Text: Various, Literary Reviews, Southern Literary Messenger, July 1835, 1:646-652


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[page 646:]

LITERARY NOTICES.

THE CRAYON MISCELLANY, No. II. containing Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard. 1835.

We hailed with pleasure the appearance of the first number of the Crayon Miscellany, but we knew not what a feast was preparing for us in the second. In Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey, the author of the Sketch Book is at home. By no one could this offering to the memories of Scott and Byron have been more appropriately made. It is the tribute of genius to its kindred spirits, and it breathes a sanctifying influence over the graves of the departed. The kindly feelings of Irving are beautifully developed in his description of the innocent pursuits and cheerful conversation of Sir Walter Scott, while they give a melancholy interest to the early misfortunes of Byron. He luxuriates among the scenes and associations which hallow the walls of Newstead, and warms us into admiration of the wizard of the north, by a matchless description of the man, his habits, and his thoughts. The simplicity and innocence of his heart, his domestic affections, and his warm hospitality, are presented in their most attractive forms. The scenes and the beings with which Sir Walter was surrounded, are drawn with a graphic pencil. All conduce to strengthen impressions formerly made of the goodness and beneficence of Scott’s character, and to gratify the thousands who have drawn delight from his works, with the conviction that their author was one of the most amiable of his species. No man knows better than Washington Irving, the value which is placed by the world (and with justice) upon incidents connected with really great men, which seem trifling in themselves, and which borrow importance only from the individuals to whom they have relation. Hence he has given us a familiar (yet how beautiful!) picture of Abbotsford and its presiding genius; but the relics of Newstead. which his pensive muse has collected and thrown together, brightening every fragment by the lustre of his own genius, are perhaps even more attractive. He touches but a few points in Byron’s early history, but they are those on which we could have wished the illumination of his researches. The whole of the details respecting Miss Chaworth, and Byron’s unfortunate attachment to that lady, are in his best manner. The story of the White Lady is one of deep interest, and suits well with the melancholy thoughts connected with Newstead. An instance of monomania like that of the White Lady, has seldom been recorded; and the author has, without over-coloring the picture, presented to his readers the history of a real being, whose whole character and actions and melancholy fate belong to the regions of romance. In nothing that he has ever written, has his peculiar faculty of imparting to all he touches the coloring of his genius, been more fully displayed than in this work. [page 647:]

We give a short extract from each of these sketches, although they can afford no idea of their collective charms. The conversational powers and social qualities of Sir Walter Scott, are thus described:

The conversation of Scott was frank, hearty, picturesque, and dramatic. During the time of my visit he inclined to the comic rather than the grave, in his anecdotes and stories, and such, I was told, was his general inclination. He relished a joke, or a trait of humor in social intercourse, and laughed with right good will. He talked not for effect or display, but from the flow of his spirits, the stores of his memory, and the vigor of his imagination. He had a natural turn for narration, and his narratives and descriptions were without effort, yet wonderfully graphic. He placed the scene before you like a picture; he gave the dialogue with the appropriate dialect or peculiarities, and described the appearance and characters of his personages with that spirit and felicity evinced in his writings. Indeed, his conversation reminded me continually of his novels; and it seemed to me, that during the whole time I was with him, he talked enough to fill volumes, and that they could not have been filled more delightfully.

“He was as good a listener as talker, appreciating every thing that others said, however humble might be their rank or pretensions, and was quick to testify his perception of any point in their discourse. He arrogated nothing to himself, but was perfectly unassuming and unpretending, entering with heart and soul into the business, or pleasure, or, I had almost said folly, of the hour and the company. No one’s concerns, no one’s thoughts, no one’s opinions, no one’s tastes and pleasures seemed beneath him. He made himself so thoroughly the companion of those with whom he happened to be, that they forgot for a time his vast superiority and only recollected and wondered, when all was over that it was Scott with whom they had been on familiar terms, and in whose society they had felt so perfectly at their ease.

“It was delightful to observe the generous mode in which he spoke of all his literary cotemporaries, quoting the beauties of their works, and this, too, with respect to persons with whom he might be supposed to be at variance in literature or politics. Jeffrey, it was thought had ruffled his plumes in one of his reviews, yet Scott spoke of him in terms of high and warm eulogy, both as an author and as a man.

“His humor in conversation, as in his works, was genial and free from all causticity. He had a quick perception of faults and foibles, but he looked upon poor human nature with an indulgent eye, relishing what was good and pleasant, tolerating what was frail, and pitying what was evil. It is this beneficent spirit which gives such an air of bonhommie to Scott’s humor throughout all his works. He played with the foibles and errors of his fellow beings, and presented them in a thousand whimsical and characteristic lights, but the kindness and generosity of his nature would not allow him to be a satirist. I do not recollect a sneer throughout his conversation any more than there is throughout his works.”

