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The judgment of this learned critic concerning Aristophanes deserves more regard perhaps than that of any other scholar of the present day. Before his edition of the dramatic poets appeared, he had finished the voluminous edition begun by Invernitz and Beck ; and had prepared one or two besides of the simple text. The play, as it appears in Mr. Felton's edition, is printed with great neatness and uncommon correct
Mr. Felton's notes, though occupying a greater space than the play itself, are by no means of unnecessary length. There is inuch of course in a comic writer, who deals with the minutiæ of every-day life, in an age remote from ours, that needs explanation. Many allusions must be made known to us before such a writer can be justly appreciated. Parodies of contemporary poets must be pointed out. The flashes of wit must often be caught, so to speak, on their path, and held up to the reader that he may see them as an Athenian would have seen them. Satire must be shown in its meaning and its aim. All this and more need attention on the part of an editor, beside those special difficulties of a grammatical or exegetical kind, which occur in authors who use another and a very different vehicle of thought from our own. These wants of the reader Mr. Felton has provided for in notes, which could not well be made shorter, without doing injustice to the work of art and of high merit, selected in the present instance. Indeed it would be easier to select passages which might, with good reason, have more said about them, than to cut out any thing that already appears. Mr. Felton's mode of illustrating his author is extremely happy. The witty passages especially are set forth in their full meaning, and in such a manner as to show that the commentator enters into the spirit of his author, and has a hearty relish for the comic. Sometimes a modern equivalent is given for the folly satirized, or the wit which attacks it ; and we are made strikingly to feel that Athens with its follies is at our own doors. In short, the notes are of that kind, that they acquaint us with the spirit of Aristophanes, and of the age which he sought by satire to cure of its faults.
Mr. Felton deserves, and will gain, the thanks of American scholars by introducing the “ Clouds” to their notice in the company of such instructive and (what is a rare merit among editors) such entertaining notes. He has properly, in his Preface, at once condemned the poet for his coarsenesses, and given the play entire. There are plays of Aristophanes which are essentially gross and unfit for any young man's perusal ; but the “ Clouds” contains only four or five passages of an exceptionable nature, while the general tendency is in favor of morals. If the "worse Reason” and the scholars of sophistry are unprincipled, it the more condemns the fountain from which they drew their draughts.
8. — Letters from Abroad to Kindred at Home. By the Author
of “Hope Leslie,'' “ Poor Rich Man and Rich Poor Man, “Live and Let Live,” &c. &c. New York: Harper & Brothers. In Two Volumes. 12mo. pp. 275
and 297. We yield to none, as our readers well know, in admiration for Miss Sedgwick's genius, and especially for the philanthropic tone of her writings. In the elegant department to which most of them belong, she, more than any other of our authors, has struck the key-note of a vigorous home literature. By her warm, and, for the most part, intelligent sympathy with American institutions, she has been led to the true source of an American writer's inspiration. In the volumes before us, we must make free to say that she has not dealt quite fairly with her reputation. It will circulate them, without doubt ; but it will perform that profitable service a little at its own cost. It would of course be impossible, without a degree of pleasure, to listen to a familiar account of adventures abroad from so intelligent and amiable a traveller as Miss Sedgwick; and it would be a high gratification to receive from a personal friend a series of such letters as those which she has here given to the public. But when one takes up a printed book of the kind, it is with expectations, such as we fear this falls short of satisfying. It makes no pretensions to be any thing more than a record of personal observations in the course of a common tour, and even this story it tells in a manner not absolutely lively; and, though the companionship of a person of good sense and kind feelings over such ground cannot be absolutely wearisome to the reader, it is scarcely enough to carry him contentedly through two volumes.
When transferred from the family to the shops, they ought at all events to have been subjected to a different kind of revision. The public ought not to have to pay for such remarks as the following (which occur in the first half of the first volume), and we know not how many more, to them equally insignificant ; “Mr. Hallam reminded me of —;" ney Smith's wit was a sparkling stream of humor, very like
when he is at home ;' " If her (Mrs. Opie's] manners were not strikingly conventional, she would constantly remind VOL. LIII. - No. 113.
