Page images
PDF
EPUB

LITERARY PHENOMENA.

There are several noticeable character- time for worship and a time for laughter, istics of American letters at the present loud as “the multitudinous laughter of time. Many old things, we believe, are the gods,” and we have observed that passing away under the influence of a they who laugh the most vigorously on general law by which the intellectual fit occasions, pray the best on all others. advancement of the country bears some It is time that our reviews and jour. proportion to its physical increase, and nals should have the confidence to tell the development of refinement and civili. the public the truth in matters of taste. zation. Given a quick, active, ingenious and criticism, and the morality of thinkpeople, speaking the language of one of ing and living which grows out of them. the noblest literatures in the world, Is all' English manliness and plain placed under circumstances favorable to speaking to be reserved for the island of the growth of individual character, free Great Britain that we must be taught and in government, candid and frank in schooled for ever by foreign reviewers ? manners, just beginning to feel the im- Such has been too much the case; that pulses and healthy rivalry of a concen- it has been gradually becoming less for trated society in large cities, a people the last few years, cannot have escaped not infidel in religion or alien to art, and the most careless observer. The latest the prediction is inevitable that noble traveler among us, Vou Raumer, excul. thinking will be the evidence of noble pates us from the common charge of living, that the poet and philosopher will being a vain-glorious and boasting people, come forth, that the sentiment and life of and says thai he found us quite the rethe nation will be written in books. By verse. Certainly a spirit of frankness the operation of Time alone, with the and candor is on the increase. It is to servants Time in this country brings be met with in all places in society, it with him, the cause of literature will will of course find its way into literaadvance. Those who think most hum- ture. bly of our letters must yet adınit that, With much to pull down there will comparing our present school of writers be found much to preserve. There are with those of the days of the Dwights more than the ten righteous men to save and Barlows, we have both in number the state. In professional literature of and quality a far better representation of the pulpit, the bar, and medicine, in the national authors at this day. While the literature of the sciences, we have honor. rise of numerous original authors, at able names; in pbilosophy, proceeding least in the minor departments of litera. from our colleges, there are living voices ture, is taken into consideration with the going forth which will not soon die growing feeling of dissatisfaction with away into silence; in poetry and fiction what false and unworthy, everywhere there are names the country will stand expressed in conversation, if not always by; in art we are beginning to hear of as yet asserted, as it should be, in print, representative men who stand forth bewe may argue with confidence of the fore the world in behalf of the nation. future state of our letters. The first evi. Honor be to them for ever. Let the dence of strength is humility. The vain- critic be the guardian of their good fame; glorious boaster and pretender having perpetually renewing the laurel, keeping acquired that which he only assumed, it ever fresh But before the good can can afford to throw away his burdensome be honored, the vain and noisy evil ones cloak and leaden hood of hypocrisy: must be removed. The rubbish must be The ease and freedom of manhood and cleared from the temple before we can of candid speaking should be the es see the beauty of its proportions. Repecial qualities of those who tread this move the bulk of scaffolding which seems American soil.

to add to the size of the structure, and If in this article we seem to speak instead of being diminished it actually with some levity of the false pretensions appears larger. set up in the literature of the day, we One of the glaring tawdry weeds to be trust it will not be regarded as irrever- rooted out of this overgrown field, is that ence towards the good, or want of faith which blazons everywhere around in in the true. We hold that there is a the passion for notoriety—the unseemly

reverence.

facility and readiness, the indecency with and poverty-stricken critics, who seem which what are called reputations are fond of the play of “ High life below made

stairs” and a masquerading American “A breath can make them as a breath has literature. Perhaps, like poor Goldsmith, made."

they mistake the footman for the lord. Fame is no longer the Fame of Milton

This is, in truth, a grave matter, for “Fame is no plant that grows on mortal soil, falsehood confounded. Reputation is a

nothing can be graver than truth and Nor in the glistering foil, Set off to the world, nor in broad rumor

nice matter, a sacred thing to be held in lies,

It is the flower of virtue and But lives and spreads aloft by those pure of good deeds, and a delicate flower too, eyes,

though born in a wintry climate and in And perfect witness of all-judging Jove: rugged scenes, like the blue heather of As he pronounces lastly on each deed, the storm-swept mountains. It is not a Of so much fame in heaven expect thy gaudy plant, gay, rank, and unwholemeed”

some, but resembles the leaves (as of the but an impudent, pretentious, coarsely oak) which are supported by a rough painted harlot rather, a woman of the gnarled trunk and branches. There is streets, not of the sanctuary and the fire- much more showy foliage nearer the side ; bare, naked, and brazen, in alliance ground. with craft and deception; hating and The facilities for puffing and detrachated by the good. • A poor barren thing, tion, twin companions, have reached a this notoriety, sickening to the soul. height where in the nature of things

