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2. — Thoughts on Moral and Spiritual Culture. By R. C.
Waterston. Boston : Crocker & Ruggles, and Hilliard, Gray, & Co. 1842. 16mo. pp. 317.
The author of this work is a young clergyman, who devotes moral and intellectual powers of no common order to the noble duty of preaching the gospel to the poor, in the city of Boston; and most of the contents of this volume have grown out of the strong interest which his vocation has given him in religious education, especially of the young. Works proceeding from such a source, and written for such an object, deserve a praise higher than any which literary criticism awards; and the end aimed at imparts its dignity even to imperfect means and instruments. But independently of this consideration, Mr. Waterston's book has literary merit enough to challenge the same principles of criticism as we apply to those whose themes are drawn from the passions and follies of mankind. The work is made up of prose and poetry. In the prose part, which occupies most of the volume, there is an Introduction, and essays or lectures on Childhood, Growth of the Mind, Religious Education, Diffusion of Christianity through Sunday Schools, Moral and Spiritual Culture in Day Schools, the Influence of Home, the Culture of the Imagination, the Love of Nature, and the Death of Children; also an Address before the Teachers of Boston. These are linked together by several pleasing pieces of poetry, that harmonize in sentiment and feeling with the prose.
Mr. Waterston's style is ardent and glowing ; such as belongs to a man of strong religious feeling and warın sensibility. A deep interest in the welfare of mankind gives fervor to his eloquence and earnestness to his appeals. Without any marked profoundness or originality of thought, he is rich in that wisdom of the heart which instinctively leads the head aright, and from his own experience and observation he has learned many practical truths. The sense of duty in parents and teachers may be strengthened and elevated by contemplating the high standard which he holds up to them. His style has the great merit of being an earnest one, and there are many passages which rise into genuine eloquence and the glow of poetry. From his felicity of illustration and his persuasiveness of manner, we should deem his volume especially useful to persons who are desirous of improving themselves and their children, but who have not read much or thought much upon the topics he discusses.
Mr. Waterston's style, so far as its literary merit is concerned, might be improved by somewhat pruning its luxuri
1842.] Waterston's Thoughts on Spiritual Culture.
ance and compressing its diffuseness. His practice of extemporaneous speaking has probably led him to form the habit of paraphrasing and reproducing the same thought in a variety of forms; a habit against which he must be on his guard when he writes. This quality of style, however, may render the work more useful to a large class of readers, whose limited cultivation requires truth to be much expanded and illustrated before it can be profitably received.
An extract or two will give our readers a correet impression of the spirit and objects of this work. We take a few paragraphs from an essay “ On the Culture of the Imagination."
“ And now we would add, that the imagination should be addressed in general studies. In Biography, in Geography, in History, as well as in all those studies that relate to nature. How much more will a child enjoy History, if, instead of dates, statistics, and meagre details, the events themselves can be brought before his mind. That which has passed away will seem present, and all may be presented as a life-like and vivid reality History may be made the dullest, or the most interesting study; a sepulchre filled with departed events, or the living past moving in vigor before us. A child inay study a synopsis of events, and know as little of the world's movements as if he had committed to memory a merchant's ledger. We do not wish history mingled with fancy, or colored in false hues; neither do we wish it in skeleton nakedness. Let it be reality. When the child hears or reads of past events, bring the whole scene before him. Let him feel that he can see it. Give him the customs, the appearance of the country; -- the workings of the mind;- the idea that was evolving itself. Then it will not be a mere phantasmagoria, but body and mind. Then emperors, and popes, and abbots, and monks, and Scandinavian chiefs, and pilgrims with shells and staffs of ivory, would stand before us, and we should behold also the feeble, the neglected, the peasant, and the child.
“Let the young see, moreover, the progress of the past, from barbarism to civilization. Let them see the difference between savage life and Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Christian civilization. Show them Man as the child of the Ages, - working out by severest toil his high destiny; grappling with difficulties; struggling through darkness; now driven back, but again pressing forward into higher and nobler life. History might thus be given, and the grand ideas of past movements in some measure brought out. We should then feel as if we had seen and held intercourse with Jewish pontifts, Roman orators, Scotch covenanters, and Pilgrim fathers. We should behold them in their lives, and understand what they did, or sought to do, and what we have gained by their efforts. It is said by Macaulay, in his magnificent article on Hallam's Constitutional History,' that · History should be a compound of poetry and philosophy, impressing general truths on the mind by a vivid representation of particular characters and incidents. While our historians,' he says, "are practising all the arts of controversy, they miserably neglect the art of narration, the art of interesting the affections, and presenting pictures to the imagina
tion. That a writer may produce these effects without violating truth, is sufficiently proved by many excellent biographical works. The instruction derived from history thus written, would be of a vivid and practical character. It would be received by the imagination as well as by the reason. It would be not merely traced on the mind, but branded into it. Many truths, too, would be learned, which can be learned in no other manner.'
