[The first entry is Poe's continuation of his review of Henry Duncan's Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons.]
Memoirs and Reminiscences of the French Revolution. By Madame Tussaud. Edited by Francis Hervé, Esq., author of a "Residence in Greece and Turkey," etc. etc. Two Volumes. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.
These personal memoirs and reminiscences another drop to the ocean of books on the same topic have still a vivid interest, and will no doubt be favorably received in America, where incidents of the French Revolution are more eagerly sought, and more tenaciously remembered, than in any other portion of the globe. Madame Tussaud has here introduced nearly every character and circumstance of note connected with the stupendous events in question, and at the same time has forborne to dilate upon those disgusting and revolting scenes of simple horror with which too many similar works abound. With the editor of her book, Francis Hervé, Esq., we have had the honor of a personal acquaintance, and well know that the task of bringing the work before the public could not possibly have been in more competent hands.
The Letter Bag of the Great Western ; or Life in a Steamer. By the Author of Sayings and Doings of Sam Slick, etc. etc. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.
This lively and piquant little book, from the pen of Judge Haliburton, embodies a dedication, a preface, and twenty-eight letters. The dedication is "to the Right Honorable Lord John Russell," and is a piece of biting satire as well as capital burlesque. Sam Slick, or Judge Haliburton, whichever the reader pleases, very candidly informs his lordship that he is selected as Mecnas, not on account of his quick perception of the ridiculous, or his powers of humor, but solely on account of the very extensive patronage at his disposal. "Your lordship," says our writer, "is a colonial minister, and I am a colonial author ; the connexion between us, therefore, in this relation, is so natural, that this work has not only a claim to your protection, but a right to your support. All the world will say that it is in vain for the whig ministry to make protestations of regard for the colonies, when the author of that lively book, 'The Letter Bag of the Great Western,' remains in obscurity in Nova Scotia, languishing for want of timely patronage ; and posterity, that invariably does justice, (although it is unfortunately rather too late, always) will pronounce that you failed in your first duty, as protector of colonial literature, if you do not do the pretty upon this occasion." After a number sly thrusts, the dedicator thus concludes "It does not become me, my lord, to say what I do expect for myself ; but if the officer of distributor of honors and promotions among colonists, is vacant, as there are no duties to perform, and the place is a sinecure, it would suit me uncommonly well, and afford me uncommonly well, and afford me leisure to cultivate talents that are extremely rare among the race of officials."
In the preface, the judge, after acknowledging that
his coming into possession of the Letter Bag of the Great Western, and
perusing its contents, are circumstances of a somewhat unaccountable nature,
declines giving any information upon the subject, but refers the inquisitive
reader to Spring Rice. "Ask Spring Rice," he says, "who is a frank
man." The letters themselves are varied in every respect but one that
of a broad, an excessively broad, burlesque. In our last number we were
enabled, through the kindness of Messrs, Lea and Blanchard, to give our
readers an excellent specimen, in "The Journal of an Actress" a quiz
upon Fanny Kemble. The rest are equally good, some better. A "Letter from
a Traveller before he has travelled," is a farcical affair, satirizing
the Trollope and Marryatt race.
"The Letter Bag of the Great Western" is a book which every body will read, and which will occasion many a hearty laugh. The mere style of Judge Haliburton is not so good as it might be. There is a looseness about it which especially detracts from its piquancy and force. He misses many a fine point through want of epigrammatisn. His coarseness is disgusting. In the Latin motto on the title page is a blunder which has an awkward appearance.
Trials of the Heart. By Mrs. Bray, author of "Trelawny," "The Borders of the Tamar and Tavy," "The Talba," "The White Hoods," "Warleigh," etc. etc. Two Volumes. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.
The writings of Mrs. Bray are, we believe, not very well known in this country, but have been received with some favor in England. The New Monthly Magazine pronounces her "one of the first female novelists of the day," and "De Foix" and "The White Hoods," are mentioned in terms of warm commendation by the Quarterly Review. "Trials of the Heart" embodies four narratives of merit "Prediction ;" "The Orphans of La Vendée;" "The Little Doctor," and "Vicissitudes." The general title of the book, and its ground-work, are deduced from the personal experience of the lady-author herself, who has been called upon to endure more than usually falls to the lot of mortality. This circumstances gives, in many cases, a painful vraisemblance, and consequently a deep interest to her stories.
Romance of Travel, comprising Tales of Five Lands. By the Author of "Pencilings by the Way." S. Colman, New York.
This volume includes nine narratives Lady Ravelgold ; Paletto's Bride ; Violanta Caesarina ; Pasquali, The Tailor of Venice ; The Bandit of Austria ; Oonder Hoofden, or The Undercliff ; The Picker and Piler ; Stratford on Avon ; and Charlecote. There is a dedication, very brief, to Rufus Dawes ; and no preface. Altogether, there is much less of petty affectation about the outworks of the book than was at one time usual with Mr. Willis. We are not quite sure, however, whether he himself is entitled to credit for the improvement. There are some circumstances which induce us to think that the author of the "Inklings," and the "Pencilings," and the "Jottings Down," had no direct agency in the getting up of the "Romance of Travel." The absence of preface is especially suspicious. Be this matter as it may, however, we feel confident that our author could not have seen the proofs of the present publication, which, we are sorry to say, abounds in gross errors of either haste or typography so greatly indeed, that, had we perused nothing else than this work from the pen of Mr. W., we should have called him one of the loosest writers of a day when loose writing, habitually practised and permitted, is making irreparable inroads upon the purity and stability of the language. But we happen to be quite sure that the many blunders in the volume before us are, at least, not deliberate perpetrations. In the minor morals of literature our author has scarcely a superior in America.
