Text: Edgar Allan Poe, Critical Notices, Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. II, no. 5, June 1836, 2:???-???


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Notices of the War of 1812. By John Armstrong. New York: George Dearborn.

These “Notices,” by the former Secretary of War, are a valuable addition to our history, and to our historical literature — embracing a variety of details which should not have been so long kept from the cognizance of the public. We are grieved, however, to see, even in the opening passages of the work, a piquancy and freedom of expression, in regard to the unhappy sources of animosity between America and the parent land, which can neither today nor hereafter answer any possible good end, and may prove an individual grain in a future mountain of mischief. At page 12, for example.

Still her abuse of power did not stop here: it was not enough that she thus outraged her rights on the ocean; the bosoms of our bays, the mouths of our rivers, aw even the wharves of our harbors, were made the theatres of the most flagitious abuse; and as if determined to leave no cause of provocation untried, the personal rights of our seamen were invaded: and men, owing her no allegiance, nor having any connexion with her policy or arms, were forcibly seized, dragged on board her ships of war and made to fight her laities, own the scourge of tyrants and slaves, with whom submission, whether right or wrong, form the vrhojedtuytf man.

We object, particularly here to the use of the verb forms in the present tense.

Mr. Armstrong's publication will extend to two volumes — the second following as soon as possible. What we have now is mostly confined to the operations on the frontier. The subjects of main interest are the opposition to the War — Hull's Expedition — Loss at Michilimackinac — Surrender of Detroit — Militia operations in the West — Harrison's Autumnal and Winter Campaigns — the Partial Armistice — the attack on dueenstown, by Van Rensselaer — the invasion of Canada, by Smith — the campaign against the British advanced posts on Lake Champlain, by Dearborn [page 451:] Chauncey and Dearborn's Expedition — the reduction of York and Fort George — the affair of Sackett's Harbor — the first and second investments of Fort Meigs — and the defeat of the British fleet on Lake Erie. The Appendix embraces a mass of official and other matter, which will prove of great service to the future historian. What follows has with us a deep interest, and we know many who will understand its origin and character.

The ministry of the elder Adams in England, began in the 10th of June, 1785. In a letter to the American Secretary of Foreign Affairs, on the 19th of July following, he says — “The popular pulse seems to beat high against America; the people are deceived by numberless falsehoods circulated by the Gazettes, &c so that there is too much reason to believe, that if the nation had another hundred million to spend, they would soon force the ministry into a war against us. Their present system, as far as I can penetrate it, is to maintain a determined peace with all Europe, in order that they may wear singly against America, if they should think it necessary.”

In a second letter of the 30th of August following, he says — “In short, sir, America has no party at present in her favor — all parties, on the contrary, have committed themselves against us — even Shelburne and Buckingham. I had almost said, the friends of America are reduced to Dr. Price and Dr. Jebb.”

Again, on the 15th of October, 1785, he informs the American Secretary — “that though it is manifestly as much the interest of Great Britain to be well with us, as for us to be well with them, yet this is not the judgment of the English nation; it is not the judgment of Lord North and his party; it is not the judgment of the Duke of Portland and his friends, and it does not appear to be the judgment of Mr. Pitt and the present set In short, it does not at present appear to be the sentiment of any body; and I am much inclined to believe they will try the issue of importance with us.”

In his two last letters, the one dated in November, the other in December, 1787, we find the following passages — “If she [England] can bind Holland in her shackles, and France, from internal dissension, is unable to interfere, she will make war immediately against us. No answer is made to any of my memorials, or letters lo the ministry, nor do I expect that any thing will be done while I stay.”

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Thoughts on the Religious State of the Country; with Reasons for preferring Episcopacy. By Rev. Calvin Colton. New York: Harper & Brothers,

If we are to consider opinions of the press, when in perfect accordance throughout so wide a realm as the United States, as a fair criterion by which to estimate the opinions of the people, then it must be admitted that Mr. Cotton's late work, “Four Years in Great Britain,” was received, in the author's native land at least, with universal approbation. We heard not a dissenting voice. The candor, especially — the good sense, the gentlemanly feeling, and the accurate and acute observation of the traveller, were the daily themes of high, and, we have no doubt, of well merited panegyric. Nor in any private circle, we believe, were the great merits of the work disputed. The book now before us, which bears the running title of “Reasons for Episcopacy,” is, it cannot be denied, a sufficiently well-written performance, in which is evident a degree of lucid arrangement, and simple perspicuous reason, not to be discovered, as a prevailing feature, in the volumes to which we have alluded. The candor of the “Four years in Great Britain,” is more particularly manifest in the “Reasons for Episcopacy.” What a lesson in dignified frankness, to say nothing of common sense, may the following passage afford to many a dunder-headed politician!

