Text: Edgar Allan Poe, Critical Notices, Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. I, no. 12, August 1835, 1:714-716


[page 714:]

Critical Notices and Literary Intelligence.

Visit to the American Churches, by Doctors Reed and Matheson; 2 vols. New York: Harpers. — This work is excellent in its way-being a fine addition to the already numerous commentaries of the English upon our country. The writers, in the present instance, were delegated, about two years since, by the dissenting churches in Great Britain, to visit the United States, for inquiry into our religious condition and character, and were favorably received by our countrymen. They have shown themselves peculiarly free from unworthy prejudice, and have gleaned, with indefatigable zeal, and surprising accuracy, a mass of secular as well as religious information in relation to the United States. The book consists of six hundred closely printed pages, abounding with acute comment, and replete with valuable statistical details. It has a value, too, particularly its own, as exhibiting the real views of two well-educated English clergymen upon the religious, more especially than upon the political and social aspect of our land. The volumes are well written, and likely to do much good in England as well as in the United States. Our readers will remember Doctor Reed as the author of No Fiction, and Martha, both of which publications were favorably noticed in a former number of the Messenger.

The Black Watch, by the author of the Dominie's Legacy; 2 vols. E. L. Carey and A. Hart. — This is perhaps the best of all the writings of this author. The soubriquet of “The Black Watch” is familiar in the anecdotary annals of our country. We all remember its celebrity at Crown Point, and among the wild doings at Lake George. We should be pleased, did it not interfere too much with our arrangements, to give an extract from this novel in our present number. We must, however, confine ourselves to a general recommendation.

Magpie Castle; 1 vol: by Theodore Hook. E. L. Carey and. A. Hart. — This is one of the finest trifles we have had the pleasure of looking into for many years. Hook  is a writer more entirely original in his manner of thinking and speaking than many of his literary brethren who possess a greater reputation.

The American Journal of Science and the Arts, by Benjamin Silliman, JM. D., L. L. D. dc. Vol. XXVIII — No. [column 2:] 11. New Haven: Hezekiah Howe & Co. — We are glad to see that this admirable Journal is no longer in immediate danger of decline. It is the only work of the kind in the United States, and it would be positively disgraceful to let it perish from a want of that patron age which, in the opinion of all proper judges, it so pre-eminently deserves. We perceive a suggestion in the New York American on this subject — an appeal to the lovers of sound knowledge, calling upon them for their aid in behalf of the Journal, and urging them not to let slip any opportunity of speaking a word in its favor. To this appeal we take pleasure in cordially responding. We positively can call to mind, at this moment, no work whatever, more richly deserving of support; and it must be supported, if only for the justice of the thing — it will be supported, we believe, for the credit of the country. The present number, among many well written articles of pure science, contains not a few of universal and practical interest to the people. We beg leave also to call the attention of our readers to the very interesting paper entitled “An Ascent to the summit of the Popocatepetl, the highest point of the Mexican Andes, eighteen thousand feet above the level of the sea.” We have been nearly tempted to extract the entire article.

The Manual of Phrenology; 1 vol. 350 pp. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard. This is a summary of Dr. Gall's system, and a translation from the fourth Paris edition. We might as well make up our minds to listen patiently.

Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaca and Batalha, by Beckford, the author of Vathek, have been recently published in London. We have had occasion before to speak of the author of Vathek, and, without having seen this his last production, we have taken up an idea that it must bear a family resemblance to that heterogeneous, tumid, and blasphemous piece of Easternism, by which Mr. Beckford has acquired so much notoriety. We hope not, however, for the writer's sake, who is undoubtedly a man of genius and fine imagination. However this matter may eventuate — whether we prove to be true prophets, or false — one thing is certain: the work of which we are now speaking, as indeed any book whatever from the same pen, will be read with eagerness; and this for no better reason which we can discover, than that the world have habituated themselves to mix up in their fancy the mind and writings with the former fine house and furniture of Mr. Beckford — the gorgeous nonsense of Vathek, with the vast and absolute magnificence of the Abbey of Fonthill. We predict for the book a rapid sale in this country. The notices which we have seen merely speak of it as a charming specimen of a book made up from nothing at all. It is said, however, to give a faithful picture of monastic life, and a sprightly view of Portugal in 1794.

