Text: Various, Literary Reviews, Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, VI, April 1840, pp. 199-202


[page 199:]


Perils in the Woods; or, The Emigrant Family's Return, With Engravings, Effingham Wilson, London.

We picked this pretty looking volume from a bookseller's shelves, shortly after its importation; we were attracted by its ad captandum title, by several well executed plates, and the general neatness of its mechanical axecution. But in these enumerations alone consists its excellence — the contents are a mass of impossible and ignorant relations concocted by some hireling scribe who professes to detail adventures in the United States of America without possessing a school-boy's knowledge of its interior geography, or exhibiting the remotest acquaintances with its productions and national peculiarities. We are unacquainted with the writer, who is described in the title page as the author of “The Wanderer's Cave,” “Tom Starboard,” and other works of equal celebrity — a celebrity, that like the author, has not yet crossed the Atlantic.

Captain Marryatt has declared that he wrote his book on America with an avowed purpose of disgusting his countrymen with the practices of democracy. The author of “Perils in the Woods” has undoubtedly written his equally erudite work for the purpose of deterring the better sort of agriculturists from emigration; and, like the honest Captain, has not scrupled to employ the coarsest and most improbable means. The Captain selected more than one-half of his book from the facetiae of our newspapers, turning our own caricatures of various provincial fooleries into weapons of national assault. The other scribbler has robbed every book of marvellous travel that chanced to come in his way, and hassliced [[has slaiced]] and dovetailed a variety of ancient and modern wonders into the history of an emigrant family squatting in the western wilds — but this farrago is not even amusing; the developed ignorance is so potent that it “quite o’er crows” the attention necessary to a perusal of the most common-place matters.

The emigrant family actually behold sixty feet of the length of the Nahant sea serpent in the course of their voyage across the Atlantic. The father goes to the Indiana land-office in Philadelphia, and very sapiently purchases a swamp on the banks of the Tippecanoe river, which, by the way, is written Tipicana. The heavy goods of the emigrants are placed in an ark at Philadelphia, and sent down the Ohio to the Wabash, but unfortunately the ark upset in the Scioto river, (written Sciolto) although how it contrives to get into that latitude is rather incomprehensible, being several hundred miles out of its line of journey. There is a talk of an ark floating down the stream of the Wabash from the Ohio to the Tippecanoe, a circumstance that is the reverse of possibility.

The sapient emigrants purchase a small one-horse wagon to carry seven persons, with all their plunder, through the western states. This omnipotent horse is killed by lightning; a cow buffalo is caught asleep, with its calf, and submits to be harnessed to the wagon, drawing the whole tete of our particular emigration cheerfully and obediently, while the dear little innocent call runs amiably by its mother's side!

Sugar canes, rice, and tobacco are described as growing north of latitude 41; parroquets are as plentiful as mosquitoes, and wild Indians, buffalocs, and panthers are every day circumstances in the heart of Ohio, which, with Indiana, is described as a howling wilderness, with a few log huts sparsely distributed — indeed our squatters's next door neighbor lives fifteen miles off — and yet we are told that a steam-boat of immense size navigated the Tippecanoe river, and was daily crowded with passengers.

A boy of fifteen years of age is the hero of the tale; he shoots Indians, panthers, and other wild things; fells huge forest trees, builds log huts, digs rice dykes, and cultivates several hundred acres of land. He saves his parents’ lives several times, and on his way back to England, actually rides on the back of a Mississippi alligator a la Waterton, to the evident satisfaction of the whole of the passengers aboard the steam-boat!

We are happy to inform our leaders that this interesting party returned safely to their native land; the recital of their wondrous adventures has had the desired effect upon the nerves of their country neighbors; and the official returns of emigration have been seriously reduced since the publication of the work entitled “Perils in the Woods.”


Pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Mount Sinai. By Baron Geranth, Monk of the Order of La Trappe. Two Volumes. Carey and Hart, Philadelphia.

