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[Text: Edgar Allan Poe (?), "Literary" (A), from The Evening Mirror (New York), November 16, 1844, p. 2, col. 4.]

[page 2, column 4, continued:]


"BOYD'S RHETORIC," &c -- The "object and plan of this work" are excellent. "Its object is to train the young to think, and to be able to give a perspicuous, forcible, and elegant expression to thought in a written form. It is designed, also, to cultivate the taste, the judgement and the imagination; to exhibit not only the rules, but copious examples of conformity to these rules, in the study of which the scholar may learn to criticise the literary efforts of others, as well as his own. It combines, also, what is conceived important to the awakening of a literary spirit in our youth, a succinct but satisfactory history of our mother tongue, also of the classes of writings, which have been composed in it, and of their progress toward perfection."

All this is very good, and the book contains many other good things besides. About one half of it would be very acceptable to us; and the other half would not serve our purpose, nor, in our opinion, go far to build up and refine the national taste. We are great believers in the power of elementary books, as the good seed in the popular mind -- and mot gladly do we accept of any that seems to us of a germinant character; but we are exceeding careful in what we commend, and exceedingly vigilant and forbearing in accepting the commendation of others. Being so, we have examined Mr. Boyd's book kindly and candidly, but we must object to its general tendencies. We cannot admire many of his authorities, and many of his illustrations. We do not consider Mr. George Cheever as a very great critic, nor Mr. Pollok as a very beautiful poet, nor Dr. Chalmers as a very edifying writer, nor Mrs. Ellis an alluring teacher of goodness. We once heard a very good critic remark of a certain lady's poetry, that it resembled Jean Paul's father -- it was "very pious and very poor." Many very amiable versifyers are in the same predicament.

We think it a great mistake to accord eminence to third-rate minds, and to represent mediocrity in literature as something of higher rank. We are not of the Compend School; we should never suggest to young minds, under discipline, that Professor Frost, Professor Hadduck, Mr. Knapp, or any other of the great obscure, are entitled to much deference for any critical suggestions we have ever seen of theirs. The grand, conclusive objection to this book, however, is the abominable printing of it.

THE SETTLERS IN CANADA, BY CAPT. MARRYAT -- D. APPLETON & CO. -- Like all the Captain's efforts, these volumes have the grace of readability; and until we discover the source whence the whole or a part of the incidents may have been, -- borrowed -- we shall accord the book the credit of originality too. We should think children would find a Crusoe-like interest about the "Settlers in Canada," and we commend the book as a holiday present.

THE LIFE OF FRANCIS MARION, BY W. GILMORE SIMMS -- H. G. Langley,. -- Hard reading -- very -- Mr. Simm's style, always heavy, is particularly ill-suited to a historical narrative which had in itself little to interest the general reader. Take a specimen; it is the comment which follows the remark that Marion, like Washington, had no children. "This may have baffled some hopes, and in some degree qualified his happiness, but did not impair his virtues." Does it often impair men's morals to be without children?

[In this same section, following the items given above, appear three short notices: "Droppings from the Heart, by Thomas Mackellar"; "Spark's American Biography -- Vol. XIII, New Series III"; and "Growth of Western Literature."]

[These three reviews were attributed to Poe by T. O. Mabbott in his notes at the University of Iowa, and by W. D. Hull. For the review of Simms, Mabbott refers to the Poesque tone and to a letter from Willis in reply to a letter to the Mirror signed "Gilpin":

[We give place to the following remonstrance, because we think the writer's view of the heroism of MARION is correct. With regard to any blame for severity toward Mr. Simms, we must take what is left, after the statement of the following fact: -- On receiving his book for review, we mistrusted our own judgment, (from never having read his previous works,) and we handed it without comment, for review, to one of the first and fairest writers of this country.]

NEW YORK, Nov. 18th, 1844.

MESSRS. EDITORS -- I perceive in your literary notices of the 16th inst., you apply the lash with an unsparing hand, upon Mr. Simms, the author of the life of "Francis Marion." You say that, "Mr. Simm's style, always heavy, is particularly ill-suited to a historical narrative, which had, in itself, little to interest the general reader." -- Now I have no remarks to make in regard to the peculiarity of Mr. Simms's style, because I am not familiar with it, but the subject is one of thrilling "interest to the general reader." Francis Marion was a very prominent actor "in the times that tied men's souls," and one amongst the most efficient officers of the revolutionary war. He was a pure man and a devoted patriot, and deserves as much fame for defeating the machinations of domestic enemies as Washington for conquering foreign foes. His history is a series of thrilling incident and heroic adventure; and his life by "Mason L. Weems" was adopted and and [[sic]] has been considered an invaluable school-book in the Southern Academies for the last twenty years. Respectfully, GILPIN.  (EM, November 22, 1844, p. 2, column 2).

Mabbott considers "first and fairest writers of this country" to be a typical Willis reference to Poe. There is another letter about the review, in direct reply to Gilpin," defending the original review. That letter is undated, but is signed "Ton Callender." The letter reads, "MESSRS. EDITORS: -- Your correspondent, 'Gilpin,' must have read your notice of Simms's life of Marion, with optics different from mine, if he found in it any disparagement of the Southern hero. I, with the highest appreciation of the character of Marion, agreed entirely with your reviewer in his estimation of the book. It is a book of details, in which, although the hero is not unreasonably exalted, yet he is sometimes in danger of being overlaid. . . . Honest opinions are a great desideratum in literary matters, and I do not think they are especially frequent among us -- which may account, perhaps, for our wincing so dreadfully when British spite applies the lash. A little more independence of opinion and expression among ourselves would go far towards forestalling these bitter critics; and I hope you, Messiers of the Mirror, will always lend your valuable aid in a matter which so deeply concerns your country's honor." (The letter appears in the Evening Mirror of November 23, 1844, p. 2, column 6.)

For the other two notices, Mabbott says "Reviews of Boyd's Rhetoric & Marryat, possible!" The Review of Boyd's Rhetoric was attributed to Poe by Hull as "I think it possible that the notice is from Poe's pen." The notice of Marryatt was attributed to Poe by Hull, as "Poe's I think." The notice of Simms was attributed to Poe also by Hull, apparently for stylistic reasons.]

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[S:0 - NYEM, 1844]