British Fiction, 18001829

MURRAY, Hugh. Swiss Emigrants, The (1804)

Contemporary Reviews

Critical Review, 3rd ser. 1 (Mar 1804): 357–58.

A pleasing and interesting narrative—we can scarcely call it a tale, as this implies some degree of fiction. The whole is apparently from [357/358] the heart; and it will beguile the feeling mind of Pity’s softest drops.—Can wretches who have excited such miseries, continue to exist? Yes: such are the decrees of Providence. In the natural world we have volcanoes, earthquakes, and serpents: we have also— [this dash leads on to the following notice, which is for Hell Upon Earth, EN2 1804: 23]

Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format: 12mo; price 4s. Boards. Publisher: Longman & Rees.

Flowers of Literature (1804): xliv-xlix.

The anonymous author of ‘The Swiss Emigrants,’ advantageously exhibits the happiness derivable from [xlvii/xlviii] beneficence, even in obscure stations, and gives such a picture of the miseries of continental war as must make us truly enviable of our insulated situation.

Notes: From ‘Introduction: Novelists’.

Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 44 (July 1804): 304–06.

The object of this well-told tale is at once to set forth the happiness which may be derived from the practice of beneficence in an humble and obscure sphere, and to exhibit a moving picture of the misery of which war is productive. The author does not favour us with the name of his hero, and therefore in speaking of him we shall denominate him Ignotus. We learn that this personage had spent his younger days in the army: that, on quitting the service, he married; and that the lovely partner of his joys lived only long enough to present him with a daughter. About the same time, misfortunes of another kind overtake him, which leave him so much reduced in circumstances, as not to be able to support the rank in which he had before appeared. He therefore quits the gaiety of a town life, and retires to Langen, a romantic village in the mountainous parts of the Canton of Berne; where, living on a competence, he employs himself in ameliorating the condition of its rude inhabitants, and in educating his child. His efforts are long attended with little success, but still he per-[304/305]severes. In time, Julia grows up, beautiful and accomplished, and is adored by the villagers. Under her fostering hand, the seeds sown by her father are rapidly matured. None resist the admonitions of Julia; the manners of the rustics are softened, their morals are improved, their comforts are increased, they become superior and happier beings. Meiners, a promising youth, living in a neighbouring town, had long visited in the family of Ignotus, who respected and loved him; and he at length declares himself the admirer of Julia. The match is approved on all sides: but at the meeting in which the period for the union of the lovers was fixed, the rumour of an approaching rupture between Helvetia and France is announced, and diffuses a temporary gloom over each countenance; though time, and a willing scepticism, concur to dissipate the alarm. Shortly afterward, Meiners re-appears, and confirms the sad intelligence, adding that hostilities had actually begun. Not a moment was now to be lost. The Langenites obey the call of Ignotus; under whose command, accompanied by Meiners, they set out for the field of honor. The tender-hearted Julia bids a heavy farewell to her parent and her lover: but she acts on the trying occasion in a manner worthy of herself, and submits with alacrity to the cruel separation which distracts her soul. The Langenites join the Bernese army just in time to engage in the bloody action that was to decide the fate of their common country; and the ingenuousness and firmness visible in their countenances induce the commander in chief to assign them a post of consequence. In the day of battle, they make a glorious stand against superior numbers and superior discipline united, but are finally mown down by the dreadful flying artillery of the enemy. Few of the brave Langenites survive the fatal day, Meiners is killed, and Ignotus is wounded dangerously, but not mortally; while Julia and those who had staid behind at Langen are obliged precipitately to fly, and to seek refuge at Coire. Ignotus, being in some degree recovered, is set at liberty, and allowed to proceed to the town which contains his Julia. He hears her welcome voice, and his eyes behold his beloved daughter: but alas! her faded form, and her pale and emaciated countenance, announce that she is in a deep decline. For a few short months, this unfortunate parent enjoys the society of his angelic child; each day of which only gave fresh and more clear notice of the cruel privation which he must speedily undergo. The hours of increasing melancholy soon pass over; the soul of Julia joins that of her lover; and to Ignotus are left the mournful reflections which he thus expresses:[305/306]

‘Meiners! Julia!—Of all, for whose sake chiefly I could have wished my life to be prolonged, I am destined to be the melancholy survivor. The grave now covers you from my eyes. But I have learned to penetrate its gloomy silence, and look into the regions that lie beyond; I have learned to anticipate there some future and more blissful re-union with those whom I love.

‘I mourn not, O Julia! over thy destiny. Thou art gone from this polluted scene to dwell in purer abodes, from which sorrow and guilt are for ever excluded. I mourn for myself alone; yet wherefore? since, worn out with age and sorrow, I too must quickly fall. I have only to find out some solitary retreat in which to lay down my head, and die in peace.’

Such is war, and such are the blessings which conquerors and warlike statesmen confer on humanity! Yet what a small corner in the wide field of devastation and misery, occasioned by one expedition only, does this volume describe! The most detailed relations of General Brune’s progress in Switzerland cannot include the desolation of Langen, nor notice the afflictions under which the aged shoulders of Ignotus now bent; and if such as these pages describe be the misery produced in one sequestered village in consequence of a single battle, what imagination can grasp the sum of that which was caused by the revolution, and all its sanguinary contests.

Notes: Format: 12mo. pp.126; price 4s. Boards. Publisher: Longman & Rees.

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