Text: Various, Literary Reviews, Southern Literary Messenger, January 1835, 1:241-251


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 241:]

ORIGINAL LITERARY NOTICES.

THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII. By the author of Pelham, &c. 2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1834.

THE “Messenger” ought to have contained an earlier notice of this fashionable and brilliant work. If our readers have not seen it, we would advise them by all means to send forthwith to the bookseller and purchase a copy. We are free to confess that it has raised Mr. Bulwer fifty per cent. at least in our estimation, — yet we do not think it by any means a faultless performance. Mr. Bulwer’s pictures, in all his works that we have read, are too gaudy, — too highly wrought, — and therefore too much above nature, — and want the delightful repose and serene features which distinguish the great Scottish magician. He is, nevertheless, an author of vivid and powerful fancy, of extensive learning, and of high capacity to seize upon his readers and enchain them by fine imagery and impassioned eloquence. The work before us is one of undoubted merit. The subject is of great historical interest, and the author has contrived to reanimate the ” city of the dead” with a group of actors who, with some exceptions, admirably sustain their respective parts, and contribute their due share to the continued interest and final catastrophe of the story. We shall not attempt any analysis of the book, for that would be to deprive such of our readers as have not seen it, of much of that exquisite pleasure which attends the progressive developement of the plot, and the gradual disentanglement of all the intricacies in a work of fiction. The tragical story of Pompeii is familiar to classical readers, and especially the graphic account of its doom by the younger Pliny, who was an eye witness to the calamity. Its discovery and partial restoration in latter times, — the laborious excavations which have brought back its temples, its theatres, its triumphal arches and spacious edifices, to the light of day; — its antique curiosities and fine paintings, rescued as it were from a dark interment of seventeen centuries, and now exhibited in their original form and freshness, are all circumstances of powerful interest, — but have been so frequently referred to by tourists, antiquarians and others, that they do not require any particular notice at our hands. We regard Mr. Bulwer as highly fortunate in the choice of his subject; and, as he enjoyed great advantages by his presence on the spot, he has contrived to embellish his story by a variety of interesting details derived from actual inspection. The minute account, for example, of the dwelling of Glaucus, in the third chapter, — of the complicated arrangement and splendid ornaments of the various apartments, is not the creation of fancy but a lively representation of a living model. By the way, since this same chapter contains a very curious account of a Pompeian supper, besides some other interesting matters, we are tempted to insert the whole in our columns, especially as many of our readers may have no opportunity of seeing the volumes from which it is extracted. The umbra, who is introduced as one of the guests, is a species of animal not peculiar we believe, to the Roman age. Society has in all ages abounded in parasites and toadies, who, for the sake of a plentiful repast and fashionable company, have very willingly echoed the sentiments of a rich patron. Glaucus, one of the principal personages in the tale, had assembled a small [column 2:] party to partake of his luxurious bounty, — and the chapter opens with a fine description of the host himself. We introduce it to our readers.

——

HEAVEN had given to Glaucus every blessing but one: it had given him beauty, health, fortune, genius, illustrious descent, a heart of fire, a mind of poetry; but it had denied him the heritage of freedom. He was born in Athens, the subject of Rome. Succeeding early to an ample inheritance, he had indulged that inclination for travel so natural to the young, and had drunk deep of the intoxicating draught of pleasure, amid the gorgeous luxuries of the imperial court.

He was an Alcibiades without ambition. He was what a man of imagination, youth, fortune and talents readily becomes when you deprive him of the inspiration of glory. His house at Rome was the theme of the debauchees, but also of the lovers of art; and the sculptors of Greece delighted to task their skill in adorning the porticoes and exedra of an Athenian. His retreat in Pompeii — alas! the colors are faded now, the walls stripped of their paintings! — its main beauty, its elaborate finish of grace and ornament, is gone; yet when first given once more to the day, what eulogies, what wonder did its minute and glowing decorations create — its paintings — its mosaics! Passionately enamoured of poetry and the drama, which recalled to Glaucus the wit and the heroism of his race, that fairy mansion was adorned with representations of Æschylus and Homer. And antiquaries, who resolve taste to a trade, have turned the patron to the professor, and still (though the error is now acknowledged) they style in custom, as they first named in mistake, the disbursed house of the Athenian Glaucus, “THE HOUSE OF THE DRAMATIC POET.”

Previous to our description of this house, it may be well to convey to the reader a general notion of the houses of Pompeii, which he will find to resemble strongly the plans of Vitruvius; but with all those differences in detail, of caprice and taste which, being natural to mankind, have always puzzled antiquaries We shall endeavor to make this description as clear and unpedantic as possible.

You enter then, usually, by a small entrance passage (called vestibulum) into a hall, sometimes with (bet more frequently without) the ornament of columns; around three sides of this hall are doors communicating with several bed chambers, (among which is the porter’s,) the best of these being usually appropriated to country visiters. At the extremity of the hall, on either side to the right and left, if the house is large, there are two small recesses, rather than chambers, generally devoted to the ladies of the mansion; and in the centre of the tesselated pavement of the hall is invariably a square shallow reservoir for rain water (classically termed impluvium,) which was admitted by a hole in the roof above; the said aperture being covered at will by an awning. Near this imtpluvium, which had a peculiar sanctity in the eyes of the ancients, were sometimes (but at Pompeii more rarely than at Rome) placed images of the household gods; the hospitable hearth, often mentioned by the Romnan poets, and consecrated to the Lares, was, at Pompeii, almost invariably formed by a moveable brasier; while in some corner, often the most ostentatious place, was deposited a huge wooden chest, ornamented and strengthened by bands of bronse [[bronze]] or iron, and secured by strong hooks upon a stone pedestal so firmly as to defy the attempts of any robber to detach it from its position. This chest was supposed to be the money-box or coffer of the master of the house; though, as no money has been found in any of the chests discovered at Pompeii, it is probable that it was sometimes rather designed for ornament than use.

In this hall (or atrium, to speak classically) the clients and visiters of inferior rank were usually received. In the houses of the more “respectable,” an atriensis, or [page 242:]

slave peculiarly devoted to the service of the hall, was invariably retained, and his rank among his fellow slaves was high and important. The reservoir in the centre must have been rather a dangerous ornament, but the centre of the hall was like the grass-plat of a college, and interdicted to the passers to and fro, who found ample space in the margin. Right opposite the entrance, at the other end of the hall, was an apartment (tablinum,) in which the pavement was usually adorned with rich mosaics, and the walls covered with elaborate paintings. Here were usually kept the records of the family, or those of any public office that had been filled by the owner: on one side of this saloon, if we may so call it, was often a dining room, or triclinium; on the other side, perhaps, what we should now term a cabinet of gems, containing whatever curiosities were deemed most rare and costly; and invariably a small passage for the slaves to cross to the farther parts of the house without passing the apartments thus mentioned. These rooms all opened on a square or oblong colonnade, technically termed peristyle. If the house was small, its boundary ceased with this colonnade, and in that case its centre, however diminutive, was ordinarily appropriated to the purpose of a garden, and adorned with vases of flowers placed upon pedestals, while under the colonnade, to the right and left, were doors, admitting to bed rooms,* to a second triclinium, or eating room, (for the ancients generally appropriated two rooms at least to that purpose, one for summer and one for winter, or perhaps one for ordinary, the other for festive occasions;) and if the owner affected letters, a cabinet, dignified by the name of library, — for a very small room was sufficient to contain the few rolls of papyrus which the ancients deemed a notable collection of books.

At the end of the peristyle was generally the kitchen. Supposing the house was large, it did not end with the peristyle, and the centre thereof was not in that case a garden, but might be perhaps adorned with a fountain, or basin for fish; and at its end, exactly opposite to the tablinum, was generally another eating room, on either side of which were bed rooms, and perhaps a picture saloon, or pinatheca.† These apartments communicated again with a square or oblong space, usually adorned on three sides with a colonnade like the peristyle, and very much resembling the peristyle, only longer. This was the proper viridarium or garden, being usually adorned with a fountain, or statues, and a profusion of gay flowers: at its extreme end was the gardener’s house; on either side beneath the colonnade were sometimes, if the size of the family required it, additional rooms.