Inasmuch as it has been supposed by some, that the author of these pages has made certain demonstrations with his pen against that which he now adopts and advocates, it is not unlikely that his consistency will be brought in question. Admitting that he has manifested such an inclination, it can only be said, that he has changed his opinion, which it is in part the design of this book to set forth, with the reasons thereof. If he has written against, and in the conflict, or in any train of consequciues, has been convinced that his former position was wrong, the least atonement he can make is to honor what he now regards as truth with a profession as public, and a defence as earnest, as any other doings of his on the other side. It is due to himself to say and to claim, that while he remained a Presbyterian he was an honest one; and it would be very strange if he had never done or said any thing to vindicate that ground. Doubtless he has. He may now be an equally honest Episcopalian; and charity would not require him to assert it.

But the truth is that Mr. Colton has been misunderstood. To be sure, he has frequently treated of the evils attending the existence and operation of the church establishment in England — the union of Church and State. He manifested deep sympathy for those who suffered under the oppression of this establishment, and even allowed himself to be carried so far (in some early communications on the subject which appeared in the columns of a New York weekly paper,) as to animadvert in unbecoming trims upon a class of British [page 454:] clergymen, whose exemplary conduct deserved a more lenient treatment, but whose zeal for the Church of England blinded them to a sense of justice towards Dissenters, and induced them to oppose that just degree of reform which would have proved effectual in remedying the great causes of complaint. He contended, however, if we are not greatly in error, that total reform, to be safe, must be slow — that a separation at a single blow, could not be effected without great hazard to the public interest, and great derangement of private society.

It is even possible (and Mr. Colton himself admits the possibility) that, mingled up with these animadversions of which we speak, might have been some censures upon the Church itself. This was nothing more than natural in an honest and indignant man — an American loo, who beheld the vices of the British Church Establishment. But it appears to us quite evident, that the strictures of the author (when considered as a whole and in their general bearing,) have reference to the character — not of the Church — but of the Church of England. Let us turn, for an exemplification of what we say, to his chapter on “The Church of England,” in the “Four Years in Great Britain.” This chapter consists principally of a collection of facts, tending to show the evils of a conjoined Church and State, and intended especially for the perusal of Americans. It is great injustice to confound what we find here, with an attack upon Episcopacy. Yet it seems to us, that this chapter has been repeatedly so misunderstood, by a set of people who are determined to understand every thing in their own particular fashion. “That Episcopacy,” says Mr. Colton, in vindicating himself from the charge adduced, “ is the established Church of England is an accident. Presbyterianism is the established religion of Scotland and of some parts of the north of Europe. So was it of England under the Protectorate of Cromwell. No matter what had been the form of the established religion of Great Britain, in the same circumstances the results must have been substantially the same. It is not Episcopacy that has induced these evils, but the vicious and impracticable plan of uniting Church and State for the benefit of society.”

While in England Mr. Colton wrote and published a book on the subject of Revivals, and declared himself their advocate. In the fifth chapter of his present work he opposes them, and in the Preface alludes to his so doing, maintaining that these religious excitements arc materially changed in their character. He speaks also of a chapter in a former work, entitled “The Americans, by an American in England” — a chapter devoted to the removal of aspersions cast in England upon the developments of religion in America. For some such defence it appears that he was called upon by friends. The effort itself was, as Mr. C. assures us, of the nature of an apology — neither attempting to recommend or establish any thing — and he thus excuses himself for apparent inconsistency in now declaring an opinion against the expediency of the practices which were scandalized.

The Episcopacy of Mr. Colton will be read with pleasure and profit by all classes of the Christian community who admire perspicuity, liberality, frankness, and unprejudiced inquiry. It is not our purpose to speak [column 2:] of the general accuracy of his data, or the soundness of his deductions. In style the work appears to us excessively faulty — even uncouth.



This volume, from an officer of our Navy, and s Virginian, strongly commends itself to nonce. The works at present used by our navy and general marine, though in many respects not devoid of merit, hate always struck us as faulty in two particulars They aim at comprising a great multiplicity of details, many of which relate to matters only remotely bearing upon the main objects of the treatise — and they are deficient in that clearness of arrangement, without which, the numerous facts and formula” composing the body of such works are little else than a mass of confusion. The extraction of the really useful rules and principles from the multifarious matters with which they are thus encumbered, is a task for which seamen are little likely to have either time or inclination, and it is therefore not surprising that our highly intelligent navy exhibits so many instances of imperfect knowledge upon points which are elementary and fundamental in the science of navigation.

We think that Mr. Maury has, to a considerable degree, avoided the errors referred to; and while his work comprises a sufficient and even copious statement of the rules and facts important to be known in the direction of a ship, he has succeeded, by a judicious arrangement of particulars and by clearly wrought numerical examples, in presenting them in a disembarrassed and very intelligible form. With great propriety he has rejected many statements and rules which in the progress of nautical science have fallen into disuse, and in his selection of methods of computation, has, in general, kept in view those modern improvements in this branch of practical mathematics in which simplicity and accuracy are most happily combined. Much attention to numerical correctness seems to pervade the work. Its style is concise without being obscure. The diagrams are selected with taste, and the engraving and typography, especially that of the tables, are worthy of the highest praise.

