Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), “Review of New Books,” Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, VI, June 1840, pp. 293-294.


[page 293:]


The Youth of Shakspeare. By the author of Shakspeare and his Friends. ‘Three Volumes. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.

“Shakspeare and His Friends” was well received among that not very numerous class of readers to which the book was addressed, or rather whose approbation the author expected. In fact, the work was more antiquarian than otherwise in character, and had no claims upon the popular attention. Its design is peculiar the design of embodying the fancied and historical Shakspeare (and his friends) in a connected narrative based as far as possible upon facts, and clothed in a language which professed to preserve the outward form as well as inward spirit of the times recorded. This was a difficult attempt but the general opinion is, that it was successful, and we have no wish at present to dissent from this opinion. We have heard that the work met with a ready sale; a matter which we find it difficult to believe. Popularity might have been attained, and an obvious discrepancy avoided, by relating the story in modern words.

“The Youth of Shakspeare” is a kind of preamble to “Shakspeare and His Friends,” as the title sufficiently indicates. The two works, or rather the two parts of the one work, are precisely in one vein. [page 294:]

The Proud Ladye and other Poems. By Spencer Wallace Cone. Wiley and Putnam, New York.

The readers of the “Gentleman's Magazine” are well acquainted with the productions and with the talents of Mr. Cone, for whose ability we entertain a high respect. In our last number, it will be remembered, we published a beautiful little ballad from his pen, called “The Betrayed,” which has been much admired wherever read. The “Proud Ladye,’’ from which the present volume takes its title, occupies twenty-two pages, and consists of some seven or eight hundred lines. The story is one of chivalry and love, and has a happy termination. The incidents are well conceived and executed, and in many passages the language is of high beauty. Here are some lines which will be immediately recognized by all men of taste as belonging to a lofty class of poetry embodying natural thoughts in forcible, simple, and very expressive language, well versified:

Life hath summer weather,

And many a wintry blast;

And oft they come together,

Or follow each so fast,

That when the heart beats highest,

Most joyously and warm,

The bitter wind brings nighest

The tears, and the cold, cold storm. [column 2:]

But when clouds in armies move,

As the storms their trumpets blow,

The sky is as bright above

As the clouds are dark below,

And ere long the conquering sun

Comes forth in his mail of light,

And the coward storm-clouds run

From his shield, and his spear-beams bright. [column 1:]

And here again is a passage which breathes the true soul of poetry, and gives evidence of a purity of taste as well as a vigor of thought which may lead to high eminence in the end.

Lay him upon no bier,

But on his knightly shield;

The warrior's corpse uprear,

And bear him from the field.

Spread o’er his rigid form

The banner of his pride,

And let him meet the conqueror worm,

With his good sword by his side. [column 2:]

To the dark grave we go,

Bearing the proud and great,

Where quick decay will know

Nor title nor estate.

Pour forth the solemn strain,

Wail for the mighty dead;

For dust hath come to dust again,

And the warrior's spirit fled. [column 1:]

The poem of the “Proud Ladye” has, we are forced to say, many minor, and some very serious defects, and of these we would say more, did we not regard them rather as the results of deficient practice, than of false conception or bad taste. It abounds in striking thoughts, original, and generally well expressed.

High-Ways and By-Ways; or Tales of the Roadside, picked up in the French Provinces by a Walking Gentleman. A new edition, revised and corrected, with an original Introduction and Explanatory Notes by the Author. George Roberts, Boston.

These tales are very well known to the public. We doubt if any similar productions have been received with a greater share of popular favor popular favor of a certain kind. But in some respects they are deficient, very much so, when regarded rather as works of arts, than as the means of ordinary amusement. Mr. Grattan has, we think, a bad habit of loitering in the road of literature of dallying and toying with his subjects, as a kitten with a mouse instead of grasping it firmly at once, and eating it up without ado. He takes up too much time in the anteroom. He has never done with his introductions. Occasionally, one introduction is the mere vestibule to another; so that by the time he arrives at his main incidents, there is nothing more to tell. He seems afflicted with that curious, yet common perversity which is often observed in garrulous old women a love of talking, and a perfect ability to talk well, combined with an irrepressible desire of tantalizing an audience by circumlocution.

Mr. Grattan is now in Boston, (as our readers all know,) where he is highly beloved and respected by a large circle of friends. We have never had the pleasure of his personal acquaintance, and cannot, therefore, speak with decision in regard to the merit, as a likeness, of the miserable, greasy-looking lithograph print which professes to represent him in the frontispiece. We may say positively, however, that if Mr. Grattan this be, then Mr. Grattan is like nobody else in the world; for the fact is, that we never yet knew any individual with a wig made of wire, and with the countenance of an under-done apple dumpling. As a general rule, no man should put his own face in his own book. In looking at the countenance of the author, the reader is never in capacity for keeping his own.




[These items were attributed to Poe by Hull. Mabbott confirms the attribution of the review of The Proud Ladye in Poems, 1969, p. 323, noting Cone's poem as a possible source for “The Conqueror Worm.”]


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