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SOUTHERN LITERARY MESSENGER.
A MAGAZINE DEVOTED TO LITERATURE, SCIENCE AND ART.
RICHMOND, JANUARY, 1859.
Much of the pleasure and interest with attracting and dissipating the thought, which we peruse a work, is dependent and opposing the concentrative powers of upon the time and place of reading it. the mind. Hence, even in musing in the Fully to enjoy a book, fully to enter into open air, we instinctively turn our eyes and appreciate it, it must be read in soli- downward, in order to shut out this betude, in quiet, and in our own peculiar wildering space. No; it is impossible to apartment, among things to which we are read or even to think deeply in the open accustomed. There must be no outer dis- air. Our ideas float about us in fitful and traction—no strange presence, to bring us broken flights; and we at last hurry back back momentarily from our ideal world to to our accustomed room, as the most satan unseasonable consciousness of the ac. isfactory place for such exercise. tual by which we are surrounded.
For different kinds of reading, differFor reading, and especially for study. ent times are appropriate. Newspapers ing, a small apartment is better than a should be read before or during breakfast, large one. Few can read with satisfaction and in the family circle. The various in a large library, with many windows; items of news form an agreeable subject there is too much space in which the of remark and discursive discourse, as thoughts may expand. In a small room, you sip your coffee-neither occupation with drawn window-curtains, we shrink interfering with the other. After breakmore into ourselves, and concentrate our fast, if there is no more important busithoughts more exclusively on the work ness or engagement, it is delightful to sit in hand: we are shut in from the world, down with fresh, untired energies to some and the narrower the sphere of outer ob- favorite book, or study, or writing; someservation, the dieper appears the concen. thing requiring the whole powers of mind tration of thought withio.
and thought. A novel should never be Out-of-door reading is a fallacy. One read at this hour; it is an inauspicious may wander into the woods and fields beginning for the day. Then the mind with the purpose of doubly enjoying a is fresh and unoccupied, and its unfatigued good book, but how far satisfactory does energies require exercise. If this is not he fiod such reading ?
" We have tried gratified, there is a feeling of dissatisfacthe mockery of a book in a garden,” says tion and unsatisfied craving, and an uneaLamb. Who can confine his thoughts to the sy conciousness of time and talent wasted, volume in his hand, when before him lies which haunts us throughout the day, outspread the great Book of Nature, and unsettling both mind and temper. above is the open sky, wooing his thoughts I believe that few persons like noonday away into its limitless depths ? For we reading except for an interval of recreamust all have experienced the irresistible tion in the sultry summer days, when power which the expanse of sea and sky, other employment is impossible. Then, or even an extensive landscape, exerts, in a novel is admissible; but the most agreea
ble reading for such times, are cheerful minded prejudice. It is from this species amusing, sketchy books, treating of the of literature more than any other, that Country, or summer tours, and breathing we gain a knowledge of character and of an atmosphere of freshness and lightness. human nature; of the world and its ways, Willis is a charming companion for a sum- and of life, with its innumerable social mer noonday—so is Dr. Doran; and such phases, its struggles and trials, its good books as the Bedott and Sparrowgrass and evil. Thus we become acquainted with Papers, seem intended exclusively for this scenes and places, and classes of people, kind of reading
and modes of life, of which we would After-dinner reading is delightful, when otherwise have remained as ignorant as the principal business cares of the day of El Dorado, or the man in the moon. are over, and we are at leisure to enjoy We are hereby drawn out of the narrow the luxury of a lounge in a breezy hall and contracted sphere of individual obin summer, or a cushioned arm-chair servation and experience, and are led to beside a bright fire in winter. And in take more liberal and enlightened views winter, as the day-light begins to decline of things, and to form more correct without, and the fire light to glow within judgment upon many subjects of which —when the lamps are lighted, (for with we should else entertain but vague and Poe I prefer that soft astral glow to the prejudiced ideas. Moreover, it is not to harsh gas refulgence)—then is the time for be doubted that by far the largest number reading. There is something genial, in- of readers of works of fiction pre those spiriting, in the influence of the warm, who possess no taste for literature of a bright glow of mingled fire and lamp more serious and ambitious cast, and it is light; in the luxurious arm-chair, the not unfrequently the case that these covered reading-table, the comfortable derive their principal knowledge and infootstool, and the drawn window curtains. formation from such works. Thus inThus settled with a really good and inter- struction may be gained by the only esting book before you, and pen and method in which it would prove agreeapaper at hand for the convenience of ble; and History, Philosophy and Relimaking notes, should you require it, and gion, be rendered attractive to persons with one or two quiet, happy, familiar who would never have read books devoted household faces beside you—then, read. solely to these subjects. By this means, ing is indeed a luxury. Mind and body also, they glean a store of general knowlare alike gratified--a double pleasure. edge of the world, and of social life, which
This making notes is a pleasant and in- they could not otherwise obtain, except structive thing. Here we take down by an actual mingling with the world and whatever strikes us as being desirable to society to an extent which but few can remember, or suggests a train of thought command. As a distinguished English or apt association which we would wish writer has said: We regard the authors to record. Many of our most distin- of the best novels and romances as among guished authors have read and written the truest benefactors of their species. thus; have owed some of their brightest The world is not in danger of becomand most original thoughts to sugges- ing too romantic. The golden threads of tive passages of other writers. For poesy are not too closely woven in the thought is like the fire in flint: it lie ordinary web of human existence. Misdormant until contact with another excites taken are those miserable reasoners who the latent scintillations, which properly object to them as giving 'false views of cherished, may grow into a broad and life,' merely because that with poetry and glorious flame.
