Text: Various, Literary Reviews, Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, December 1839, 5:???-???


Text: Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, December 1839,

[page 327:]


The Museum of Religious Knowledge, designed to illustrate Religious Truth. Edited by Marcus E. Cross. One Volume, pp. 264:. J. Whetham, Philadelphia.

A valuable and judicious embodiment of various papers connected writh the exposition of the necessity of religious truth. There is no sectarian violence in the matters broached; and we earnestly recommend the essays on “Mental and Moral Culture” and “The Moral Influence of popular Descriptions of Battle Scenes” to the attention of the reader. This unpretending volume may be advantageously placed in the hands of youth. One of Sartain's brilliant mezzotints ornaments the work; it represents Robert Morrison and his Chinese Assistants engaged in the translation of the Bible into the language of the heavenly Empire. This plate is a beautiful specimen of art, from a painting by G. Chinnery.


The Christian Keepsake and Missionary Annual for 1840. Edited by the Rev. John A. Clark. W. Marshall, and, Co. Philadelphia.

We hare purposely delayed noticing this splendid Annual until the advent of the season of Souvenirs and Gifts, trusting that our recommendation, honestly set forth, will induce a demand for the Christian Keepsake among the remembrance-seekers of Christmas and New Year's tide. The present volume is in the same excellent keeping that won deserved praise in our notices of the Keepsake for 1838 and 1839; the editor copies a portion of a letter from the Reverend Dr. Dick of Scotland, referring to the tendency of the work to “promote the cause of pure and undefiled religion, inasmuch as nothing of a sectarian spirit pervades any of the papers, so that they may be perused with interest by persons of all religious denominations. As to their exterior,” continues the Reverend Dr. Dick, “they are the most elegant volumes I have seen from your side of the Atlantic; they reflect honor both on the paper maker, the printer, the book-binder, and the engraver, and will bear a comparison, in these respects, with most of the Annuals published in London.”

We freely indorse the Reverend's opinion, albeit we dislike his unnecessary and awkward use of the copulative conjunction. The engravings in the present volume are superior in value to the illustrations of the preceding years. The frontispiece is a speaking likeness of the Reverend Richard Channing Moore, the illustrious Episcopalian Bishop of Virginia, after H. Inman's celebrated painting. “The Burning Prairie” is an exciting scene, painted by one of the best American artists, Russel Smith, whose genius requires nothing but maturity to enable him to cope with the proudest sons of the easel. This subject, and another by the same artist, “A Scene on the Ohio,” have been well treated by the engravers, Smilley and Cushman. Dodson has three superior plates — the frontispiece, “The Nun,” after Thompson, and “Innocence,” after De Franca. We have no fault to find with Armstrong for his engraving of Washington — it is a creditable version of an inferior picture, and we regret that the publishers deemed it worthy of notice. The subject is of difficult nature, we admit, but there is a woful lack of skill in Kyle's method of arrangement. General Washington is said, while encamped at Valley Forge, to have frequently retired into the depths of a secluded grove for the purpose of prayer. The painter has placed the illustrious hero upon his knees, it is true, but there is a self-satisfied air about his figure, and a smirk upon his countenance, which sadly harmonize with the act of supplication to the God of Battles.

The literary contents of this year's Christian Keepsake fully sustain the former reputation of the work. The editor has furnished the best prose article in the book, and we gladly point to our own esteemed contributors, Charles West Thomson, Miss Waterman, Professor Wines, Mrs. Ellet, Dr. Mitchell, and Mrs. Sigourney, as conspicuous names in the list of writers.

