Text: Various, Literary Reviews, Southern Literary Messenger, August 1839, 5:???-???


[page 112:]

Concealment. A Novel. Two Volumes. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.

This novel is of the Billy Lackaday school of perfection — full of Anna Marias, angelic captains, and seraphic situations. The author has indulged in the concealment of his name — if the booksellers had indulged in the concealment of the novel, the injured public would have been saved the infliction of considerable twaddle. We pity the poor creature, who, on a rainy day, has no other book at hand than this same novel of “Concealment!”


Phantasmion, Prince of Palmland. Two Volumes. S. Colman, New York.

These volumes form the first issue of a Library of Romance, edited by Grenville Mellen, and published by Mr. Colman. The editor, in his introduction, speaks of the merits of Phantasmion with most exaggerated emphasis; but, with due respect to Mr, Mellen's acknowledged judgment, we cannot give our assent to the praises he has bestowed upon the work before us. It is, at best, but a pretty puerility — a concoction of stale magicals, and fairy fancies, interspersed with some dainty conceits, and a few pieces of excellent poetry. Notwithstanding the clear definition of the fitness of simplicity, in the well-written introduction by the editor, and his assertion that Phantasmion is made to touch, with a masterly wand, every spirit that loves to indulge in unrestrained pilgrimage through the land of the free and the fanciful, we aver that the simplicity of Phantasmion frequently degenerates into positive inanity, and that the intense passages trench most closely upon the realms of verbiage and fustian. In support of our assertions, we append a brace of quotations.

First, for the “good taste” of the simplicity: —

“While the old man stood talking to Iarine, describing with lively gestures the battle of tigers, the braying of horns, the crashing of boughs, and the yelling of wounded beasts, many of his sheep, as if glad to steal away from the oft-told tale, had straggled into the woody glen, which was full of soft herbage, and Iarine offered to guard the main body of his flock while he went in search of the truants; so thanking her for that courtesy, taking a weapon of defence from his girdle, and placing his crook in her hand, he hastened away. The lovely princess led the flock slowly onward till she arrived at a stream, which crossed the dell, and had been swollen by sudden rains to a torrent: here she paused, waiting for the shepherd, and, while the sheep eyed the water, thinking perchance of a ford lower down, where they had crossed in the morning, larine's mind had travelled back to her father and Albinet, thence to her baby brother, and all the time was not wholly absent from Phantasmion. At last, she began to think that the old man was long away, and looked up with pleasure when she heard footsteps advancing; but he who now stood before her was more like a king than a rustic swain; his attire, though black, was costly, his countenance abstracted and grave. He stopped to look at Iarine, as she lifted up a dripping lamb which had slipped into the water, and, seeing that she eyed him anxiously, as if desirous yet afraid to speak, (for indeed she wished to inquire whether he had seen the shepherd,) his eye lit up with expectation, and in an eager tone he exclaimed — ‘Hast thou aught to tell me of the silver pitcher?’”

Now, for a specimen of the much-lauded “gorgeousness and exuberance: — “

”But lo! the sun has broken through its hazy veil, and Feydeleen's soft cheek, as if it faded in the brilliant light, is seen no more among the blossoms; Albinet raises his head, from which the airy chaplet melts away, and with wonder-stricken eyes Eurelio gazes upward, for Potentilla has risen from his side. A moment yet the wings of her insect steeds are painted against the background of one lingering cloudlet — but now they disappear, while earth below, suffused with splendor, becomes a softened image of the heavens themselves.” [page 113:]

We give, in justice, a specimen of the poetry, which is excellent, but scarcely powerful enough to warrant the resuscitation of this tedious romance.

By the storm invaded

Ere thy arch was wrought,

Rainbow, thou hast faded

Like a gladsome thought,

And ne’er mayst shine aloft in all earth's colors fraught.

Insect, tranced forever

In thy pendent bed.

Which the breezes sever

From its fragile thread,

Thou ne’er shall burst thy cell and crumpled pinions spread.

Their armor is flashing

And linging and clashing.

Their looks are wild and savage!

