The Student. A series of Papers. By the author of "Eugene Aram," &c. in two vols. Harpers: New York.
Mr. Bulwer is a brilliant instance of successful authorship. He is an author by profession, — also by inclination, as indeed without a natural bent and fondness he could not have been so successful. He makes a business of writing, and a profitable business it is to him. Each of his works puts a large sum of money in his purse. He is far better paid for his literary labor than any living British writer, and but few before him have turned their pens to such wordly [[worldy]] advantage. To have reaped such solid fruits with the accompanying reputation, and to continue to reap them, is a sign of the possession of no common powers. He is unquestionably a writer of great versatility of faculties, of uncommon activity and sprightliness of mind, of extensive reading, and rare talent in turning his reading and knowledge to account. He is a fit subject therefore for criticism: he invites it, and can bear it.
Conceding to him a high degree of merit, we deny to him the quality of excellence which many ascribe to him and to which he thinks himself entitled. We think he is mistaken in believing that because Pelham has lived six years that it will live sixty. We doubt whether it will be read by sixty people in a year sixteen years hence. And notwithstanding his assertion of belief in the durability of his works, — to which we make no objection, for we like to have an author speak frankly of himself — we think he evinces a consciousness of his ephemeral character. He seems to be anxious to keep himself before the public by new efforts, as if this were the only way of holding the attention he has gained. Whether we are right or not in attributing to him this feeling, we are ourselves of opinion that it is the only means of continuing to occupy the conspicuous place he has attained. He has nothing to [[fall]] back upon. Were he to pause long he would pass into oblivion. His great success is in his ability to gratify the craving for stimulants in the present reading multitude. Like mint julep, his literary mixtures are pleasant and pungent, but like the most fascinating morning draft, they require a yearly renewal of materials, and to be taken quickly.
Of the work before us the best part is the 'Conversations of an ambitious student in ill health,' once before republished in this country. There are fine things in this, especially the criticism on Young, the Poet, as there are also throughout the two volumes. There is however an unpleasant glitter even about his best pages. There is too an under current of egotism which greatly spoils their transparency. This sometimes bubbles up to the surface, as when at the end of a becoming rhapsody on 'Lake Leman and its associations' he utters the hope that among the names which she retains she may not reject his. In a note to one of his tales he tells us that it is part of a philosophical prose poem which he may hereafter complete, the chief task in the composition of which, he says, would be to avoid any imitation of Goethe's Faust. Now we will warrant him against any such danger: he need fear no approximation to it. He evidently thinks himself profound, but we should say that he is only skilful in following other minds into the depths they have explored, where he picks up and sometimes brightens what they reveal. Many of his good things have an engrafted look, as if their roots were of other trees.
[This item is tentatively ascribed as "probably Poe's" by T. O. Mabbott, in manuscript notes in the Mabbott Collection at the University of Iowa. It is not mentioned along with the other three items in Mabbott's article "A Few Notes on Poe," Modern Language Notes, XXXV, June 1920, pp. 373-374.]
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