In the lengthful catalogue of “Contributors,” placed at the commencement of the volume, there are upwards of thirty names given whose articles do not appear in the body of the work. We know not who is to blame, but the act is at least a reprehensible instance of neglect. The persons enumerated may have promised contributions, and the editor may have printed their names in the belief that the various parties would fulfil their obligations. We are unwilling to allow the intention [page 328:] of deceit, but we are satisfied that such a statement is positively injurious to the work; for while several of the announced names exhibit the well-known appellations of certain wordy poetasters and plagiarists, others are affixed to persons of worth and mark. The reader will readily excuse the absence of the pretty verses of various of the Honorables and the Reverends, of the Clarks, and the Jameses, and the Browns, but it is hard to be promised articles from such writers as James Montgomery, Mrs. Opie, the Rev. Thomas Raffles, George W. Bethune, and Professor Cleveland, and yet fail to find them in the pages of the work.

One of the most impudent specimens of plagiarism that ever occurred, disgraces the pages of this Annual, and deserves exposure and castigation, inasmuch as it is an insult to the common sense of the leading community, and a positive wrong to the publishers, who have liberally expended the necessary sums in the procuration of superior literary worth. At page 305, there is “A Christmas Carol,” by Richard W. Dodson, Esq. of Philadelphia. Now, this Christmas Carol is copied in substance and spirit from a Hymn for Christmas by Mrs. Hemans, We give the first verse of each article, and leave Mr. Dodson to speak for himself.


Oh! lovely voices of the sky,

Which hymned the Saviour's birth.

Are ye not singing still on high.

Ye that sang “Peace on earth?”

To us yet speak the strains

Wherewith, in time gone by,

Ye blessed the Syrian swains.

Oh, voices of the sky!


Angel voices of the sky!

Ye that hymned Messiah's birth.

Sweetly singing from on high,

“Peace, Goodwill to all on earth!”

Oh, to us impart those strains!

Bid our doubts and fears to cease,

Ye that cheer’d the Syrian swains,

Cheer us with that song of peace.


The Poet: a Metrical Romance of the Seventeenth Century. A Keepsake for 1840. Philadelphia, Carey and Hart.

This well printed volume is one of the curiosities of literature. It is the product of the leisure of W. J. Walter, Esq. a gentleman now residing in Philadelphia, devotedly attached to the good old school of English Poetry, and known to the lovers of the belles lettres as the editor of the splendid London editions of Southwell and Herrick.

“The Poet” is a combination of the beauties of the poets of the seventeenth century, placed, not “like orient pearls at random strung,” but in relative order and connected bearing, to illustrate the origin, progress, and completion of an amatory siege. It is impossible to convey an idea of the excellent finish given to this simple but effective matter by the pure taste and genuine poetic feeling of the compiler; the poet, “in imagination all compact,” must hasten to secure this cyclopedia of Cupid's love, delivered in the choice language of the quaint old masters who drank from the pure well of English undefiled. The lover must not neglect possessing this vade-mecum, wherein he can trace the passage of his own disease, and read, in choice and fancied epithets, the manner of his own pursuit.

We beg leave especially to recommend “The Poet” as a Gift book most likely to be acceptable to the ladies. The delicacy of the conceit, and the variety of the gems embodied in the carrying-out of that conceit, must render this little volume peculiarly delightful to all sensitive minds. It is indisputably the best collection of rare and approved selections from the ancient poets ever given to the world.

The volume is dedicated by Mr. Walter to Nicholas Biddle. We congratulate the gentlemen on their acquaintance with each other.


Albert de Rosann; or The Adventures of a French Gentleman. By G. M. W. Reynolds. Two Volumes. Carey and Hart, Philadelphia.

This is decidedly the best reprint of the year. If Paul de Kock's name had appeared in the title page as the author, the work would have received a larger share of popularity, but we doubt if Paul de Kock, fond of him as we are, ever penned a better novel or tale of life than this same Albert de Rosann. Mr. Reynolds is the son of the old dramatist, who is notorious in histrionic record for the number of bad comedies which he has inflicted upon the suffering public, and for the quantities of monies that he obtained in payment for his trash. The young man is the author of a work on French literature, which has been severely handled by the English critics; he is also the author of “Pickwick Abroad,” a continuation of Boz's unequalled papers — but the dry humor of Samuel Weller [page 329:] killed Mr, Reynolds, and the French travels of the Pickwickians have never been considered orthodox. We believe also that Mr. Reynolds is the anonymous author of the celebrated novel of “Miserrimus!” a work of talent and worth. The book before us stamps him a writer of wonderful excellence; there is an originality in its plot, and a vividity in the details, that attract the attention of the reader, and hold him a willing prisoner to the close of the volumes. The style is remarkably free and Parisian, particularly adapted to the development of the Adventures of a French gentleman and his companion, a chevalier d’industrie of the first class.