With deeds of night

They have daiken’d the light,

They are come from reckless ravage!

O bountiful Earth,

With famine and dearth,

With plague and fire surround them;

Thy womb they have torn

With impious scorn;

Let its tremblings now confound them!

Our cause maintain —

For as dew to the plain,

Or wind to the slumbering sea.

Or sunny sheen

To woodlands green,

So dear have we been to thee.

The new-blown flowers,

From thy fairest bowers,

Their rifling hands have taken;

And the tree's last crop,

That was ready to drop.

From the dews have rudely shaken;

Through deep green dells,

Where the bright stream wells,

Like diamond with emerald blending;

Through sheltered vales,

Where the light wind sails.

High cedars scarcely bending;

Through lawn and grove.

Where the wild deer rove.

They have rushed like a burning flood;

For morning's beam.

Or the starry gleam.

Came fire, and sword, and blood. [column 2:]

Lily, born and nourish’d

‘Mid the waters cold,

Where thy green leaves flourish’d,

On the sunburnt mould,

How canst thou rear thy stem and sallow buds unfold ?

Snowy cloud, suspended

O’er the orb of light,

With its radiance blended

Ne’er to glisten bright,

It sinks, and thou grow'st black beneath the wings of night.

Then lend us thy might,

Great Earth, for the fight,

O help us to quell their pride:

Make our sinews and bones

As firm as the stones.

And metals that gird thy side;

May the smould’ring mountains,

And fiery fountains

Inflame our vengeful ire,

And beasts that lurk

In thy forests murk.

Their tameless rage inspire;

While from caves of death

Let a sluggish breath

O’er the spoilers’ spirits creep.

O send to their veins

The chill that reigns

In thy channels dark and deep.

But if those we abhor

Must triumph in war.

Let us sink to thy inmost centre.

Where the trump's loud sound,

Nor the tramp and the bound,

Nor the conqueror's shout can enter;

Let mountainous rocks,

By earthquake shocks.

High o’er our bones be lifted;

And piles of snow,

Where we sleep below,

To the plains above be drifted;

If the murderous band

Must dwell in the land,

And the fields we loved to cherish.

From the land of balm

Let cedar and palm

With those that rear’d them perish. [resume full page:]

The Barber of Paris , or Moral Retribution. By Paul de Kock, author of “Andrew the Savoyard,” “Good Fellow,” etc. Two Volumes. Carey and Hart, Philadelphia.

Paul de Kock occasionally receives a good share of abuse from various of the English critics of the newly-raised school of elegance and aristocracy — who delight to see mankind in embroidered coats and satin smalls, and vote every man a mauvais sujet who does not figure in silk stockings. A novel, must, to be good in their estimation, be devoted to the sayings and doings of the fashionable world — a close portrayal of human nature is of small avail, unless the characteristics of high life [page 114:] form the text — in other words, the sterling value of the metal is not of so much importance as the fashion of the make.

There are other writers who, descending to the opposite extreme, revel in the development of the miseries of poverty and the degradation of vice — who relate, with a Crabbe-like minuteness, the insignificant details of every-day life, and require their readers to shed tears of agony over the distresses of the lowest and vilest of mankind. Now-a-days, the personnes of a novel are either superhuman in their goodness, or ultra-demoniac in their wickedness — it is the age of extremes.

Paul de Kock, as we have before observed, is a painter of life as it is — his pages teem with excellence, but his readers require the possession of a certain wordly experience before they can perceive the full value of the scenes presented to their notice. Notwithstanding the volatility of the class of people from which he selects his sulyects, there is less of outrance or caricature in his delineations than in the pages of Marryatt, although, in other points, there is much similarity between the two authors. Paul de Kock's works will exist when many of the popular writers of the day are forgotten.

“The Barber of Paris” is the most powerful in its effects of all the author's works. Lively narrative, startling but natural incident, and great diversity of well-sustained character, combine to make the most agreeable reprint of the season.

[[Subsequent reviews in this issue are attributed to Poe]]





[S:0 - SLM, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - BGM Literary Reviews (Aug. 1839)