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reads them. He describes, in glowing language, the amazing results of mechanic ingenuity, and draws a most animating picture of their influence on the fortunes of the human family. The following paragraph struck us as extremely happy.
" It is a cavilling spirit, that makes the luxury of life a subject of complaint because its direct enjoyments are necessarily confined to limited numbers. Indirectly, they extend to all classes. They keep in circulation the vital air of the political system. Hardly will it do for our industrious yeomanry, who are covering the country with the Morus Multicaulis, until our silkworms shall out-number the produce of the celestial empire, to rail at the luxury of a silk dress, as an aristocratic distinction. Our splendid manufactories of silver are worse than useless, if it is a sin against democracy to use a silver fork. The coach-maker must change his trade, if the fair daughters of the country may not be indulged with a carriage. The saddlery, which is in such exquisite finish in the Hall of Exhibition, is something like the armour of treason against the republic, if we come to the conclusion, that it is for the benefit of the laboring classes, that every man who rides at all must go bare-back.” -- p. 20.
The occasion was an excellent one for inculcating sound opinions; and Mr. Austin has shown, that he felt the responsibility, which his position in the community imposed upon him, not to let it pass unimproved. His lively and vigorous eloquence was, perhaps, never better employed.
ART. X. - Dramas, Discourses, and other Pieces, by JAMES
A. HILLHOUSE. 2 vols. 16mo. Boston : Charles C.
These elegant volumes are the ripe production of a mind of high powers and high culture. They are composed of three Dramas, and two shorter poems, with ihree prose Discourses. Two of the dramas, and one of the shorter pieces, — that entitled “ The Judgment,” — were published separately, from thirteen to twenty years ago.
They were received with great favor at the time, but, the editions being small, have been of late rare to be met with. The tragedy now added, it seems, was written earlier than either of the others, but has lain by the author until now, and has recently received his thorough revision. The prose Discourses were pronounced on different occasions; the first (which was also printed at the time) as long ago as 1826, and the last within three or four years.
We in these United States, having no time to spare, are so in the habit of impromptu productions in literature, that it is almost as unexpected as it is delightful, to fall in with a publication concocted with the proper care for the public eye. Mr. Hillhouse, being a man of sense as well as genius, has done himself and his readers this justice. His rich and graceful pieces are the fruit of long meditation, and of plenty of the labor lime. We cannot pretend, that this elaboration has in all parts proved equally successful; possibly, in some instances, — in the prose compositions, particularly, — it is too evident ; in other words, there should have been more of it; it has not always been carried so far as to that highest attainment of art, which conceals art. But the reader of these volumes has the rare satisfaction of finding in them, as a pervading character, that fulness of thought, and curious felicity of expression, which mere genius, working extempore, does not combine. We cannot but timidly flatter ourselves, that, one day or another, our American aspirants for literary honors will get more into the way of spending some time in sowing and rearing their laurels, preparatory to tuning their voices for the Harvest Home. A very few examples, at all like the recent one of Mr. Prescott's brilliant success, cannot fail of producing a decided effect of this kind ; and whoever, by showing what a mind of high endowments owes to itself, and what it may achieve, if it have but fair play, disposes our young scholars to be content to wait for applause till they have taken time to deserve it, has done a service to his country worthy of all grateful commemoration.
Besides the high finish of Mr. Hillhouse's writings, we find another peculiarity in them, as compared with most others which come
While there are oddities in his style, it has, in the best sense, a right to be called original. This is not the greatest of all merits in a writer ; we are far from naming it as such. Good thing as it is, the want of it may well be excused in consideration of other excellences. A writer may be original in his conceptions, and an imitator in his rhetoric ; and he may be the reverse of this ; and where the question is be
tween new thoughts cast in an old mould, and old thoughts in a new one, give us, of course, the former. But still there is a great freshness and charm in a style, - provided always it be in other respects good, - which the reader perceives to be the writer's own, dictated by his own mind, formed upon no foreign model. And more than this, the writer who clothes his thoughts in the forms of expression in which those thoughts start into being within himself, who never stops to consider first how such and such a favorite author would have expressed them, nor even has ringing in his mind's ear a jingle of another's sentences, to which his own must be attuned, will be sure to express himself with altogether more nature, freedom, truth to his own conceptions, fulness, and force ; less artistically, as far as the ostentation of art is concerned, and more worthily as regards its effect.