A newspaper reputation can be made they must overleap themselves. Falsein a day, and by pickling and ordinary hood, unveracity—to translate it at once care may be made to last like the grave. into downright English-lying may be digger's tanner, “some eight year or carried to such an extent, as absolutely nine year," or it may be caught like the by force of intensity to trumpet forth the mesmerized M. Valdemar in articulo truth as cold, in Milton, “ performs the mortis, by a special conjuror six months effect of fire.” The excess of dishonesty longer, till it falls to pieces, “a nearly among thieves leads to the recognition, at liquid mass of loathsome, detestable pu- least, of thieves' honor. To bave very trescence.” This is its fate at last, but little said about a man has got to be al. who delights to witness the operation ? most the sole truth-telling indication of An office for the sale of reputations merit. “ The post of honor is a private might be opened, or a mutual insurance station.". If you would learn the true with a graduated set of prices. An men, in the spirit which should character. American Hemans might be made cheap, ize an American literature, or any honest and guarantied for a month, though not literature whatever for that maiter, you more than a dozen policies to be out on must seek them out in retirement. The this head at a time; an American Ten- Cordelias of our literature are, indeed, nyson is worth a higher premium ; the scarce, but they are to be found with a price of a Dickens would vary in the lanthorn. market as a “ Martin Chuzzlewit” or a Detraction is the twin brother of flat. “ Christmas Carol” happened to be his tery—though unlike, yet of the same last English production ; an American family. Of this our literature may boast Coleridge probably cheap as the demand enough. Part of it is special, mere in. is considerable. We have known terested malignity. Willis cleverly says, several. An American Scott should be in one of his sketches, (the saying is paid for by at least a dozen champagne worthy of Sheridan himself in his comesuppers.

dies,) ihat a literary reputation is to be Seriously, this is a nuisance not al. built up at this day like the walls of ways chargeable upon the authors whose Jerusalem, with a trowel in the one names are handed round with their ap: hand for plastering friends, and a sword pendages. Mr. Cooper has rebelled in the other for smiting enemies. Of Iustily against the American Scott. Mr. these Ben Jonsons of literature, brought up Emerson stands alone without leaning on to the use of the trowel, there are rare Carlyle, and Rufus Dawes is not guilty specimens to be met with of different of taking the name of Coleridge in vain, finish and execution. Some use mortar though it has been rather too kindly and by the hod, others can ornament a corofficiously done for him. This is an im- nice with a penknife. There are not pertinence resorted to by weak authors wanting enough, who, like worthy Ben

himself at Hawthornden murdering entirely, like those of Cæsar, conceal reputations, can use the sword very et his baldness. Among American litefectively. Abuse has, in fact, been re rary men, on the contrary, there is a duced to a science. Given a few news- great deal of very desperate, melodrapapers, en rapport, a large stock of matic scorching and damnation. An auqueries, a plentiful supply of italics, a thor “not in the present company” is thumb and finger of exclamations, and a a dish to be grilled and served up for dash of small caps., they are the only something spicy. It even invades the tools wanted, lies to work upon of press. A man who has the misfortune course included, and the infernal macbine to write is in no danger of want of exis complete. It would be dangerous citement if he reads the newspapers. He were it not farcical. A little laughter will soon find how scandalous and wicked will spike the whole battery. There are a thing it is to have written a book, esadepts in the trade, and there are bunglers pecially if it be a good one. Private mawho work with various degrees of suc- lice is not enough to account for the cess, but for the most part the thing is general melée. There is a wheel wantpitiable and ridiculous enough.

