Text: Edgar Allan Poe (ed. J. A. Harrison), “Review of Sketches of Switzerland,” The Complete Works of Edgar Allan PoeVol. IX: Literary Criticism - part 02 (1902), 9:162-164


[page 162, continued:]


[Southern Literary Messenger, October, 1836.]

THE London Spectator has very justly observed of this, Mr. Cooper's last work, that two circumstances suffice to distinguish it from the class of sketchy tours. He has contrived to impart a narrative interest to his journey; and, being an American, yet intimately conversant with all the beauties of the Old World, he looks at Switzerland with a more instructed eye than the mass of travellers, and is enabled to commit its landscapes to a comparison which few of them have the means of making — thus possessing an idiosyncracy giving freshness to what otherwise would be faded. In our notice of Part 1, of the work before us, we had occasion to express our full sense of the writer's descriptive powers, refined and strengthened as they now appear to us to be. Is it that Mr. Cooper derives vigor from spleen, as Antaeus from earth? This idea might indeed be entertained were his improved power to-day not especially perceptible in his delineations of the calm majesty of nature. It must be observed by all who have read the “Headsman,” and who now read the [page 163:] “Sketches,” that the same scenes are frequently the subject of comment in each work. The drawings in the former are seldom more than mediocre — in the latter we meet with the vivid coloring of a master.

The subject of the first two volumes is Mr. Cooper's visit to Switzerland in 1828 — that of the two now published, his visit in 1832. The four years intervening had effected changes of great moment in the political aspect of all Europe, and produced of course a modification of feeling, taste, and opinion in our author. In his preface he pithily observes — “Four years in Europe are an age to the American, as are four years in America to the European. Jefferson has somewhere said that no American ought to be more than five years at a time out of his own country, lest he get behind it. This may be true as to its facts — but the author is convinced that there is more danger of his getting before it as to opinion. It is not improbable that this book may furnish evidence of both these truths.” In the last sentence there may be some little arrogance, but in the one preceding there is even more positive truth. We are a bull-headed and prejudiced people, and it were well if we had a few more of the stamp of Mr. Cooper who would feel themselves at liberty to tell us so to our teeth.

The criticism alluded to in the following passage has never met our observation. Since it is the fashion to decry the author of “the Prairie” just now, we are astonished at no degree of malignity or scurrility whatever on the part of the little gentlemen who are determined to follow that fashion — but we are surprised that Mr. C. should have thought himself really suspected of any such ridiculous “purposes.”

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[page 164:]

The present volumes strike us as more entertaining upon the whole than those which preceded them. They embrace a wide range of stirring anecdote, and some details of a very singular nature indeed. As the book will be universally read it is scarcely necessary to say more.





[S:1 - JAH09, 1902] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe (J. A. Harrison) (Review of Sketches of Switzerland)