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writers, especially poets, are very liable to fall into. There is no help for it, but careful elaboration ; repeated and severe revision ; for it is an old maxim, that what is easy writing is hard reading. We suppose our author's principles of composition are expressed in the following pretty Lines on a Poetess, who was advised to write less rapidly.”
“ Her muse is like the bird, that roves
Through Eastern India's fragrant groves;
Like bis, - in rest should die away.” Now this is all false philosophy, and a dangerous doctrine to get into a poet's head. No work for immortality was ever yet produced, either in poetry or art, without patient, unwearied toil; careful and scrutinizing revision ; laborious finishing, like that of a piece of sculpture. A thousand faults escape the sharpest eye in a first draft ; and a work with a thousand faults upon its head will hardly live long enough even to be rejected by posterity. Even Shakspeare, as the late inquiries have shown, worked up the noble passages in bis plays with the minutest and most anxious care. But there is no need to multiply authorities. The history of genius in poetry and art affords but one testimony, and whoever neglects its warning voice, will never have a place there.
We have spoken thus, because we are satisfied, that the author of this volume has every requisite for a poet of a very high order ; and such a person ought not to be spoken to in the language of undiscriminating flattery, as we fear has
pp. 239, 210.
been too generally the case. We are satisfied, that she has all the talent, imagination, and command of language, needful to enable her to confer honor on American literature ; but having, as we suppose she has, adopted wrong principles of composition, we have felt it to be our duty to allude to the defects which naturally spring from such principles and methods as hers.
But the lover of poetry will find in this volume many pieces marked by the utmost tenderness and delicacy. The sentiments of friendship, the love and longing for home in a strange land, and the impressions made on an imaginative mind by works of art, are frequently, in this volume, the themes of harmonious and beautiful strains. And, after all the deductions which we have thought proper to make above, there still remains enough poetry unassailable by criticism to fill a good-sized volume.
4. – 1. Elements of Modern Geography, with an Atlas. By
J. E. Worcester. Improved Edition. Boston : Da
vid H. Williams. 1839. 12mo. pp. 257. 2. Elements of Ancient Classical and Scripture Geogra
phy, with an Allas. By J. E. Worcester. Boston: David H. Williams, 12mo. pp. 74.
That a school-book of real merit, free from pretension and quackery, should be popular enough to be stereotyped for the third time, is a phenomenon the more interesting from its rarity. Mr. Worcester's well-known accuracy of research gives a value to his books, which all can understand and appreciate ; he has selected the most useful information, and condensed it into the smallest compass. Were all authors to imitate the excellent example he has set them, our lightened book-shelves would rejoice, though the sellers might repine. In such a literary millennium, the reviewer would be deprived of his favorite employment, and critiques, proh pudor! would degenerate into puffs.
In the Mathematical Geography, Mr. Worcester has, with much propriety, confined himself to a mere vocabulary of terms. The first steps of this science would be incomprehensible to the young students, for whose use these works are prepared. Even the simple problems of finding the latitudes and longitudes of places involve the whole science of Nautical Astronomy ; and the theory of the Earth's figure is of such abstruseness and intricacy, as to perplex the pro
foundest minds. Two of the greatest geometers alive have differed regarding it, and have hardly yet cooled, from one of the fiercest disputes in which the slate and pencil were ever exercised.
The Civil Geography forms the great bulk of the treatise, and needs not a repetition of our remarks in its praise. Why is it, that our popular lecturers have neglected this fertile field for flights of fancy, and one which has been such a favorite resort for the philosophic poet ?
The Physical Geography and the Statistical Tables are equally well arranged with the rest of the treatise, and a slight glance at them is sufficient to show, that, like the Civil Geography, they contain materials which an exuberant imagination might readily expand into an interesting and instructive volume ; or they might serve the meaner purpose of a stand, upon which some Sartor of science, some cutter-out of Lyceum Lectures, might exhibit to great advantage a varied assortment of his fancy articles.
5. — Pebblebrook, and the Harding Family. Boston : B. H.
Greene. 1839. 12mo. pp. 207.
This book shows very considerable powers of thought, description, and delineation of character. It contains many shrewd, and even profound, observations on human life, and breathes very kindly and generous feelings. The character of the dyspėptic gentleman, and the account of his travels, - the adventures he meets with, and the personages who fall in his way,
the slight love passage, which ends with the heroine marrying a different person from the hero and the courtship of the bachelor uncle and the maiden lady, - are very well given, with here and there a touch of sly humor, that puts the reader into a pleasant state of mind.