At Pompeii, a second or third story was rarely of importance, being built only above a small part of the house, and containing rooms for the slaves; differing in this respect from the more magnificent edifices of Rome, which generally contained the principal eating room (or cænaculum) on the second floor. The apartments themselves were ordinarily of small size: for in those delightful climes they received any extraordinary number of visiters in the peristyle (or portico,) the hall, or the garden; and even their banquet rooms, however elaborately adorned and carefully selected in point of aspect, were of diminutive proportions; for tile intellectual ancients, being fond of society, not of crowds, rarely feasted more than nine at a time, so that large dinner rooms were not so necessary with them as with us.‡ But the suite of rooms seen at once from the entrance must have had a very imposing effect; you beheld at once the hall richly paved and painted — the tablinum — the graceful peristyle, and (if the house extended farther) the opposite banquet room and the garden, [column 2:] which closed the view with some gushing fount or marble statue.

The reader will now have a tolerable notion of the Pompeian houses, which resembled in some respects the Grecian, but mostly the Roman, fashion of domestic architecture. In almost every house there is some difference in detail from the rest, but the principal outline is the same in all. In all you find the hall, the tablinum, and the peristyle communicating with each other; in all you find the walls richly painted, and in all the evidence of a people fond of the refining elegancies of life. The purity of the taste of the Pompeians in decoration is however questionable: they were fond of the gaudiest colors, of fantastic designs; they often painted the lower half of their columns a bright red, leaving the rest uncolored; and where the — garden was small, its wall was frequently tinted to deceive the eye as to its extent, imitating trees, birds, temples, &c. in perspective — a meretricious delusion which the graceful pedantry of Pliny himself adopted, with a complacent pride in its ingenuity.

But the house of Glaucus was at once one of the smallest, and yet of the most adorned and finished, of all the private mansions of Pompeii; it would be a model at this day for the house of “a single man in Mayfair” — the envy and despair of the cœlibian purchasers of buhl and marquetrie.

You enter by a long and narrow vestibule, on the floor of which is the image of a dog in mosaic, with the well known “cave canem,” or “beware the dog.” On either side is a chamber of some size; for the interior house not being large enough to contain the two great divisions of private and public apartments, these two rooms were set apart for the reception of visiters who neither by rank nor familiarity were entitled to admission in the penetralia of the mansion.

Advancing up the vestibule, you enter an atrinum, that when first discovered was rich in paintings, which in point of expression would scarcely disgrace a Raphael. You may see them now transplanted to the Neapolitan Museum; they are still the admiration of connoisseurs; they depict the parting of Achilles and Briseis. Who does not acknowledge the force, the vigor, the beauty! employed in delineating the forms and faces of Achilles and the immortal slave!

On one side the atrinum, a small staircase admitted to the apartments for the slaves on the second floor; there too were two or three small bed roomns, the walls of which portrayed the rape of Europa, the battle of the Amazons, &c.

You now enter the tablinum, across which at either end hung rich draperies of Tyrian purple, half withdrawn.* On the walls were depicted a poet reading his verses to his friends; and in the pavement was inserted a small and most exquisite mosaic, typical of the instructions given by the director of the stage to his comedians.

You passed through this saloon and entered the peristyle; and here (as I have said before was usually the case with the smaller houses of Pompeii) the mansion ended. From each of the seven columns that adorned this court hung festoons of garlands; the centre, supplying the place of a garden, bloomed with the rarest flowers, placed in vases of white marble, that were supported on pedestals. At the left end of this small garden was a diminutive fane, resembling one of those small chapels placed at the side of roads in Catholic countries, and dedicated to the Penates; before it stood a bronze tripod; to the left of the colonnade were two small cubiculi or bed rooms; to the right was the triclinium, in which the guests were now assembled.

This room is usually termed by the antiquaries of Naples, “the chamber of Leda;” and in the beautiful work of Sir William Gell, the reader will find an engraving from that most delicate and graceful painting of Leda presenting her new-born to her husband, from

[page 243:] which the room derives its name. This beautiful apartment opened upon the fragrant garden. Round the table of citrean* wood, highly polished and delicately wrought with silver arabesques, were placed the three couches, which were yet more common at Pompeii than the semi-circular seat that had grown lately into fashion at Rome; and on these couches of bronze, studded with richer metals, were laid thick quiltings covered with elaborate broidery, and yielding luxuriously to the pressure.

“Well, I must own,” said the edile Pansa, “that your house, though scarcely larger than a case for one’s fibulae, is a gem of its kind. How beautifully painted is that parting of Achilles and Briseis! — what a style! — what heads! — what a-hem!” “Praise from Pansa is indeed valuable on such subjects,” said Clodius, gravely. “Why, the paintings on his walls — ah! there is, indeed, the hand of a Zeuxis!” “You flatter me, my Clodius; indeed you do,” quoth the tedile, who was celebrated through Pompeii for having the worst paintings in the world; for he was patriotic, and patronised none but Pompeians, — ” you flatter me: but there is something pretty — Ædepol yes — in the colors, to say nothing of the design; — and then for the kitchen, my friends — ah! that was all my fancy.”

“What is the design?” said Glaucus. “I have not yet seen your kitchen, though I have often witnessed the excellence of its cheer.”

“A cook, my Athenian — a cook sacrificing the trophies of his skill on the altar of Vesta, with a beautiful mnurtona (taken from the life) on a spit at a distance: there is some invention there!”

At that instant the slaves appeared, bearing a tray covered with the first preparative initia of the feast. Amid delicious figs, fresh herbs strewed with snow, anchovies, and eggs, were ranged small cups of diluted wine sparingly mixed with honey. As these were placed on the table, young slaves bore round to each of the five guests (for there were no more) the silver basin of perfumed water and napkins edged with a purple fringe. But the eedile ostentatiously drew forth his own napkin, which was not, indeed, of so fine a linen, but in which the fringe was twice as broad, and wiped his hands with the parade of a man who felt he was calling for admiration.

“A splendid mappa that of yours,” said Clodius; “why, the fringe is as broad as a girdle.”

“A trifle, my Clodius, a trifle! They tell me this stripe is the latest fashion at Rome; but Glaucus attends to these things more than I.”

“Be propitious, O Bacchus!” said Glaucus, inclining reverentially to a beautiful image of the god placed in the centre of the table, at the corners of which stood the Lares and the saltholders. The guests followed the prayer, and then, sprinkling the wine on the table, they performed the wonted libation.

This over, the convivalists reclined themselves on the couches, and the business of the hour commenced.

“May this cup be my last!” said the young Sallust, as the table, cleared of its first stimulants, was now loaded with the substantial part of the entertainment, and the ministering slave poured forth to him a brimming cyathus — ” May this cup be my last, but it is the best wine I have drunk at Pompeii!”

“Bring hither the amphora,” said Glaucus; “and read its date and its character.”

The slave hastened to inform the party that the scroll fastened to the cork betokened its birth from Chios, and its age a ripe fifty years.

“How deliciously the snow has cooled it!” said Pansa; “it is just enough.”

“It is like the experience of a man who has cooled [column 2:] his pleasures sufficiently to give them a double zest,” exclaimed Sallust.

“It is like a woman’s No,” added Glaucus; “it cools but to inflame the more.”

“When is our next wild-beast fight?” said Clodius to Pansa.

“It stands fixed for the ninth ide of August,” answered Pansa, “on the day after the Vulcanalia; we have a most lovely young lion for the occasion.”

“Whom shall we get for him to eat?” asked Clodius. “Alas! there is a great scarcity of criminals. You must positively find some innocent or other to condemn to the lion, Pansa!”

“Indeed I have thought very seriously about it of late,” replied the edile, gravely. “It was a most infamous law that which forbade us to send our own slaves to the wild beasts. Not to let us do what we like with our own, that’s what I call an infringement on property itself.”

“Not so in the good old days of the republic,” sighed Sallust.

“And then this pretended mercy to the slaves is such a disappointment to the poor people. How they do love to see a good tough battle between a man and a lion! and all this innocent pleasure they may lose (if the gods don‘t send us a good criminal soon) from this cursed law.”

“What can be worse policy,” said Clodius, sententiously, “than to interfere with the manly amusements of the people?”