It is more difficult to fix upon an extract from the sketch of Newstead Abbey, but we take the following as coming within the limits of our notice:

I was attracted to this grove, however, by memorials of a more touching character. It had been one of the favorite haunts of the late Lord Byron. In his farewell visit to the abbey, after he had parted with the possession of it, he passed some time in this grove, in company with his sister; and as a last memento, engraved their names on the bark of a tree.

“The feelings that agitated his bosom during this farewell visit, when he beheld around him objects dear to his pride, and dear to his juvenile recollections, but of which the narrowness of his fortune would not permit [column 2:] him to retain possession, may be gathered from a passage in a poetical epistle, written to his sister in after years.

“‘I did remind you of our own dear lake

By the old hall, which may be mine no more;

Lemans is fair; but think not I forsake

The sweet remembrance of a dearer shore:

Sad havoc Time must with my memory make

Ere that or thou can fade these eyes before;

Though, like all things which I have loved, they are

Resign‘d for ever, or divided far.

 

I feel almost at times as I have felt

In happy childhood; trees, and flowers, and brooks,

Which do remember me of where I dwelt

Ere my young mind was sacrificed to books,

Come as of yore upon me, and can melt

My heart with recognition of their looks,

And even at moments I would think I see

Some living things I love — but none like thee.’

“I searched the grove for sometime, before I found the tree on which Lord Byron had left his frail memorial. It was an elm of peculiar form, having two trunks, which sprang from the same root, and after growing side by side, mingled their branches together. He had selected it doubtless, as emblematical of his sister and himself. The names of BYRON and AUGUSTA were still visible. They had been deeply cut in the bark, but the natural growth of the tree was gradually rendering them illegible, and a few years hence, strangers will seek in vain for this record of fraternal affection.

* * * * * *

“At a distance on the border of the lawn, stood another memento of Lord Byron; an oak planted by him in his boyhood, on his first visit to the abbey. With a superstitious feeling inherent in him, he linked his own destiny with that of the tree. ‘As it fares,’ said he, ’so will fare my fortunes.’ Several years elapsed, many of them passed in idleness and dissipation. He returned to the abbey a youth scarce grown to manhood, but as he thought with vices and follies beyond his years. He found his emblem oak almost choked by weeds and brambles, and took the lesson to himself.

“‘Young oak, when I planted thee deep in the ground,

I hoped that thy days would be longer than mine,

That thy dark waving branches would flourish around,

And ivy thy trunk with its mantle entwine.

 

Such, such was my hope — when in infancy’s years

On the land of my fathers I reared thee with pride;

They are past, and I water thy stem with my tears —

Thy decay not the weeds that surround thee can hide.’

“I leaned over the stone ballustrade of the terrace, and gazed upon the valley of Newstead, with its silver sheets of water gleaming in the morning sun. It was a Sabbath morning, which always seems to have a hallowed influence over the landscape, probably from the quiet of the day, and the cessation of all kinds of week day labor. As I mused upon the mild and beautiful scene, and the wayward destinies of the man whose stormy temperament forced him from this tranquil paradise to battle with the passions and perils of the world, the sweet chime of bells from a village a few miles distant, came stealing up the valley. Every sight and sound this morning, seemed calculated to summon up touching recollections of poor Byron. The chime was from the village spire of Hucknall Torkard, beneath which his remains lie buried!

“I have since visited his tomb. It is in an old gray country church, venerable with the lapse of centuries. He lies buried beneath the pavement, at one end of the principal aisle. A light falls upon the spot through the stained glass of a gothic window, and a tablet on the adjacent wall announces the family vault of the Byrons. It had been the wayward intention of the poet to be entombed with his faithful dog in the monument erected [page 648:] by him in the garden of Newstead Abbey. His executors showed better judgment and feeling, in consigning his ashes to the family sepulchre, to mingle with those of his mother and his kindred.

* * * * * *

“How nearly did his dying hour realize the wish made by him but a few years previously in one of his fitful moods of melancholy and misanthropy:

“‘When time, or soon or late, shall bring,

The dreamless sleep that lulls the dead,

Oblivion! may thy languid wing

Wave gently o‘er my dying bed!

 

No band of friends or heirs be there,

To weep or wish the coming blow:

No maiden with dishevelled hair,

To feel or feign decorous woe.

