Text: Various, Literary Reviews, Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. I, no. 10, June 1835, 1:582-596


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[page 582, continued:]

LITERARY NOTICES.

THE INFIDEL, or the Fall of Mexico, a romance, by the author of Calavar. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard.

The second effort of the author of Calavar, gives us no reason for revoking the favorable opinion which we expressed of his powers as a writer of fictitious narrative, in noticing the first. On the contrary, that opinion is confirmed and strengthened by a perusal of the Infidel. It is a work of great power, and although, as was the case with Calavar, it is chiefly occupied with the delineation of scenes of slaughter and violence — with the stratagems of war — the plots of conspirators — the stirring incidents of siege and sortie — and the thrilling details of individual prowess or general onslaught — yet it abounds in passages which give a pleasing relief to the almost too frequently recurring incidents of peril and adventure. It is true that this work does not possess, to by far the same extent, those enchanting descriptions of natural scenery, which abounded in Calavar: but the cause of this is probably to be found in the fact, that the scene of action is the same in both works, and in a natural aversion of the author to repeat his own pictures. Still, as a whole, we think the Infidel fully equal to its predecessor, and in some respects superior. The principal female character is drawn with far greater vigor, than marked the heroine of Calavar, although the prominent features in the sketch of the impassioned Monjonaza, are of a masculine kind. She is indeed a most powerful and eccentric creation, and adds much to the interest of the narrative. Still we think it problematical whether the author is capable of success in a purely feminine picture of female character. Zelahualla, the daughter of Montezuma, a gentler being than La Monjonaza, does not give him a claim to such a distinction, as she is brought forward but seldom, and sustains no important part in the action of the drama.

The period at which the narrative of the Infidel commences, is a few months after the disastrous retreat of the Spaniards from Mexico, during the “Noche Triste,” so powerfully described in Calavar. Cortes had re-organized his forces, re-united his allies, and was preparing for the siege of Mexico, now rendered strong in its defences by the valor, enterprise and activity of the new emperor, Guatimozin. Tezcuco is the scene of the earlier events, where Cortes was engaged in completing his preparations, part of which consisted in the construction of a fleet of brigantines, to command the sea of Anahuac, and co-operate in the meditated attack upon the great city.

The hero of the story, Juan Lerma, a former protégé of Cortes, but who has fallen under his displeasure, is the pivot on which the main interest of the work is made to turn. He is imprisoned, and ultimately rescued by Guatimozin, who carries him to Mexico. The details of a treasonable plot against the Captain General, headed by Villafana, one of the most complicated [page 583:] of villains, is skilfully interwoven with this portion of the narrative. The mysterious Monjonaza, is also a prominent character in the scenes at Tezcuco.

The action changes in the second volume to Mexico, where the unfortunate Lerma is retained by the Emperor, who is described as possessing all the noble virtues of christianity, although his pagan faith gives the title to the book. The details of the siege are given in the same powerful style as characterised the combats in Calavar. Indeed it is in descriptions of battles, that we think the author excels, and is transcendently superior to any modern writer. When his armies meet, he causes us to feel the shock, and to realize each turn of fortune by a minuteness of description, which is never confused. When his heroes engage hand to hand, we see each blow, each parry, each advantage, each vicissitude, with a thrilling distinctness. The war cry is in our ears — the flashing of steel — the muscular energy — the glowing eyes — the dilating forms of the warriors, are before us. The effect of such delineations it is difficult to describe; they arouse in us whatever of martial fire we possess, until we feel like the war horse viewing a distant combat, “who smelleth the battle afar off, the voice of the captains, and the shouting.” Another point of excellence in our author, is the manner in which he paints to us the vastness of a barbarian multitude. His descriptions of myriads, appeal to the sense with graphic effect. Although we do not generally indulge in long extracts from works like this, yet, as it is difficult otherwise to convey an idea of the spirit with which such scenes are presented by the author, we take from the second volume the description of the battle of the ambuscades, the last successful struggle made by Guatimozin to repel the besiegers, who had already hemmed in the city on the several causeways, and mostly destroyed the water suburbs. The Mexicans, as a part of their system of defence, had perforated the causeways at short intervals, with deep ditches, which were conquered by the Spaniards, one by one, after the most obstinate resistance. Cortes, with his followers, on the occasion described, had forced one of the dikes, and with his characteristic impetuosity, pursued the flying Mexicans into the city, attended by about twenty horsemen only, the foot being far in the rear. The enemy gave way with apparent signs of fear, which was not habitual, and Cortes had already been advised that an ambuscade was evidently contemplated; but the frenzy of battle made him deaf to prudent counsel:

CHAP. XV, VOL. 2.

The horsemen pursued along the dike, spearing, or tumbling into the water, the few who had the heart to resist; and so great was, or seemed, the terror of the barbarians, that the victors penetrated even within the limits of the island, until the turrets of houses, from which they were separated only by the lateral canals, darkened them with their shadows. Upon these were clustered many pagans, who shot at them both arrows and darts, but with so little energy, that it seemed as if despondence or fatuity had robbed them of their usual vigor. Hence, the excited cavaliers gave them but little attention, not doubting that they would be soon dislodged by the infantry. They were even regardless of circumstances still more menacing; and if a lethargy beset the infidel that day, it is equally certain that a species of distraction overwhelmed the brains of the Spaniards. It seemed as if the great object of their ambition depended more upon their following the fugitives [column 2:] to the temple — square than upon any other feat; and to this they encouraged one another with vivas and invocations to the saints. They could already behold the huge bulk of the pyramid, rising up at the distance of a mile, as if it shut up the street; and its terraced sides, thronged with multitudes of men, seemed to prove to them, that the frighted Mexicans were running to their gods for protection. It is true, they perceived vast bodies of infidels blocking up the avenue afar, as if to dispute their passage beyond the canalled portion of the island; but they regarded them with scorn.

They rushed onwards, occasionally arrested by some flying group, but only for a moment.

There was a place, not far within the limits of the island, where they found the causeway, for the space of at least sixty paces, so delved and pared away on either side, that it scarce afforded a passage for two horsemen abreast. The device was of recent execution, for they beheld the mattocks of laborers still sticking in the earth, as if that moment abandoned. This circumstance, so strange, so novel, and so ominious [[ominous]], it might be sup. posed, would have aroused them to suspicion. The passage, as it was, so contracted, broken, and rugged, looked prodigiously like the Al-Sirat, or bridge to paradise of the Mussulmans, — that arch, narrow as the thread of a famished spider, over which it is so much easier to be precipitated than to pass with safety. Yet grim and threatening as it was, there was but one among the cavaliers who raised a voice of warning. As the Captain-General, without a moment’s hesitation, pushed his horse forward, to lead the way, and without a single expression of surprise, the ancient hidalgo, who had twice before sounded a note of alarm, now exclaimed, —

“For the love of heaven, pause, senior! This is a trap that will destroy us.”

“Art thou afraid, Alderete? cried Cortes, looking back to him, grimly. “This is no place for a King’s Treasurer,” (such was Alderete, the royal Contador.)“Get thee back, then, to the first ditch, and fill it up to thy liking. This will be charge enough for a volunteer.”

“I will fight where thou wilt, when thou wilt, and as boldly as thou wilt,” said the indignant cavalier; “but here play the madman no longer.”

“I will take thy counsel, — rest where I am, — and, in an hour’s time, see myself shut out from the city by a ditch, sixty yards wide! God’s benison upon thy long beard! and mayst thou be wiser. Forward, friends! Do you not see? the knaves are running amain to check us, and recover their unfinished gap! On! courage, and on! Santiago and at them!”

It was indeed as Cortes said. The infidels, who blocked up the streets afar, were now seen running towards them, with the most terrific yells, as if to seize, before it was too late, a pass so easily maintained. The cavaliers, animated by the words of their leader, were quite as resolute to disappoint them, and therefore rode across as rapidly as they could. The pass was not only narrow, but tortuous and irregular; which increased the difficulties of surmounting it; so that the Mexicans, running with the most frantic speed, were within a bowshot, before Cortes had spurred his steed upon the broader portion of the dike. But, as if there were something dreadful to the infidels, in the spectacle of the great Teuctli of the East, thus again in their stronghold, they came to a sudden halt, and testified their valor only by yelling, and waving their spears and banners.

“Courage, friends, and quick!” cried Cortes. “The dogs are beset with fear, and will not face us. Ye shall hear other yells in a moment. Haste, valiant cavaliers! haste, men of Spain! and make room for the footmen, who are behind you.”

The screams of the barbarians were loud and incessant; but in the midst of the din, as he turned to cheer his cavaliers over the broken passage, Don Hernan’s ears were struck by the sound of a Christian voice, [page 584:] calling from the midst of the pagans, with thrilling vehemence.

“Beware! beware! Back to the causey! Beware!”

“Hark!” cried Alderete, who had already passed; “Our Saint calls to us! Let us return!”

“It is a trick of the fiend!” exclaimed Cortes, in evident perturbation of mind. “Come on, good friends, and let us seize vantage-ground; or the dogs will drive us, singly, into the ditches.”

“Back! back!” shouted the cavaliers behind — “We are ambushed! We are surrounded!”

Their further exclamations were lost in a tempest of discordant shrieks, coming from the front and the rear, from the heavens above, and, as they almost fancied, from the earth beneath. They looked northward, towards the pyramid, — the whole broad street was filled with barbarians, rushing towards them with screams of anticipated triumph; they looked back to the lake, — the causeway was swarming with armed men, who seemed to have sprung from the waters; to either side, and beheld the canals of the intersecting streets lashed into foam by myriads of paddles; while, at the same moment, the few pagans, who had annoyed them from the housetops, appeared transformed, by the same spell of enchantment, into hosts innumerable, with spirits all of fury and flame.

“What says the king of Castile? What says the king of Castile now?” roared the exulting infidels.

“Santiago! and God be with us!” exclaimed Cortes waving his hand, with a signal for retreat, that came too late: “Cross but this devil-trap again, and — ”

Before he could conclude the vain and useless order, the drum of the emperor sounded upon the pyramid. It was an instrument of gigantic size and horrible note, and was held in no little fear, especially after the events of this day, by the Spaniards, who fabled that it was covered with the skins of serpents. It was a fit companion for the horn of Mexitli; which latter, however, being a sacred instrument, was sounded only on the most urgent and solemn occasions.