” and especially the following, which is a sort of equation of two unknown quantities ; “ I have before told you that Lord L
-, and the Bishop of reminded me of our friends Judge L- -, and Judge W
A friend told Miss Sedgwick, that, at a Belgian fête, the " poor people” were“ put a one side”; upon which, in her ever ready liberalism, she remarks, “Alas, so are they, everywhere, if in the minority; not appearing to remember, that, though it is very bad and very wrong that any one should be "put a one side” anywhere, the country where poor people are in a minority is no very bad country. Her trunks were rudely searched in "civilized England,” and she “ felt it a mortification, as if the barbarism had been committed by” her “own kindred.” The rudeness was inexcusable, but the search it seems was the fundamental barbarism ” ; for, escaping the like in Italy by the payment of a fee, she exclaims against “these annoying delays and petty robberies” as “a disgrace to civilized Europe.' But what would Miss Sedgwick have ? Civilized Europe must go without governments, or else maintain them. Would she have no customs? Then there must be heavier direct taxes, which in judicious quarters are thought the most liable to objection of any form of revenue. Would she have custom-houses, but no searching of
persons of respectable appearance ? Then the smugglers of jewelry and laces will straightway become persons of respectable appearance, and the fair-trader will starve, which would be a clumsy arrangement of political economy. In the gardens at Hampton Court, one of her party was tempted to pluck a lotus, ” and “was forthwith pounced on by a lad, one of the police curs.” Why not? Which was in fault, the plucker of the lotus, or “the police cur''? She appears more than once to consider the words “man of sin” as equivalent to Satan, a new application, as far as we know, of the phrase. At Baiæ she says it was, that "Pompey, Crassus, and Pompeius dined on board a galley.” She speaks of the show “ bust of Titus Livius" at Padua, and of one of those which go under the name of Cicero at Rome, without intimating a doubt of their authenticity ; concerning the strange wolf in the Capitol, she understands the report to have been that it was “ struck (with lightning) in the prophetic storm on the night before Cæsar's death"; bronzes she declares to have been “ anterior to sculpture in marble"; and the superb statue, at the Naples Museum, of the rhetorician Aristides she supposes to be of the old Athenian hero of that name, and accordingly goes on to criticize it as having a conscious mental force, and a beautiful simplicity, in its quiet, erect attitude, and an expression of tranquil, intellectual dignity in the head and face, fitting the godlike character of The
A more careful revisal would probably have led Miss Sedgwick to avoid some of these errors, which with not a few other such, disfigure her pages. There are remarks of a more general character, which a “sober second thought” might have induced her further to weigh. Excellently educated in some much better things, but of course not at all in art, she, like too many weaker people among our travellers, falls to criticizing its masterpieces at first sight, with a confidence equally misplaced in commendation as in censure, and publishes the degree of her proficiency, in permitting herself to speak of halls “ embellished by Tintoretto, Paul Veronese, Titian, with, to me, – I am profane or perhaps most ignorant to 'say so, uninteresting pictures." Single comprehensive remarks on manners and institutions sometimes surprise us no less. “Conversation,” she says, seems here (in England] to be a great arena, where each speaker is a gladiator who must take his turn, put forth his strength, and give place to his successor. Now we do not say it in the way of praise or dispraise, for we have no disrelish for even ambitiously brilliaot conversation, provided there is brilliancy as well as effort and show; but we take it, that, in point of fact, there is no feature which more distinguishes refined society in England from that in other countries, particularly in this, than the quiet familiar style of conversation, and the absence of all apparent endeavour after display. “The Austrian government, sparing as it is in all other improvements for the public good, is at iminense expense to maintain the roads.” Now we thank Heaven that we do not live under the Austrian government. It is in theory a despotic government; it indulges no freedom of political speculation; it deals very hardly with state offenders. But still let it, like its supposed prompter, have its due. It cannot justly be charged with being "sparing in all other improvements for the public good,” except roads. On the contrary, it is singularly attentive to the comfort of its subjects in private life, studying to afford them all accommodations not involving an enlargement of their political liberty. We may say that no thanks are due to it for this ; that it is but its policy, — its treacherous policy, if we will, to keep the governed quiet in their chains ; still it is not the less its practice. Miss Sedgwick found occasion to remark ; “The police of Rome is wretched.” It has greatly changed, then, since we had opportunity for personal observation. It was then the best in Italy ; that is, it was nearly perfect. On the occasion of seeing
a halffamished-looking woman sitting asleep," and neglected by the passers-by, under circumstances which “ in the precincts of your courts would have brought down a shower of alms,” she moralizes thus ; “ This is custom. God has not given the Neapolitans hearts harder than ours up in Berkshire.” No; God has assuredly done no such thing ; on the contrary, hearts need to be soft up in Berkshire to bear the comparison. The Neapolitans certainly do not so abound in virtues that they can well afford to lose the credit of what they have ; but, if mere indiscriminate alms-giving were an eminent grace, we know not the people that, from high to low, would do well to enter the lists with them. Nor in indiscriminate alms-giving alone do they excel ; but in some of their organized forms of beneficence, it is notorious that the wisdom and skill of the application deserve notice equally with the liberality of the expenditure.
We did not mean to be ill-natured in these few strictures; and we repeat that if any of our readers enjoy others of Miss Sedgwick's writings to the degree that we do, they must delight in them exceedingly. There is one thing about the present volumes which we cannot excuse ourselves from saying that we especially regret. It is the freedom, so alien from her accustomed delicacy and good taste, which their author allows herself to use in drawing her foreign hosts and friends from their retreats, for public exhibition. Quiet people have a right to expect, that, for offering a hospitable welcome to a meritorious stranger, they shall not be visited with the penalty of having their small sayings and doings put on record, even were it for favorable comment. Miss Sedgwick is not guiltless of contributing to bring about an exclusion of her countrymen from the good English society into wbich she was received, similar to what, for the same cause, has taken place in this country, in respect to English tourists suspected of a design to write. There is no malice in her representations, but that is not enough to prevent them from being unkind. When she forgot, for instance, the hour of an appointment to dinner, and in consequence annoyed a family who had been at pains to treat her with attention, what was to be expected, but that she should blame nobody but herself, and say no more about it? It was hard to give such a sketch of the gaucherie of her friendly hosts, (whom the disguise of will little profit, where it will be most desired,) as will cause them long to remember the day of their dinner to an American, as one to be marked with no white stone.