 

But silent let me sink to earth,

With no officious mourners near:

I would not mar one hour of mirth,

Nor startle friendship with a fear.’

“He died among strangers, in a foreign land, without a kindred hand to close his eyes, yet he did not die unwept. With all his faults, and errors, and passions, and caprices, he had the gift of attaching his humble dependants warmly to him. One of them, a poor Greek, accompanied his remains to England, and followed them to the grave. I am told that during the ceremony, he stood holding on by a pew in an agony of grief, and when all was over, seemed as if he would have gone down into the tomb with his master. — A nature that could inspire such attachments, must have been generous and beneficent.”

——

THE CONQUEST OF FLORIDA, by Hernando de Soto; by Theodore Irving. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard.

There is so much of romance in the details of Spanish conquests in America, that a history of any one of the numerous expeditions for discovery and conquest, possesses the charm of the most elaborate fiction, even while it bears the marks of general truth. These adventures occurred during the age of chivalry, when danger was courted for distinction, before the progress of science and literature had opened other avenues to renown, and when personal valor was looked upon as the pre-eminent quality — skill in arms as the highest accomplishment of an aspiring spirit. No nation was more celebrated during that chivalrous age than Spain, and in none did the genius of chivalry longer resist the influences under which it finally fell into decay. Upon the discovery of America, a wide field was opened for the warlike spirit of the age, and Spain sent forth her hosts of adventurers, filled with wild visions of boundless wealth, and the easy conquest of the barbarian nations of those golden regions. There are in the histories of their exploits, so many displays of dauntless courage — of skill in overcoming difficulties — of the power of a few disciplined warriors, to contend successfully with hosts of equally brave, but untutored savages — and so many exhibitions of the generous qualities of the soldier, that in the glare of brilliant achievements, and the excitement of thrilling incident, we are tempted to overlook the injustice and cruelty which marked the footsteps of the conquerors.

Mr. Irving’s work is one of great interest. The conquest of Florida by De Soto, while it is contrasted with [column 2:] the conquest of Mexico by Cortez, (which immediately preceded it) in regard to its results to those engaged in it, resembles it in the patient suffering and indomitable bravery of the adventurers, and in the numerous thrilling scenes through which they passed. While the conquest of Mexico enriched the followers of Cortez, and poured the wealth of the new world into the lap of Spain, that of Florida proved fatal to all who attempted it, and ended in disaster to the ultimate conquerors Ponce de Leon, the visionary, who sought in Florida the Fountain of Youth, Vasques de Ayllon, the ruthless kidnapper, and Pamphilo de Narvaez, the well known rival and opponent of Cortez, had made fruitless attempts to colonize this disastrous coast. But the last and most splendid effort of that day, was made by Hernando de Soto, a cavalier who had served with Cortez, and had returned to Spain in the possession of immense wealth derived from the spoil of Mexico. The enjoyment of the highest favor at the court of his sovereign, the charms of a young and lovely bride, and the allurements of his splendid position at home, were insufficient to repress the spirit of adventure which he had imbibed in the wars in Mexico, and the prevalent belief that Florida presented a scene for conquest still more magnificent than Mexico. De Soto was doomed to prove that the golden dreams of wealth with which the unexplored regions of Florida had been invested, were baseless illusions. But his adventures and achievements afford a rich mine of romantic incidents which Mr. Irving has presented in a most attractive form:

Of all the enterprises,” says he, “undertaken in this spirit of daring adventure, none has surpassed for hardihood and variety of incident, that of the renowned Hernando de Soto and his band of cavaliers. It was poetry put in action; it was the knight-errantry of the old world carried into the depths of the American wilderness: indeed, the personal adventures, the feats of individual prowess, the picturesque descriptions of steel-clad cavaliers, with lance and helm and prancing steed, glittering through the wildernesses of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the prairies of the Far West, would seem to us mere fictions of romance, did they not come to us recorded in matter-of-fact narratives of cotemporaries, and corroborated by minute and daily memoranda of eye witnesses.”

Hernando de Soto was in every respect qualified for the task he undertook in this ill-starred expedition. But the Floridian savage was a more formidable foe than his Mexican brother — more hardy of frame, and more implacable in his revenge. Hence, although the imagination is not dazzled in the conquest of Florida, with descriptions of boundless wealth and regal magnificence — although the chiefs are not decked in “barbaric pearls and gold” — their sturdy resistance, and the varied vicissitudes created by the obstacles which nature presented to the conqueror’s march, afford numberless details of great interest. The book abounds with thrilling passages, from which, but for the crowded state of our pages, we should make a few extracts. Whether it is the merit of the writer or his subject, (probably it is a combination of both,) which gives to this work so much fascination, we will not decide; but it is scarcely possible to commence it, (at least we found it so) and lay it aside until its perusal is concluded. [page 649:]

[[——]]

CHANCES AND CHANGES; a Domestic Story, by the author of “Six Weeks on the Loire.” Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard.