ing somewhere in the machinery; a sun When a matter has grown ludicrous in fact is wanting to the solar system! reason may be wasted upon it, but there What the great central luminary is to the is a general spirit of misconception and harmony of the planets, great authors distrust among the literateurs of the coun. would be to our flighty disorganized try which is worth accounting for by a literature. A few accredited undoubtedsimple suggestion. Letters are usually ly great authors would still the tumult. supposed to exist under the government Under the shadow of their roof trees the of a republic. They would seem to be little birds might pick, and flutter, and here in a state of anarchy-all is noise, show their wings only with admiration. babble and confusion, like the concert in But while little birds are called eagles, Hogarth's enraged musician, wbere the while asses are passing for lions, micros. soft fute of puffery is invaded by the copes must be expected to be used, and knife.grinder, busy for “ cutting up;" a false skins to be plucked at, and ears, to sweet milkmaid that good Izaak Walton be measured. We need a monarch to might have kissed, and a wauling cat on control the subjects and give laws to the a chimney. Whence this clamor? In court, or at least a President for the ReEurope there is said to be a feeling of public. We predict that there will con. fraternity among literary men, they are tinue to be a great deal of carping and distinguished by their courtesies, mutual backbiting till all pretensions are setinterchange of compliments, learned so- tled. cieties ; they do not like slaves take the Much of the literature of the countrynames of their masters, or play in the the poems that should elevate, the essays Literary Masquerade; they are not all that should interest, the biographical argreat authors, but they are respected and ticles which should be true and candid, loved according to their merits and their that they might as well warn by the exvirtues. They do not perpetually black- hibition of errors as encourage by good ball each other. Their good name is example, the criticism which should pusafe in one another's keeping. No one, rify the taste-most of what is read by the to be sure, believes that the good fel. people still continues to be furnished in low who writes a song is thenceforth magazines illustrated with plates of the a Moore or a Berangér, but he has fashions and engravings, bad copies from his chair, and his welcome, and his the bad tawdry originals of the English appropriate niche on Parnassus, and annuals.* The purest literature flowing share of the bays though they may not through such a channel must take ils

* By the way, a letter writer (Mr. Dix Ross) in a late number of the Boston Atlas, speak. ing from London, says, " Ackerman the publisher says, that he looks more to his American and Indian sale for his annual than to England ; for the rage for these pretty picture books has nearly passed away here.” This sounds like the talk of the early discoverers of the country, who provided glass beads and banbles for the American nalives. That the people of this land should furnish a market for the cast-off picture books of Europe is a not very honorable imputation, and one in which we would gladly convict Mr. Dix Ross of

Importing annuals” in truth of late years has been a cosily experiment, on the part of the booksellers engaged in it, upon the credulity and bad taste of the public. Importers are turning their capital as well as English publishers, in a different direction. We have had our full share of that stuff, and begin to call for something better. The popular books

error.

lone, in some degree, from the adjacent sure upon the contributors to, or the soil. Good literature by such a contact conduciors of, these works. It is to the will either be corrupted or checked in its honor of the publishers that they have onward course of improvement. There paid considerable sums to good authors, can be no inspiration gained from the and authors are right in selling their promilliner's figures in the frontispiece or ductions, as a merchant does his wares, the milliner's literature inside. The con where they will get most money for them. tributions of good writers may be bought, We are simply stating a fact, discreditaif well paid for, and be made to sanction ble in itself to the country, a fact wbich the imposition upon the public, but such should be felt to be so, and from which writers will take good care to let the those concerned should extricate thempublic see that though their pockets may selves in the best and speediest way posbe interested in the matter their hearts sible. With all the apologies that can be are not. They will sell their names and made for conveying literature to the puba loose unemployed sheet from their port- lic through this medium, we think it has folios, but they have not " the virtue to had its day. The old story of the erudile be moved”

in such company, Mr. and philosophical caterers of those splenDana's name was thus for a while em did dainties, that a magazine to be popuployed on the cover of one of the “ lady's lar must be poor, will do no longer. and gentleman's,” but a few trifling stan There may be some truth in the proverb, zas were all which proceeded from his “ too good to live," and good books may pen. Mr. Cooper, too, published a series be “ caviare to the general.” Newton's of historical biographical sketches, but Principia is not a work to be read while they were in the magazine, not of it, a man runs, nor is Bishop Butler a comjust as one of his fastidious English gen- panion for the centre table. But there tlemen moves among a crowd of the un are degrees of merit, steps on the intelrefined in a packet ship. Mr. Emerson lectual ladder, quite out of sight of “Gra. was also promised as a contributor, but ham” and “ Godey,” which it is believed this was a humiliation, not to him but to the public may reach in safety. In the our literature, from which it was some name of a great continent, gentlemen, let how happily preserved.