“Well, thank Jupiter and the Fates! we have no Nero at present,” said Sallust. “He was, indeed, a tyrant; he shut up our amphitheatre for ten years.”

“I wonder it did not create a rebellion,” said Sallust.

“It very nearly did,” returned Pansa, with his mouth full of wild boar.

Here the conversation was interrupted for a moment by a flourish of flutes, and two slaves entered with a single dish.

“Ah! what delicacy hast thou in store for us now, my Glaucus?” cried the young Sallust, with sparkling eyes.

Sallust was only twenty-four, but he had no pleasure in life like eating — perhaps he had exhausted all the others; yet had he some talent, and an excellent heart — as far as it went.

“I know its face, by Pollux!” cried Pansa; “it is an Ambracian kid. Ho!” snapping his fingers, a usual signal to the slaves, “we must prepare a new libation in honor to the new-comer.”

“I had hoped,” said Glaucus, in a melancholy tone, “to have procured you some oysters from Britain; but the winds that were so cruel to Casar have forbid us the oysters.”

“Are they in truth so delicious?” asked Lepidus, loosening to a yet more luxurious ease his ungirdled tunic.

“Why, in truth, I suspect it is the distance that gives the flavor; they want the richness of the Brundusium oyster. But at Rome no supper is complete without them.”

“The poor Britons! There is some good in them after all,” said Sallust; “they produce an oyster!”

“I wish they would produce us a gladiator,” said the edile, whose provident mind was still musing over the wants of the amphitheatre.

“By Pallas!” cried Glaucus, as his favorite slave crowned his steaming locks with a new chaplet, “I love these wild spectacles well enough when beast fights beast; but when a man, one with bones and blood like ours, is coldly put on the arena, and torn limb from limb, the interest is too horrid: I sicken — I gasp for breath — I long to rush and defend him. The yells of the populace seem to me more dire than the voices of the Furies chasing Orestes. I rejoice that there is so little chance of that bloody exhibition for our next show!” [page 244:]

The edile shrugged his shoulders; the young Sallust who was thought the best natured man in Pompeii, stared in surprise. The graceful Lepidus, who rarely spoke for fear of disturbing his features, cried, “Per Hercle!” The Parasite Clodius muttered, “Ædepol;” and the sixth banqueter, who was the umbra of Clodius, and whose duty it was to echo his richer friend when he could not praise him — the parasite of a parasite, — muttered also, “Ædepol.”

“Well, you Italians are used to these spectacles; we Greeks are more merciful. Ah, shade of Pindar! — the rapture of a true Grecian game — the emulation of man against man — the generous strife — the half-mournful triumph — so proud to contend with a noble foe, so sad to see him overcome! But ye understand me not.”

The kid is excellent,” said Sallust.

The slave whose duty it was to carve, and who valued himself on his science, had just performed that office on the kid to the sound of music, his knife keeping time, beginning with a low tenor, and accomplishing the arduous feat amid a magnificent diapason.

“Your cook is of course from Sicily?” said Pansa.

“Yes, of Syracuse.”

“I will play you for him,” said Clodius; “we will have a game between the courses.”

“Better that sort of game, certainly, than a beast fight; but I cannot stake my Sicilian — you have nothing so precious to stake me in return.”

“My Phillida — my beautiful dancing girl!”

“I never buy women,” said the Greek, carelessly rearranging his chaplet.

The musicians, who were stationed in the portico without, had commenced their office with the kid; they now directed the melody into a more soft, a more gay, yet it may be a more intellectual, strain; and they chanted that song of Horace beginning “Persicos odi,” &c. so impossible to translate, and which they imagined applicable to a feast that, effeminate as it seems to us, was simple enough for the gorgeous revelry of the time. We are witnessing the domestic and not the princely feast — the entertainment of a gentleman, not of an emperor or a senator.

“Ah, good old Horace,” said Sallust, compassionately; “he sang well of feasts and girls, but not like our modern poets” “The immortal Fulvius, for instance,” said Clodius.

“Ah, Fulvius the immortal!” said the umbra.

“And Spuraena, and Caius Mutias, who wrote three epics in a year — could Horace do that, or Virgil either?” said Lepidus. “Those old poets all fell into the mistake of copying sculpture instead of painting. Simplicity and repose — that was their notion: but we moderns have fire, and passions, and energy — we never sleep, we imitate the colors of painting, its life and its action. Immortal Fulvius!”

“By-the-way,” said Sallust, “have you seen the new ode by Spurena, in honor of our Egyptian Isis? — it is magnificent — the true religious fervor.”

“Isis seems a favorite divinity at Pompeii,” said Glaucus.

“Yes!” said Pansa, “she is exceedingly in repute just at this moment; her statue has been uttering the most remarkable oracles. I am not superstitious, but I must confess that she has more than once assisted me materially in my magistracy with her advice. Her priests are so pious too! none of your gay, tone of your proud ministers of Jupiter and Fortune; they walk barefoot, eat no meat, and pass the greater part of the night in solitary devotion!”

“An example to our other priesthoods, indeed! Jupiter’s temple wants reforming sadly,” said Lepidus, who was a great reformer for all but himself.

“They say that Arbaces the Egyptian has imparted some most solemn mysteries to the priests of Isis,” observed Sallust; “he boasts his descent from the race of Ramases, and declares that in his family the secrets of remotest antiquity are treasured.”

“He certainly possesses the gift of the evil eye,” [column 2:] said Clodius; “if I ever come upon that Medusa front without the previous charm, I am sure to lose a favorite horse, or throw the canes* nine times running.”

“The last would be indeed a miracle!” said Sallust, gravely.

“How mean you, Sallust?” returned the gamester, with a flushed brow.

“I mean what you would leave me if I played often with you; and that is — nothing.”

Clodius answered only by a smile of disdain.

“If Arbaces were not so rich,” said Pansa, with a stately air, “I should stretch my authority a little, and inquire into the truth of the report which calls him an astrologer and a sorcerer. Agrippa, when edile of Rome, banished all such terrible citizens. But a rich man — it is the duty of an edile to protect the rich!”

“What think you of this new sect, which I am told has even a few proselytes in Pompeii, these followers of the Hebrew God — Christus?”

“Oh, mere speculative visionaries,” said Clodius; “they have not a single gentleman among them; their proselytes are poor, insignificant, ignorant people!”

“Who ought, however, to be crucified for their blasphemy,” said Pansa, with vehemence; “they deny Venus and Jove! Nazarene is but another name for atheist. Let me catch them, that’s all!”

The second course was gone — the feasters fell back on their couches — there was a pause while they listened to the soft voices of the South, and the music of the Arcadian reed. Glaucus was the most rapt and the least inclined to break the silence, but Clodius began already to think that they wasted time.

Bene vobis (your health,) my Glaucus,” said he, quaffing a cup to each letter of the Greek’s name, with the ease of the practised drinker. “Will you not be avenged on your ill-fortune of yesterday? See, the dice court us.”

“As you will!” said Glaucus.

“The dice in August, and I an edile,” said Pansa, magisterially; “it is against all law.”

“Not in your presence, grave Pansa,” returned Clodius, rattling the dice in a long box; “your presence restrains all license; it is not the thing, but the excess of the thing, that hurts.”

“What wisdom!” murmured the umbra.

“Well, I will look another way,” said the edile.

“Not yet, good Pansa; let us wait till we have supped,” said Glaucus.

Clodius reluctantly yielded, concealing his vexation with a yawn.

“He gapes to devour the gold,” whispered Lepidus to Sallust, in a quotation from the Aulularia of Plautus.

“Ah! how well I know these polypi, who hold all they touch,” answered Sallust, in the same tone, and out of the same play.

The second course, consisting of a variety of fruits, pistachio nuts, sweetmeats, tarts, and confectionary tortured into a thousand fantastic and airy shapes, was now placed upon the table, and the ministri, or attendants, also set there the wine (which had hitherto been handed round to the guests) in large jugs of glass, each bearing upon it the schedule of its age and quality.

“Taste this Lesbian, my Pansa,” said Sallust; “it is excellent.”

“It is not very old,” said Glaucus, “but it has been made precocious, like ourselves, by being put to the fire; the wine to the flames of Vulcan, we to those of his wife, to whose honor I pour this cup.”

“It is delicate,” said Pansa, “but there is perhaps the least particle too much of rosin in its flavor.”

“What a beautiful cup!” cried Clodius, taking up one of transparent crystal, the handles of which were wrought with gems, and twisted in the shape of serpents, the favorite fashion at Pompeii.

“This ring,” said Glaucus, taking a costly jewel from the first joint of his finger and hanging it on the [page 245:] handle, “gives it a richer show, and renders it less unworthy of thy acceptance, my Clodius, whom may the gods give health and fortune long and oft to crown it to the brim!”

“You are too generous, Glaucus,” said the gamester, handing the cup to his slave, “but your love gives it a double value.”

“This cup to the Graces!” said Pansa, and he thrice emptied his calix. The guests followed his example.

“We have appointed no director to the feast,” cried Sallust.

“Let us throw for him, then,” said Clodius, rattling the dice-box.

“Nay,” cried Glaucus; “no cold and trite director for us; no dictator of the banquet; no rex convivii. Have not the Romans sworn never to obey a king? shall we be less free than your ancestors? Ho! musicians, let us have the song I composed the other night; it has a verse on this subject, ‘The Bacchic Hymn of the Hours.‘”

The musicians struck their instruments to a wild Ionic air, while the youngest voices in the band chanted forth in Greek words, as numbers, the following strain:

THE EVENING HYMN OF THE HOURS.

I.

Through the summer day, through the weary day,

We have glided long;

Ere we speed to the night through her portals gray,

Hail us with song!

With song, with song,

With a bright and joyous song,

Such as the Cretan maid,

While the twilight made her bolder,

Woke, high through the ivy shade,

When the wine-god first consoled her.

From the hush‘d low-breathing skies,

Half-shut, look‘d their starry eyes,

And all around, With a loving sound,

The Æegean waves were creeping;

On her lap lay the lynx’s head;

Wild thyme was her bridal bed;

And aye through each tiny space,

In the green vine’s green embrace,

The fauns were slyly peeping; —

The fauns, the prying fauns —

The arch, the laughing fauns —

The fauns were slyly peeping!

II.

Flagging and faint are we

With our ceaseless flight

And dull shall our journey be

Through the realm of night.

Bathe us, O bathe our weary wings,

In the purple wave, as it freshly springs

To your cups from the fount of light —

From the fount of light — from the fount of light:

For there, when the sun has gone down in night,

There in the bowl we find him.

The grape is the well of that summer sun,

Or rather the stream that he gazed upon,

Till he left in truth, like the Thespian youth,*

His soul, as he gazed, behind him.

III.

A cup to Jove, and a cup to Love,

And a cup to the son of Maia,

And honor with three, the band zone-free,

The band of the bright Aglaia.

But since every bud in the wreath of pleasure

Ye owe to the sister Hours,

No stinted cups, in a formal measure,

The Bromian law make ours.

He honors us most who gives us most,

And boasts with a Bacchanal’s honest boast

He never will count the treasure.

Fastly we fleet, then seize our wings,

And plunge us deep in the sparkling springs;

And aye, as we rise with a dripping plume,

We‘ll scatter the spray round the garlanil’s bloom.

We glow — we glow.

Behold, as the girls of the Eastern wave

Bore once with a shout to their crystal cave

The prize of the Mysian Hylas,

Even so — even so,

We have caught the young god in our warm embrace,

We hurry him on in our laughing race;

We hurry him on, with a whoop and song,

The cloudy rivers of Night along

Ho, ho! — we have caught thee, Psilas!

The guests applauded loudly: when the poet is your host, his verses are sure to charm.

“Thoroughly Greek,” said Lepidus: “the wildness, force, and energy of that tongue it is impossible to imitate in the Roman poetry.”

“It is indeed a great contrast,” said Clodius, ironically at heart, though not in appearance, “to the old fashioned and tame simplicity of that ode of Horace which we heard before. The air is beautifully Ionic: the word puts me in mind of a toast — Companions, I give you the beautiful Ione.”

“Ione — the name is Greek,” said Glaucus, in a soft voice, “I drink the health with delight. But who is Ione?”

“Ah! you have but just come to Pompeii, or you would deserve ostracism for your ignorance,” said Lepidus, conceitedly; “not to know Ione is not to know the chief charm of our city.”

“She is of most rare beauty,” said Pansa; “and what a voice!”

“She can feed only on nightingales’ tongues,” said Clodius.

“Nightingales’ tongues! — beautiful thought,” sighed the umbra.

“Enlighten me, I beseech you,” said Glaucus.

“Know then,” began Lepidus “Let me speak,” cried Clodius; you drawl out your words as if you spoke tortoises.”

“And you speak stones,” muttered the coxcomb to himself, as he fell back disdainfully on his couch.

“Know then, my Glaucus,” said Clodius, that Ione is a stranger, who has but lately come to Pompeii. She sings like Sappho, and her songs are her own composing; and as for the tibia, and the cithara, and the lyre, I know not in which she most outdoes the Muses. Her beauty is most dazzling. Her house is perfect; such taste — such gems — such bronzes! She is rich, and generous as she is rich.”

“Her lovers, of course,” said Glaucus, “take care that she does not starve; and money lightly won is always lavishly spent.”

“Her lovers — ah, there is the enigma! Ione has but one vice — she is chaste. She has all Pompeii at her feet, and she has no lovers: she will not even marry.”

“No lovers!” echoed Glaucus.

“No; she has the soul of Vesta, with the girdle of Venus.”

“What refined expressions!” said the umbra.

“A miracle!” cried Glacus.

“Can we not see her?”

“I will take you there this evening,” said Clodius; “meanwhile,” added he, once more rattling the dice —

“I am yours!” said the complaisant Glaucus. “Pansa turn your face!”

Lepidus and Sallust played at odd and even, and the umbra looked on, while Glaucus and Clodius became gradually absorbed in the chances of the dice.

“Per Jove!” cried Glaucus, “this is the second time I have thrown the canicula” (the lowest throw.)

“Now Venus befriend me!” said Clodius, rattling the box for several moments, “O Alma Venus — it is Venus herself!” as he threw the highest cast named from that goddess, — whom he who wins money indeed usually propitiates!

“Venus is ungrateful to me,” said Glaucus, gayly; “I have always sacrificed on her altar.”

“He who plays with Clodius,” whispered Lepidus, “will soon, like Plautus’s Curculio, put his pallium for the stakes.”

“Poor Glaucus — he is as blind as Fortune herself,” replied Sallust, in the same tone.

“I will play no more,” said Glaucus. “I have lost thirty sestertia.”

“I am sorry,” began Clodius.

“Amiable man!” groaned the umbra.

“Not at all!” exclaimed Glaucus; “the — pleasure of your gain compensates the pain of my loss.”

The conversation now became general and animated; the wine circulated more freely; and Ione once more [page 246:] became the subject of eulogy to the guests of Glaucus.

“Instead of outwatching the star, let us visit one at whose beauty the stars grow pale,” said Lepidus.

Clodius, who saw no chance of renewing the dice, seconded the proposal; and Glaucus, though he civilly pressed his guests to continue the banquet, could not but let them see that his curiosity had been excited by the praises of Ione; they therefore resolved to adjourn (all at least but Pansa and the umbra) to the house of the fair Greek. They drank, therefore, to the health of Glaucus and of Titus — they performed their last libation — they resumed their slippers — they descended the stairs — passed the illumined atrium — and walking unbitten over the fierce dog painted on the threshold, found themselves beneath the light of the moon just risen, in the lively and still crowded streets of Pompeii. They passed the jewellers’ quarter, sparkling with lights, caught and reflected by the gems displayed in the shops, and arrived‘at last at the door of Ione. The vestibule blazed with rows of lamps; curtains of embroidered purple hung on either aperture of the tablinum, whose walls and mosaic pavement glowed with the richest colors of the artist; and under the portico which surrounded the odorous viridarium they found Ione already surrounded by adoring and applauding guests.

“Did you say she was Athenian?” whispered Glaucus, ere he passed into the peristyle.

“No, she is from Neapolis.”