The first tap, — or rather peal, for the sound came from the temple more like the roll of thunder than of a drum, — was succeeded by yells still more stunning; and while the cavaliers, retreating, struggled, one by one, to recross the narrow pass, they were set upon with such fury as left them but little hope of escape.

If the rashness of Cortes had brought his friends into this fatal difficulty, he now seemed resolved to atone his fault, by securing their retreat, even although at the expense of his life. It was in vain that those few cavaliers who had succeeded in reaching him, before the onslaught began, besought him to take his chance among them, and recross, leaving them to cover his rear.

“Get ye over yourselves,” he cried, with grim smiles smiting away the headmost of the assailants from the street: “If I have brought ye among coals of fire heaven forbid I should not broil a little in mine own person. Quick, fools! over and hasten! over and quick! and by and by I will follow you.”

For a moment, it seemed as if the terror of his single arm would have kept the barbarians at bay. But, waxing bolder, as they saw his attendants dropping one by one away, they began to close upon him, and his situation became exceedingly critical. He looked over his shoulder, and perceived that his followers threaded their way along the broken dike with less difficulty than he at first feared. The very narrowness of the passage left but little foothold for the enemy; and their attacks, being made principally from canoes, were not such as wholly to dishearten a cavalier, whose steed was as strongly defended by mail as his own body. Encouraged by this assurance, the Captain-General still maintained his post, rushing ever and anon upon the closing herds, and mowing right and left with his trusty blade, while his gallant charger pawed down opposition with his hoofs. Thus he fought, with the mad valor that made his enemies so often deem him almost a demigod, [column 2:] until satisfied that his own attempt to cross the pass could no longer embarrass the efforts of his followers. Then, charging once more upon the pagans, and even with greater fury than before, he wheeled round with unexpected rapidity, and uttering his famous cry, “Santiago and at them!” dashed boldly at the passage.

Seven pagans sprang upon the path. They were armed like princes, and the red fillets of the House of Darts waved among their sable locks.

“The Teuctli shall have the tribute of Mexico!” shouted one, flourishing a battle — axe that seemed of weight sufficient, in his brawny arm, to dash out the charger’s brains at a blow. The words were not understood by Cortes; but he recognized at once the visage of the Lord of Death.

“I have thee, pagan!” he cried, striking at the bold barbarian. The blow failed; for one of the others, springing at the charger’s head with unexampled audacity, seized him by the bridle, so that he reared backwards, and thus foiled the aim of his rider. The next moment, the Spanish steel fell upon the neck of the daring infidel, killing him on the spot; yet not so instantaneous]y as to avert a disaster, which it seemed the object of his fury to produce. His convulsive struggles, as he clung, dying, to the rein, drove the steed off the narrow ledge; and thus losing his foothold, the noble animal rolled over into the deep canal, burying the Captain — General in the flood.

“The general! save the general!” shrieked the only Christian, who, in this horrible melee, (for the battle was now universal,) beheld the condition of Cortes, and who, although on foot, and bristling with arrows that had stuck fast in his cotton — armor, and resisted by other weapons at every step, had yet the courage to run to the rescue. It was Gaspar Olea. His visage was yet wan, and expressive of the unusual horror preying upon his mind; yet he rushed forward, as if he had never known a fear. He exalted his voice, while crying for assistance, until it was heard far back upon the causeway; yet he reached the place of Don Hernan’s mischance alone. The scene was dreadful: the nobles had flung themselves into the flood, and were dragging the stunned and strangling hero from the steed, which lay upon its side on the rugged and shelving edge of the dike, unable to arise, and perishing with the most fearful struggles; while, all the time, the elated infidels expressed their triumph with shouts of frantic joy.

“Courage, captain! be of good heart, señor!” exclaimed the Barba-Roxa, striking down one of the captors at a single blow: “Courage! for we have good help nigh,” he continued, attacking a second with the same success: “Courage, senior, courage!”

No Mexican helm of dried skins, and no breastplate of copper, could resist the machete of a man like Gaspar. Yet his first success was caused rather by the Mexicans being so intently occupied with their captive, that they thought of nothing else, than by any miraculous exertion of skill and prowess. He slew two, before they dreamed of attack, and he mortally wounded a third, ere the others could turn to drive him back. A fourth rushed upon him, before he could again lift up his weapon, and grasping him in his arms, with the embrace of a mountain bear, leaped with him into the canal.

There were now but two left in possession of Cortes; yet his resistance even against these was ineffectual. His sword had dropped from his hand; a violent blow had burst his helmet, and confounded his brain; and he had been lifted from the water, already half suffocated. Yet he struggled as he could, and catching one of his foes by the throat, he succeeded in overturning him into the water, and there grappled with him among the shallows. The remaining barbarian, yelling for assistance, flung himself upon the pair; and though twenty Spaniards, headed by Bernal Diaz and the hunchback, were now within half as many paces, Cortes would have perished where he lay, had not assistance arose from an unexpected quarter. [page 585:]

Among the vast numbers who came crowding from the city over the broken passage, were several who knew, by the cry of the seventh noble, that Malintzin was in his hands; and they rushed forward, to ensure his capture. The foremost and fleetest of these was distinguished from the rest by a frame of towering height; and, had there been a Spaniard by to notice him, would have been still more remarkable from the fact, that he uttered all his cries in good, expressive Castilian. He bore a Spanish weapon, too, and his first act, as he flung himself into the ditch where Cortes was drowning, was to strike it through the neck of the uppermost noble. His next was to spurn the other from the breast of the general, whom he raised to his feet, murmuring in his ear,

“Be of good heart, señor! for you are saved.”

What more he would have said and done can only be imagined; for, at that moment, the Barba-Roxa rushed out of the ditch, followed close at hand by the hunchback, Bernal Diaz, and others, and seeing his commander, as he thought, in the hands of a foeman, he lifted his good sword once again, and smote him over the head, crying,

“Down, infidel dog! and viva for Spain and our general!” At this moment, there rushed up a crew of fresh combatants, Spaniards from the rear and infidels from the front. But before they closed upon him entirely, the Barba-Roxa caught sight of the man he had struck down, and beheld, in his pale and quivering aspect, the features of Juan Lerma.

The unhappy wretch, thus beholding the beloved youth, with his own eyes, a leaguer and helpmate of the infidel, and punished to death, as it seemed, by his hand, set up a scream wildly vehement, and broke from the group of Spaniards, who now surrounded Cortes endeavoring to drag him in safety over the pass. The exile had been seen by others as well as Gaspar, and many a ferocious cry of exultation burst from their lips, as they saw him fall.

Meanwhile, Gaspar, distracted in mind, and dripping with blood, for he had not escaped from the ditch and the fierce embrace of his fourth antagonist, without many severe wounds, endeavored to retrace his steps to the spot where Juan had followed. It was occupied by infidels, who drove him into the ditch, where his legs were grasped by a drowning Mexican, who raised himself a little from the water, and displayed, between his neck and shoulder, a yawning chasm, rather than a wound, from which the blood, at every panting expiration of breath, rolled out hideously in froth and foam. It was the Lord of Death, thus struck by Juan Lerma, as he lay upon the breast of Cortes, and now perishing, but still like a warrior of the race of America. He clambered up the body of Gaspar, for it could hardly be said, that he rose upon his feet; and seeing that he grasped a Christian soldier, he strove to utter once more a cry of battle. The blood foamed from his lips, as from his wound; and his voice was lost in a suffocating murmur. Yet, with his last expiring strength, he locked his arms round the neck of the Spaniard, now almost as much spent as himself, and falling backwards and writhing together as they fell, they rolled off into the deep water, where the salt and troubled flood wrapped them in a winding-sheet, already spread over the bosoms of thousands.”

There is another scene which we had marked for extracting, but which our limits forbid inserting — a single combat on the stone of Temalacatl — in which a Spanish prisoner, doomed to the gladiatorial sacrifice, contends successfully against several antagonists. The details of this barbarous ceremony, are full of interest. The prisoner is bound by one foot to the stone of sacrifice, and if in this condition he kill six Mexicans, he is liberated, and sent home with honor; if he fail, he is doomed a sacrifice to the pagan deities. The narrative of this [column 2:] combat, is given with remarkable spirit and precision, and holds the reader in breathless excitement to the end. The story closes as happily as could be expected from the nature of its incidents. The fall of Mexico, and the humiliation of its heroic emperor, excite a profound sympathy; and the death of Monjonaza, who dies broken hearted upon discovering that Juan, of whom she is passionately enamored, is her brother, throws a melancholy shade over the brightening fortunes of the hero.

Some of the minor characters are drawn with a vigorous hand. The dog Befo, is a powerful delineation of heroic fidelity, seldom equalled by his superiors of the human race. Gaspar Olea, the Barba-Roxa, or red haired, is a fine specimen of the bold, blunt, honest soldier; and Bernal Diaz, (the historian of the Conquest,) though little distinguished in the story, adds to its interest. The Lord of Death, is a fine picture of the lofty race of barbarians, who spurned the slavery of their foreign foe, and died in resisting it. Najara, the hunchback and the cynic, is also a well drawn character.

The Infidel will, we doubt not, enjoy a popularity equal to that of Calavar. It confirms public opinion as to the abilities of the author, who has suddenly taken a proud station in the van of American writers of romance. He possesses a fertility of imagination rarely possessed by his compeers. In many of their works, there is a paucity of events; and incidents of small ntrinsic importance, are wrought up by the skill of the writer so as to give a factitious interest to a very threadbare collection of facts. Great ability may be displayed in this manner; but our author seems to find no such exertion necessary. The fertility of his imagination displays itself in the constant recurrence of dramatic situations, striking incidents and stirring adventures; so much so, that the interest of the reader, in following his characters through the mazes of perils and enterprizes, vicissitudes and escapes, which they encounter, is often painfully excited. If this be a fault, it is one which is creditable to the powers of the author, and indicates an exuberance of invention, which will bear him through a long course of literary exertions, and insure to him great favor with the votaries of romance.