In 1814, Ferdinand, Baron de Geramb, a distinguished officer in the service of Austria, was released from imprisonment in the castle of Vincennes; disgusted with the world, he declined all farther contests in the military or political arenas, and retired to the monastery of Notre Dame de la Trappe du Mont des Olives, near Mülhausen in Alsau, in the department of Upper Rhine, Unde [[Under]] [page 200:] the name of Father Marie Joseph, he sojourned for sixteen years in the gloomy cells of the Trappist monastery, and conformed to its rigid and soul-wearing ordinances and mortifications. The revolution of July, 1830, reached even the poor monks in their quiet cloisters; the order was abolished in France, and all monks, not Frenchmen by birth, were ordered to leave France instantly. So rigorously were these orders enforced that a young Trappist nun was driven from her cell while in mortal agony, and expired a few paces from the sacred asylum. Geramb retired to the Trappist (chief) abbey of St. Bernard in the canton of Luzerne; but finding that misfortune and sickness continued to clog his path, he resolved to undertake a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, “to play, to adore, and to do penance.” His letters, while on his journey, constitute the book before us.

Baron Geramb has produced an agreeable work. His details are given in a novel and pleasant way; there is less of the traveller, anxious to show his knowledge, and more of the results of actual observation than generally grace the pages of modern voyagers. We do not pronounce the “Pilgrimage” the best book on the Holy Land extant, but it is more devoted in its purpose than any other work on the same subject. The whole extent of Palestine was explored by the pilgrim ; every place famous in sacred history, or remarkable in the unwritten traditions of the land, is accurately described, and associated with its particular event, which is also given in full. The baron's details are sufficiently anecdotical to please the general reader.

We are happy to state that the policy of Louis Philippe has permitted the re-establishment of the monastery of the Mount of Olives, and that père Malie Joseph is once more in holy communion with his silent brethren of La Trappe.


The Pathfinder ; or, The Inland Sea. By the Author of “The Pioneers,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “The Prairies,” etc. Two Volumes. Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.

After an attentive and gratifying perusal of this work, we unhesitatingly declare it to be fully equal to any of Mr. Cooper's former productions, and superior to all other novels that we have lately had occasion to notice. Queen Elizabeth was delighted with Shakspeare's Falstaff, and desired the dramatist to present the obese knight in situations submissive to the blind boy god; Mr. Cooper has, in the Pathfinder, delineated his inimitable Leather-stocking as bending to the power of love — and a finished picture has he given to the world. This link in the history of our favorite scout was actually wanting to complete the chain that binds him to the sympathies of the reader; the unsuccessful termination of his course of wooing accounts for the melancholy tinge that is apparent in all his various scenes of life; there were too, several allusions in the other parts of his history, that requite a knowledge of his whereabouts in the earlier days — for “The Pathfinder,” although published subsequently to “The Pioneers,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and “The Prairie,” is meant to precede them all in point of date. Leatherstocking's career is now perfect; unless Mr. Cooper should give us another antecedent history, and develope [[develop]] the passages of his hero's juvenility.

The scene of “The Pathfinder” is on the shores and waters of Lake Ontario and its tributaries; the opening chapters, depicting the passage down the Oswego, are of the most exciting nature; and the account of the gale on the lake is comparable only to the sea passages in the novel of the Pilot. Mr. Cooper has not indulged in much delineation of character — indeed, characteristic varieties are not his strongest points — but he has given us some descriptive touches that deserve our warmest praise.


A Word to Women, The Love of the World, and other Gatherings, by Caroline Fry, author of “ The Listener,” etc. One Volume, Carey and Hart, Philadelphia.

Mrs. Fry, the author of this work, has acquired a sort of reputation in England as the chaperone of magdalens and repentant jail birds, who, when fairly caged and prohibited from the present exercise of their ingenious professions, pretend a desire of participation in the spiritual goods things of the amateur missionary of Newgate, knowing that a submission to her ritual is necessarily connected with certain supplies of tea, coffee, money, and books, of material assistance in the melioration of strict prison discipline. Unfortunately, her proselytes seldom retain their pious practices when away from their jail preceptor — the parliamentary evidence, lately elicited before a committee in the matter of prison government, affords testimony that Mrs. Fry's élèeves generally turn out the most confirmed paw-paws in the annals of crime. The book before us is a sufficient proof that such a result must be the fact ; the unforgiving severity of Mrs. Fry's code would terrify a Trappist, and frighten the most frigid of nuns into fits. The chilling and withering nature of her religious tenets must drive an erring soul to desperation. She has become accustomed to the jail, and would make the whole universe a general penitentiary and prison house. With her, to laugh is as foul a crime as murder; her book is a manual of fanaticism, a mass of ascetic wilfulness and sad absurdity. [page 201:]