us have a few higher rungs of the ladIt is in vain to say that these are but der, a little farther range of vision than ephemeral trifling affairs, and that they the old poppy field. form no proper portion of the literature A true respect for the American peoof the country. They must be judged ple will lead critics, not to apologize for by their unchecked pretences, by their what is an outrage to common sense and number and circulation. What are called decency to sustain a bare-faced interlady's magazines, with plates of the ested system of puffery, but to seek and fashions, do not generally indeed enter demand that the nation shall be as great into an estimate of a national literature. in thought and feeling as nature has inWe do not find Hazlitt in bis Spirit of tended her to be in action; that the peothe Age, or Horne in his continuation of ple of a continent shall not dream and the work, or Jules Janin in his sketches simper in the petty dialect of a province; of French literature, or the graver histo that the men of every active virtue, of rians of letters, Hallam, Sismondi, or good right arm and sturdy will, shall Bonterwek, devoting a chapter to La not be exactly dependent for their intel. Belle Assemblé, the World of Fashion, lectual cultivation and entertainment Le Follet; nor are the vivid embellish upon Ackerman's “ English picture books ments of these works included in the his for the American market,” that humbug tories of art, but Mr. Griswold's national of various sorts, having been tried long monuments are built of materials from enough and been reduced to a science, these quarries, and even the fastidious may be made content to die and have its Mr. Longfellow gathers his sheaf for history written, and give place for a while a hot-pressed volume from this flaring to Truth and Candor, never forgetting poppy field. We are conveying no cen- Love and Reverence.

D. of the present season both English and American, are beautifully printed editions of standard authors, with original illustrations, which will be remembered in the history of the Fine Arts. The illustrated Moore's Melodies by Maclise, Goldsmith's Poems by the Etching Club, the books of Christmas Carols from the old Missals, and Carey and Hart's Philadel. phia edition of Longfellow's Poems, with designs by Huntington, and Bryant's collected writings, illustraied by Leutze, are all books of the last few months that will live. The Gift, as a means and evidence of the advance of the art of Engraving, was far superior to the contemporary English annuals.

A SONG FOR THE TIMES.

THERE once was a time under Tariff misrule,
When the rich and the poor sent their children to school;
When toil was rewarded and genius repaid,
And little we thought of a happy Free-Trade.

When the laborer cheerily worked at his loom,
We were honored abroad and contented at home;
And the sails of our commerce, that caught every breeze,
Did not follow the wake of the “ Queen of the Seas."

But, alas! we are likely, o'erburdened with cares,
To witness a gloomier state of affairs,
With want, the unwelcome successor of plenty,
The march of improvement, a Festina Lente.

For our Solons in Congress, true Democrats bred,
Have given our system a rap on the head;
And doubtless they think it a capital plan,
That folly should finish what wisdom began.

“ Down, down with Protection !" the demagogue cries,
And straight at his bidding Prosperity dies;
And the hum of the spindle, machinery's roar,
Will be heard in the waterfall's music no more.

Yes, the Party have triumphed. An anthem of praise,
The chivalry loudly to Dallas shall raise ;
And the lower ten thousand” that anthem shall know,
From Rynders the Captain, to Hickman the Beau.

Now joy unrepressed throughout Britain prevails,
In the workshops of England, the forges of Wales;
And the LEAGUE shall their gratitude quickly repay,
To Viscount McDuffie and Baron McKay.

As for poor Pennsylvania, derided, betrayed,
Let her mourn the disaster her suffrages made;
For once under good Democratic control,
Already the iron has entered her soul.

When the proud ship of State shall be wrecked on the strand;
When ruin shall brood o'er a desolate land;
When the grass shall grow up in the streets of our towns,
And the sunshine of Fortune give place to her frowns;

When we cling to the shadow of fugitive Fame;
When Wealth is a fable, and greatness a name;
And men of all classes the burden shall feel;
Let us hope for a saving Relief in REPEAL !

T.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »