Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Review of New Books,”, Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, VI, January 1840, pp. 53-58


[page 53:]



[[The first item is a long review by Poe of Thomas Moore's Alciphron, a Poem]]

[page 57:]

[[The second item is a review of A Continuation of the Memoirs of Charles Mathews, Comedian. This review is probably by William E. Burton, himself a well-known stage comedian. Although it is attributed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott in Tales and Sketches, 3:1209 n. 4, based on the reference to poor devil authors.]]

A Continuation of the Memoirs of Charles Mathews, Comedian. Including his Correspondence, and an Account of his Resicence in the United States. Two volumes. Lea and Blancard, Philadelphia.

This continuation is undoubtedly a good thing, but somewhat too much of a good thing. In addition to the first series, we have now two closely printed volumes of more than three hundred pages each. This extensive amount of memorandum would be amply sufficient in regard to the most conspicuous character that ever existed. Still it cannot be denied that much and varied amusement is to be picked out from the mass of Boswell-like detail with which Mrs. Mathews has overwhelmed us. Those who do not like the twaddle, can skip it. In place of saving any thing farther about the work, (which will be eagerly sought for and read,) we will devote a page or two of our Review department, this month, to an extract from the first volume, which appears (we know not how, or why,) to be more full of mere fun than its successor. We can the better spare the space for these passages, as the book-publishing world and its concerns seem to be somewhat in abeyance just at present. We critics are beginning to have an idle time of it. If some poor devil authors do not soon turn up we shall die of inanition.

“My husband, on his way homewards from the north, just after assize time, on entering the mail, was fortunate enough to find only two gentlemen, who, being seated opposite to each other, left him the fourth seat for his legs. This comfort was a very unusual instance of good luck to my husband, who never entered a public coach without encountering either a baby in arms, a sick child, or a man in a consumption. The gentlemen passengers were very agreeable men. One, a Scotchman, always a safe card. At the close of the evening, the latter encased his head and throat in an enormous fold of white linen, and then sunk back to sleep, looking like the veiled prophet; while the other, an Englishman, was characteristically satisfied with a” comfortable.” My husband, who was never a wrapper-up, sat prepared to receive the night as a friend rather than as an enemy, content and happy at the advantage already mentioned.

Just as the trio had sunk into their first forgetfulness, before the coachman or guard could” murder sleep” with the startling intimation of” Going no farther!” they were awaked by the sudden stoppage of the vehicle, a light at the door of an inn, and a party of rough discordant voices, bidding, however, a cordial farewell to a large, becoated, and portentous stranger, who in a broad Yorkshire dialect, wished his companions” a good night,” reminding them that he had paid his share of the reckoning, when, to the great discomfiture of our three insides, the door of the mail was opened, and the fourth passenger invited by the guard to enter without farther loss of time.

Since the three gentlemen had “dropped off,” the weather had suddenly changed from frost to snow. A heavy sleet had fallen; and the man we have mentioned quitted the open air, and entered the coach with, appropriately enough, a frieze coat on, powdered all over with the effects of the weather. All shrunk from the damp stranger, who felt all the active embarrassment which attends the entrance into a dark carriage, amongst an uncounted party, in a total ignorance of the whereabout of the vacant seat, and which no courteous hand directed him to. He was pushed, first by one, then the other, and at last my husband forcibly, in keeping him oiT from his own person, lodged the huge, rough-coated animal into the space he was destined to fill. All were discontented at this intrusion, and sufficiently chilled and disturbed to be in a very ill-humor with the odious fourth. They, however, seemed tacitly to agree not to speak to the new comer, but endeavor to regain their before happy unconsciousness. But they had not been spending a jovial evening, as he had whose “absence” they would have” doted upon.” He was in any thing but a sleeping mood; and after a minute's rustling about, in order to settle himself, treading upon my husband's toes, elbowing his neighbor, begging pardon for his so doing, etc., all which was received with a sullen silence, he asked, in a voice which seemed thunder to the sleepers, while he held the pull of the window in one hand” Coompany! oop or down? Answer made they none.

Again he inquired, still dubious of what might be “agreeable,” and desirous to prove himself a polished gentleman, “Coompany! oop or down? Still receiving no answer, a smothered oath bespoke his disgust at such an uncourteous return for that polite consideration for his fellow-passengers; and, with some exasperation of tone, he repeated,” Dom it!I say, Coompany oop or down? Still not a word; and, with another” dom” he allowed” t‘window” to remain down.