P.S. It appears that we have not been altogether mistaken in our pre-supposition touching this book. The Recollections consist of little more than a glowing description of monastic epicurism and gourmandise.

The Wife and Woman's Reward, by the Hon. Mrs. Norton, editress of the London Court Journal, has been republished by the Harpers. We have merely glanced at the book, and can therefore say very little about it. Mrs. Norton's name however is high authority. [page 715:] She has written some of the most touching verses in the language, imbued with poetry and passion: and since we saw her lately at breakfast in Frazer's Magazine, we have fallen positively in love with her, and intend to look with a favorable eye upon each and all of her future productions.

The Brothers, a Tale of the Fronde; 2 vols. New York: Harper and Brothers. — This novel is from the pen of Mr. Herbert of New York, one of the editors of the American Monthly Magazine. Detached chapters of it have appeared from time to time in that journal, and gave indication of the glowing talent which is now so apparent in the entire work. As an historical novel, in excellent keeping, written with great fluency and richness of diction, we know of (nothing?) from the American press possessing higher claims than The Brothers of Mr. Herbert.

Letters to Young Ladies; by Mrs. L. H. Sigourney. W. Watson of Hartford, has just published a second edition of this little volume. It contains 200 pages, and consists of twelve letters on subjects appertaining to the female character. Mrs. Sigourney blends a strong and commanding good sense, with the loftier qualities of the poet. She has written nothing which is not, in its particular way, excellent.

Hilliard, Gray & Co. have just published The Comprehensive Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language, with Pronouncing Vocabularies of Classical, Scriptural and Modern Geographical Names, by J. E. Worcester; 1 vol. 12 mo. Also — An Elementary Dictionary for Common Schools, &c. &c.; by the same. The latter of these two works is merely a condensation of the former; and is in so much to be preferred, as it omits references and authority — giving, in cases of doubt, what is deemed upon the whole the proper pronunciation. The Comprehensive Dictionary was first published in 1830. Several editions have been since printed. It contains 6000 words more than Walker.

Matsells, of Chatham, New York, has published. A Few Days in Athens, being a translation of a Greek M.S. discovered in Herculaneum; by Frances Wright. — We have been sadly puzzled what idea to attach to this very odd annunciation — the book itself we have not yet been able to obtain. What it is, and what it is not, must deeply concern every lover of Fanny Wright, pure Greek, and perfect independence.

We perceive that J. N. Reynolds’ Voyage of the United States’ Frigate Potomac — Dr. Bird's Infidel — Tocqueville's Democracy in America — Professor Longfellow's Outre-Mer — and John P. Kennedy's Horse-Shoe Robinson — all of which we noticed favorably in the Messenger — are highly praised in the London Literary Gazette. Outre-Mer sells in that city for nearly $5-Horse-Shoe Robinson, and the Infidel, for $6[[.]]50 each.

A superb work has appeared in Paris — Descriptions of the French Possessions in India, viz: Views of the Coromandel and Madras Coasts — Sketches of the Temples, Gods, Costumes, &c. of the inhabitants of French India. The book is richly ornamented with lithographic plates of exquisite finish, and altogether the publication is worthy of the government under whose direction it has been gotten up.

The July number of the London New Monthly Magazine contains a portrait of Mrs Hemans (from the [column 2:] bust by Angus Kecher,) engraved on steel by Thompson. This is the only likeness of Mrs. Hemans ever published. There is also an article by Willis entitled The Gipsey of Sardis. Since the secession of Campbell in 1831, Samuel Carter Hall has edited the New Monthly — the editorship of Bulwer only enduring for a short interval.

Robert Gilfillan, of Edinburg, the Scottish lyrical writer, has published a second edition of his songs Some of them are said to be of surpassing beauty.

Mr. Hoskins’ Travels in Ethiopia above the Second Cataract of the Nile, are very highly spoken of. The work is a large quarto; and the expense of getting it up has been so great, as to leave its author no chance of remuneration. It contains ninety illustrations, by a Neapolitan artist of great eminence. The risk attending the publication of so valuable a book, will operate to deter any American bookseller from attempting it.

The new number of Lardner's Cyclopaedia is A History of Greece, vol. 1, by the Rev. C. Thirwall, M.d., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. There will be three volumes of it. Alas, for our old and valued friend, Oliver Goldsmith! The book is said to be faithful — but very stupid.

Anecdotes of Washington, illustrative of his patriotism and courage, piety and benevolence, is the title of one of the last of the “Books for the Young.” It is a Scottish publication.

Sir James Mackintosh has just issued A View of the Reign of James II, from his accession to the enterprize of the Prince of Orange. The History of the Revolution in England in 1688, a late work by the same author, sold for three guineas: it was reprinted by the Harpers. The present book is said to be nothing more than a part of the former work in a new dress.

The Honorable Arthur Trevor has issued a volume of The Life and Times of William III, King of England, and Stadtholder of Holland.

Irving's Crayon Sketches, Parts I and II, have been reprinted in Paris by Galignani. Fanny Kemble has been also reprinted there.

Captain Ross, the hero of the North Pole, is losing ground in public favor. Singular discrepancies are said to have been discovered in his last volume, between his map and his text.

Sketches of American Literature, by Flint, are in course of publication in the London Athenaeum. They are not very highly spoken of — being called abstruse and dull.

The finest edition ever yet published of Milton's Paradise Lost, is that of Sir Egerton Brydges, of which the first volume is already issued. It contains the first six books — an engraving from Romney's picture “Milton Dictating to his Daughter,” and a fine vignette, “The Expulsion,” by J. M. W. Turner, R. A. The edition will be completed in six vols.

The Right Hon. J. P. Courtney has in press “Memoirs of the Life, Works, and Correspondence of Sir William Temple. [[”]]

James, the author of Darnley, has completed the Life of Edward the Black Prince.

Lady Dacre, who wrote the Tales of a Chaperon, has published Tales of the Peerage and Peasantry. The work is ostensibly edited by Lady Dacre, but there can be no [page 716:] doubt of her having written it. Every lover of fine writing must remember the story of Ellen Wareham in the Tales of a Chaperon. Positively we have never seen any thing of the kind more painfully interesting, with the single exception of the Bride of Lammermuir. The Tales in the present volumes are The Countess of Nithsdale, The Hampshire Cottage, and Blanche.

Willis’ Pencillings by the Way are regularly republished in the Liverpool Journal.

The Canzoniere of Dante has been translated by C. Lyell with absolute fidelity, and of course with correspondent awkwardness.

Barry Cornwall's Life of Edmund Keen is severely handled in Blackwood's Magazine for July.

The seventh Bridgewater Treatise has appeared in two volumes. It is by the Rev. W. Kirby, the naturalist, and treats of The History, Habits, and Instincts of Animals. The article on the Bridgewater Treatises in the London Quarterly (we believe,) is one of the most admirable essays ever penned-we allude to the paper entitled The Universe and its author.

A second edition of Social Evils, by Mrs. Sherwood, has appeared. Mrs. S. is now well advanced in years.

A political novel is also in press — Mephistopheles in England, or the Confessions of a Prime Minister.

The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon, is in preparation by Lister, author of Granby.

Joanna Baillie is about to issue three new volumes of Dramas on the Passions. She is, in our opinion, the first literary lady in England.

The London Quarterly Review is especially severe on Fanny Kemble's Journal — while an article on the same subject in the last New England Review is as particularly lenient. The paper in the Quarterly is from the pen of Lockhart.