This is an uncommon book. In these days of high excitement and powerful writing, it is refreshing to be introduced among characters of so much purity, benevolence and intelligence as those delineated in “Chances and Changes.” The moral of the book, although it is not ostentatiously pressed upon the attention, is obvious and forcible. A lovelier being than Catherine Neville, the heroine, can scarcely be imagined. There is nothing new in the story — the events are such as might easily be supposed to have occurred, and the leading features of the plot may be stated in a few words: Colonel Hamilton, a man of fashion and something of a roué, is engaged in a duel with a baronet, in consequence of an intrigue between the Colonel and the titled wife of his antagonist. The latter is dangerously wounded, and Colonel Hamilton seeks a refuge for several months in the remote dwelling of his former tutor, Mr. Neville, a benevolent and conscientious clergyman. Hamilton becomes enamored of Catherine Neville, who returns his passion with all the ardor of a first love. He at length mingles with the world of fashion again, is involved once more in his former intrigue, and although struggling to retain and deserve the affections of Catherine, becomes completely entangled in a criminal attachment. Catherine, after a long and painful conflict with her feelings, resolves to conquer her ill-placed affection, and is ultimately united to a worthier object. The struggles between passion and duty in her breast, and the conflict of good and evil in Hamilton, are admirably portrayed. The sentiments and opinions are often striking, and the style elegant and attractive. We give a few extracts, taken at random:

“Come along with me,” said she, “come and look by the side of the little stream that runs through the garden.”

“This girl, after all, can do whatever she likes with me,” thought Hamilton, as he rose with affected effort, from the chair which he had just before vowed to himself nothing should induce him to stir from, until it was time to dress for dinner. Away they went to the brook, and found Mr. Neville standing there, looking at the daffodils with all the delight of the poet whose words were on his lips.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud,

That flits on high, o‘er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host of dancing daffodils.

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing near the trees.

 

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle in the milky way.

They stretched in never-ending line,

Along the margin of a bay.

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

 

The waves beside them danced, but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee,

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company.

I gazed and gazed, but little thought

What wealth to me the show had brought.

 

For oft when on my couch I lie,

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude.

And then my heart with pleasure fills

And dances with the daffodils.”

Hamilton was so unused to hear Wordsworth quoted in any other tone than that of ridicule, or absurd parody, [column 2:] that he was amazed to hear his old tutor, whose taste he revered, not more from habit than experience of its correctness, repeat these lines with the enthusiasm of Catherine herself, and conclude them with a panegyric on their author, as having formed a new school in poetry, and finding

“Books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in ev‘ry thing.”

* * * * *

“Well, sir, what do you think of our daffodils?” said Mr. Neville, pointing to them exultingly, “are they not enough to inspire a poet?”

“I am not poet enough to answer the question,” said Hamilton, “but I remember the eldest of poets says they make very good salads.”

“Ah ha!” said Mr. Neville, “I am glad you have not forgotten old Hesiod-but, however, I did not think of getting into Greek when 1 quoted Wordsworth.”

“Nor I of hearing anything like common sense spring out of a quotation from him,” said Hamilton. “Not but that all he says may be very fine, but I am of another school-I am a Byronian-he is the only man that is read in Town-those Lakeists that go and make faces at themselves on the waveless waters, and then run home to put their reflections upon paper, are quite outvoted now; even the ladies never think of them.”

“No, I suppose not,” said Mr. Neville, ” any more than they would think of seeing hay-makers in their verandas, or a sheep-shearing in their drawing-rooms. But’ the children of darkness are wiser in their generation than the children of light,’ and he who sings of nothing but lawless crimes, and sated vices, does wisely to address his song to the inhabitants of an overgrown and luxurious metropolis.”

“Yes, yes; he is sure enough of sympathy, plenty of dancing daffodils there, — only of rather an opposite species. What do you say, Miss Neville, do you like the titled Bard?”

“Quite well enough, as a poet, to wish he had made choice of better subjects. Edward Longeroft says he has in him a fragment of almost every other poet’s distinguishing excellence, but unfortunately his own genius is only a fragment itself, and, therefore, he produces nothing but fragments after all.”