There are some minor faults which might be noticed. As an instance, the author habitually uses the word “working” in describing the convulsions of the countenance, under the influence of strong passions: as, “his working and agonized visage” — ” his face worked convulsively,” &c. Although Sir Walter Scott is authority for the use of the word in this manner, we have always considered it a decided inelegance. But such blemishes cannot seriously detract from the enduring excellence of the work.

——

AN ADDRESS, delivered at his inauguration as President of Washington College, Lexington, Virginia, Feb. 21, 1835, by Henry Vethake.

We have read this address with unmingled pleasure. It is replete with strong common sense, and that quality is rarely much exercised in discussions of the subject of education. The opinions of President Vethake seem to us sound and practical: he has a full sense of the errors in the systems of instruction, which have prevailed too long in many of our institutions; and suggests alterations [page 586:] in the modes of teaching, which seem to us both practicable, and promising great benefits. We are constrained by the pressure of other matters, to confine ourselves to a brief notice of this address, and to curtail our extracts from its pages. The following strictures upon the old system of imparting information to students, will, we believe, be recognized as just and sensible, by every one who has reflected on the subject. Although these remarks are intended by the orator to refer to college exercises only, they apply with equal force to the faulty system of teaching pursued by nine — tenths of the conductors of our primary and elementary schools, at which the pupils are, in most cases, severely drilled in the study of mere words, while no corresponding knowledge of the things of which they are the symbols, is imparted by the teacher, who makes no effort to awaken the mental energies of the pupil; but is fully satisfied if he cultivate the memory, though the mind remain waste and uninformed. But to our extract:

“The error is an egregious one, which leads a student to suppose that his proper business is to store his mind as industriously as he can with the facts previously observed, and the opinions previously held, by others who lived before him. Its natural effect will be to deaden all originality of thought, and to degrade the individual, thus led astray, to a low rank in the scale of intelligence, when compared with that to which he would have entitled himself, with more correct ideas of the nature of education. The memory may have been cultivated to a considerable extent; imagination, and the reasoning power, will have remained nearly dormant. But this is not all. The individual in question will not even have acquired the ability to communicate what he has learned to others To do so with clearness and order, is by no means always an easy matter; and it is one to which he has directed no portion of his attention, his mind having been exclusively occupied in passively receiving knowledge. And it may be added, that, although it should be conceded, that by pursuing the method of education against which my remarks are at present pointed, a greater amount of mere extraneous information can be acquired, yet this will generally be found to be true only for a comparatively short period. Those facts and opinions of which we read, that do not become the subjects of subsequent comparison and reflection, have, as it were, only a loose connection with our understandings, and, sooner or later, and sometimes very speedily, pass into oblivion. Hence it will be found that, if we have regard rather to the usefulness of manhood than to the display to be made by the youth of a college at an examination, as this is ordinarily conducted, the most effectual method even of storing the mind with what other men have observed and thought, is to regard the communication of knowledge to the student as altogether accessary to the great object of disciplining his mind, and of properly developing his various intellectual faculties. Arid not only will that individual, whose faculties have been most advantageously excited, be ultimately possessed of the greatest amount and range of information, but he will far surpass his competitors in the race of life, in the art of communicating, and, at proper times and places, displaying that information. He will also come to possess a capacity for attaining a still further measure of knowledge, whenever he may desire to do so, upon any subject that excites a particular interest in him, to which the man of mere memory is a total stranger.

“It is sufficiently to be lamented, that the student should occasionally fall of his own accord into the error I have been considering: but it is lamentable in a far greater degree, when his propensity to do so is encouraged by the faulty system of instruction pursued by his teacher. The young men in our colleges, have [column 2:] been, and still are, too frequently taught in a manner to operate thus injuriously. I refer, more particularly, to the practice of hearing them recite, on almost every subject, the contents, and the precise contents, of certain text books, with little or no accompanying comment, excepting what may be absolutely necessary for enabling them to comprehend the meaning of the work recited. In this manner of instruction, it is not geometry, or the spirit of geometry, that is acquired by the student, but what it is that Euclid, or Legendre, has delivered concerning geometry. It is not the philosophy of the human mind with which he is made acquainted; it is only the system of some distinguished author — be it that of Locke, or Reid, or Brown. It is true that we may easily conceive the reciting of a text book to be accompanied by an enlightened commentary on the part of the instructor, calculated to liberate the mind of the student from all undue subjection to the opinions, and to the peculiar classifications and modes of expression, of the author. We may, indeed, conceive the instructor to superadd every possible contrivance which is fitted to awaken in the mind of his pupils a spirit of independent inquiry. Still the tendency of the system is to degenerate into the mere recitation of the contents of the text book.” * * * * * * * * * *

“Another reason why young men in our colleges are tempted to neglect the general cultivation of their minds, and to devote their whole study to the storing of their memories with the contents of the text books put into their hands, is that their comparative scholarship is very apt to be estimated by their instructors, not so much by the nature of the questions which they are able to answer correctly, and by the amount of thinking and originality displayed, as by the promptitude and fluency with which they can repeat what they have servilely learned. I have been told by more individuals than one, and by graduates of more institutions than one, that on discovering, while at college, the fact to be as I have just stated, and being anxious that the best account of them should go to their friends, from their professors, they at once resolved to subject themselves to the drudgery of committing the author they were appointed to study verbatim to memory, and that, by so doing, they did not fail to secure the object they had in view. The persons of whom I speak, were young men of talent, as well as ambitious of immediate distinction. Had their minds at the time been sufficiently matured to have adequately appreciated the uselessness and the folly of this method of study, without at the same time being matured enough to adopt, of their own suggestion, a more efficient and rational method, and had they been less influenced by present rewards, without as yet aspiring to the more substantial rewards of a future reputation among men, or without the loftier stimulant of duty, they might have become, like others among their fellow students, altogether negligent of their improvement, and perhaps have contracted the most ruinous habits. It is to the system of education, upon which I am animadverting, together with the mistakes made by the members of a college faculty, in deciding on the comparative scholarship of the students — which mistakes the latter are competent to judge of, with a good deal of accuracy — that the anomaly, so often remarked, of a young man’s relative standing while in college, being so often but little indicative of his future standing in the world, is to be ascribed; and the explanation is likewise manifest why some individuals of peculiar energy of character, after wasting their time in almost complete idleness while at college, astonish their friends nevertheless, by the intellectual exertions of which they shew themselves to be capable, when an adequate motive is presented for exerting their energies. This solves the mystery too, why so many self-taught men, have, in despite of the disadvantages under which they labored, surpassed the graduates of colleges in usefulness and reputation; every acquisition made by a self-taught man, in consequence of the very difficulty of making it, being accompanied by a contemporary sharpening [page 587:] of his intellect, which the passive recipient of another’s knowledge never experiences.”

Of his suggestions for the remedy of this evil, we have room only for the following passage:

“The practical question now presents itself — what is the proper remedy for the evils that have been described? Are we to rest satisfied with the efficiency of our colleges and universities being rendered wholly dependent on the accident, as it may be called, of the instructors proving themselves, upon trial, to be possessed of intellectual powers of the highest, or at least of a very high order, that is, of powers which will exert themselves, and produce their proper fruit, under almost any circumstances whatever, of disadvantage? Or shall we abandon our institutions of learning, where these disadvantageous circumstances have hitherto been permitted to exist, and have afforded an opportunity to unskilful and indolent teachers to nip the evolving faculties of’ youth in the bud? We are, fortunately, not limited to a selection of either of these modes of proceeding. As a remedy for the evils described, the professors, in every department of instruction admitting of it, should, in my opinion, be obliged to prepare courses of lectures to the students. This would necessarily compel them to digest a system of knowledge for themselves, possessing more or less of originality in respect to thought or arrangement, of matter or of manner, according to the ability of the writer or speaker. Even if the lectures were only compilations from the writings of others, or should possess far inferior merit to various works on the same subject, that might be put into the hands of the student, the fitness of the professor to teach, will be greatly augmented, both because his information on the branch of instruction confided to him, will, in the preparation of his lectures, have become much more extensive, and because what he knows will be much more methodically arranged, than before. Those works, besides, which are supposed to be of greater value than the professor’s lectures, are still as accessible as ever to the students; and the improvement of their instructor can surely in no wise interfere with the benefit to be derived by them from the perusal of the works of others.”

——

A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, from the Discovery of the American Continent to the present time; by George Bancroft. Vol. i. pp. 508. Boston: Charles Bowen. London: R. J. Kennett.

The interest we have felt in this work, is the true cause of our seeming neglect of it. This may appear paradoxical, but is easily explained.

In taking up the book, we naturally turned to that part of which we knew most, and in which we took the greatest interest. There was always something in the early history of Virginia on which we delighted to dwell, and we promised ourselves great pleasure from the contemplation of the character of our forefathers, as we expected to find it portrayed by a diligent historian, who had already acquired the character of a fine writer.

We did indeed find what was intended to be a favorable account of our ancestors. Yet we were disappointed. We found much of direct praise. Yet we were disappointed. We ought perhaps to feel obliged, by Mr. B’s disposition to speak kindly of our forefathers, even while his applauses grate upon our feelings. But we are unfortunately constituted. What Mr. Bancroft gives as praise, we cannot accept as praise; and, what is worse, we cannot help suspecting, in all such cases, that a sneer, or something more mischievous, is intended.

Sterne, in his Sentimental Journey, tells us, that when on his way from Calais to Paris, he accidentally [column 2:] disclosed to his Landlord and Valet de Chambre, the astounding fact, that he had blundered into the heart of France without a passport, the former fell back from him three paces. At the same moment, his affectionate and grateful servant, by a like instinctive impulse, advanced three paces towards him.

The fall of Charles I, presented to his adherents a case somewhat analogous. History tells us that they were variously affected by it. Some fell back in dismay, while others found themselves drawn more closely toward his exiled son. The former soon found that the successful party had rewards in store for timely submission and zealous service. The latter, driven from their last rallying point, by the fatal battle of Worcester, did but submit, and that with undisguised reluctance, to what was inevitable.