“Neapolis!” echoed Glaucus; and at that moment, the group dividing on either side of Ione gave to his view that bright, that nymph — like beauty which for months had shone down upon the waters of his memory.

Glaucus is a noble character throughout; educated of course a heathen, but endowed with some of those higher faculties of reason, which enabled him in the end to surrender the charms of a poetic mythology for a purer and brighter faith. Ione,” the beautiful Ione,” is an almost perfect model of Grecian loveliness and accomplishment; and her brother Apecides, furnishes an affecting illustration of great powers and virtues rendered prostrate by an overwrought sensibility and enthusiastic temperament. Arbaces, the dark, wily, revengeful Egyptian, is the demon of the tale. In profound earthly wisdom and diabolical depravity, “none but himself can be his parallel.” The “Asiatic Journal,” whose editors or reviewers we take to be much wiser than we are, asserts that the character of Nydia is not an original creation of Mr. Bulwer’s; but that the dwarf Mignon in the Wilhelm Meister of Goethe, is the exact prototype not only of the blind flower girl, but of the fantastical Fenella in Scott’s Peverill of the Peak. The “Journal” also maintains that the witch of Vesuvius, is of the true Meg Merrillie’s family. In regard to the first supposed resemblances, — never having seen Goethe’s work, we profess our entire incompetency to judge; but we do most fervently protest against any comparison between our old favorite Meg and that most execrable hag whom Bulwer has placed in the caverns of Vesuvius, — the perusal of whose accursed incantations deprived us of several hours of our accustomed and needful rest.

Whilst Mr. Bulwer has rendered to the Egyptian and a few others the just reward of their transgressions, we think that poor Nydia has been hardly dealt by. What a fine opportunity it was to illustrate the power of christian faith in soothing even the sorrows of unrequited love. We do not say this reproachfully however, because we think that Mr. Bulwer has endeavored at least, to do justice to the christian character [column 2:] and principles, in his work. Olynthus is a fine specimen of that heroic courage which, especially in the early ages of the church, was content with ignominy, chains and poverty in this life, and courted even martyrdom itself, in the bright anticipation of eternal bliss. Having thus candidly stated our impressions of Mr. Bulwer’s work, justice requires that we should spread before our readers the well sustained vindication of one of our own countrymen, who complains that his literary rights have been grossly violated by this eminent transatlantic author. Mr. Fairfield, the editor of the North American Magazine, a man of unquestionable genius, and a poet of no ordinary strength, has fearlessly thrown the gauntlet, and charged the proud Briton to his teeth with literary piracy; an offence in the republic of letters, which ought at least to be rebuked by stern denunciation, as no corporal or pecuniary punishment can be inflicted. This piracy it seems, has been committed by Mr. Bulwer upon the lawful goods and chattels, the genuine offspring of Mr. Fairfield’s own intellectual labors. We confess that we are struck with the plausible and curious coincidence, to speak technically, between Mr. Fairfield’s allegata and his undeniable probata. If the English novelist has decked himself in borrowed plumage, he ought to be forthwith stripped of it, and the stolen feather should adorn the brow of its real owner. The sin of plagiarism however, though never so distinctly proved, ought not in strictness to detract from the genuine and acknowledged merits of an author. Mr. Bulwer may have done great injustice to our countryman, and yet have some redeeming beauties to atone for his transgression. In compliance with Mr. Fairfield’s request, we insert with pleasure the whole of his interesting article.

From the North American Magazine.

THE LAST NIGHT OF POMPEII;* versus THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII.†

WHILE we have never failed to acknowledge and applaud the brilliant imagination and the eloquent and fascinating style of Mr. E. L. Bulwer, we have never feared to assert that he was a sophist in ethics and a libertine in love, and that effect was apparently the only law which influenced his mind or guided his pen. Better disguised, but not less pernicious in principle and evil in action than the Tom Jones and Count Fathom and Zeluco of Fielding, Smollett and Moore, his characters not only exist in, but actually create an atmosphere of impurity which infects the very hearts of his admirers. He invests the seducer with irresistible attractions, and paints the highwayman and the murderer as examples for imitation. But even in the execution of his execrable purposes, he is not original either in his plots or his sentiments. The old Portuguese Jew Spinoza and his disciples Hobbes, Toland, Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke have abundantly supplied him with infidel arguments; and the profligate courtiers of Charles the Second have contributed their licentious stratagems and impure dialogues to augment the claims and heighten the charms of his coxcombs, libertines and menslayers. [page 247:] Mr. Bulwer has read much and skillfully appropriated, without acknowledgment, all that has suited his designs. He has artfully clothed the lofty thoughts of others in his own brilliant garb, and enjoyed the renown of a powerful writer and profound thinker, when he was little more than an adroit and manœuvering plagiary. This we long since perceived, and therefore denied his claims to a high order of genius, though we readily accorded to him the possession of much curious knowledge and a felicitous use of language. We never imagined that the labors of an unrewarded and little regarded American could be deemed by the proud, soi disant highborn, and affluent Mr. Bulwer as worthy of his unquestioning appropriation. We fancied that so deep a scholar would continue to dig for treasures in ancient and recondite literature, and pass triumphantly over the obscure productions of a poor cisatlantic. But we erred. As a member of the British Parliament, Mr. Bulwer is accustomed to the creation of laws; and he seems to have made one expressly for his own profit and pleasure — namely, the law of literary lawlessness. We knew that he was well content to demand high prices for his immoral novels from his American publishers; but, until this time, we were not aware that he considered any thing but gold worth receiving or plundering from Yankeeland. With his usual tact, he has managed to secure, in no slight degree, from our labors, that which those labors failed utterly to receive from our unlettered countrymen; and it is our present purpose to demand back our own thoughts, which are our property and the heritage of our children.

It is now three years since ‘The Last Night of Pompeii’ was written and published; and, among other English men of letters, a copy of that poem with a letter, which was never answered, was sent to Mr. Bulwer, who was, at that time, the editor of the London New Monthly Magazine. Affliction fell heavily on our heart during the spring of 1832, and, becoming indifferent to poetic fame and every thing not involved in our bereavement, we bestowed no thought upon the poem or its reception. Time has passed on; we have been intensely occupied with other concerns, and have not been anxious about it since. The apathy, if not contempt, with which American poets have ever been treated, has driven Percival into solitude, Bryant and Prentice into politics, Whittier into abolition schemes, Pierpoint into phrenological experiments, and all others far away from the barren realm of Parnassus. But lo! the poem, which was printed by hardwon subscription and left unwelcomed but by a few cheerful voices, when transmuted into a novel by Bulwer, becomes a brilliant gem, and illumines the patriotic hearts and clear understandings of the whole Western World! Who is a Yankee poet that he should be honoured but to whom is the English Bulwer unknown? We live, however — thanks be to Providence! to claim our own and expose all smugglers, though the redrover Saxon seems to think that the Atlantic is a very broad ocean, and that the democrats of the West are very little capable of appreciating any compositions but his own.

Had Mr. Bulwer confined himself to the almost literal adoption of our title, or had certain passages in his novel betrayed even great resemblances to others in our poem, we should have said that the coincidences were somewhat remarkable, and then dismissed the matter [column 2:] from our thoughts. Many examples in literary history might be presented to prove that men may think and describe alike without plagiarism, but, when the incidents and descriptions are as nearly identical as prose and poetry can well be, we cannot deduce the charitable conclusion that the very strong likeness is accident al. Our readers shall judge whether, in this case, it is so.

The characters in the poem are few — in the novel many — but, in both, the whole interest depends on the adventures of two lovers. In the poem these lovers are Pansa and Mariamne, a Roman decurion and a captive Jewish maiden, both Christians; in the novel they are Glaucus and Ione, Greeks and pagans. With us, Diomede was the prætor and Pansa the victim; with Bulwer, the former is a rich merchant, and the latter, ædile of Pompeii. Here, then, there is no similarity, nor is there but one deserving a remark, until Arbaces — an Eugene Aram antiquated — one of Bulwer’s learned, wise and soliloquizing villains — seduces Ione to his mansion of iniquity. The first coincidence, to which we refer, is the scene of the sacrifice,* and the oracular response. The description in the novel reads thus:

“The aruspices inspected the entrails.” — ” It was then that a dead silence fell over the whispering crowd, and the priests gathering around the cella, another priest, naked save by a cincture round the middle, rushed forward, and dancing with wild gestures, implored an answer from the goddess.” — “A low murmuring noise was heard within the body of the statue; thrice the head moved, and the lips parted, and then a hollow voice uttered these mystic words;

“There are waves like chargers that meet and glow,

There are graves ready wrought in the rocks below,

On the brow of the Future the dangers lower,

But blessed are your barks in the fearful hour.”

