Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Review of New Books” [Text-02], Graham’s Magazine, August 1841, pp. 90-93


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[page 90, full page:]

REVIEW OF NEW BOOKS.

[column 1:]

[[Review of Wilmer’s The Quacks of Helicon]]

[page 93, column 1, continued:]

[[Review of Irving’s Biography and Poetical Remains of the late Margaret Miller Davidson]]

[[Review of Stephens’ Incidents of Travel in Central America]]

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The Marrying Man. A Novel. By the Author of “ COUSIN GEOFFREY.” Two Volumes. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard.

This novel is inscribed to Theodore Hook, who, we are given to understand in the preface, was the chaperon of “Cousin Geoffrey,” and “The Old Bachelor,” — two books of which we indistinctly remember to have heard. The “Marrying Man” is not badly written, and will answer sufficiently well for the ordinary patrons of the circulating library. Better books might have been re-published, no doubt; but this, we presume, will sell, and thus serve its purpose.

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The Poems and Prose Writings of Sumner Lincoln Fairfield. Two Volumes. Vol. the First. Philadelphia. Printed for the Proprietor.

This is a large octavo, embracing, we believe, the principal poems of Mr. Fairfield, if not all of them, and to be followed by a collection of his prose writings. His prose, so far as we have had an opportunity of judging, is scarcely worth reading. His poems have, in many respects, merit — in some respects, merit of a high order. His themes are often well selected, lofty, and giving evidence of the true spirit. But their execution is always disfigured by a miserable verbiage — words meaning nothing, nothing, although sounding like sense, like the nonsense verses of Du Bartas.

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The Moneyed Man. BY HORACE SMITH. Two Volumes. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard.

This is a good book, and well worth the re-publication. The story is skilfully constructed, and conveys an excellent moral. Horace Smith is one of the authors of the “Rejected Addresses.” He is, perhaps, the most erudite of all the English novelists, and unquestionably one of the best in every respect. His style is peculiarly good.

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The Science of Government. Founded on Natural Law. By CLINTON ROOSEVELT. New York: Dean and Trevett. Philadelphia: Drew and Scammel.

Will any one be kind enough to tell us who is Mr. Clinton Roosevelt? We wish to know, of course, Mr. Roosevelt has published a little book. It consists of a hundred little pages. Ten of these pages would make one of our own. But a clever man may do a great thing in a small way, and Mr. Roosevelt is unquestionably a clever man. For this we have his own word, and who should know all about it better than he? Hear him! —

“Learned men have long contended that it was impossible for any human intellect to grasp what has been here attempted; — that a Cyclopaedia only could embrace in one view all the arts and sciences which minister to man’s necessity and happiness — and that they give but little credit for, as a Cyclopedia is a mere arbitary [we follow Mr. R’s spelling as in duty bound] alphabetical arrangement. We [Mr. Roosevelt is a we] would not say we have done even what we have without much toil and sacrifice. It has cost the best ten years of the writer’s life to settle its great principles, and give it form and substance. The great interests of many were in a state of chaos, and this science [Mr. Roosevelt’s] is to harmonise them, and run side by side with true religion so far as that is meant ‘to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and make on earth peace and good will to man.’ “

Ah! — we begin to breathe freely once more. We had thought that the world and all in it (this hot weather) were going to the dogs, — “proceeding to the canines,” as Bilberry has it — but here is Mr. Roosevelt, and we feel more assured. We entrench ourselves in security behind his little book. “A larger work,” says he, “would have been more imposing in appearance, but the truth is, large works and long speeches are rarely made by men of powerful thought.” Never was anything more true. “As to boasting,” he continues, very continuously, “the writer is well aware that it is the worst policy imaginable.” in this opinion we do not so entirely acquiesce. “The little man” — says he — the reader will perceive that we are so rapt in admiration of Mr. Roosevelt that we quote him at random — “The little man may say this book was not done secundum artem — not nicely or critically.” he must be a very little man indeed, who would say so. We think he has done it quite nicely. “My tone” — we here go on with Mr. Roosevelt — “may seem not strictly according to bien science, (good heavens!) And to every thing else.

“These remarks,” he observes, “are made that none may lightly damn the work.” Of course; any one who should damn it lightly should be damned himself. “But liberal criticism [ah! that is the thing,] will be accepted as a favor, [the smallest favors thankfully accepted] and writers who may undertake the task will confer an obligation by directing a copy of their articles to the author, at New York, from England, France or Germany, or any part of our own country where this work may reach.” Certainly; no critic could do less — no liberal critic. We shall send Mr. Roosevelt a copy of our criticism from Philadelphia, and we would do the same thing if we were living in Timbuctoo.

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Life And Literary Remains of L. E. L. by LAMAN BLANCHARD. Two Volumes. Lea and Blanchard.