Mr. Bancroft seems to think he does honor to our ancestors, by assigning them a place among the former. Now we had always supposed that their true place was among the latter, and we had moreover a sort of pride in so supposing. There are those who will say that there is great arrogance in thus claiming for them a place among the generous and brave and faithful. Others will call it folly to insist, at this day, on their fidelity to a king, and especially to one who had lost all means of rewarding, or even of using their zeal. We beg leave to set off these imputations against each other. We beg to be allowed to speak of our fathers as they were; and trust that one half of those who shall cavil at the character we impute to them, will acquit us of any very high presumption, when they see that we only claim for them such qualities, as the other half say we ought to be ashamed of. If the same individual is sometimes found assailing us, alternately on both grounds, his consistency in so doing is his affair, not ours.

If we know anything (and we think we do) of the character of the early settlers of Virginia, they were a chivalrous and generous race, ever ready to resist the strong, to help the weak, to comfort the afflicted, and to lift up the fallen. In this spirit they had withstood the usurpation of Cromwell while resistance was practicable, and, when driven from their native country, they had bent their steps toward Virginia, as that part of the foreign dominions of England, where the spirit of loyalty was strongest. We learn from Holmes, vol. i. p. 315, that the population of Virginia increased about fifty per cent. during the troubles. The newcomers were loyalists, who were added to a population already loyal. Could they, without dishonor, have been hearty in favor of the new order of things? They whose principles had driven them into exile? They who, had they remained, would have fought and fallen with Montrose?

The historical compends with which our youth was familiar, had taught us to form this estimate of the early settlers of Virginia; and we had the more faith in it, because it accords with the hereditary prejudices and prepossessions of the present day. It accounts too, for those peculiarities which, at this moment, form the distinctive features of the Virginian character. It is unique. Whether for better or worse, it differs essentially from that of every other people under the sun. How long it shall be before the “march of mind,” as it is called, in its Juggernaut car, shall pass over us, and [page 588:] crush and obliterate every trace of what our ancestors were, and what we ourselves have been, is hard to say. It may postpone that evil day, to resist any attempt to impress us with false notions of our early history, and the character of our ancestors.

We had never looked narrowly into the contemporary authority for the traditions and histories that have come down to us. Mr. Bancroft’s account of the matter has led us to do so. Hence our delay to notice his work. Our research has been rewarded by the plea sure of finding full confirmation of all our preconceived notions.

The point in contest between Mr. Bancroft and the received histories is this:

The histories represent Virginia as having been loyal to the last; as having stood in support of the title of Charles II, after every other part of the British dominions had submitted to Cromwell, and as having been the first to renounce the authority of the protector, and return to their allegiance. All this Mr. Bancroft denies; and all this, except the last proposition, (that in italics) we affirm. In proof, we appeal to the very authorities on which Mr. Bancroft relies.

Indeed, we are at a loss to know how he himself escaped the conclusion against which he protests so strongly. It may not be true that Charles II was proclaimed in Virginia, as Robertson says, before he had been recognized in England. Mr. Hening (I Sts. at Large, p. 529, quoted by Bancroft) may be right, when he says, that, if such were the fact, the public records should show it. But his book is full of proof that the records are incomplete. Is there not such proof in this instance? Let us examine.

The first act of the session of March 1660, assumes the supreme power. The second appoints Sir William Berkeley governor, and prescribes that he shall govern according to the “auncient lawes of England, and the established lawes” of Virginia. The third repeals all laws inconsistent with “the power now established;” and the fourth makes it penal to “say or act anything in derogation” of the government thus established.

Here is evidence enough of a new order of things, and yet it is not so very clear what that new order was. Hening says (ubi supra) that Berkeley was elected just as Mathews had been. Wherein then was the innovation? The recital in the preamble of the act last quoted, (I Hen. Sts. p. 531) may give a clue to this.

It is there set forth that “it hath been thought necessary and convenient by the present Burgesses of this Assembly, the representatives of the people, during the time of these distractions, to take the government into their own power, with the conduct of the auncient lawes of England, till such lawfull commission or commissions appear to us, as wee may DUTIFULLY submit to, according as by DECLARATION SET FORTH BY US doth MORE AMPLY appeare.”

Now where is this MORE AMPLE DECLARATION, concerning their idea of such a commission as they might DUTIFULLY submit to? Is not here an hiatus valde deflendus? Yet such are the tattered manuscripts from which Mr. Hening’s compilation is made, that the loss of the whole or a part of any document is quite common.

Enough appears, however, to show that this declaration did not amount to a recognition of Charles as king [column 2:] de facto; because the above mentioned Act I, directs that all writs shall issue in the name of the assembly. But it is equally clear that he was, at least tacitly, acknowledged as king de jure; that the government was established provisionally, and subject to his pleasure; and that the power assumed was held FOR HIM.

Now when we consider these things; when we find Robertson, on the authority of Beverley and Chalmers, saying that “as Sir William Berkeley refused to act under an usurped authority, they (the assembly) boldly erected the royal standard, and acknowledging Charles II to be their lawful sovereign, proclaimed him with all his titles;” we may doubt the accuracy of the statement, in extenso, but we cannot agree that even that statement shall be stigmatized as a fiction.

Mr. Hening tells us (1 Sts. p. 513) that Beverley was near the scene of action, and wonders that he should have misunderstood or misrepresented. Wonderful indeed it would have been; for in March 1662, we find him clerk to the House of Burgesses. See 2 Hen. Sts. p. 162. We find too, in the same volume, p. 544, that Berkeley refused to act without the advice of the council; that on receiving this he agreed to act, and that “HIS declaration TO BE governor (not the act electing him) were PROCLAIMED by order of the assembly.” Berkeley (be it remembered) was the last royal governor, and his commission had never been revoked, his election is not for any specific term, and the act is ac companied with a condition that he shall call an assembly at least once in every two years. How is this, if he was only elected to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death of Mathews, who, just one year before, had been elected to serve two years. Is not Berkeley in of his old commission?

But of the loyalty of Virginia there can be no doubt. That this was in no wise abated by the fall of Charles I, and the exile of his son, is equally certain. The act, passed immediately after, making it high treason to justify the murder of the one, or to deny the title of the other, puts that out of dispute. They certainly did not stand out, when the battle of Dunbar and the fall of Montrose had left the loyal party without hope either in England or Scotland. But look at the very act of surrender. Study its terms, and see the temper displayed there. Do they acknowledge the authority of parliament or protector? No: they do but submit to power. There is no profession of allegiance, nor was any oath of allegiance ever administered during the commonwealth. They engage indeed so to administer their power as not to contravene “the government of the commonwealth of England, and the lawes there established.” But this was a proceeding which a respect for private rights required. They stipulate moreover, that Virginia shall enjoy as free a trade as England herself, and put an end to all the authority of commissions from England. It was by such commissions that the king had governed. That “government by commissions and instructions” is declared to be for the future “null and void.” The usurper had clutched the sceptre of the king of England. That of the king of Virginia he was not allowed to touch. Accordingly no more commissions came from England. We hear no more of them until the election of Berkeley. We are then told that the government is provisional, and only to endure until a lawful commission shall appear. What [page 589:] commission? Whose? The protector’s? The parliament’s? No. The act of surrender (1 Hen. St. p. 363) had abolished them. But it had not abolished the rights of the king; and the power of the assembly and governor is thus made to wait on them.

Strange as it may seem, the act of surrender contains no word recognizing the rightful authority of the parliament, nor impeaching that of the king. On the contrary, as if to exclude any such idea, this remarkable clause is inserted:

“That there be one sent home, at the present governor’s choice, to give an accompt to HIS MA‘TIE, of the surrender of HIS countrey.”

Home! There is a simple pathos in the use of this word here, which speaks volumes to the heart. None can feel more deeply than we do, how utterly unworthy of this steady and passionate loyalty, was the wretch who was its object. But they knew not his faults. They only knew him in his lineage and his misfortunes; and though he had no place to lay his head, yet wherever their messenger might find the outcast, there was the home of their hearts. We mean nothing profane. God forbid! But we cannot help being reminded of the weak warm-hearted boy, who stood by his master’s cross, and gazed with looks of love upon his dying face, when the stronger and bolder of his followers had “forsaken him and fled.” We are more proud to be descended from the men who stood forward in the business of that day, than we should be to trace ourselves to Adam, through all the most politic and prudent self-seekers that the world has ever seen.

But to return to Mr. Bancroft. Affairs being thus settled, things went on quite peaceably; and he hence infers that the Virginians were entirely reconciled to Cromwell and his parliament. Moreover, he finds them claiming the supreme power, as residing in the colonial legislature; and from this he most strangely infers a loyalty to the parliament, the model of which he represents them as so eager to copy. Now Mr. Bancroft himself tells us (p. 170) that as early as 1619, Virginia first set the world the example of equal representation. From that time they held that the supreme power was in the hands of the colonial parliament, then established, and the king as king of Virginia. Now the authority of the king being at an end, and no successor being acknowledged, it followed as a corollary from their principles that no power remained but that of the assembly; and so they say. Does this look like a recognition of Cromwell and his parliament, or the reverse?

But Mr. Bancroft seems to think that Virginia could not have failed to be weaned from her attachment to the king, and won over to Cromwell and his parliament, by the magnanimity and justice of their proceedings. He adverts to the article in the treaty of surrender, by which Virginia had stipulated for a trade as free as that of England, and assures us that “its terms were faithfully observed till the restoration.” (p. 241.) He adds at p. 246, that “the navigation act of Cromwell was not designed for the oppression of Virginia, and was not enforced within her borders.” Hence he says (p. 241) that the pictures drawn by Beverley, Chalmers, Robertson, Marshall, and Holmes, of the discontent produced by commercial oppression, are all “pure fiction.”

Now what says the reader to the following extract [column 2:] from a memorial on behalf of the trade of Virginia, laid before Cromwell in 1656?

“What encouragement the poor planter has had to sweeten his labor, since the Dutch were excluded trade, appears by the general complaint of them all, that they are the merchant’s slaves, who will allow them scarce a half — penny a pound for their tobacco. Beside that, since the Dutch trade was prohibited, till this year there has been a great deal of their tobacco left behind for want of fraught, and spoiled, to the almost undoing of divers of them.” * * * “This is an inconveniency which has attended that act for navigation,” “but unless it be a little dispensed withal, it will undoubtedly ruin part of the trade it was intended to advance. ‘Tis true the people of themselves, some of them at least, have this year endeavored their own relief by secret trade with the Dutch,” &c. &c.