romance the world too seldom blosBut few, comparatively, understand or
soms.' appreciate the merits of, and advantages Novels should be read, not systematito be, derived from works of fiction ; and cally, as an employment, but as a recreathose who condemn them as a class, mere- tion from more serious studies, or as a rely betray the ignorance of a narrow- lief and soothing when the mind is wea
ried or troubled. Thus read, they help and Pagan-the stern c venanter and the to restore the balance to the mind, which, lawless freebooter—now on the burning fatigued with over-exertion, may now re- plains of Syria, then on the frozen northpose at ease, and be administered to; for ern coasts, and again amid the loveliest: the mind, equally with the body, requires scenes of pastoral beauty that the fancy rest and refreshment. When wearied in may picture or the pen describe. A either, how soothing it to take up some mighty magician indeed, is Walter Scott; pleasant, cheerful, genial work of fiction, and let critics sneer as they will at the bearing the impress of a master-mind, "aimlessness” of his writings, and hold and allow yourself to be borne, without him up to the world in the attitude of care or effort, on a gently flowing tide of “writing novels at steam-engine rate, in fancy, amid scenes and incidents that in- order to make money to buy farms and terest, without unduly exciting. Pleas- upholstery with,” still we can scarcely ant in such moods are Scott's, and Dick- doubt that while many of the works of ens', and Thackeray's works, and the la- the best novelists of our day will pass ter novels of Bulwer-Lytton; but when away and be forgotten, those of Scott in place of these, we adventure upon one will retain their popularity, and he himof those miserable “new publications" of self hold a place within our very hearts, the day-frivolous and ephemeral pro- as a loved and esteemed friend and beneductiops, not worth the time spent in factor. looking them over-then, instead of ex- It is pleasant also to take up one of periencing the refreshment which we Thackeray's works, and to wateh, as we sought, we throw aside the book with a would a performance on the stage, the feeling of redoubled weariness and de- progress of his life-drama-with its plots pression, and an uneasy consciousness of and counter-plots, its crafty and worldly time misspent. Not thus with Scott's characters, and its shifting scenes. For novels. Truly may he be called “the there is an unreality about Thackeray's Wizard” - a
- as great a magician, indeed, creations which gives them a dramatic, as his namesake, Michael, whom his pen rather than a natural effect. IIe lacks has immortalized. Let us take up one of the power to interest deeply. We are his magic volumes, and straightway what never drawn out of ourselves, and led to a spell is thrown orer us; what a new life forget our own individuality in sympathy is open to us; what a world of picturesque with his characters. We look on with a and healthful romance-differing alike certain interest and admiration, it is true, from the extravagance of the school yet with a feeling all the while, that those which preceded it, and the mere common. characters are not real personages, but place, every day style of later works of merely actors; well gotten up, indeed, to fiction. Here, under the influence of the burlesque nature, but still only actors. wizard's spell, we are led amid scenes of Thackeray's very style of writing is such rich and picturesque beauty; amid High- as to heighten this impression, by conland heights, and mountain lakes, and tinually recalling us from a realization of lonely cares and cairns; now in the chief- his ideals to a consciousness of his or our tain's hall, now in the monarch's palace, own individuality: just as we might hear and again in the shepherd's lowly shiel- the voice of the prompter on the stage, ing; now with the Crusader in the IIoly or the showman, explaining the progress Land, and again with the warlike chief of the puppet-play during the performtain at the head of his devoted clan, This destroys the naturalness of mingling now with the revellers at the the scene. We admire the wit and ingeWassail board, and then amid the roar nuity of the inventor, applaud the actors, and crash of battle. Varied, swist, and approve the performance, and are curious bewildering as the shifting scenes of a and interested in the progress and denouephantasmagoria, the motley crowd of the ment of the play—but we feel no sympaWizard's creations sweep past; prince thy with any of them. With Dickens it and bondman, monk and warrior, Jew is different. We feel a personal interest
and sympathy with his characters. They ghost-like influence from the commenceseem to us like familiar, every day friends ment of his narratives to their compleand acquaintances. The author furgets tion. We read with a still and eager both himself and the reader in the ab- suspense-a suspicion rather than a consorption of his ideal—and we do the viction of something hidden behind the