But, on the other hand, there is a grave fault, running through the whole book, that interrupts the reader's pleasure very disagreeably. We mean the affectation of the style. It is evident at a glance what school the author has studied in, — to the words of what master he swears. It is Carlyle and his imitators. A worse model he could not well have chosen. The intolerable style, which Carlyle was the first to introduce into English literature, seems to be making some progress. It is impossible that this should extend very far, or last very long. Violations of nature, whether in literature VOL. L. - No. 106.
or art, are essentially temporary. The past history of literature, — the literatures of Italy, Spain, and England, - have repeatedly exhibited the same phenomenon. But there is no author, in the whole range of literary history, whose works have been marked throughout by any one of these affectations, - whether the concelti of the Italians, the lofty bombast of the Gongora School, or the Euphuism of an early period in England, — without losing the classic character, and failing to secure any permanent hold upon the national mind. Mr. Carlyle will, inevitably, meet with the same fate, if he persists in the whimsical absurdities, which pass among some people for originality.
The writers of this class are constantly complaining of the want of freedom, and nature, and truth, and so forth, in the great mass of literature, and the want of philosophical depth in the thinkers of the age. The charges are vague enough, and may possibly be true ; but these gentlemen have not set an example of either depth or originality. For instance, Mr. Carlyle, — who is considered the most original, — has formed his style, or rather has corrupted his style, (which was excellent some years ago, when he wrote the "Life of Schiller,'') in two ways; first, by imitating Jean Paul Richter, who is an oddity in his native language, though a man of great genius, and by doing just what all imitators have done from time immemorial, namely, exaggerating the faults, not the excellences, of his model. Now this, everybody will confess, is a queer way of being original. Secondly, he has attempted to force upon the English language a great many forms of expression which are idiomatic in German, but are not English. Every one, who has studied German, of course knows, that vast number of words, in that language and ours, are alike, that is, originally from the same root, but have widely diverged from each other in meaning, the primary meaning being retained, perhaps, in one language, and a derivative one being established in the other. Now, nothing is easier than to make an exchange, - a barter between the two languages; to introduce from one, those meanings of words which are peculiar to it, into the other, and thus form expressions, which, sounding strange, are readily mistaken for the evidences of original thought. The German word Wagen, for example, is the same as our wagon; but he who should always translate the one by the other, would do great injustice to both. Triumph-wagen is a triumphal car, and not a triumphwagon ; but one who should translate it so, does exactly what Mr. Carlyle has done, and what constitutes no small portion of the supposed originality of his style. Now the imitators of Mr. Carlyle are imitating the imitation of a foreign model ; they are imitators raised to the second power, and must share, sooner or later, the fate of their masters and fellow-disciples.
We have merely space to touch upon these points in relation to an interesting literary phenomenon, and to indicate the grounds on which we must condemn the peculiarities of style in “ Pebblebrook," and other works of the kind. The subject admits of, and deserves, more copious illustration, as one of the signs of the times, though unquestionably a transient one.
We will give a few examples of what we are sure nobody will mistake for English. “Through many generations the Being of the father had come to him under sternest pressures, and in him had reached the last fortress of humanity, &c. - p. 10. “ Did any man, without actual prototype, conceive this Life, (the life of Christ,) and thus word-paint it to the hearts of millions ? ” — p. 25 ; and a great deal more Carlylese on the same page. Many new life-threads have mysteriously run into ihe web of the Visible, and many old ones have broken and fallen out.”— p. 42. “Except, indeed, that it may get him some world-wages as Professor of Morality.” — p. 70.
But the style of this author is an imitation of Carlyle, not in single expressions merely, but in the general cast and character. We have the same inversions, the same strange comparisons, the same frequent and unnecessary use of the adjective with a definite article as an abstract noun ; and the imitation extends even to the printing. The pages are plentifully garnished with staring capitals, which make, as everybody knows, no small figure in the writings of Carlyle. In short, all the tricks of the master-juggler are copied with considerable ingenuity by the disciple. Now, we ask, in all seriousness, if this is the way to be original, or simple, or graceful, or profound, or any thing that a man of sense ought to be ?
To show that what we have said is correct, we quote a passage of some length.
“ We cannot believe that this world is, as many assert, full of evil. The tide of human life is a vast stream flowing onward to Eternal Life. The main current is a stream of good, pouring onward to the All-Good. What is that which we name Evil but the eddy-current near the shores of Time? Is it not in Time a part of Good ? Were there no eddies, would not the main current, in its strength, wear away the shore Time ? and then, what were Time? That whirling and boiling which we name awful is indeed so; but action is there, and