Is not this decisive? If it does not prove the fact, it at least proves the complaint. Mr. Bancroft denies both. Perhaps this paper is a forgery. Perhaps Mr. Bancroft never saw it. YES HE DID. It is the same paper to which he refers at p. 247, note 2, in the very paragraph in which he says that Cromwell’s navigation act was not designed for, nor enforced in Virginia. Mr. B. indeed says “the war between England and Holland necessarily interrupted the intercourse of the Dutch with the English colonies.” But this memorial is of the year 1656, and peace had been concluded April 15, 1654.

Robertson speaks of the colonial governors during the interregnum, as having been named (that is his word) by Cromwell. This is roundly denied. On what authority? None. The election proves nothing certainly. It might have been a mere form, though it was probably something more. But what was easier than a recommendation which it would be perhaps best to conform to? How often was the speaker of the house of commons so chosen in England?

Mr. Bancroft’s view of this matter stands thus: Virginia elected her own governors. Bennett, Digges, and Mathews, were commonwealth’s men. She freely chose them as governors. Ergo. She had gone over to the commonwealth.

Now there is no proof of either of these propositions. We doubt both. For if it were established that these gentlemen were, as we suspect, forced on the colony, it would not be clear that they were therefore commonwealth’s men. We doubt very much whether any such were to be found. They might have been the least violent among the royalists, and therefore preferred.

Of Col. Bennett we know something traditionally. The idea that he was a parliamentarian is new to us. We should require some better proof than the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He was indeed, one of the parliamentary commissioners at the time of the surrender. So was Claiborne, a warm friend and favorite of Sir William Berkeley, continued in his office of secretary of state, by the legislature, at Berkeley’s request, after his restoration. 1 Hen. Sts. p. 547. Bennett himself retained his place at the council board, where he still found himself, as before the restoration, in the company of cavaliers, such as Morrison, Yardly, Ludlow, &c. &c.* [page 590:]

If then Bennett was, as we conjecture, recommended to the assembly by the parliamentary commissioners, what induced them to choose him? The answer is given by Mr. Bancroft at p. 241. He had become obnoxious [column 2:] to Berkeley, and had been “compelled to quit Virginia.” For what does not appear. Hardly for disloyalty. In 1 Hen. Sts. p. 235, we have his name and that of Mathews signed to a paper of as enthusiastic loyalty as was ever penned, presented to the king after his rupture with parliament.

But what reason have we for supposing this interference with the freedom of election? We answer that our reasons are twofold.

1. The authority of Robertson, who relies on Beverley and Chalmers, and doubtless consulted all the authorities he could find, is entitled to some weight. Had he said the governors were appointed by Cromwell, we should know that he spoke at random. But his use of the equivocal word “named,” shows that he knew what he was talking about, and considered what he was saying.

2. But in Hen. Sts. 499 to 505, is an evidence that we think conclusive. Mathews took it into his head to dissolve the assembly. They immediately voted the act a nullity, and civilly invited the Governor to go on with the business. To this he assented, revoking the order, but proposing to” referre the dispute of the power of dissolving and the legality thereof to his Highnesse the Lord Protector.” This was in 1658, and the Lord Protector was then Richard Cromwell, and not Oliver, under whom Mathews had been elected.

The house took fire immediately at this proposed appeal, and deposed Mathews, and having solemnly declared the “power of government” to reside in themselves, they re-elect him, saying that he is “BY US invested” with the office.

Now what did this mean, if circumstances had not been such as justify the notion entertained by Mathews that he derived his authority from some other source, so as to have the right of dissolving the assembly. Had there been no interference on the part of Cromwell, this whole proceeding would have been idle and ridiculous. Yet it is obviously the proceeding of men not disposed to trifle, and who well understood what they were about.

Now compare this peremptory proceeding with that which took place soon after on the death of Mathews. Richard Cromwell had then abdicated, and there was therefore no shadow of authority in England to restrain the action of the assembly. But what do they do? They elect Sir William Berkeley provisionally, making the continuance of his authority and their own to determine on the coming of a “lawful commission.” Now, such commission, as we have already shown, could only come from the king; it was his plan of government; it had not been practiced by the parliament; and the right to exercise it had been denied to them and renounced by them. Does not this conduct of the assembly show that they anticipated the restoration of one whose right they had always maintained?

So far, we have done little more than to express our dissent from Mr. Bancroft’s conclusions. In a single instance, to which we have adverted, he must be suspected of wilfully misrepresenting his authorities. We allude to the memorial addressed to Cromwell in favor of the trade of Virginia, of which he was certainly aware, and which clearly disproves his own statement. Had this been the only instance of the sort, we should have passed it over more lightly. But it does not stand alone. [page 591:]

His main drift, in his account of these transactions, seems to be, to show that Virginia had taken the infection of Republicanism; that she was effectually weaned from her allegiance; that she desired nothing but to set up or herself; and that the use she proposed to make of the abdication of Richard, and the consequent suspension of executive power in England, was to establish the supremacy of her legislature. In this view the assembly are represented as requiring of Berkeley the distinct acknowledgment of their authority, which he, we are told, recognized without a scruple. “I am” said he, “but the servant of the assembly.”

Now what will the reader say when he reads the passage from which these words are copied. It runs thus:

“You desire me to do that concerning your titles and claims to land in this northern part of America, which I am in no capacity to do; for I am but the servant of the assembly: neither do they arrogate to themselves any power, farther than the miserable distractions in England force them to. For whom God shall be pleased to take away and dissipate the unnatural divisions of their native country, they will immediately return to their professed obedience.”

Is this an assertion of the supremacy of the assembly? Is it not the very reverse? He disclaims any power to act in a certain behalf. Why? Because he is but the servant of the assembly; he has no power but what is given by them, and they do not pretend to have any such to give. On their principles, they could not. Looking by which any authority they could establish would be superseded; their provisional government was the result of necessity, and its powers were limited to the nature of that necessity. Every thing that could wait was made to wait.

What is the meaning of this strange attempt to pervert the truth of history, and to represent Virginia as being as far gone in devotion to the parliament as Massachusetts herself? Why does it come to us, sweetened with the language of panegyric, from those who love us not, and who habitually scoff at and deride us? Is it intended to dispose us to acquiesce in the new notion, “that the people of the colonies, all together, this proposition we feel bound to protest. We hold ourselves prepared to maintain the negative against all the practical results, if need be, with stronger weapons. When Virginians shall learn to kiss the rod of power; to desert their friends in trouble, and to take part with the strong against the weak, it will then be in character to disparage the memory of our forefathers, and to say, they were even such as ourselves. But until we have done something to dishonor our lineage, let us speak of them as they were,

“Faithful among the faithless;

Among the faithless, faithful only they.”

We have said nothing of Mr. Bancroft’s style. It is our duty as critics to take some notice of it; and, we apprehend, he might think himself wronged if we did not. He is obviously very proud of it; and, in saying this, we fear we have condemned it. An ambitious style is certainly not the style for history. To say nothing of the frequent sacrifice of perspicuity to ornament, [column 2:] there is a tone in it which excites distrust. We find ourselves, we know not how, diffident of statements which come to us in the language of declamation, antithesis and epigram.

In our boyhood Hume’s history was put into our hands; and we remember our surprise at hearing something said in praise of his style. Style!! Was that style? A plain story, told just as we should have told it ourselves? Partridge would as soon halve thought of admiring Garrick’s acting. The king was the actor for his money, and Mr. Bancroft’s would then have been the style for ours.

We have no doubt, for example, we should have been delighted with the following passage, introduced into a description which closes the author’s remarks on the very question we have been discussing. We give it for the benefit of any of our young friends, who may be preparing an oration for the fourth of July. It would be nothing amiss, on such an occasion, for a “moonish youth” not yet out of his first love scrape. But from a grave historian, with a beard on his chin, we cannot approve it. We give it as a sample. Ex pede Herculem. “The humming — bird, so brilliant in its plumage, and so delicate in its form, quick in motion, yet not fearing the presence of man, haunting about the flowers, like the bee gathering honey, rebounding from the blossoms out of which it sips the dew, and as soon returning” to renew its many addresses to its delightful objects, “was ever admired as the smallest and the most beautiful of the feathered race.”

Alas! Alas! If this is the way to write history, we fear we shall have to leave our northern neighbors to tell the story their own way. It is a hard case. Let them write our books, and they become our masters. But we cannot help ourselves. We cannot contend with those who can write history in this style. Our only defence is not to read. A more effectual security would be, not to buy. In that case they would not write; and we should not only avoid being led into error, but might escape the injury of being misrepresented to others. But Mr. Bancroft’s book is in print, and we must abide the mortification of having all who may read it, think of our ancestors as he has represented them. We have comfort in believing that they will not be very numerous.

——

THE WRITINGS OF GEORGE WASHINGTON; being his Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and other Papers, official and private, selected and published from the original manuscripts; with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations; Vols. II, III, IV, V and VI; by Jared Sparks. Boston: Russell, Odiorne & Co.

We regret that we deferred our notice of the second and third volumes of this interesting and valuable work, until the appearance of the other three. It has now so grown on our hands, that it is impossible to do justice to it in an article of any reasonable compass. Yet we know few works that we would more strongly recommend to the public.

We have little curiosity to peep into dead men’s port-folios, and perhaps the world has seen few that would not suffer in reputation by being tracked, through all their walk in life, by daily memoranda and documentary evidence. The man whose history, under this searching scrutiny, shows “no variableness nor shadow [page 592:] of turning,” must differ very much from the multitude, even of those we call the great and good. Nothing certainly can show a fuller and firmer consciousness of rectitude of intention, than to begin life with a purpose of leaving behind a full and fair account of it. Such memorials carefully written out and preserved, like the books of a tradesman, bespeak a steadiness of honesty, that never for a moment distrusts itself. Which of us, commencing a diary, would feel sure that he might not do something to — morrow that he would not choose to set down? Which of us opening a letter book, which should exhibit his whole correspondence, would not be tempted to leave out something?