That in the poem is as follows-the oracle preceding the description of its effect upon the superstitious multitude.

“The aruspices proclaimed the prodigies.

‘The entrails palpitate-the liver’s lobes

Are withered, and the heart hath shrivelledl up!’

Groans rose from living surges round; yet loud

The High Priest uttered — ‘Lay them on the fire!’

‘Twas done; and wine and oil poured amply o‘er

And still the sacrificer wildly cried’

Woe unto all! the wandering fires hiss up

Through the black vapors-lapping o‘er the flesh

They burn not, but abandon! ashes fill

The temple, whirled upon the wind that waves’ “etc.


The Oracle.

“Ye shall pass o‘er the Tyrrhene sea in ships

Laden with virgins, gems and gods, and spoils

Of a dismembered empire, and a cloud

Of light shall radiate your ocean path!’

Breathes not the soul of mystery in this?”

 

“And the prostrated multitudes, like woods

Hung with the leaves of autumn, stirred; then fell

A silence when the heart was heard — a pause —

When ardent hope became an agony;

And parted lips and panting pulses — eyes

Wild with their watchings, brows with beaded dews

Of expectation chilled and fevered — all

The shaken and half lifted frame — declared

The moment of the oracle had come!

A sceptre to the hand of Isis leapt

And waved; and then the deep voice of the priest

Uttered the maiden’s answer, and the fall

Of many quickened steps like whispers pass‘d

Along the columned aisles and vestibule.”

Both oracles partake the same mystic character and allude [page 248:] obscurely to the same fearful and overwhelming event. The character of Arbaces, the Egyptian Magus, is peculiarly after Bulwer’s own heart — for he is an entire, thorough, irredeemable demon, who weeps over venomous reptiles and kills innocent men: but a very large portion of his mystic discourse, which appears on pages 81-2-3-4 of volume first, is borrowed, as customary, without even an apologetic allusion, from Moore’s Epicurean. We leave that poet to reclaim his property, and proceed to assert the identity of our own. In the novel, Arbaces beguiles Ione into his house, with the resolution to possess her by fraud or violence. In the poem, the priest of Isis inveigles the virgin of Pompeii into his lascivious temple with the same intent. Both the priest and Arbaces, having conquered every obstacle, are rapidly advancing to the accomplishment of their evil designs, when they are interrupted, and their victims rescued by the very same awful occurrence;

“At that awful moment,” says Bulwer, “the floor shook under them with a rapid and convulsive throe — a mightier spirit than that of the Egyptian was abroad’ a giant and crushing power, before which sunk into sudden impotence his passion and his arts. It woke — it stirred — that dread Demon of the Earthquake,” etc.*

“I woo no longer, thou art in my grasp,

And by the Immortals I disown, thou shalt” —

Says our unsainted priest of Isis, when the victim cries exultingly

“ ‘It comes! the temple reels and crashes — Jove!

I thank thee! Vesta! let me sleep with thee!’

And on the bosom of the earthquake rocked

The statues and the pillars, and her brain

Whirled with the earth’s convulsions, as the maid

Fell by a trembling image and upraised

A prayer of gratitude; while through the vaults,

In fear and ghastly horror, fled the priest,

Breathing quick curses mid his warning cries

For succor; and the obscene birds their wings

Flapped o‘er his pallid face, and reptiles twined

In folds of knotted venom round his feet.

Yet on he rushed — the blackened walls around

Crashing — the spectral lights hurled hissing down

The cold green waters; and thick darkness came

To bury ruin!”

The denouement of the scene is the same in the novel and the poem — a statue, hurled from its pedestal, strikes the unhallowed violator to the earth. There is no scene in Baron more actually transcribed from the Andrian of Terence than this from‘The Last Night of Pompeii!’ But the scene in the amphlitheatre, where the Christian O)linthus and the lover Glaucus are doomed to perish by the fangs of the famished lion, is still more strikingly si milar than any in the novel, except the description of the destruction. Arbaces, actuated by unholy love of Ione, is the author of the disgrace and ruin of both these per sonages; and the prætor Diomede, in the poem, resolves to sacrifice Pansa to the African lion, because he loves and determines to possess Mariamne. The earlier scenes in the amphitheatre are the same; four gladia.. tors are represented in sanguinary strife, and two as having perished, ere the command is given to bring the Christian and lover on the arena, and to loose the Numidian lion. In neither instance, however, will the no ble beast attack his destined victim; but shrinks and cowers in utter terror, though goaded on to his dreadful [column 2:] feast. We now solicit a careful comparison of the scenes which succeed, with those which, nearly two years before Mr. Bulwer’s book was conceived, we had wrought out with no slight study, and presented to our unregarding countrymen.

The closing scene in the Pompeiian amphitheatre, as represented in ‘The Last Days of Pompeii:’

“‘Behold how the gods protect the guiltless! The fires of the avenging Orcus burst forth against the false witness of my accusers!‘”

“The eyes of the crowd followed the gesture of the Egyptian, and beheld with ineffable dismay a vast vapor shooting from the summit of Vesuvius in the form of a gigantic pine tree; the trunk, blackness; — the branches, fire; — that shifted and wavered in its hues with every moment, now fiercely luminous, now of a dull and dying red, that again blazed terrifically forth with intolerable glare!

“There was a dead, heart — sunken silence — through which there suddenly broke the roar of the lion, which, from within the building, was echoed back by the sharper and fiercer yells of its fellow beasts. Dread seers were they of the burthen of the atmosphere, and wild prophets of the wrath to come!

“Then there rose on high the universal shrieks of women; the men stared at each other, but were dumb. At that moment they felt the earth shake beneath their feet; the walls of the theatre trembled; and beyond, in the distance, they heard the crash of falling roofs; an instant more, and the mountain cloud seemed to roll towards them, dark and rapid, like a torrent; at the same time, it cast forth from its bosom a shower of ashes, mixed with vast fragments of burning stone! Over the crushing vines, — over the desolate streets, — over the amphitheatre itself, — far and wide, — with many a mighty splash in the agitated sea, — fell that awful shower!

“No longer thought the crowd of justice or of Arbaces; safety for themselves was their sole thought. Each turned to fly — each dashing, pressing, crushing against the other. Trampling recklessly over the fallen, — amid groans, and oaths, and prayers, and sudden shrieks, the enormous crowd vomited itself forth through the numerous passages. Whither should they fly?”

Now let us present the description, given in ‘The Last Night of Pompeii,’ of the horrors that succeeded the scene of the games:

“Awed, yet untrembling, Pansa calm replied,

‘Ye hear no thunder — but Destruction’s howl!

Ye see no lightning — but the lava glare

Of desolation sweeping o‘er your pride!

Death is beneath, around, above, within

All who exult to inflict it on my heart,

And ye must meet it, fly when, where ye will,

For in the madness of your cruelties

Ye have delayed till every hope is dead.

Let the doom come! our faiths will soon be tried.

Gigantic spectres from their shadowy thrones,

With ghastly smiles to welconme ye, arise.

The Pharaohs and Ptolrmies uplift

Their glimmering sceptres o‘er ye — bidding all

Bare their dark bosoms to the Omniscient God:

And every strange and horrid mythos waits

To fold ye in the terrors of its dreams.‘”

“Like an earthshadowing cypress, o‘er the skies

Lifting its labyrinth of leaves, the boughs

Of molten brass, the giant trunk of flame,

The breath of the volcano’s Titan heart

Hung in the heavens; and every maddened pulse

Of the vast mountain’s earthquake bosom hurled

Its vengeance on the earth that gasped beneath.”

