, that falls
within his province. In painting a bad charac-
ter, however, it is assuredly never the design of
the author to commend it for imitation, however
flattering may be the colours he employs in de-
picting it. Moral justice is sure to be done in
the end, and this should put at rest the cavils
of the most fastidious. It has, for instance, been
objected to Bulwer, (whose chapter on "Infideli-
ty in Love," by the way, is worth all his novels
put together,) that he too often represents high-
waymen and cut-throats as the most amiable of
mortals, but, it may be asked, in reply to this,
whether a "Paul Clifford," or a "Eugene Aram,"
do not, verily, meet with their reward ? But
may not a highwayman possess some solitary
virtue, linked, like that of Byron's hero, to a
"thousand crimes ?" Human nature is seldom,
or never, wholly bad, but we do not ask of the
writer of fiction, that he should exemplify this.
Our own observation, history, veracious histo-
ry,—(which, according to Bolingbroke, is "a
heap of fables !")—furnishes us with numerous
examples of individuals retaining and display-
ing, in the r.liclst of a fallen and despised lot,
traces of that original good which was infused
into the nature of man at his creation, and of
which he is seldom or never wholly despoiled,
in the course of his trials and temptations upon
this earth ,—and it is confessedly the aim and
object of the writer of fiction, to select the few
remnants of virtue that may survive the moral