Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 4: No 2) >> Works of Imagination >> Page 30

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Page 30

Reviews/Essays | 1996
Transcription wreck he throws around his characters, and, by
discriminating between the good and the bad,
to endeavor to interest the reader, an end he
could never hope to attain, were he to exhibit
nature before us as devoid of one redeeming,
one human, trait. "Charles de Moor," in the
play, is a "highwayman," but will any one de-
ny that he deeply interests, by enlisting in his
behalf' the sympathies of the spectators? And
why does he alone interest? (of course, I say
nothing of the lady, his mistress.) He is a rob-
ber, and in so much, no better than his confeder-
ates. Why do they not make the same impres-
sion upon us that their leader does? Simply,
because the latter, unlike the former, is not
wholly bad, is possest of virtue in the midst of
crime, and in despite of crime, and this, if I am
not mistaken, is precisely the kind of character
which it is the province of the writer of fiction
to develope. A character either wholly good or
bad, never yet entered into the imagination of
the dramatist or novelist. Goldsmith's "Village
Preacher,"—who practised what he preached,
would be as little likely to interest in the play or
novel, as would be a human "Mephistopheles."
It is, then, the mist character, all the world
over, which he who would draw a« imposing
picture with a master's hand, never yet failed to
select for his purpose ; and to complain that it is
mitt, is to betray an ignorance of the real end
and aim of works of fiction. It should be borne
in mind, then, that we do not take up a. poem, or
novel, in the same frame of mind with which we
approach a volume of sermons. The object of
the latter is to inculcate moral and religious
truth ; the business of the poet is "to hold the
mirror up to nature," and whether the reflec-
tion be terrible or pleasing, is no part of his con-
cern. Is the picture true? If true, the author
has succeeded, and the reader or critic may
cavil, if he please, about the "cakes and ale."