Then Dickens possesses what scenes—as we would gaze upon and lisThackeray rarely displays—the pathos of ten to one who beholds and vaguely mutgenuine humour. Thackeray is witty, ters of a phantom, invisible to our eyes ; brilliant, intellectual; but there is about and though often impatient at the slow him a cold sparkle, like the frost on glass, progress of the story, we can never put while the genial humour and pathos of down the book until we have completed Dickens may be compared to the warm it, and even then the painful impression glow of the hearth-light. In this, prob- will cling to us for days after. ably, lies the secret of the latter's greater I know of no more pleasant rending popularity as a writer. Humour appeals than the British and our own Essayists. to the feelings, and wit to the intellect; The polished wit of Sydney Smith, the hence, for one who can appreciate Thack- clear brilliancy of Hazlitt, the genial hueray, there are twenty who will prefer mour and touching pathos of Lamb, and Dickens, for not only is the larger class the quaintness and freshness of Kit North, of readers more susceptible of an appeal with Tuckerman's elegant essays—what to the sensibilities than to the reflective can afford more gratification to the mind powers, but the former impression is more and taste than such companionship? powerful in its effects than the latter. Their very names have become to us as Humour, and its invariably-accompany household words; we feel toward them ing pathos, touch us with a far stronger as to personal friends, of whose sympathy charm than do wit and sarcasm ; and and interest we are confident; and as while we admire wit, we love humour. though we had been accustomed to hear
Another attraction of Dickens, is the daily from their living lips, the words invariable mystery with which he inter. and thoughts transcribed npon the glowsperses his plot--sometimes too palpably ing page. gotten up for mere effect, (as in the case This is one great privilege of reading. of the Ilaunted House, in Little Dorritt,) It introduces us to a throng of associates but never extravagant, and always explain- among the noblest, and best, and wisest, ed by sufficiently natural causes. We
of our fellow creatures, in communion all know the charm of a little mystery, with whom our own spirits are ennobled in reading; not the trap-door mystery, and exalted, and encouraged to aspire bewhich is now almost exploded, and was yond the narrow limits of a mere social the terror and delight of our childish and material existence. This is especialdays, when the Three Spaniards, and the ly the case in Poetry. We must all at Mysteries of Udolpho, and Walpole's
some time have experienced the blessed scarcely less extravagant romance, dis- and soothing influence of poetry-how it covered amid the cast-away rubbish of cherishes and strengthens all that is good our grand-fathers' libraries, caused our within us-how it cheers us in affliction hair to stand on end with horror-but and despondency, with an assurance of the more subtle and refined mystery of the good that shall come hereafter, and some of our later writers. Poe possessed that others, better than we, have lived, much of this spirit-as most favourably and suffered, and striven, even as ourexhibited in his description of the “House selves, and left these, their footprints, as of Usher”-but our own Hawthorn sur- marks of cheering and guidance. passes him in a subtle delicacy of charm -quaint, vague and inexplicable, and "Footprints that perhaps another which consists as much in the style of Sailing o'er life's solemn main, writing as in the subject itself—and A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, haunts us with a weird, sombre, and Seeing, shall take heart again.”
And some few there are, who know how soothingly in those moods of vague, yet strong yearnings for the Good, and Beautiful, and Imperishable, that come to us at times like a home-sickness of the soul, speaks to us the voice of the Poet who bas felt even as we; and how, in the consciousness of sympathy and kindredness with him, our spirits are strengthened and won from the great Loneliness that had oppressed us in a dread isolation among others who knew us not, nor dreamed of the Invisible and voiceless
life within us. “Thanks be to God for the Poets !”
Poetry is not to be read merely; but its utterances must become to us as mottoes and watchwords of the soul, abiding in ou memories and our hearts, with a purifying influence—as faint echoes of music and perfume of violets, haunt us with sweet and tender associations. This is the true effect of poetry, and he who has accomplished it, has not lived in vain. Again we say, “Thanks be to God for the Poets !"
: د. ۱۰. كم
SIR SANS AVOIR REJOICES.
Good minstrel! go upon your way-
I leave the court, and go with smiles
To only recollect her face,
How all a-glow with living light
I'd have no other life! the years
Poor though I be I would not own
And so I live in memory!