In the opinion of Mrs. Fry every act of life is sinful, except the adoration of God the Father and God the Son. In plain and positive language she declares that we ought not to lead any thing but the scriptures, nor employ music in any other way than in the worship of God — that the sense of hearing is mis-used, except in listening to the exordium of the preacher — that it is sinful to take delight in the sight of a beautiful flower, enjoy the fragrance of its smell, because such practises pamper the appetites! that a true Christian ought to use a crockery candlestick, not a silver one. That, in fact, we were formed by an omniscient Creator for the sole purpose of eternally chanting his praises and lamenting the worthlessness and depravity of the work of his hands, formed in his own image. A mind actuated by Mrs. Fry's principles, must believe in the exercise of a malignant fate, and cannot fail to embrace the crime to which it considers itself doomed — and to seek in death a refuge from the sin which cannot be avoided in life.


Diary of the Rep. John Ward. A. M., Vicar of Stratford-upon-Aron, extending from 1648 to 1679, from the original MSS. preserved in the Library of the Medical Society of London. Colburn, London.

The principal inducement to the publication of the late Mr. Ward's common-place books has been a casual mention of Shakspeare. The rest of the matter consists of extracts from the books that fell in Mr. Ward's way, who appears to have been a very desultory reader. He was, too, a collector of quaint sayings, and more than sufficiently credulous. The following is all that relates to Shakspeare: —

Shakspeare had but two daughters, one whereof Mr. Hall, the physitian [[physician]], married, and by her had one daughter married, to wit, the Lady Bernard of Abbingdon.

I have heard that Mr. Shakspeare was a natural wit, without any art at all; hee frequented the plays all his younger time, but in his elder days lived at Stratford, and supplied the stage with two plays every year, and for itt had an allowance so large, that hee spent att the rate of 1,000l. a-year, as I have heard.

Shakspeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson, had a merie meeting, and itt seems drank hard, for Shakspeare died of a feavour there contracted.

Remember to peruse Shakspeare's plays, and bee much versed in them, that I may not bee ignorant in that matter.

Whether Dr. Heylin does well, in reckoning up the dramatick poets which have been famous in England, to omit Shakspeare.

A letter to my brother, to see Mrs. Queeny* to send for Tom Smith for the acknowledgment.

* Probably Shakspeare's daughter Judith, who lived to be seventy-seven years of age.

From the above we learn that Shakspeare spent one thousand pounds a-year, a sum equal to three thousand pounds now, yet his will gives no idea of so large a fortune. Mr. Ward's memoranda commence thirty-two years after Shakspeare's death; it is, therefore, by no means improbable that he spoke vaguely on the subject; he is more likely to be correct in his statement of the cause of Shakspeare's death, as he blended medical with clerical duties. Mr. Ward's “Diary” belongs to the numerous class of books denominated curious, and will fill a niche in the libraries of those who, from leisure and circumstances, can afford to be loungers amid literature. “Shakspeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson, having a merie meeting,” at which he (Shakspeare), it seems, “drank too hard,” will, probably, furnish some matter for imaginative writers: Walter Savage Landor would sketch the scene with great power, and is, perhaps, the only writer of the day who would do it characteristically.


Every Day Life in London. By James Grant, author of “Random Recollections of the Lords , and Commons,” “Great Metropolis,” etc. Two Volumes. Carey and Blanchard, Philadelphia.

We have here another of Mr. Grant's extraordinary refucimentos, or jumbles of fact and falsehood, under the title of “Every Day Life in London.” It is a readable work, although every statement must be taken cum grans salis, for Mr. Grant is not very particular in his statistical details — as an instance we quote his account of the Penny Theatres, a species of cheap dramatic entertainment that has lately sprung up in the purlieus of the British Metropolis, under the patronage of the children of the lower classes. Mr. Grant sapiently averages the nightly attendances at the Penny Theatres of London at twenty-four thousand persons!