We do not mean to say merely, that affectation unavoidably leads to feebleness. The adoption by one writer of the style of another is not always affectation ; but infallibly it produces part of the same effect as if it were. It is altogether best, that the thoughts" should " voluntary move harmonious numbers.” Every reader's memory recalls instances of poets of the present time, at home and abroad, who have done great injustice to their own genius, in the attempt, whether apparent to themselves or not, to be something different from themselves. What with Wordsworth, and Byron, and Shelley, and translations from the German, and the smaller fry of Hunts, and Hazlitts, and Tennisons, — and other writers, admired in different quarters either to or beyond the measure of their deserts, but in either case likely to lead their admirers into a vicious mannerism, we meet with altogether too much now-a-days, which is obviously said not at all as the author would have spontaneously said it. this takes place ostenest with young aspirants of more enthusiasm than sense, who imagine themselves capable of writing because they have learned to use some forms of expression, associated in their minds with thoughts of some favorite author, that have given them pleasure. To say hath and doth instead of has and does, -- which honest people, alike in prose and verse, used to say, in the last century, — would seem 10 be stock in trade enough for some adventurers in verse to set
Since the time of “Childe Harold ” many and many a Spenserian stanza has had to be filled up with a VOL. L. No. 106.
thought, which, under the old dispensation, would have been reckoned a scant pattern for a couplet. Under the leading of “Don Juan,” there is a vast resurrection of poor jests long ago departed, to figure again in its cheaply-woven drapery. We are be-Beppoed and Prometheused to an exceeding degree, in the annuals and elsewhere, by pens which would never have been deluded into verse, but by having caught the easy knack of some new or revived turns of phrase. In cases of this sort, no harm is done except to misguided purchasers. But it so often happens, that much better men do themselves wrong by deserting themselves and trying to be another, that few things are more satisfactory than to fall in with a writer, who is at the same time familiar with good models, and steadily true to his own invention and taste.
This is what we mean when we speak of Mr. Hillhouse as original in point of style. He has no prominent peculiarities whatever, in this respect. He is as far as possible from presenting any new theory of composition. He deals in no innovations upon language,
uncommon forms of exhibition of thought. But he copies no one. He disguises no thoughts by dressing them in a borrowed garb. He writes from himself.
To a large acquaintance with other authors he owes a knowledge and a command of the resources of the language which he employs ; but his language is the natural, and therefore faithful, index of his conceptions. It answers to them as perfectly as the external polish of a completely well-bred man to the grace and elegance of his mind.
The dramas which compose the first of Mr. Hillhouse's volumes, are entirely dissimilar each from the others, as well in respect to the scene of action, as to their respective sources of interest ; "Percy's Masque” being a warlike story of feudal times, while the scene of “ Hadad” is laid in Judea in the time of King David, and “ Demetria” is a tragedy of private lise in Italy.
For a passage which shall simply exemplify the author's graceful and elegant manner, we need not look further than to the first scene of “ Percy's Masque.” The scene is Warkworth Castle in Northumberland, which during the attainder of the Percys under Henry the Fifth, has passed into the possession of Neville, Earl of Westmoreland. The characters are Elinor, his daughter, and Florence, her friend.
“ A terrace of the Castle, overlooking a lawn and woods.
ELINOR alone. Enter FLORENCE.
El. Good morrow, cousin.
Flor. Prithee, pretty maid,
Él. Look forth : let universal nature speak.
Flor. Solve me, sweet coz,
El. Pish ! leave such senseless rhapsody.
Flor. A horn!
Make hill and greenwood, high and low,
Shrill to the merry bugle O! El. What mean'st thou, Florence ? Flor.
His vest was green,
His feather blue,
His arrow true, -
Shrilled to his merry bugle O!