Such, we think, are the merits of the work before us — merits which, it must be admitted, are of the first importance in a book designed for a practical manual. To attain them required the exercise of a discriminating judgment, guided by a thorough acquaintance with all the points in nautical science which are of interest to seamen.

There are particulars in the work which we think objectionable, but they are of minor importance, and would probably be regarded as scarcely deserving criticism.

The spirit of literary improvement has been awakened among the officers of our gallant navy. We are pleased to sec that science also is gaining votaries from its ranks. Hitherto how little hare they improved the golden opportunities of knowledge which their distant voyages held forth, and how little have they enjoyed the rich banquet which nature spreads for them in every clime they visit! But the time is coming when, imbued with a taste for science and a spirit of research, they will become ardent explorers of the regions in which [page 455:] they sojourn. Freighted with the knowledge which observation only can impart, and enriched with collections of objects precious to the student of nature, their return after the perils of a distant voyage will then be doubly joyful. The enthusiast in science will anxiously await their coming, and add his cordial welcome to the warm greetings of relatives and friends.

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Flora and Thalia; or Gems of Flowers and Poetry: being an Alphabetical Arrangement of Flowers, with appropriate Poetical Illustrations, embellished with Colored Plates By a Lady. To which is added a Botanical Description of the various parts of a Flower, and the Dial of Flowers. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard.

This is a very pretty and very convenient volume, on a subject which, since the world began, has never failed to excite curiosity and sympathy in all who have a proper sense of the beautiful. It contains 240 pages, and 24 finely colored engravings, which give a vivid idea of the original plants. These engravings are the Meadow Anemone — the Harebell — the Christmas Rose — the Dahlia — the Evening Primrose — the Fox-Glove — the Heliotrope — the Purple Iris — the Jasmine — the King- Cup — the Lavender — the Mezereon — the Narcissus — the Orchis — the Clove Pink — the Quince — the Provence Rose — the Solomon's Seal — the Tobacco — the Bear Berry — the Violet Pansy — the Wall-Flower — the Yellow Water-Flag, and the Zedoary. The bulk of the volume is occupied with poetical illustrations exceedingly well selected. We do not believe there is a single poem in the book which may not be considered above mediocrity — many are exquisite. The Botanical description of the variety parts of a Flower, is well conceived — brief, properly arranged, and sufficiently comprehensive. The Dial of Flowers, will be especially admired by all our fair readers. The following extract from page 227, will given an idea of the nature of this Dial — the manner of composing which, is embraced entire, in the form of a Table, on page 229.

These properties of flowers, and the opening and shutting of many at particular times of day, led to the idea of planting them in such a manner as to indicate the succession of the hours, and to make them supply the place of a watch or clock. Those who art disposed to try the experiment, may easily compose such a dial by consulting the following Table, comprehending the hours between three in the morning and eight in the evening. It is, of course, impossible to insure the accurate going of such a dial, because the temperature, the dryness, and the dampness of the air have a considerable influence on the opening and shutting of flowers.

We copy from the Floria and Thalia the following anonymous lines.

Alas! on thy forsaken stem

My heart shall long recline,

And mourn the transitory gem,

And make the story mine!

So on my joyless winter hour

Has oped some fair and fragrant flower,

With smile as soft as thine.

Like thee the vision came and went,

Like thee it bloomed and fell;

In momentary pity sent,

Of fairy climes to tell:

So frail its form, so short its stay,

That nought the lingering heart could say,

But hail, and fare thee well!


We are sorry to perceive that our friends of the “Southern Literary Journal” are disposed to unite with the “Knickerbocker” and “New York Mirror” in covert, and therefore unmanly, thrusts at the “Messenger.” It is natural that these two journals (who refund it exchange with us from the first) should feel themselves aggrieved at our success, and we own tint bearing them no very good will, we care little what injury they do themselves in the public estimation by suffering their mortification to become apparent. But we are embarked in the cause of Southern Literature, and (with perfect amity to all sections) wish to claim especially as a friend and co-operator, every Southern Journal. We repeat, therefore, that we are grieved to see a disposition of hostility, entirely unprovoked, manifested on the part of Mr. Whitaker. He should reflect, that while we ourselves cannot for a moment believe him otherwise than perfectly upright and sincere in his animadversions upon our Magazine, still there is hardly one individual in ninety-nine who will not attribute every ill word he says of us to the instigations of jealousy.





[S:0 - SLM, 1836] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Criticial Notices (June 1836)