“Very wise in Mr. Longcroft — I dare say he could prove every thing he says most mathematically; but I fancy he will find the generality of his acquaintance admire diamond sparks more than brick-bats — though one is only a part, and the other a whole.”

“Very good! very good!” said Mr. Neville, “but who have we here?” he added, as he looked towards the little gate. “Ah ha! here he is himself — now we can have diamond sparks versus brick-bats, as long as you like, and see who has the better of the argument.”

A matter-of-fact-man is well portrayed in the following:

“Henry Barton,” said she to herself, “is a good creature, as ever was born; and he has great merit, too, in cultivating his mind so sedulously, surrounded as he is only by the clodpoles his father has brought him up amongst. But, after all, he is such a mere matter-of-fact-man, that one soon tires of him — he tells one an anecdote just as he reads it, and there’s an end of it. And then he moralizes, too, in such a common-place way, and wonders how the Romans could degenerate so as to suffer themselves to be conquered by the Goths, and finds out that it was an abominable thing in Henry VIII to cut off his wives’ heads, and not much better in Queen Elizabeth to sign Essex’s death warrant. There is no play of imagination about him — no whim, no wit — he would as soon think of launching a man of war, as maintaining a paradox.”

The subjoined sentiment is beautifully expressed:

“Ah, is there any happiness like that of the affections! from the soul-absorbing influence of individual love, through all the endearing gradations of natural ties, [page 650:] and selected friends, down to the generalized claims of our fellow-creatures: it will ever be found that all our real enjoyments are solid only as the feelings of the heart are connected with them; and long after the traces of external objects may be effaced from the memory, the kindly sentiments and participated feelings, with which they may have been connected, remain indelible in the interior recesses of the breast, which they fill with a sweet indistinctness of recollected enjoyment.”

And how much truth in Catherine’s criticism of Byron:

“I cannot feel the beauties of any poetry whatsoever,” said Catherine, “when I think the poet has no feeling himself — I have admired many passages in Lord Byron’s earlier works, even to enthusiasm; but when I came to his most unfeeling mockery of the agonizing sympathies he had raised in his description of a storm, by the odious levity with which he concludes it, I closed the book, and never read another page of his writing. I thought of it ever after as of those monstrosities in painting, of beautiful heads, and cloven feet, and it inspired me with the same disgust.”

——

North American Review, No. LXXXVIII: July 1835. — The last number of this periodical contains several admirable articles. We subjoin a list of its contents:

Art. I. A Tour on the Prairies, by the author of the Sketch Book. — II. The American Almanac for the year 1835. — III. Memoirs of Casanova. — IV. Machiavelli. — V. Life and Character of William Roscoe. — VI. Mrs. Butler’s Journal. — VII. Dunlap’s History of the Arts. — VIII. Slavery; an Appeal in favor of that Class of Americans called Africans, by Mrs. Child.-IX. Audubon’s Biography of Birds. — X. Webster’s Speeches.

The first article is a noble eulogy on the genius of Washington Irving, well according with the merits of the writer, and the honest pride which every American feels in the possession of such a luminary in our native literature. Great as has been the praise lavished upon his works, we feel with the reviewer that full justice has not as yet been accorded them — and it is with pleasure we perceive that the world at large is becoming more alive to his merits. The following rapid glance at the various triumphs of his genius, will be read with a general concurrence in its truth:

“Compare him,’ says the reviewer, “with any of the distinguished writers of his class of this generation, excepting Sir Walter Scott, and with almost any of what are called the English classics of any age. Compare him with Goldsmith, one of the canonized names of the British pantheon of letters, who touched every kind of writing, and adorned every kind that he touched. In one or two departments, it is true, that of poetry and the drama — departments which Mr. Irving has not attempted, and in which much of Goldsmith’s merit lies — the comparison partly fails; but place their pretensions, in every other respect, side by side. Who would think of giving the miscellaneous writings of Goldsmith a preference over those of Irving, and who would name his historical compositions with the Life of Columbus? If in the drama and in poetry Goldsmith should seemed to have extended his province greatly beyond that of Irving, the Life of Columbus is a chef d‘œuvre in a department which Goldsmith can scarcely be said to have touched; for the trifles on Grecian and Roman history, which his poverty extorted from him, deserve to enter into comparison with Mr. Irving’s great work, about as much as Eutropius deserves to be compared with Livy. Then how much wider Irving’s range in that department, common to both the painting of manners and character! From [column 2:] Mr. Irving we have the humors of cotemporary politics and every-day life in America — the traditionary peculiarities of the Dutch founders of New York — the nicest shades of the school of English manners of the last century — the chivalry of the middle ages in Spain — the glittering visions of Moorish romance — a large cycle of sentimental creations, founded on the invariable experience — the pathetic sameness of the human heart — and lastly, the whole unhackneyed freshness of the West — life beyond the border — a camp outside the frontier — a hunt on buffalo ground, beyond which neither white nor Pawnee, man nor muse, can go. This is Mr. Irving’s range, and in every part of it he is equally at home. When he writes the history of Columbus, you see him weighing doubtful facts in the scales of a golden criticism. You behold him, laden with the manuscript treasures of well-searched archives, and disposing the heterogeneous materials into a well-digested and instructive narration. Take down another of his volumes, and you find him in the parlor of an English country inn, of a rainy day, and you look out of the window with him upon the dripping, dreary desolation of the back yard. Anon he takes you into the ancestral hall of a baronet of the old school, and instructs you in the family traditions, of which the memorials adorn the walls, and depend from the rafters. Before you are wearied with the curious lore, you are in pursuit of Kidd, the pirate, in the recesses of Long Island; and by the next touch of the enchanter’s wand, you are rapt into an enthusiastic reverie of the mystic East, within the crumbling walls of the Alhambra. You sigh to think you were not born six hundred years ago, that you could not have beheld those now deserted halls, as they once blazed in triumph, and rang with the mingled voices of oriental chivalry and song, when you find yourself once more borne across the Atlantic, whirled into the western wilderness, with a prairie wide as the ocean before you, and a dusky herd of buffaloes, like the crowded convoy of fleeing merchantmen, looming in the horizon, and inviting you to the chase. This is literally nullum fere genus scribendi non tigit nullum quod titigit non ornviit. Whether anything like an equal range is to be found in the works of him on whom the splendid compliment Was first bestowed, it is not difficult to say.”

The articles on Machiavelli, and on the life of Roscoe, are both excellent in their way. The former has particular attractions, as it is a luminous disquisition on the character and writings of one who for ages was an enigma in the political and intellectual world, whose works, like those of Dante and Faust, have been interpreted by opposing critics in the most conflicting manner, and whose name, error and prejudice handed down from century to century, have rendered synonymous with all that is crafty and corrupt in the art of government.

The notice of Mrs. Butler’s work is the best we have seen. The reviewer performs his task with redoubtable good humor. The gentleness with which he calls the lady to account for her literary offences, and the hearty tribute of praise he bestows on the best portions of her work, show that he is determined to

“Be to her faults a little blind,

And to her merits very kind.”

But the review of Mrs. Child’s ill-judged appeal on the subject of slavery, has for us a more powerful attraction than any in the number. It is not possible that we should be witnesses of the momentous occurrences of the day, and not feel most sensitively every reference to a topic in the discussion of which all that we love and reverence is involved. The impatient zeal of pretending enthusiasts, who in the pursuit of what to [page 651:] them seems good, disregard the frightful evils which their blind impetuosity may produce, cannot but awaken in those upon whom these evils must fall, a trembling anxiety for the future, and an indignant resentment against the madmen who are blindly jeoparding the peace of the country and the lives of thousands. We cannot trust our feelings upon this subject. We see too clearly the horrors in perspective, which fanaticism is preparing for us, and we humbly hope that the results of its insane excess, may be averted. The reviewer in the North American, thinks and feels correctly on this subject, and we regret that we can only make room for the closing passages of his remarks:

“That we must be rid of slavery at some day, seems to be the decided conviction of almost every honest mind. But when or how this is to be, God only knows. If in a struggle for this end the Union should be dissolved, it needs not the gift of prophecy to foresee that our country will be plunged into that gulf which in the language of another, ‘is full of the fire and the blood of civil war, and of the thick darkness of general political disgrace, ignominy, and ruin.’

“There is much error upon this as well as other subjects, to be corrected, before the public can act deliberately or wisely in relation to it. It is too common to associate with the slave-holder the character of the slave-merchant. And we regret to see the abolitionist of the day seizing upon the cruelties and abuses of power by a few slave-owners in regard to their slaves in order to excite odium against slave-holders as a class. This is alike unreasonable and unjust. Very many of them are deeply solicitous to free the country of this alarming evil, but no feasible means by which this is to be accomplished has yet been offered for their adoption. Such denunciations are no better than the anathemas of fanaticism, and ought to be discountenanced by every well wisher of his country. The subject of slavery is one, in regard to which, more than almost any other, there are clouds and darkness upon the future destinies of these states. It is one upon which all think and feel more or less acutely, and it is moreover one upon which all may be called upon to act. It is, therefore, we repeat, with regret that we see intellects like that of Mrs. Child, and pens like hers, which may be otherwise so agreeably and beneficially employed, diverted from their legitimate spheres of action, and employed in urging on a cause so dangerous to the union, domestic peace, and civil liberty, as the immediate emancipation of the slaves at the South.”