In regard to the more important features of the Tales,
we find Mr. Willis still Mr. Willis. We observe his usual range of subject,
his customary mode of handling, his ordinary points of ornament. The best
story here, upon the whole, is that called "The Picker and Piler." Its
striking, yet imperfect, inconsistent, and inconsequential incidents, are
strongly characteristic. As for plot, properly conceived, of that our poet
never should be accused and certainly not in the case of the "Picker
and Piler." The story runs thus. A privateer captain, at the close of the
late war between England and America, not choosing to become a pirate by
continuing his cruise, is set ashore a beggar by his crew. Unfitted for
social life, and doubly disgusted by the conduct of relatives at home,
in whose charge he had left a daughter during his own absence at sea, he
determines upon the rigid seclusion of the maiden from the world, and for
this end, can think of no better plan than that of burying himself and
her in the western wilderness, where his mode of life resembles nothing
more nearly than that of a salamander. For example; he first cuts a clearing
of an acre or so, in the heart of a dense forest, and afterwards a narrow
and intricate lane, from this clearing to the prairie. He then sets fire
to the whole wood, and lives like a conjurer within a charmed circle. When
the trees are fairly burned down, he takes up other quarters in a similar
way. It so happens, however, that a stranger finds his way, one day, through
the lane, and by this stranger the young lady is not treated precisely
as one could wish. The ex-captain resolves upon the death of the lover,
and the manner in which this death is brought about, forms the pith of
the whole story the sting in the tail of the bee. A burning pine has
fallen across an ash, uprooting the latter in its descent. "The earth and
stones had followed the uptorn mass, forming a solid upright wall, from
which, like struggling fingers, stretching back in agony to the ground
from which they had parted, a few rent and naked roots pointed into the
cavity." "The sequel," says our author most inartistically, "will show
why I am so particular in this description." The truth is that the lover
goes to sleep, like a fool, just in the hollow beneath the roots of the
tree. Hereupon the ex-captain jumps up, with his axe, upon the still smouldering
pine, whose weight alone holds down the elastic ash. A single stroke suffices
to sever the burning
Rambles in the Footsteps of Don Quixotte. By the late H. D. Inglis, author of "Spain," "The Tyrol." etc. London, Whittaker and Co.
This is not, as one might suppose from the title, a road-book, describing with statistical accuracy the hamlets, ventas, and posadas, which the author visited in the romantic footsteps of the Knight of La Mancha. It is the work of a mind capable of relishing the inimitable humor of Cervantes, and of enjoying with perfect gusto the beautiful and grotesque images with which the adventures of Don Quixotte abound. In his rambles the writer is accompanied, like the knight, by a guide, a merry barber, who entertains enthusiastic admiration for Cervantes' immortal work. This is in fact a national feeling with the Spaniards, as the following striking anecdote, which we extract from the early pages of the volume, will show :
I had no passport to go beyond Toledo, having intended to return to Madrid; and when I applied to the dispenser of passports for permission to cross the mountain to La Mancha, my request was met by a direct refusal. "But," said I, "my only object is to visit a country hallowed by the genius of Cervantes; I am going to travel in the footsteps of Don Quixotte." Instantly the man's face relaxed ; he could not resist the compliment paid to his country. "See," said he, turning to his companion with a triumphant look, " how these English venerate our Cervantes!" and my passport was instantly made out, and delivered to me with the air of a man who receives rather than confers a favor.
Mr. Inglis has adopted throughout the work a singular species of abandonment to the delightful fiction of Cervantes which makes the Spaniards speak of it as if the characters there drawn had really existed. This delusion is described in the following characteristic dialogue which takes place between the author and the barber of the little village of Miguel Estevan at their first meeting :
"Good evening, Master Nicholas," said I, entering
and seating myself; "and how are your neighbors, the curate and the bachelor
Sampson Curasco, and have you heard any tidings lately of the hidalgo,
who is surnamed Don Quixotte ?" The cunning eye and expressive smile of
the barber showed at once that he understood me. "And so," said he, "you,
who are a foreigner, have found out the village of Don Quixotte, when travellers
from our own towns and provinces go to Quintana, and Quero. and El Probencio,
and Pedernoso, and every village of La Mancha, but the right one !" "And
this, then," said I, "is really the village from which the Knight of La
Mancha set out in search of adventures ?" "Certes it is," replied the barber,
"what other village should it be than Miguel Estevan ? Quintana it could
not be, because there is not, and there never has been any barber's shop
in Quintana: as little could it be Quero, where there is not a house good
enough for an hidalgo, scarcely even for a curate or a licentiate. El Probencio
it could not be, because El Probencio is not in La Mancha; and neither
could it be Pedernoso, because if the knight had gone from Pedernoso to
the place where he encountered the windmills, he must have passed El Toboso,
the village of Dulcinea, which would surely not have been omitted in the
history of his sally." I perceived that the barber was a shrewd fellow,
a true enthusiast in the work of Cervantes; and desirous of trying to what
length the confusion between truth and fiction would carry him, I said,
"But you speak of the house of the hidalgo, as if he had really existed,
and of the barber's shop, as if the barber had in reality consulted with
the curate about burning the knight's books, whereas you know" "Oh I know
very well," interrupted the barber, evidently disconcerted; "but we always
speak so here, and if you will step out with me to the corner of the street
I'll show the identical house." A curious morsel this for the metaphysician
an admirable illustration of the effect which thought, constantly directed
in a wrong channel, may have in warping the judgment; and while I submitted
to the operation of shaving, I reflected upon the extraordinary genius
of Cervantes, in having drawn fictitious scenes with so much truth as not
only to beguile the reader into temporary belief of their reality, but
even to disturb one's settled convictions of truth and fiction.
[S:0 - BGM, 1840]