[[Several reviews at this point are not attributed to Poe.]]

[page 331, continued:]


The Poets of America, illustrated hy one of her Painters. Edited by John Keese. One volume, pp. 284. Colman, New York.

This long announced and much puffed volume has at last made its appearance. For the sake of the publisher, whose enterprising spirit deserves at least the good-will of the critic, we regret tkaS we cannot award his beloved bantling a word of honest praise. We are compelled to pronounce this “splendid gift book,” this loudly-vaunted specimen of American art and science, a common-place and profitless attempt. Our readers, who may have perused the fulsome praises bestowed upon the volume in the generality of the newspapers, will doubtless stare at the opposite nature of our dictum. We are not sold to the will of any publisher; we never criticise a work without giving it an attentive perusal; we never obtain the gratuitous presentation of expensive publications by the promises of a puff; nor do we covertly slander a brother scribe because he is connected with another periodical. There are editors who cannot make these averments. The expression of our just opinions may give offence to various individuals, but we are not to be deterred in the execution of our critical duty.

The editor of “The Poets of America” has wofully erred in the selection of some of the authors included in his list — we know not whether he has mistaken the quality of the chosen from the lack of a kindred spirit with the sons of poetry — from an ignorance of the attributes of those whose names, although not enrolled on the catalogue of his acquaintance, have awakened the echoes of the bi-forked hill — or whether he has suffered the interference of personal prejudice to warp his judgment and direct his choice. When we observe that some of the most celebrated poets of the day are excluded from his selection, and that various minor lights burn in the highest places, we are tempted to doubt the truth of his averment that he has sought to present the finest specimens — the true spirit of American poetry. There are names in his list “alike to fortune and to fame unknown,” and the merits of their doings will not compensate the reader for the offence of pushing better men from their stools. One writer, who has not yet attained the height of mediocrity, has three pieces within eleven pages, while some of the best poets of the age, not being intimately connected with As publisher, are compelled to stand the ordeal of a single exhibition, and others are prohibited from all chance of show.

Is the poem whence the following verses arc extracted an honest selection?

My grandmama has said —

Poor old lady; she is dead

Long ago —

That he had a Roman nose,

And his cheek was like a rose

In the snow!

I know it is a sin

For me to sit and grin

At him here;

But the old three-cornered hat.

And the breeches, and all that,

Are so queer! [resume full page:]

We should like to know the whereabouts of the mysterious Mrs. ****, and why this anonymous lady's very common-place version of the trite fable of “Love and Friendship” was deemed worthy not only of a place, but of an illustration?

The pictures are tolerably fanciful in conception, but their execution is paltry and ineffective; many of them are inferior to the woodcuts in Peter Parley's school books. The editor, in his preface, [page 332:] remarks that the design of the present volume is to heighten the brilhancy of our poetic gems by the beauty of their setting. We doubt if Simms will thank “the painter” for the clumsy incarnation of his “Zephyr Spirit,” or if Charles Sprague will esteem his Shakspeare Ode, which is indeed a gem “of purest lay serene,” heightened in value by what the editor terms “spirited and graceful sketches, full of beauty and delicacy,” which are inexplicable in their detail, and seem as if they had been engraved with a sharp fork on the back of a pewter plate.

The letter press printing is a specimen worthy all praise; the quality of the paper is unexceptionable, and the binding deserves a better interior.


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





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