Here is a man who chooses that his steps shall all be in the light. He begins life, by laying down to himself rules of action and deportment. He commits these to paper, and hands them down to posterity, with a full register of all his acts and words and thoughts. The remarkable modesty of General Washington, would alone prevent us from understanding this as a challenge to the whole world, to compare his principles, professions and actions throughout, defying any imputation of inconsistency.

There is nothing more remarkable in this, than the evidence it affords of the early consciousness of a something distinguishing him from other men, which seems, most unaccountably, to have found its way into his humble mind. It is the most striking instance on record — of the instinct of greatness. It is a study for the metaphysician and philosopher. From the beginning, the work is done as if for posterity, and executed as if intended for the eyes of the world. This in a boy, who never made any ostentation of himself, his endowments, or his actions; who formed a very humble estimate of his own powers, and seemed through life to seek no reward but his own approbation, is one of those strange phenomena which we refer to the influence of a peculiar nature, acting by inscrutable impulses, of which the subject of them is hardly conscious.

Did it occur to General Washington, even at that early age, that he might be a father, and that his children might find an humble pride in looking over the unspotted page of his unpretending life? Perhaps so. Perhaps this thought was all that his young ambition (that passion which humility itself cannot extinguish in the breast of greatness) ventured to whisper to his heart. If so, the anticipation has been nobly and mysteriously accomplished. Like the patriarch of old, childish though he was, God has made him the father of nations; and it should indeed be the pride of us his children, to read the history of his life; to trace his steps; to study the system of moral discipline by which he trained himself to greatness and virtue; to know him as he was; and to mould ourselves by his precepts and example. No man ever left to his posterity so rich a legacy as the extraordinary work before us; and we owe many thanks to Mr. Sparks for the. labor which has prepared it for the public eye.

We really think that it is in this point of view that this work is most interesting and valuable. Its importance as affording authentic materials for what is commonly called history, strikes us less forcibly; though in this respect it must be highly useful. It certainly affords the historian more satisfactory materials for his work, than can be supplied from any other source, or, [column 2:] for any other portion of history. But what is that? What is history, for the most part, but a narrative of events, the results of which cannot be effected by our right or wrong apprehensions of them. What matters it at this day, whether we believe that Caesar killed Brutus, or Brutus Cæsar? What will it concern posterity whether the glory of the field of Waterloo belongs to Wellington or Blucher? But when will it be otherwise than important and profitable to study the process by which Washington became what he was? When will it cease to be a lesson of wisdom, to look narrowly into the private and public history of the most fortunate man that the world has ever seen, and observe that the quality which most eminently distinguished him from other men, the quality to which his success, his prosperity, his usefulness, and his imperishable glory are mainly attributable, was VIRTUE? Since the day when the important truth was first proclaimed, that “in keeping God’s commandments there is great reward,” when was it so illustrated as in this instance? Had there been a flaw in the character of General Washington, could the most malignant scrutiny have detected in his history anything dishonorable, anything unjust, anything selfish, anything on which reproach could fasten, he could not have accomplished what he did. No man could, be his talents what they might, who did not bring to his task such a character for virtue as would secure the confidence of the well-intentioned, and shame the artful and designing from their purposes. A vicious and corrupt people who fight for conquest; a lawless banditti who fight for spoil, may be led to victory by talent, enterprise, courage and energy; but the triumphs of Freedom can only be achieved under the auspices of Virtue. When men are in a mood to rally to the banner of one whose life is stained with crime, they do but deceive themselves if they think they are contending for freedom. When they are prepared to take such a one as “A SECOND WASHINGTON,” they are only fit to contend for a choice of masters. This is eternal truth; but it will not be truth to them.

But we wander from the work before us; though we trust what we have said will dispose those “who have ears to hear” to set a high value on the book of which we proceed to give a short account.

The first of these volumes contains all the papers and private and public letters of General Washington, which could illustrate either his character, or the history of the country, up to the commencement of the revolution. It is a portion of history highly interesting, especially to Virginians, and on which none but a doubtful light is shed from any other source. Here we have an authentic account of Braddock’s war; a sort of war of which the readers of history have, in general, no idea but that which is drawn from romances and tales. It is a warfare which does not recommend itself to the imagination, by the “pride, pomp and circumstance” so interesting to those who “kiss my Lady Peace at home.” But since the invention of gun — powder, there is no fighting which gives so much room for the display of prowess, courage, coolness and address, and in which victory is so sure to be the prize of these qualities. “Many a brave man,” says Don Quixotte, “has lost his life by the hand of a wretch who was frightened at the flash of his own gun.” Not so in Indian warfare. The man who is scared never escapes [page 593:] but by flight. How should he? There he stands behind his tree, while at the distance of a few yards stands his enemy, watching with the eye of a lynx, with his rifle to his cheek, and ready to put a ball through any part that is exposed for a moment. To anticipate him; to get a shot at him; to draw his fire, and then drive him from his shelter, is a business in which success de pends on steadiness, self-possession, and presence of mind, as well as dexterity and skill. He who thus kills his man, is a brave man; and hence, among the Indians, a display of scalps is a proof of courage never questioned. It was in this sort of warfare that Washington served his apprenticeship. It was there he learned to look danger ’steadily in the face, and to possess his soul in calmness amid the fiercest storm of battle. There is no such school. The art of war is what a Martinet may learn. But the faculty of carrying that art into practice, of applying its rules in the crisis which shakes the nerves, and unsettles the mind, is only acquired by the “taste of danger.” To him who possesses that, the rest is a school-boy’s task.

The other four volumes of the work contain the papers relating to the war of the revolution. Such a body of evidence, so completely above all exception, can hardly be found on the subject of any other war. We are not sure that any historian has ever yet taken the time and pains to collate and digest the whole, and to deduce all the essential results. The means of doing so are here put in the hands of the public, and we may hope that some one qualified and disposed for the task will address himself to it, and furnish the world with a history at once succinct and accurate, in which references to authorities may stand in place of discussions. It is a fault of contemporary history that it is almost always given on partial and imperfect evidence, which is liable to be afterwards explained away, contradicted and falsified. It is not until some time after the event, that all the testimony is in the hands of the historian. That time has now come as to the American Revolution. A concise history may be now written with references to this work, which taken in connexion with it, will be more satisfactory and conclusive than any now in existence. But every one who pretends to acquaint himself with all that is most interesting, especially to Virginians, should secure a copy of this book.

Mr. Sparks has given us some interesting specimens of the sort of history that we contemplate. In his appendices he presents succinct narratives of the principal actions of the war, the accuracy of which, the reader has it in his power to test by the evidence in the body of the work. This is judicious and in good taste.

But after all, the great charm and value of this work is, that it is a cast from living nature, of the mind of “the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of time.” We cannot dwell too much on the contemplation of his peculiar character. His high sense of moral worth, and the lofty aspirations of conscious greatness, looking out from behind the veil of genuine modesty and humility with which he delighted to shroud himself: the chivalrous and daring spirit ever champing on the curb of prudence, but never impatiently straining against it: the native fierceness of his temper, occasionally flashing through his habitual moderation and self-command; the promptitude and clearness of his conceptions, so modestly suggested, so patiently revised, so calmly reconsidered [column 2:] in all the intervals of action; all these qualities combined and harmonized by honor, integrity, and a scrupulous regard to all the duties of public and private life; all made “to drink into one spirit” all “members, every one of them in the same body,” all working to the same end; diverse yet congruous. What is there in the history of human nature, so grand, so majestic, so elevating to the heart and hopes of man?

That virtue, which is never selfish in’ its ends, and ever scrupulous in its choice of means, can rarely rise to a high place among the great ones of the earth, un less associated with a strength of wing which shall enable it to soar above those whose flight is unencumbered by the clog of self-denial. Virtue in high places is thus so rare a sight, that when we find it there, it so much engrosses our attention, that we are apt to overlook the faculties by which it rose. Men like, too, to delude themselves with the belief that their admiration is a tribute to virtue; that the honors and emoluments they bestow are given as the reward of virtue. Thinking thus, they think the better of themselves, and are ready to take at his word the man who disclaims any pretension to those more showy endowments which we reward for our own sakes. So we cheat ourselves; and so we cheat our benefactors; not indeed of the fame they prize most highly, but of that which glitters brightest in the eyes of the world. Look at that wonderful man, the blaze of whose glory pales even the “Julian Star” itself; before whose power all Europe trembled, and America crouched; and let us ask ourselves how far the extent of his achievements might have been curtailed, had he ever permitted himself for a moment to “forget the expedient in considering of the right;” and submitted to have his choice of means limited by any regard to the laws of war or peace, of man or God? His great maxim, that “in War, time is every thing,” was well illustrated by the success of one, who never lost a moment in working the complex problem of right and expediency. Compare the rushing, desolating tempest of his career, with the cautious march of Washington, picking his way with an anxious regard to duty, and ever watchful of his steps, lest he might tread upon a worm. Compare his abounding resources, all used without scruple, without reserve, with the scanty means of the champion of our freedom, rendered yet more scanty by his uniform care to do wrong to none, and never to soil his hand, his name or his conscience with any thing unclean.

The fifth and last of these volumes brings down the war to March 1780. How many more there will be, Mr. Sparks himself does not know. He will go on with his selections until he shall have laid before the public all that he deems most valuable of the writings of General Washington. We trust that he will use discreetly and fairly his power over the purses of his subscribers, who have engaged to take the work for better for worse, be it more or less, at so much per volume. The price is so liberal as to afford a high temptation; but we hope Mr. Sparks will resist it. We should be sorry to see a work commencing so nobly, degenerate into a mere book-making job. We hope not to have the remains of the father of our country treated like those of an old horse, whose heartless owner never thinks he has got all the good of him, until his skin is sent to the tanner, his fat to the tallow-chandler, [page 594:] and his bones to the soap-boiler. Such is the treatment which other great men have experienced at the hands of ” their children after the flesh;” dishonored in their graves by the reckless and indecent publication of every thing to which their names could give a market value. Let us bespeak a more considerate and decorous use of the rich legacy left us by him whom we reverence as the “father of our liberties.”

It is perhaps, beside the general purpose of our remarks, to extract a letter, illustrating a point in General Washington’s character, of which we have said nothing. That he was stern, and that he seemed cold we knowIt is equally certain that he was kind, courteous, and tender, and it is delightful to see how eagerly his benevolence catches at an opportunity to pour balm into the wounds of an enemy. The following letter is found at p. 266, vol. 5.