——

American Republication of Foreign Quarterlies. — The London, Edinburg and Westminster Reviews for April, 1835, have been republished by Mr. Foster, in his cheap and valuable series of periodicals. The Edinburg Review contains an article on American Poetry, in the course of which a general glance at the literature of this country is taken; and a more favorable opinion expressed of its achievements than that work has hitherto entertained. This fact is worthy of remark, when it is recollected that the taunting query, “Who reads an American book?” emanated from that journal not many years since. The most attractive articles in the Westminster, are those upon “Lucy Aiken’s Court of Charles II,” and “Dunlop’s Memoirs of Spain.” To us, an article in the Quarterly on “Maria, or Slavery in the United States, a picture of American Manners, by Gustave de Beaumont, one of the authors of a work on the Penitentiary System in the United States“* — “The [column 2:] Stranger in America, by F. Leiber,” and “New England and her Institutions, by one of her sons,” is the most attractive in the April number. The work of M. de Beaumont has not, as we have heard, been translated or republished in this country. His views of our manners and institutions are exhibited in the form of a novel, which the Quarterly declares to possess considerable interest, and to display in parts a large share of the true genius of romance, notwithstanding that the incidents are few and the commentaries copious. The author declares in a preface, that “though his personages are fictitious, every trait of character has been sketched from the life, and that almost every incident in his tale may be depended on as a fact that had fallen under his own observation.” The reviewer is somewhat scandalized at the author’s avowal of “his belief that the democratic system of government, as now established in America, is the best machinery that ever was invented for developing the political independence and happiness of mankind,” and endeavors to show that M. de Beaumont’s strictures upon our manners and condition (and he cannot be charged with undue lenity in his censure) are inconsistent with that avowal. The reviewer makes copious extracts from the work, which show that the author is disposed to censure severely the condition of the colored population in this country, without a fair consideration of the circumstances which produced it. But we can scarcely judge of the book from the extracts in the review, which are probably the most unfavorable that could be found, as the reviewer displays a strong desire to draw from the opinions of the French author, support for the assertions of English travellers.

——

MY LIFE, by the author of Tales of Waterloo, &c. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1835.

This is the production of a lively and spirited writer. He describes skirmishes, onslaughts and battles, with the familiarity of one who has not seldom taken a part in such actions-traces the Irish character with great fidelity, and best of all, his book abounds in humorous incidents. The contre-pieds between the hero and his cousin, “Jack the Devil,” are admirably detailed. Jack is a rare specimen of the Wild Irishman, and we have seldom been more amused than we were with the history of the scrapes in which he involved himself and his cousin. The battle of Waterloo is sketched briefly, but with a graphic pen. The last struggle of that day, when Ney led the Old Guard to the charge, and the description of the “field red with slaughter,” after the work of death had concluded, give evidence of the painting of an eye-witness.

——

BELFORD REGIS, or Sketches of a Country Town, by Miss Mitford. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard. 1835.

Like “Our Village,” these are delightful productions, abounding with wholesome satire of folly and prejudice, and displaying in strong relief the humble virtues of retired life. Some of the characters are conceptions of great loveliness, and many of the scenes are wrought with most pathetic effect. The story of Hester is admirable. We have seldom dwelt with more delighted interest over a picture of juvenile virtue and self-devotion. [page 652:]

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EDITORIAL REMARKS

We have but a few words to offer upon the contents of the present number. Generally they must speak for themselves; but in regard to others we may be permitted a passing comment.

No. II of the Dissertation on the characteristic differences between the sexes, sustains the high character of the first number. And although the branch of the subject — Religious Differences — which the author has discussed in the present number, seems to promise little amusement for the general reader, it will be found upon perusal, to have been so ingeniously treated, so beautifully illustrated, that even he who entirely eschews polemics, will be edified and delighted. It was upon this point that we felt the most solicitude for the success of the writer, for there is no part of his subject so difficult to manage, or in which he was so liable to fall below the expectations of his readers. But he has overcome its difficulties, and presents us with a disquisition, entirely free from the narrowness of sectarian views, and deeply grounded in the philosophy of the human mind. His view of the religion of woman is accurate and beautiful, — her proneness to lean on the strength of a more powerful being, her confiding nature, her facility in believing where man cavils and doubts, and the tendency of her religious sentiments to degenerate into superstition, contrasted with the besetting evils of man’s religious faith — bigotry and fanaticism — are admirably portrayed. His illustration of this contrast is clear and convincing, whilst his style throughout is easy and attractive. He seems to have drawn the true inspiration from his subject, and is doubtless a believer in the doctrine of the ingenious Biron —

“From woman’s eyes this doctrine I derive:

They sparkle still the right promethean fire;

They are the books, the arts, the academes,

That show, contain, and nourish all the world;

Else, none at all in aught proves excellent.”