“From every cell shrieks burst; hyenas cried

Like lost child stricken in its Loneliness:

The giant elephant with matchless strength

Struggled against the portal of his tomb,

And groaned and panted; and the leopard’s yell

And tiger’s growl with all surrounding cries

Of human horror mingled; and in air,

Spotting the lurid heavens and waiting prey,

The evil birds of carnage hung and watched.” [page 249:]

“Vesuvius answered: from its pinnacles

Clouds of farflashing cinders, lava showers,

And seas drank up by the abyss of fire

To be hurled forth in boiling cataracts,

Like midnight mountains, wrapt in lightnings, fell.”

“All awful sounds of heaven and earth met now;

Darkness behind the sungod’s chariot rolled,

Shrouding destruction, save when volcan fires

Lifted the folds to gaze on agony;

And when a moment’s terrible repose

Fell on the deep convulsions, all could hear

The toppling cliffs explode and crash below,

While multitudinous waters from the sea

In whirlpools through the channell‘d mountain rocks

Rushed, and with hisses like the damned’s speech,

Fell in the mighty furnace of the mount.” ”

 

Oh, then, the love of life! the struggling rush,

The crushing conflict of escape! few, brief,

And dire the words delirious fear spake now

One thought, one action swayed the tossing crowd.

All through the vomitories madly sprung,

And mass on mass of trembling beings pressed,

Gasping and goading, with the savageness

That is the child of danger, like the waves

Charybdis from his jagged rocks throws down,

Mingled by fury — warring in their foam.

Some swooned and were trod down by legion feet;

Some cried for mercy to the unanswering gods;

Some shrieked for parted friends forever lost;

And some in passion’s chaos, with the yells

Of desperation did blaspheme the heavens;

And some were still in utterness of woe.

Yet all toiled on in trembling waves of life

Along the subterranean corridors.

Moments were centuries of doubt and dread!

Each breathing obstacle a hated thing:

Each trampled wretch, a footstool to o‘erlook

The foremost multitudes; and terror, now,

Begat in all a maniac ruthlessness,

For in the madness of their agonies

Strong men cast down the feeble who delayed

Their flight, and maidens on the stones were crushed,” etc.

Let the reader compare each of these extracts with the other, and form his own opinion of Mr. Bulwer’s great powers and originality. These very remarkable coincidences are followed by others not less extraordinary and worthy of commemoration:

“But suddenly a duller shade fell over the air. Instinctively he turned to the mountain, and behold! one of the two gigantic crests, into which the summit had been divided, rocked and wavered to and filo; and then, with a sound the mightiness of which no language can describe, it fell from the burning base, and rushed, an avalanche of fire, down the sides of the mountain! At the same instant gushed forth a volume of blackest smoke, rolling on, over air, sea, and earth.”

“Bright and gigantic through the darkness, which closed around it like the walls of hell, the mountain shone — a pile of fire! Its summit seemed riven in two; or rather above its surface there seemed to rise two monster-shapes, each confronting each, as demons contending for a world. These were — of one deep blood-red hue of fire, which lighted up the whole atmosphere far and wide; but below, the nether part of the mountain was still dark and shrouded, — save in three places, adown which flowed, serpentine and irregular, rivers of the molten lava. Darkly red through the profound gloom of their banks, they flowed slowly on, as towards the devoted city. Over the broadest there seemed to spring a cragged and stupendous arch, from which, as from the jaws of hell, gushed the sources of the sudden Phlegethon.”

Among the Death Cries of Pompeii, as we imagined them, is the following lyric:

“It bursts! it bursts! and thousand thunders blent,

From the deep heart of agonizing earth,

Knell, shatter, crash along the firmament,

And new hells peopled startle into birth [column 2:]

Vesuvius sunders! pyramids of fire

From fathomless abysses blast the sky;

Eden desolating Ruin doth expire,

And mortal Death in woe immortal die.

Torrents like lurid gore,

Hurled from the gulf of horror, pour,

Like legion fiends embattled to the spoil,

And o‘er the temple domes,

And joy’s ten thousand homes,

Beneath the whirlwind hail and storm of ashes boil.”

Again says Mr. Bulwer, who boasts that he has succeeded where all others have failed:

“In the pauses of the showers, you heard the rumbling of the earth beneath, and the groaning waves of the tortured sea; or, lower still, and audible but to the watch of intensest fear, the grinding and hissing murmur of the escaping gases through the chasms of the distant mountain. Sometimes the cloud appeared to break from its solid mass, and, by the lightning, to assume quaint and vast mimicries of human or of monster-shapes, striding across the gloom, hustling one upon the other, and vanishing swiftly into the turbulent abyss of shade; so that, to the eyes and fancies of the affrighted wanderers, the unsubstantial vapors were as the bodily forms of gigantic foes, — the agents of terror and of death.”

Is there nothing similar to the preceding quotation in this?

“Vesuvius poured its deluge forth, the sea

Shuddered and sent unearthly voices up,

The isles of beauty, by the fire and surge

Shaken and withered, on the troubled waves

Looked down like spirits blasted; and the land

Of Italy’s once paradise became

The home of ruin — vineyard, grove and bower,

Tree, shrub, fruit, blossom — love, life, light and hope,

All vanishing beneath the fossil flood

And storm of ashes from the cloven brow

Of the dread mountain hurled in horror down.

The echoes of ten thousand agonies

Arose from mount and shore, and some looked back

Cursing, and more bewailing as they fled.”

—————— “what a horrid gleam is flung

Along that face of madness, as it turns

From sea to mountain, and the wild eyes burn

With revelations of the unborn time!

We may not linger — shelter earth denies

The very heavens like a gehenna lour —

And ocean is our refuge — on — on — on!”

We have seen how remarkably the lions agreed on the impropriety of making an amphitheatric meal of the lovers; now it appears that the tiger, who should have eat the Christian, was of the same mind.

“At that moment a wild yell burst through the air; and thinking only of escape, whither it knew not, the terrible tiger of the African desert leaped among the throng, and hurried through its pared streams. And so came the earthquake, and so darkness once more fell over the earth!”

Is it not strange that we should have conceived something much like this, and explained the motive, too, of such unreasonable conduct in any wild beast starving?

“Nature’s quick instinct, in most savage beasts,

Prophesies danger ere man’s thought awakes,

And shrinks in fear from common savageness,

Made gentle by its terror; thus, o‘erawed

E‘en in his famine’s fury by a Power

Brute beings more than human oft adore,

The Lion lay, his quivering paws outspread,

His white teeth gnashing, till the crushing throngs

Had passed the corridors; then, glaring tip

His eyes imbued with samiel light, he saw

The crags and forests of the Appenines

Gleaming far off, and with the exulting sense

Of home and Ione dominion, at a bound,

He leapt the lofty palisades and sprung

Along the spiral passages, with howls [page 250:]

Of horror, through the flying multitudes

Flying to seek his Lonely mountain lair.”

We shall not protract this investigation, though many similar passages might be produced to confirm our assertion that Mr. Bulwer has appropriated our thoughts, and throughout wrought our descriptions into his story, and won great profit and fame from the robbery. Those who read his book, will readily find many descriptions closely resembling one of the last given in the poem, which we here reprint, and many references to ancient authors for facts which he derived from us. ” Meantime, charred corses in one sepulchre Ofwithering ashes lay, and voices rose, Fewer and fainter, and, each moment, groans Were hushed, and dead babes on dead bosoms lay, And lips were blasted into breathlessness Ere the death kiss was given, and spirits passed The ebbless, dark, mysterious waves, where dreams Hover and pulses throb and many a brain Swims wild with terrible desires to know The destinies of worlds that lie beyond. The thick air panted as in nature’s death, And every breath was anguish; every face Was terror’s image, where the soul looked forth, As looked, sometimes, far on the edge of heaven, A momentary star the tempest palled. From ghastlier lips now rose a wilder voice, As from a ruin‘d sanctuary’s gloom, Like savage winds from the Chorasmian waste Rushing, with sobs and suffocating screams,” etc.