“To Lieutenant General Burgoyne.

Head Quarters, March 11th, 1778.

“Sir, — I was only two days since honored with your very obliging letter of the 11th of February. Your indulgent opinion of my character, and the polite terms in which you are pleased to express it, are peculiarly flattering; and I take pleasure in the opportunity you have afforded, of assuring you, that far from suffering the views of national opposition to be imbittered and debased by personal animosity, I am ever ready to do justice to the merit of the man and soldier, and to esteem where esteem is due, however the idea of a public enemy may interpose. You will not think it the language of unmeaning ceremony, if I add, that sentiments of personal respect, in the present instance, are reciprocal.

“Viewing you in the light of an officer contending against what I conceive to be the rights of my country, the reverses of fortune you experienced in the field cannot be unacceptable to me; but, abstracted from considerations of national advantage, I can sincerely sympathize with your feelings, as a soldier, the unavoidable difficulties of whose situation forbade his success; and as a man, whose lot combines the calamity of ill health, the anxieties of captivity, and the painful sensibility for a reputation exposed, where he most values it, to the assaults of malice and detraction.

“As your aid-de-camp went directly to Congress, the business of your letter to me had been decided before it came to hand. I am happy that their cheerful acquiescence in your request, prevented the necessity of my intervention; and wishing you a safe and agreeable passage, with a perfect restoration to your health, I have the honor to be, very respectfully, &c. &c.”

In General Burgoyne’s reply, he says: “I beg you to accept my sincerest acknowledgments for your obliging letter. 1 find the character, which I before knew to be respectable, is also perfectly amiable; and I should have few greater private gratifications in seeing our melancholy contest at an end, than that of cultivating your friendship.”

How beautiful! How delightful is this exhibition of the best feelings of the heart, under circumstances which the ferocious and brutish use as a pretext for giving free scope to the worst! How truly does the poet sing!

“Fair as the earliest beam of eastern light,

When first by the bewildered pilgrim spied,

It smiles upon the dreary brow of night,

And silvers o‘er the torrents foaming tide,

And lights the fearful path by mountain side:

Fair as that beam, although the fairest far,

Giving to horror grace, to danger pride,

Shine martial faith, and courtesy’s bright star

Through all the wreckful storms that cloud the brow of war.” * [column 2:]

The Italian Sketch-Book. Philadelphia: Key & Biddle. This is a very handsome duodecimo, and presents more than ordinary claims to attention. It is the work of an American, and purports to be written during a sojourn at Venice, Florence, Naples, and Rome. The book is chiefly made up of sketches and descriptions of these world — renowned cities. It will be seen that there is nothing very novel in the subject, and the question naturally arises “Who has not already heard all that is worth knowing about Venice, Florence, Naples, and Rome?” But, notwithstanding the triteness of his theme, our American traveller has contrived to throw an uncommon interest over his pages. They are finely diversified with stories well-told, essays tending to illustrate points of local or social interest in Italy, and much descriptive writing which has all the force and fidelity of painting.

——

Outre-Mer, or a Pilgrimage Beyond the Sea, by Professor Longfellow, is a work somewhat in the same style, and equally well written throughout. “I have travelled” — says the Professor — ” through France from Normandy to Navarre — smoked my pipe in a Flemish innfloated through Hollandin a Treckschuit — trimmed my midnight lamp in a German university — wandered and mused amid the classic scenes of Italy — and listened to the gay guitar on the banks of the Guadalquiver.” The book before us is a kind of running comment on the text of his travels, and, as we have said before, has many of the peculiar traits which distinguish the Italian Sketch — Book. It is, however, more abundant in humor than that work, and is far richer in legend and anecdote. The Professor tells a comic story with much grace, and his literary disquisitions have always a great deal to recommend them.

——

Voyage of the U. S. Frigate Potomac, under the command of Commodore John Downes, during the circumnavigation of the globe in the years 1831-32-33 and 34: including a particular account of the engagement at Quallah-Battoo, on the Coast of Sumatra. By J. N. Reynolds. This is a thick volume of nearly 600 pages, well printed, upon good paper, with some excellent engravings, and published by the Harpers. Mr. Reynolds, the author, or to speak more correctly, the compiler, will be remembered as the associate of Symmes in his remarkable theory of the earth, and a public defender of that very indefensible subject, upon which hlie delivered a series of lectures in many of our principal cities. With the exception, however, of seven chapters, the matter forming the work now published is gleaned from the ship’s journal, from the private journals of the officers, and from papers furnished by Commodore Downes himself. This fact will speak much for the authenticity of the details, and very valuable information scattered through the book. Mr. R. himself was not with the Potomac during the circumnavigation, having joined her in 1832 at Valparaiso. Our readers are, of course, acquainted [page 595:] with the object of the Potomac’s voyage, and with the outrage perpetrated by the Malays on the ship Friendship in 1831, which rendered it an indispensable duty on the part of our government to demand an indemnity. The result of this demand, and the action at Cuallah — Battoo are graphically sketched by Mr. Reynolds. Every body will be pleased, too, with his description of Canton and of Lima. He writes well, although somewhat too enthusiastically, and his book will gain him reputation as a man of science and accurate observation. It will form a valuable addition to our geographical libraries.

——

The History of Ireland, by Thomas Moore, vol. 1, in which the records of that country are brought down from the year B. C. 1000, to A. D. 684, has been republished by Carey, Lea & Blanchard. We intend a very high compliment to the bard of Paradise and the Peri, in saying that we think his prose very little inferior to his poetry. We have not forgotten Captain Rock and Fitzgerald. The Epicurean (a very anomalous Epicurean by the bye) is a model of fine writing. The Life of Byron, in spite of a thousand errors, both of the head and of the heart, and in spite too of its perpetually exciting our risibility at the expense of the little cockney biographer himself, is a book to be proud of after all, and should not be mentioned in comparison with a certain absurd tissue of maudlin metaphysics, attributed (we hope falsely) to Mr. Galt. And now, lastly, we have before us a specimen of Moore’s versatile abilities, in as temperate, as profound, as well arranged, and in every respect as well written a history as Green Erin can either desire or deserve. Very truly, Anacreon Moore is, in our opinion, no ordinary man.

——

Blackbeard, or a Page from the Colonial History of Philadelphia. Harper & Brothers, New York. This book differs in many striking points from the ordinary novels of the day. The scene is laid in Philadelphia, and the author is largely indebted for many pictures of manners, things, and opinions in the olden days of the city of Brotherly Love to the “Annals of Philadelphia.” We think these volumes will be read with interest in England, but as a mere novel they have very few claims to attention. The style is clumsy and embarrassed. The character of Oxenstiern is a piece of pure folly and exaggeration; while the atrocities of Blackbeard, which are intended to produce a great effect upon the mind of the reader, utterly fail of this end from a want of the ars celare artem in the writer. The book may be characterized in a few words as odd, vulgar, ill — written, and interesting.

——

Pencil Sketches or Outlines of Character and Manners. Second Series. By Miss Leslie. Philadelphia, Carey, Lea, & Blanchard. This volume contains the Wilson-House — the Album — the Reading Parties — the Set of China — Laura Lovel — John W. Robinson, and the Ladies Ball. All these stories have been published before in different periodicals, and have been extensively copied and admired. Miss Leslie’s writings have obtained her much reputation, both at home and abroad, and we think very deservedly. She is a lively and piquante sayer of droll and satirical things; and has a [column 2:] way of showing off à peindre the little weak points in our national manners. The Gift, an Annual, edited by Miss L. and published by Carey and Lea, will make its appearance in October. It will be splendidly embellished, and in literary matter, cannot fail of equalling any similar publication. Among the contributors will be found Washington Irving, Paulding, Miss Sedgewick, and a host of stellæ minores. It will also have the aid of Fanny Kemble’s fine countenance, and very spirited pen.

——

The American Quarterly Review for June has articles on National Music — Poetry of the Troubadours — Judge Story’s Conflict of Laws — Immunity of Religion — Sigourney’s Sketches — Memoir of Tristram Burges Shirreff’s Tour through North America — Fenimore Cooper — French Question — and Pitkin’s Statistics. It includes also some Miscellaneous Notices. This is, upon the whole, one of the best numbers of the Quarterly which has been issued for some time. Most of the papers, however, are still liable to the old charge of superficiality. The Poetry of the Troubadours is prettily written, and evinces a noble feeling for the loveliness of song. But it is feeble, inasmuch as it exhibits nothing of novelty, none of those lucid and original views, in default of the power to produce which, a writer should forbear to enter upon a subject so hackneyed. We depend upon our reviews for much of our literary reputation abroad, and we have a right therefore, as in a matter touching our national pride, to expect something of energy at their hands. They should build up a reputation of their own, and admit papers on no themes which can be found better treated elsewhere. In the article on National Music, among much sensible, and some very profound writing, there are occasional sallies which will not fail to startle many an European literateur, and some broad assertions which are very plausible and very unsusceptible of proof. For example. “It may be observed” — says the reviewer — ” that, accustomed as we are to separate poetry and music, we must never forget that they were inseparable among the Greeks.” This we know is a very general opinion — but, like some other passages in the review, should be swallowed cum grano salis. The Immunity of Religion contains some animadversions on a sermon preached at Charleston in 1833, by the Rev. J. Adams, D. D. President of Charleston College. This whole paper is, in our opinion, a series of truisms from beginning to end, and the writer, in gravely deprecating the union of church and state, and the employment of force in matters of religion, forgets that he is insisting upon arguments which not one enlightened person in a million, at the present day, will take the trouble of gainsaying. The review of Mrs. Sigourney’s Sketches we really do not like. The harmony — the energy — the fire — the elevated tone of moral feeling — the keen sense of the delicate, the beautiful, and the magnificent, which have obtained for this lady the name of the American Hemans, have not found an echo — so it seems to us — in the unpoetical heart of her reviewer. But, because this is most evidently the case, are we to think of blaming Mrs. Sigourney?