We have before reverted to the common-placeness in Mr. Grant's diction that sadly mars the effect of his very numerous publications; this free-and-easy “slip-slop” occasionally becomes offensive in all serious matters, whilst a total lack of perception of the judicrous negatives his humorous attempts. The police office and Lumber-troop dialogues degenerate into absolute twaddle, and several of his [page 202:] anecdotes and historiettes are flat and pointless. Nevertheless, we again affirm that “Every Day Life in London” is a readable book, inasmuch as it contains much startling information respecting the tabooed classes of the English public, and gives some curious if not correct accounts of subjects that are but seldom noticed by the press.


Poor Jack. By Captain Marryatt. Part I, with three Engravings. Carey and Hart, Phila.

The Tower of London, an Historical Romance, by W. H. Ainsworth. Part I, with two engravings, Lea and Blanchard, Philadelphia.

We have here the opening chapters of two new works, by two of the best writers of the day. We can say nothing as to the merits of either production, for the samples are necessarily short and inefficient. “Poor Jack” has already been copied into every newspaper in the Union; our readers therefore are well acquainted with its capabilities, but it strikes us that there is nothing very new in the subjects of the yarns spun in the opening chapter, but the captain's reputation will ensure the popularity of the work. Mr. Ainsworth is a powerful writer; his “Crichton” stands at the head of the long list of English novels — unapproachable and alone; but if this great glory is fairly Mr. Ainsworth's due, and in our humble opinion the sact is incontrovertible, he must also assume the responsibility of giving to the reading world the most corrupt, flat, and vulgar fabrication in the English language. “Jack Sheppard” is a disgrace to the literature of the day.


A word or two on the Copy-right Question. When an International Copy-right Bill was in agitation, the publishing booksellers exerted a powerful interest in opposition to its progress, and succeeded in swamping the proposition. The petitioners against the bill affirmed that if foreign authors were allowed the privilege of copy-right, the American public would lose the privilege of cheap literature. We are inclined to think that the recent introduction of the giant hebdomadals has very materially altered the sentiments of the publishing booksellers, inasmuch as we are certain that their pockets have materially been affected. The enormous capacities of the mammoth sheets enable the editors to give the entire number of the current fancy issue of the English press (Boz, Manyatt, or Ainsworth), at least a week in advance of the bookseller's regular publication. This proceeding must gratify the booksellers amazingly, because it fully carries out their own philanthropic and national sentiment — the American public is supplied with cheap reading, and the foreign writers are not paid a cent for the produce of their own brains. To be sure, the literature is supplied by other hands, and at a cheaper rate than the original propagators of the liberal idea can afford; but, then, the principle is carried out — the American paper-makers, type-founders, book-binders, ink-makers, pressmakers, compositors, and press-men, reap the benefits of the cheap literature, agreeably to the publishing bookseller's desire — and the American writers are positively crowded out of all chance of competition — according to the publishing booksellers’ will — but the stream has taken another channel — the light literature of England has become so very flimsy that it will not hold together in large quantities; the fabricators are compelled to give it to the public in small doses, which the newspaper rogues retail again before the booksellers can wink — but then, they cannot grumble; the principles they advocated are fully carried out — and is it is patriotic to steal our literature from England, the thief who charges the least for his act of dishonesty is decidedly the greatest patriot.

The sublime folly of the reasons adduced against the necessity of an International Copy-right Bill must soon become pretty evident to the most violent opposers of the measure. Their silly opposition has very sensibly affected their own interests, and the non-passage of the Bill induced the British parliament to exclude the Americans from the enjoyment of copy-right in England, by a passage in Mr.Talfourd's Act of last session. The American author is now unable to publish his work in his own country, or obtain a market cleewhere; well-established writers can alone attempt to stem the flood of English re-prints that now occupy the bookseller's counters and the parlor tables of the general reader. The editor of an American periodical is unable to offer a fair renumeration to American writers for articles of the highest value; his competitors pilfer the British magazines with monthly industry, and the editors of the daily press puss the stolen subjects with monthly servility, and copy them with monthly rapacity, passing by with patriotic indifference the original productions of American writers for the more glorious novelties of the foreigner. An international copy-right act would prevent all this.





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