It was clear to the half-perceptions of the drowsy travellers that he of the frieze coat had laid in enough spirit to keep him from chilliness, and they hoped the potency of his precaution would soon make him unconscious, as they were disposed to be. But, no; still he was restless and talkative. All at once, however, a

Change came o‘er the spirit of his dream;

he, it appeared, for the first time, perceived the alteration in the weather. His excitement at the doer of the little inn, where ho had left his friends, had caused him totally to overlook the snow; and he saw it now with all that stupid wonder with which such persons receive the most natural [page 58:] transitions, and he exclaimed, in audible soliloquy,” Eh! ma God! what's this? — whoigh, the whole country's covered wi’ snow!eh! it's awful. Company! wake up and see t’ snow! eh, they‘re all asleep! Good God! whoigh it's wonderful and awful! Good Lord, what a noight what a noight! Eh! God presarve all poor creters on the western coast this noight!” Then roaring out once more, in increased vehemence of tone, “Coompany! wake, I say, and see t’ noight! Eh! they‘re dead, i reckon!oh, ma God! what a noight!awful, I reckon!”

In this manner did he go on, until the patience of the English gentleman was tired out, and he at length spoke. “I wish, sir, you'd show some feeling for us, und hold your tongue. We were all asleep when you came in, and you've done nothing but talk and disturb us ever since. You‘re a positive nuisance.”

“Eh!” said he of the friere coat,” I loike that, indeed! Oive as much right here, I reckon, as othersdom‘. awve paid my fare, ar‘nt I V said he, his voice rising as he remembered his claims to consideration. “I‘m a respectable manmy name's John LuckitI owes nobody onything. I pay King's taxesI‘m a respectable man, I say. Aw help to support Church and State. I care for nobody; I‘m a respectable man.” Then looking again out of the window, and relapsing into his ejaculatory mood and stupid abstraction” Eh! what an awful noight! Lord be merciful to all mariners this noight! Lord bo merciful to all poor souls on the western coast!” he hiccupped out, and again the gentleman assailed with a command that he would be silent. John Luckie at this became every moment louder and more intolerable. At length his sense of oppression became so strong that his independence reached its climax, and he declared that he would not hold his tongue or be quiet” no, not for Baron Hullock himself, nor if the great Mr. Brougham (or, as he pronounced the name Mr. Bruffum) himself was in t' coach.”

My husband, who found all tendency to sleep broken up by this obstieperous fellow, now conceived a desire to amuse himself with his fellow-passenger; and, just as John Luckie's last declaration was uttered, Mr. Mathews leant forward to him, and in a half-whisper said, with affected caution, “Hush! you are not aware, but you have been speaking all this time to Baron Hullock himself!” The drover seemed to quail under this intimation” Whoigh, you don‘t say so?” “Fact, I assure you; and opposite to him is Lady Hullock!” The Scotchman with the white drapery over his head began to titter at this. “Whoigh! good God! don‘t tell me thst! Eh! what shall I do? Good Lord! what have I said “Art thou sure?““I am indeed,” said Mr. Mathews; “they arc Baron and Lady Hullock, and I am Mr. Brougham.“” Eh!” said the man in a tone of actual tenor,” let me go!“and struggling to open the coach door” let me go! I‘m no coompany for sitch gentlefolks; aw've no book-laming. Let me get out here, guard! Stop! I woint roide here ony longer!” The guard was insensible to this; and on went the coach, and still John Luckey struggled; and in his rough and clumsy movements a little of my husband's ventriloquy proved a useful auxiliary to urge his welcome departure; and a child suddenly cried out as if hurt. “Eh! my God! what, is there a baim i‘t’ coach, too? Eh! my Lord Baron, pray forgive me, I meant no oirence. My name's John Luckie. I said, coompany oop or down? I meant to be civil. Eh! my Lady Hullock, I hope I‘ve not hurt thy baim.” The child's cries now increased. “Eh! ma bairn, where art thee? Dom! what must I do? Guard! stop and let me out! Eh! what a noight! Guard! I'm not fit coompany for Baron Hullock and Mr. Bruffem, I know. Let me out, I say!” At last his voice reached the higher powers, and the coach stopped, and as soon out rolled this porpoise of a man, who again begging the Baron and his Lady to overlook his rudeness, and asking pardon of “Mr. Bruffem,” he was with some difficulty hoisted upon the top of the mail, and off it drove.

[page 58, continued:]

The Governess. By the Countess of Blessington. Two volumes. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia, [[.]]

We like the “Governess” much better than any thing we have as yet seen from the pen of Mr. Willis’ pet, the Countess of Blessington. The story is pretty well told; there are some passages of pathos, and some of a good, broad, hearty humor, altogether foreign to what we considered the nature of the Countess. In general this lady is only remarkable for the tranquility of her style, and should be put at the head of the school of the quietists. She is never extravagant, never overpowering not she. She never startles a body to death. We never knew her, before this last attempt, [[to]] get out of the every-day, slow-and-sure, good old-fashioned, creep-easy jog-trot of the most orthodox and commendable common-place. “The Governess” has exalted her no little in our estimation. It will be received with favor, and read with interest.

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. By Edgar A. Poe. Two volumes. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.

Messieurs L. and B. have just issued twenty-five stories, having the above title, which pretty well indicates their general character.





[S:0 - BGM, 1840] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Review of New Books [Text-02]