The other papers are generally respectable. The most interesting, in our opinion, is that on Shirreff’s Tour in North America. [page 596:]

Life of Kosciuszko. — The Foreign Quarterly Review for March 1833, contains a notice of the biography of Thaddeus Kobciuszko, by Charles Falkenstein, re-printed with additions and corrections during the last year at Leipzic. From the opinions expressed by the reviewers, we are led to believe that this work possesses great merit, and that opinion is strengthened by the copious extracts made in the review. Indeed the narrative of a life so filled up with romantic adventure and enthusiastic patriotism as that of Kosciuszko, could scarcely fail to excite great interest. The history of his life has a peculiar charm to Americans, from the association of his name and his achievements with the annals of our revolution. The recent struggle of the Poles for emancipation from the yoke of their barbarian master — its unfortunate termination — and the wretched enslavement of that generous people, which France and England tamely suffered to be sealed by the blood of her patriots, give to every portion of Polish history which relates to her many contests for freedom, a romantic interest. It is well said by the reviewer whose notice has made us acquainted with Falkenstein’s work, that “There is in the Polish character a something of barbaric splendor and rudeness, of the very spirit of Orientalism, mingled with European education and refinement, an ardor of patriotic valor, alloyed by versatility, both no doubt heightened, if not produced, by the strange exciting, or rather distracting constitution of the old and truly republican monarchy of Poland, — combined with such a gay, light, mirthful gallantry — whence the Poles were once termed the French of the north — that all, blending together, give the nation a peculiar hold upon the imagination. * * * * * * * * In fact what we have said of the Polish nation applies with peculiar force to the nation’s champion, Kosciuszko. His whole life is a romance, and as such, is really quite refreshing in these matter of fact days of steam engines, rail roads and compendious compilations of cheap literature.” We presume this book has never been translated; certainly we have never heard of it in an English form, and we were much interested in the summary of its contents given by the reviewer. Kosciuszko, was it appears, like many other great men, crossed in his first love. He attempted an elopement, was intercepted by the haughty parent of his lady love, when a sanguinary conflict ensued. Kosciuszko was wounded, and the lady dragged back to her paternal home. It was this unfortunate affair which caused his resignation of his commission in the Polish army, and induced him to cross the Atlantic and offer his services to our forefathers. We are told that he reached the new world utterly unprovided with letters of recommendation or introduction, and nearly penniless. His biographer thus described his first interview with Washington:

“What do you seek here?” inquired the General with his accustomed brevity. — ‘I come to fight as a volunteer for American independence,’ was the equally brief and fearless reply. — ‘What can you do?’ was Washington’s next question; to which Kosciuszko with his characteristic simplicity, only rejoined, ‘Try me.’ This was done. Occasions soon offered, in which his talents, science, and valor, were evinced, and above all his great character was duly appreciated. He was speedily made an officer, and further distinguished himself.

  * * * * * *  

[column 2:]

The first acquaintance of Kosciuszko and Lafayette, (two men who resembled each other in many respects besides being pure and fearless and disinterested patriots and philanthropists) is thus described:

“He had not been long in America, when he had occasion to display his undaunted courage, as captain of a company of volunteers. Generals Wayne and Lafayette, notwithstanding the heat of the battle in which they themselves were fully engaged, observed with satisfaction the exertions of that company, which advanced beyond all the rest, and made its attacks in the best order.

“‘Who led the first company?’ asked Lafayette of his comrades, on the evening of that memorable day (the 30th of September).

“The answer was ‘It is a young Pole, of noble birth, but very poor; his name, if I am not mistaken, is Kosciuszko.’ The sound of this unusual name, which he could hardly pronounce, filled the French hero with so eager a desire for the brave stranger’s acquaintance, that he ordered his horse to be immediately saddled, and rode to the village, about a couple of miles off, where the volunteers were quartered for the night.

“Who shall describe the pleasure of the one, or the surprise of the other, when the general, entering the tent, [would it not rather be a room or hut?] in a village, saw the captain, still covered from head to foot with blood, dust, and sweat, seated at a table, his head resting upon his hand, a map of the country spread out before him, and pen and ink by his side. A cordial grasp of the hand imparted to the modest hero his commander’s satisfaction, and the object of a visit paid at so unusual an hour.”

——

Tocqueville’s American Democracy. — M. Alexis de Tocqueville, one of the commissioners sent to this country by the French government, to investigate the penitentiary system of the United States, and whose report on that subject met with much attention, has recently published an elaborate work under the title “De la Democratie en Amerique,” 2 vols. 8vo. The work has not reached us, but from the extracts which we have seen in the northern journals, we are induced to believe that it possesses much merit, and presents the operations of our government in a novel and striking point of view.

——

German work on America. — The first number of a work to be entitled “The United States of North America in their historical, topographical, and social relations,” by G. H. Eberhard, is announced as forthcoming at Hildburghausen. The publishers declare their intention in this work, to “present a digested epitome of all that is worth knowing respecting the United States, combining the utmost completeness with accuracy and impartiality.” The qualifications of Mr. Eberhard for the task he has assumed, are said to be ample.

————

Errata. In the Dissertation on the Characteristic Differences between the Sexes, &c. in the last number of the Messenger, the following errata occur:

Page 493, second column, 22 lines from top, read “wide“, for “rude.” Page 494, first column, 19 lines from bottom, erase semi-colon after “sway,” and put a period after “characters.” Same page, second column, near bottom, read “hips” for “lips.” Page 500, in foot note, near top, comma instead of a period after “charms.” Page 502, at top of first column, “distinguishing” for “distinguished.” Page 507, second column, near bottom, period after “soul,” erasing the comma after “heaven.” Page 509, quotation ends at “monarchy,” and not at “wife” on the next page. Page 511, first column, near bottom, “if ye wad” [Scotch] instead of “would.”

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 589, column 2, continuing to the bottom of page 590, column 1:]

* The characters and principles of these gentlemen may throw some light on the subject. If we can ascertain those of the members [page 590:] of the council, elected by the assembly, we shall have a clue to the temper of the assembly itself. We may know the tree by its fruit. If we find that body electing to a place in the council men of very decided political character, we shall have a right to believe that those associated with them by the vote of the same body were, at least, not zealous members of the opposite party. In this case the maxim “noscitura socio,” will surely apply. Let us see what lights we can bring to bear on this subject.

In Churchill’s voyages (vol. vi. p. 171) is “A Voyage to Virginia, by Col. Norwood.” He was a cavalier, and came over in company with Francis Morrison, also a cavalier. Norwood was also a kinsman of Berkeley. Arriving here, they found Sir Henry Chichely, Col. Yardly, Wormely, and Ludlow, whom they recognized as old friends and cavaliers.

Now in the council elected along with Bennett, immediately after the surrender, we find two of these gentlemen, Yardly and Ludlow. The latter had been a member of Berkeley’s council that had concurred (October 1649) in declaring it to be high treason to defend the proceedings of parliament against Charles I, or to deny the title of his son. West, the first named member of Bennett’s council, had occupied the same place in that of Berkeley. Pettus and Bernard were also members of both. We might conjecture that they had dissented from the act referred to, if we did not find them associated with Yardly and Ludlow. We find too that Harwood, who had been speaker of the assembly of October 1649, was also one of Bennett’s council. The whole number was thirteen, and here are six notorious royalists. Of what complexion could the other seven have been? Two of them, Taylor and Freeman, were members of the assembly of 1647, from two most loyal counties.

In July, 1653, Col. Walter Chiles, who had been a member in October 1649, was speaker.

In November, 1654, Col. Edward Hill, another of them, was speaker. He was in high favor after the restoration. He was transferred to the council in 1655. We find the name of Charles Norwood, as clerk of the assembly, from that time.

In March, 1655, Col. Thomas Dew was a member of the council. He had been speaker of the assembly in 1652, the first elected under Bennett. We know (we do not ask historians to tell us this) that he was a loyal clansman, who was driven to Virginia by his hatred of the usurpers, and to accommodate his name to English orthography, changed the spelling from that of “Dhu” — since made familiar to all readers of poetry — by Sir Walter Scott. He is now (in 1655) in the council, making in that body seven known loyalists.

In the legislature of that year, we have the name of Sir Henry Chichely.

In 1656, Col. Morrison (the companion of Ludlow’s voyage) is speaker.

In the next assembly (1658) John Smith was speaker. We know nothing certainly of him; but it was that assembly that deposed Mathews. They gave him Berkeley’s friend, Claiborne, as secretary of state; and for councillors, among others, West, Pettus, Hill, Dew, and Bernard. They made some changes, but turned out none of that party. At the same time they introduced Col. John Carter, another of Norwoods friends. He had been chairman of the committee, on the report of which the assembly had just acted. Horsmenden, another of the same committee, was elected to the council at the same time.

In March 1659, Hill, who had left his place in the council, is again speaker. In March 1660, the assembly which reinstated Berkeley, retained Bennett and five other of the old councillors, of whose characters we have no other indication. These were Robins, Perry, Walker, Read, and Wood. What they were may be inferred from this fact. Morrison, moreover, was elected at the same time.

Can we believe, in the face of these facts, that the loyalty of Virginia ever wavered? That it bowed before the storm we know. That the assembly, in one instance, passed a vote of disfranchisement against the author of a seditious paper, appears in 1 Hen. Sts. p. 380. But we also find that this vote was reversed as soon as they heard of the death of Oliver Cromwell.

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 594, column 1, running to the bottom of column 2:]

* We implore the lenient judgment of our brethren of the [column 2:] craft of criticism on this long quotation. We know that it is not selon les regles so to quote in a review. Besides it is trite as well as long. But what could we do, when our heart was full of the very sentiment which Scott has expressed so much better than we could? To our readers, not of the craft, we say “regard rather our precept, than our example.”


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Notes:

William D. Hull, J. A. Harrison and others attributed this review to Poe, but Mabbott discounted the claim in 1966, stating that the review has “more than 3 cols.” Reversing Hull’s argument, Pollin and Ridgely repeat the connection of this review with the earlier notice of Bird’s Calavar, and discard both. Poe’s entry from the 1850 Griswold edition of the “Literati,” presumably prepared by Poe himself, combines the reviews of Hawks of Hawks Hollow and part of Sheppard Lee, but does not include anything of these two earlier reviews, also suggesting that Poe was not the author.


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