This work contains the most authentic biography of the lamented L. E. L. yet issued from the press, together with a collection of her posthumous pieces, and several lighter effusions [column 2:] already published. The volumes possess uncommon interest. The detail of her every-day life, the picture of her gaiety and sweetness, and the criticisms on her genius will commend it to all who have loved, in other days, the poetry of this sweet writer. Nor will the details of her melancholy death prove of less interest. After fully examining all the evidence relating to this tragedy, the author arrives at the conclusion that her death was natural, and instigated neither by her own sorrows nor by the jealousy of others. The conduct of her husband seems, in every respect, to have been without censure.

Of the genius of Miss Landon it is almost unnecessary to speak. Without the elegance of Mrs. Hemans, she had considerable grace; with a fine ear, she was often careless in her rhythm; possessing a fancy exuberant and glowing, she showered her metaphors too indiscriminately around her. But few equalled her — if we may so speak — in the pauionate purity of her verse. Affection breathed through every line she wrote. Perhaps there was a mannerism, certainly an affectation, in her constant reference to love, and blighted love especially; but even this error was made seductive by the never ceasing variety which she contrived to throw around her theme, and the sweetness, richness, and enthusiasm of her song. Her great faults were a want of method, and a careless, rapid habit of composition. From first to last, she was emphatically an “improvisatrice.” She wrote from whim rather than from plan, and consequently was often trite, and always careless. These observations will apply, we think, equally to her prose. Her “Ethell Churchill” may be taken as a specimen, and the best specimen, of her style in romance writing. It would be almost invidious to name any one of her long poems as the finest. In her shorter pieces she is often more successful than in more extended flights; and some of her most carelessly written stanzas glitter most with the dew of Castaly. Without fear of contradiction, we may say that she has left no living female poet to compete with her in fame, unless Mrs. Norton may be said to be her rival; and even with Mrs. Norton, so different are the two writers, no parallel can be drawn. Let us be contented with placing Hemans, Landon, and Norton together in one glorious trio — the sweetest, brightest, loftiest of the female poets of the present generation.

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Lectures on the Sphere and Character of Woman, and Other Subjects. BY GEORGE W. BURNAP, Pastor of the First Independent Church of Baltimore. Philadelphia: Kay and Co.

These lectures are designed as a pendant to a course delivered to the Young Men of Baltimore, last winter, by Mr. Burnap. From the “Sphere and Duties” of Woman the author has excluded all allusion to her physical education and her political rights — regarding the first as a topic for the physician, the last for the jurist. Perhaps this subdivision is injudicious. At all evetns, from what we here know of Mr. Burnap, we should have been pleased to have his subject extended to Woman in all her relations.

The volume appears to us not only well written, but forcibly original in many of its views and illustrations. A passage, at page 50, in which the lecturer suggests the idea of an instinctive reverence in which each sex holds the other, is not only new, but embodies a truth of important result. Mr. B. justly styles the feeling a human religion. Its moral effects are unquestionably great. The deterioration of every community which isolates the sexes, or prevents their free intercommunication, is here traced to a distinct and sufficient cause.

These lectures are handsomely printed and bound, and would form an appropriate present to any lady. [page 96:]

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The Lady of Refinement in Manners, Morals and Religion. By MRS. SANDFORD, Author of “Woman in her Social and Domestic Character.” James Loring: Boston.

Mrs. Sandford is the wife of an English clergyman, and has given frequent evidence of her capacity. Her former work, “Woman in her Social and Domestic Character,” was well received in her own country. Whether it has been re-published here we cannot say. “The Lady of Refinement” is well written, and appears to be carefully matured in its opinions.

 


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Notes:

The attribution of the seven reviews given here is highly probable, although not absolutely certain. All but the final two were considered to be the work of Poe by Heartman and Canny (1943), and all were attributed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott and William D. Hull. Mabbott’s notes at the University of Iowa list the reviews of Fairfield and Roosevelt as “sure,” and of the others as “accept,” sometimes with a question mark. Hull is equally equivocal in his attribution for several of the items. For the reviews of Hook, Fairfield and Smith, Hull says, “it is improbable that a second hand would contribute one or even more such notices.” For the review of Roosevelt, Hull detects strong similarities of tone between it and Poe’s SLM reviews, especially the review of Stone’s “Ups and Down.” For the review of L. E. L., Hull finds several passages in particular to be “typically Poe.” For the review of Burnap, Hull says only, “This is Poe’s diction. I give him the notice without a question mark.” For the review of Sandford, Hull states, “This notice is completely without distinction; because of its position I consider it probably Poe’s.”

 

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[S:0 - GM, 1841] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of Incidents of Travel in Central America [Text-02]