But, though we have been more highly honored by this last chef d‘œuvre of the honorable Eugene Aram than any author within our knowledge, yet others are entitled to their property. Speaking of the skeleton of Arbaces, Bulwer says —

“The scull was of so remarkable a conformation, so boldly marked in its intellectual, as well as its worse physical developments, that it has excited the constant speculation of every itinerant believer in the theories of Spurzheim who has gazed upon that ruined palace of the mind. Still, after a lapse of eighteen centuries, the traveller may survey that airy hall, within whose cunning galleries and elaborate chambers, once thought, reasoned, dreamed, and sinned, the soul of Arbaces the Egyptian!’

But Byron said, long ago, in Childe Harold, when gazing on a skull:

“Yes, this was once ambition’s airy hall,

The dome of thought, the palace of the soul,” etc.

And, once more, the fashionable Pelham moralizes: “and as the Earth from the Sun, so immortality drinks happiness from virtue, which is the smile upon the face of God.“* This he italicises as one of his most wondrous original reflections — yet it may be found in the Diary of a Physician.†

Mr. Bulwer is particularly conceited and arrogant with respect to his subject. He asserts that all others have failed in attempting to describe the destruction of Pompeii, and that, therefore, he will stand alone, the intellectual monarch of the Ruins. The candid and modest and original gentleman probably forgot ‘Valerius’ and Croly and Milman and Dr. Gray and ourself; but the productions of such persons can be of little consequence to such a Paul Clifford in letters and Mirabeau in morals.

Mr. Bulwer, likewise, is ostentatious of his learning, and he quotes from ancient authors with an air of infinite self-complacency, though his citations had been [column 2:] conveniently collected, a century since, in the Archæologia Græca of Archbishop Potter! These volumes now lie before us, and there may all his erudition be found within a very accessible compass. His theological knowledge or deistical design, we know not which, is not more profound or canonical; for he makes his Christian Olinthus say, that “eighty years ago,” that is from the birth of Christ, “there was no assurance to man of God or of a certain or definite future beyond the grave“!!

We have now done with Mr. Bulwer, his immoralities, and his plagiarisms. We have sought to be very brief in our exposition, and, for the first time that we ever expressed such a desire, we request the literary periodicals, with which we exchange, to reprint this article.

———

VISITS AND SKETCHES, at Home and Abroad. By Mrs. Jamieson, author of the “Characteristics of Women,” &c. in 2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1834.

WE intended to notice these interesting volumes sooner, and recommend them to our readers as highly entertaining and instructive. Mrs. Jamieson’s style, though not faultless, is very attractive; and certainly as a female writer, she is hardly surpassed in vigor and richness. The first volume is principally devoted to sketches of art, literature and character, comprising Memoranda at Munich, Nuremburg and Dresden. It also contains a vivid account of the celebrated Bess of Hardwicke, the old Countess of Shrewsbury, — a visit to Althorpe, the ancient seat of the Spencers — and eloquent sketches of the private and dramatic life of Mrs. Siddons, and of Fanny Kemble. The second volume opens with three interesting stories, — the False One, a pathetic oriental tale, a thousand times superior to Vathek, Halloran the Pedlar, and the Indian Mother. It also contains a very amusing drama for little actors, — and concludes with the Diary of an Enuyeé, a performance of much and deserved celebrity. We shall make occasional selections from this work, for the benefit of such of our readers as have no opportunity of seeing the volumes themselves. For the present, we have transferred to our pages the “Indian Mother,” a most affecting story founded on a striking incident related by Humboldt. The scene being laid in South America, the reader will be struck with the strong impressions made on Mrs. Jamieson’s mind of that magnificent country, through the medium of description alone.

———

POEMS, by William Cullen Bryant. Boston: Russell, Odiorne & Metcalfe. 1834.

THIS new and beautiful edition of Mr. Bryant’s poems has undergone the author’s correction, and contains some pieces which have never before appeared in print. As the elegant china cup from which we sip the fragrant imperial, imparts to it a finer flavor, so the pure white paper and excellent typography of the volume before us, will give a richer lustre to the gems of Mr. Bryant’s genius. Not that the value of the diamond is really enhanced by the casket which contains it, but so it is that the majority of mortals are governed by appearances; and even a dull tale will appear respectable in the pages of a hot pressed and gilt bound London annual. In justice to Mr. Bryant however, and to ourselves, we will state that our first impressions [page 251:] of his great intellectual power — of his deep and sacred communings with the world of poetry — were derived from a very indifferent edition of his writings, printed with bad type, on a worse paper. Mr. Bryant is well known to the American public as a poet of uncommon strength and genius; and even on the other side of the Atlantic, a son of the distinguished Roscoe, who published a volume of American poetry, pronounced him the first among his equals. Like Halleck, however, and some others of scarcely inferior celebrity, — his muse has languished probably for want of that due encouragement, which to our shame as a nation be it spoken, has never been awarded to that department of native literature. Mr. Bryant, we believe, finding that Parnassus was not so productive a soil as the field of politics, has connected himself with a distinguished partizan newspaper in the city of New York. His bitter regrets at the frowns of an unpoetical public, and yet his unavailing efforts to divorce himself from the ever living and surrounding objects of inspiration are beautifully alluded to in the following lines:

I broke the spell that held me long,

The dear, dear witchery of song.

I said the poet’s idle lore

Shall waste my prime of years no more,

For poetry though heavenly born,

Consorts with poverty and scorn.

 

I broke the spell — nor deemed its power

Could fetter me another hour.

Ah, thoughtless! how could I forget

Its causes were around me yet?

For wheresoe’er I look’d, the while,

Was nature’s everlasting smile.

 

Still came and lingered on my sight

Of flowers and streams the bloom and light,

And glory of the stars and sun; —

And these and poetry are one.

They, ere the world had held me long,

Recalled me to the love of song.

———

LITTELL’S MUSEUM of Foreign Literature, Science and Arts. No. 151. Jan. 1835. A. Waldie. Philadelphia.

THIS valuable periodical has maintained a high reputation and extensive circulation for more than twelve years. The January number (1835) may be considered a new era in its history. The size of its sheet is enlarged, its type and paper are improved, and its contents display more richness and variety than usual. The plan of the “Museum” is certainly most excellent. It is to select and republish from all the British periodicals of high reputation, every thing which is either of present or permanent value, omitting the vast mass of matter which is local to Great Britain or not interesting to an American reader. It is in fact, a labor-saving machine, by which all the choicest flowers will be culled from British publications and transplanted in our own soil, leaving the weeds and trash on the other side of the Atlantic. We heartily wish Mr. Littell and his co-laborers increased success, and we shall occasionally draw upon his interesting paper for the use of the “Messenger.” The diffusion of fine writing from abroad, will improve the taste and invigorate the efforts of our own countrymen. [column 2:]

[[———]]

NEW PAPER.

The Southern Churchman, edited by the Rev. William F. Lee, and published weekly in this city, has reached its fifth number. Almost every christian denomination among us, had the benefit of a paper devoted to its own peculiar interests, except the Episcopalians, until Mr. Lee commenced the publication of the Churchman. There can be no doubt of its success, under the management of an editor of Mr. Lee’s distinguished talents and piety.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 242, column 1:]

* The Romans had bed rooms appropriated not only to the sleep of night, but also to the day siesta (cubicula diurna.)

† In the stately palaces of Rome, the pinatheca usually communicated with the atrium.

‡ When they entertained very large parties, the feast was usually served in the hall.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 242, column 2:]

* The tablinum was also secured at pleasure by sliding doors.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 243, column 1:]

* The most valued wood; not the modern citron tree. Some, among whom is my learned friend Mr. W. S. Landor, conjecture it, with much plausibility, to have been mahogany.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 244, column 2:]

* Canes, or caniculæ, the lowest throw at dice.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 245, column 1:]

* Narcissus.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 246, column 2:]

* The Last Night of Pompeii: A Poem, and Lays and Legends. By Sumner Lincoln Fairfield. New York: 1832.

† The Last Days of Pompeii: By the Author of Pelham, Eugene Aram, England, and the English, &c. 2 vols. l2mo. New York: 1834. Harper and Brothers.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 247, column 2:]

* Vol. i. p. 42.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 248, column 1:]

* Vol. i. p. 159.

[The following footnotes appear at the bottom of page 250, column 1:]

* Vol. ii. p. 196.

† In the story called ‘A Young Man about Town,’ we think.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:0 - SLM, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - SLM Literary Reviews (Jan. 1835)