Grayson Griffith is a religious story. We approve of the moral, as a matter of course — who will not? But we do not come quite up to the writer’s standard of perfection, for we candidly confess we cannot see the germs of perdition in a social game of whist; and while we detest gambling and gamblers, the proscription of amusements innocent in themselves, because some remote analogy may be traced between them and practices at once immoral and every way destructive, seems to us irreconcileable with sound logic or true philosophy. The attempt to trace the vices of men to early habitudes is not always successful, as the power of good or evil impressions over the mind and habits, is essentially modified by the character of each individual. Besides, accident often determines the destinies of men, so far as we can see, in very spite of every previous tendency. We doubt, for instance, whether the fascinations of the faro-table would not have been as great to Grayson if he had never seen a card, as they proved to be, as related in the story. But we are getting into the discussion of a question which requires more time and space than we have to spare.

The “Letter on the United States, by a Young Scotchman,” is generally amusing; but some of the passages in it strike us with surprise. He tells us that, “although the Americans are great novel readers, there is too much matter-of-fact about them; they are too calculating [column 2:] and money-making [this from a Scotchman!] to serve the purposes of the novelist. They form but indifferent heroes and heroines of romance, and hence Cooper is obliged to resort to the sea to rake up pirates and smugglers, or to go back to the revolution or the early settlement of his country to find characters and incidents calculated to give verisimilitude and interest to his tales.” This seems to us hasty and jejune criticism. Cooper was not, as we know, “obliged” to rake up pirates and smugglers; but as this writer has told us in the ninth number of the Messenger, “He (Cooper) had been for some years an officer in the American Navy, where he acquired a knowledge of all the minutia of nautical life, which was of great service to him in the composition of some of his tales. These are justly considered as his best” — and he might have added, are written with power peculiar to Cooper, of whom it may truly be said:

“His march is on the mountain wave

His home is on the deep.”

And well would it have been for his fame had he never abandoned his proper element. On shore he generally makes as awkward a figure as one of his nautical he. roes would do, after a voyage, before he had gotten rid of his “sea legs.” We have read Cooper’s last, the Monikins, but at too late a period to allow a regular notice of it in this number. En passant, however, we must say that it is an entire failure-vapid, pointless, and inane. It appears to be an attempted satire on mankind, a bungling imitation of Swift’s account of the Houynhmins. Mr. Cooper’s monkies are a tedious race, and his Yankee captain, “Noah Poke,” the principal interlocutor, as the lawyers would term him, is little better. We believe that all who have read this work, will agree, that the sooner its author is “oblige‘d” to take again to salt water, and “rake up pirates and smugglers,” the better it will be for his own reputation, and the purses of his booksellers.

In regard to the poetry of this number, we must con. tent ourselves with drawing attention to the pathetic effusion “on the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Girl.”

——

To Correspondents.

Many favors have been again unavoidably postponed. The communication of Scriblerus exhibits talent, and is written well, but is not adapted to the pages of the Messenger. The writer would doubtless succeed upon other subjects, and we invite him to make the experiment. “A fragment of the thirteenth century,” has held us in doubt for some days; but we have finally decided upon its exclusion. We are not better pleased with the poetry of Timandi, than with his prose.

The quantity of rhyme poured in upon us, is indeed a matter of admiration. The effusions which we consign to outer darkness monthly, are past enumeration. Such, for instance, as one containing the following lines, and which purports to be “copyed from a young ladies Album” —

Miss E we have oftimes met before

And — we may — meet no more

What shall I say at parting

Many years have run their race

Since first I saw your face

Around this gay and giddy place

Sweet smiles and blushes darting.

 


[[Footnotes]]

[The following footnote appears at the bottom of page 651, column 1:]

* “Marie, ou l‘Esclavage aux Etas-Unis, Tableau de Mœurs Americaines par Gustave de Beaumont, l‘un des Auteurs de Pouvrage intitulé Du Systeme Pénitentiare aux Etas-Unis.”


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Notes:

None.


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[S:0 - SLM, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - SLM Literary Reviews (July 1835) (Text-02)