Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of A New and Comprehensive Gazetteer of Virginia,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. VIII: Literary Criticism - part 01 (1902), pp. 211-214


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[page 211, continued:]

A NEW AND COMPREHENSIVE GAZETTEER OF VIRGINIA, AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: CONTAINING A COPIOUS COLLECTION OF GEOGRAPHICAL, STATISTICAL, POLITICAL, COMMERCIAL, RELIGIOUS, MORAL AND MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION, COLLECTED AND COMPILED FROM THE MOST RESPECTABLE, AND CHIEFLY FROM ORIGINAL SOURCES; BY JOSEPH MARTIN. TO WHICH IS ADDED A HISTORY OF VIRGINIA FROM ITS FIRST SETTLEMENT TO THE YEAR 1754: WITH AN ABSTRACT OF THE PRINCIPAL EVENTS FROM THAT PERIOD TO THE INDEPENDENCE OF VIRGINIA, WRITTEN EXPRESSLY FOR THE WORK, BY A CITIZEN OF VIRGINIA. CHARLOTTESVILLE: PUBLISHED BY JOSEPH MARTIN. 1835.

[Southern Literary Messenger, February, 1836.]

WE ought to have noticed this book sooner. Mr. Martin deserves well of the country for having laid the foundation, amidst numerous obstacles, of a work of great utility and importance. In his preface, he disavows all pretension to literary attainment, and claims only the merit of enterprise and perseverance in the execution of his design. He is entitled to all the rewards of a bold pioneer, struggling with pecuniary difficulties, and, we might add, with public indifference, in amassing a large amount of valuable information — [page 212:] interesting to almost every man in the Commonwealth. It is one of the evils attendant upon a high state of political excitement in any country, that what is really and substantially good, is forgotten or neglected. The resources of our great Commonwealth are immense, and if we could once get the public mind into a condition favorable to their full development, the most important consequences might be expected to follow. Societies and associations for collecting information in the various departments of moral and physical science, have abounded in most countries having the least pretension to civilization; and even in some of the States of our confederacy, it is known that an enlightened spirit of inquiry exists on the same subject. Our [[own]] state indeed, boastful as it is of its early history, the renown of some of its sons, and its abundant natural advantages, has nevertheless, we are pained to admit, manifested too little of that public spirit which has animated other communities. Of late, indeed, some signs have been exhibited of a more liberal and resolute course of action, and we are not without hope that these efforts will be crowned by highly useful and practical results.

It is because Mr. Martin has been obliged to rely principally upon individual contributions, in order to obtain which he must necessarily have used great diligence, and submitted to much pecuniary sacrifice, that we think him entitled to a double portion of praise. Few individuals would, under such circumstances, have incurred the risk of failure; and our wonder is, not that the work is not perfect, but that, contending with so many disadvantages, it should have so nearly accomplished what has been long a desideratum in Virginia literature. Our limits will not permit any thing like a [page 213:] minute analysis of its contents. The arrangement of the volume strikes us as superior to the ordinary alphabetical plan; and although there is much repetition even in its present form, much more we think has been avoided. That part of the General Description of the State, which especially treats of the climate, is admirably well written; and, considering the scantiness of the author’s materials, owing to the general neglect of meteorological observations in Virginia, his reasoning is clear, forcible, and philosophical. In the Sketch which is given of the county of Louisa, we think we can recognize a pen which has not unfrequently adorned the pages of the “Messenger” — and the History of the State from its earliest settlement, appended to the work, is written with vigor and ability, and, as far as we can judge, with accuracy. If Mr. Martin is sustained by public liberality, which we earnestly hope will be the case, he will not only be enabled, in the next edition, to correct such imperfections as may be found to exist in the present, but to engraft a large amount of additional information, derived from authentic sources. The report of Professor Rogers, [[for example,]] on the Geology of Virginia, made to the present Legislature, will shed much light on the mineral resources of the State; and the report of the President and Directors of the Literary Fund, embracing as it does, detailed information with respect to all our literary institutions, will greatly illustrate the means in operation for diffusing the blessings and benefits of education. The statistical tables, too, can be revised and corrected in another edition; and we doubt not that many individuals into whose hands the work may fall, will voluntarily contribute such suggestions and improvements as their means of information will authorize. Such a work to [page 214:] the man of business, and to the traveller, and indeed to the general reader, is invaluable, and we heartily recommend it to public patronage.

 


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Notes:

None.


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[S:1 - JAHCW, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of A New and Comprehensive Gazetteer of Virginia)