Dr. Bird is preparing for the press a new novel under the name of The Hawks of Hawk's Hollow. The adventures of a band of refugees, who during the revolutionary war infested the banks of the Delaware, will form the groundwork of the story.

Halleck's Poems are in press, and will speedily be published. This announcement has been received with universal pleasure. As a writer of light, airy and graceful things, Halleck is inimitable.

Mr. Simms, author of the Yemassee, has in preparation a novel founded upon incidents in the war of the revolution in South Carolina. He will thus find himself at issue with Mr. Kennedy in Horse-Shoe Robinson. De Kalb, Marion, Gates, and a host of other worthies will figure in the pages of Mr. Simms.

We are looking for The Gift with great anxiety. This annual will have few, perhaps no rivals any where. Its embellishments are of the very highest order of excellence; and a galaxy of talent has been enlisted in its behalf. It is edited by Miss Leslie, and will be issued from the press of Carey and Lea early in September.

In conclusion. Charles Kemble is reported to have said that Fanny's is, beyond doubt, the best and truest book ever published, with the exception of Byron and the Bible.


To Readers and Correspondents.

It has been our custom, hitherto, to offer some few Editorial Remarks explanatory, complimentary, or otherwise, [column 2:] upon each individual article in every Messenger. For this we had many reasons which it will be unnecessary to mention in detail. But although, in the infancy of our journal, such a course might have seemed to us expedient, we are now under no obligation to continue it. We shall therefore, for the future, suffer our various articles to speak for themselves, and depend upon their intrinsic merit for support.

In our next will appear No. VIII of the Tripoline Sketches: No. III of the Autobiography of Pertinax Placid: and many other papers which we have been forced for the present to exclude. Many poetical favors are under consideration.

We avail ourselves of this opportunity again to solicit contributions, especially from our Southern acquaintances. While we shall endeavor to render the Messenger acceptable to all, it is more particularly our desire to give it as as [[sic]] much as possible a Southern character and aspect, and to identify its interests and associations with those of the region in which it has taken root.

As one or two of the criticisms in relation to the Tales of our contributor, Mr. Poe, have been directly at variance with those generally expressed, we take the liberty of inserting here an extract from a letter (signed by three gentlemen of the highest standing in literary matters) which we find in the Baltimore Visiter. This paper having offered a premium for the best Prose Tale, and also one for the best Poem — both these premiums were awarded by the committee to Mr. Poe. The award was, however, subsequently altered, so as to exclude Mr. P. from the second premium, in consideration of his having obtained the higher one. Here follows the extract.

“Among the prose articles offered were many of various and distinguished merit; but the singular force and beauty of those sent by the author of the Tales of the Folio Club, leave us no room for hesitation in that department. We have accordingly awarded the premium to a Tale entitled MS. found in a Bottle. It would hardly be doing justice to the writer of this collection to say that the Tale we have chosen is the best of the six offered by him. We cannot refrain from saying that the author owes it to his own reputation, as well as to the gratification of the community, to publish the entire volume, (the Tales of the Folio Club.) These Tales are eminently distinguished by a wild, vigorous, and poetical imagination — a rich style — a fertile invention — and varied and curious learning.





We presume this letter must set the question at rest. Lionizing is one of the Tales here spoken of — The Visionary is another. The Tales of the Folio Club are sixteen in all, and we believe it is the author's intention to publish them in the autumn. When such men as Miller, Latrobe, Kennedy, Tucker, and Paulding speak unanimously of any literary productions in terms of exalted commendation, it is nearly unnecessary to say that we are willing to abide by their decision.

In every publication like ours, a brief sentence or paragraph is often wanted for the filling out a column, and in such cases it is customary to resort to selection. We think it as well, therefore, to mention that, in all similar instances, we shall make use of original matter.




On September 8, 1835, T. W. White wrote to Lucian Minor, describing the contents of the August issue of the Southern Literary Messenger, “All the Critical & Literary Notices, by Mr. Poe.”


[S:0 - SLM, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Criticial Notices (August 1835)