“ The same remarks apply generally to Geography. Names, statistics, latitude and longitude, give but a poor idea to the young mind. Let them see, in thought, the icy shores of the north, and the perpetual verdure of the tropics; the desert sand, the rocky coast, the prairie, and the wilderness; the foaming cataract, which leaps into the abyss; and the river, which, in its long course, mirrors mountain crags, fields, and meadows, the quiet village and populous city. In speaking of any country, let the idea of that country be presented as distinctly as possible. Bring before the mind not only its general outlines, but the character of its vegetation, the manners of the people, the aspect of the scenery, and the characteristics of thought and trade, whether in literature or the arts, commerce or manufacturing. Then will there be an understanding of things, and not merely a recollection of words. Much has of late been accomplished in this way to facilitate study, and much more, we doubt not, will yet be done. The same remarks which have been made in relation to history and geography, will apply in a great measure to geology, botany, and the various branches of natural history. If mere scientific terms are brought together, all will be dry and dead; but if we will take the terms and connect them with nature, we shall gain our end. Barren rules and unintelligible phrases may be retained by the memory, but of how much more value are they if connected with clear thought, and a full understanding of their connexion with reality. We can bardly be surprised, that Herder reverently exclaimed, My God! how dry and withered a thing many people figure to themselves the soul of a child!! And no wonder that it should be withered and dry, if it is made a mere storehouse of names, instead of ideas; of sound without sense, and shadows without substance. Let realities be taught, as well as techvicalities, and, in the place of abstruse generalizations, there will be vivid perception and practical knowledge.” — pp. 242-246. The following is a pleasing specimen of the poetry.
“THE MOTHER AND HER CHILD. “ [Göthe relates, that he met, in the Campagna of Rome, a young woman nursing her child, seated on the remains of an ancient column. He questioned her on the ruins with which her dwelling was surrounded: she was ignorant of every thing concerning them, being wholly devoted to the affections which filled her soul; she loved, and to her the present moment was the whole of existence.] “ TEMPLES, and monuments, and crumbling fanes,
Altars, and broken shafts are scattered round;
And stamped this sacred spot as classic ground,
While Art and Genius here their home have found! -
She seeks not here to learn what minds unknown
She smiles in joy upon her infant fair,
And in such bliss, oh! wherefore should she care
– pp. 197, 198.
3. — Tales and Souvenirs of a Residence in Europe. By a
Lady of Virginia. Philadelphia : Lea & Blanchard. 1842.
UNPRETENDING as the title and introduction are, which herald this little volume to the world, they are still more modest in what they withhold from the public, than in what they express. It might have been proclaimed, that these were the souvenirs of one whose lot was cast among the great in station and in talent; an habitual associate of families whose names are historical, and of men whom Fame has claimed as her own. But the modesty of the announcement does better justice to the character of the author and of her work. The public is her debtor for a tasteful, interesting, and refined book ; free entirely from any of the mannerism or affectations of the day, written in a chaste but polished style, and abounding in lively and picturesque passages.
The book is, as the title implies, a souvenir of Europe in the form of tales, of which there are three, having no other connexion with each other than that they are the thread on which the writer has strung her pearls of description.
With one exception, the scenes are laid entirely in Europe ; but this exception gives, we think, an additional charm to the book. In the first story, a lover crosses the Atlantic in search of his mistress. While travelling in Virginia, he is overtaken by a violent storm, and is led by a young Indian girl into one of those marvellous caves which abound in the Old Dominion. We cite the entire passage which describes this sublime cavern.
“Medwyn advanced, and to his astonishment found, that they were now emerging from a small apartment that appeared only an antechamber to a long suite of rooms leading in various directions, whose almost interminable height and magnificent size were undistinguishable by the imperfect lights carried by his conductress and himself. The blaze of the torches threw their fitful beams upon the walls, which sparkled as if tapestried with cloth of gold in wrought with myriads of costly gems, while lustres that depended from the ceiling glowed with the prismatic brilliancy of diamonds. The superb columns, – the gleaming white of groups of colossal statuary,- of vases of alabaster, — of candelabras, – of girandoles,- of curtains sweeping with heavy and graceful folds, even the outlines of a throne, - all fitted in shadowy forms before him, but more like the unearthly phantoms of departed grandeur than the real accompaniments of a kingly palace, and seemed sadly mingled with funereal monuments, which arose in the vast space, with ghost-like whiteness, as the distant light fell on them, and whose dark shadows seemed to reproach them with permitting even that faint smile to illumine their obscurity.”
Let us now turn to a scene the very opposite of this, - one of the salons of the noble Faubourg.
“The rich gilding of the vaulted ceilings, the size and magnificence of the mirrors that covered the walls, save where rich specimens of Italian art occupied a portion of the space; the draperies of crimson velvet with their deep fringes of gold, and above all the costly luxury of the superb carpeting and tapestry of the finest Gobelin work, displayed the luxurious taste of the possessor of the mansion. The evening had closed in, and the rich lustres and or moulu candelabras threw their brilliant light around, - but the splendid apartments were still unoccupied. At length a light step approached, and the fairy form of Estelle St. Helène was reflected again and again by the brilliant mirrors around her.
“ With a slow and uncertain step, she passed through the gorgeous suite of rooms, and paused not until she reached a small apartment at the extremity. Bestowing a slight glance on the delicate tapestry of folds of white satin that draped the walls, and the exquisite gems of art, both in painting and statuary, with which it was adorned, she approached the mosaic table, surmounted by a Sèvres vase of the rarest workmanship, filled with exotic flowers, which, even more than the softened moonlight lustre shed through vases of alabaster, marked the boudoir.”
The tales are graceful, interesting, and well contrived. We shall not attempt any analysis of them ; but recommend them to our readers, with the certainty that, if they begin to read, they will not lay down the book till they have finished it.
We have remarked, that the book deserves high praise for what it withholds, as well as for what it gives. No American who has ever written about Europe, has enjoyed better opportunities, than our author, of catering for the rapacious appetite of a sorry portion of our countrymen, for the gossip of high life in Europe. She might have run over the whole gamut of personalities, from the commission merchant of New York up to the residents of the Tuileries, or the more aristocratic fixtures of the Faubourg St. Germain. But with these attractions she does not seek to win popularity ; the book is entirely guiltless of any such piracies upon private life or public station ; it