Page images
PDF
EPUB

human ability, he earnestly recognized. It is this singular union of the naturalist and statesman which gives to his character a stamp of distinctive beauty. It was not as associated with the tactics of party, but as the almoner of a higher economy, that he regarded the functions of a ruler. To discover and promote all that ministers to the welfare of the state was, in his regard, the genius of administration. He sought to build up a noble commonwealth, rather than the power of faction. The elements of knowledge and philanthropy he considered as vital, and accordingly originated and sustained, as primary objects, educational, economical and benevolent institutions, which still bear gracious witness to his memory. His mind was, however, of too contemplative a tone to be on the alert for occasions to conciliate opponents ; his manly integrity precluded resort to the arts of the demagogue. He thought too much to be minutely vigilant of the wayward current of popularity, and was too much absorbed in great undertakings to “catch the nearest way" to the favor of the multitude. The soundness of his intellectual growth and moral energy may be inferred from the rectitude and industry of his college life, wherein the youth prefigured the man. His acquisitions were gradual, but thorough; and, while an undergraduate, he drew up a masterly address to the regents, in behalf of his fellow-students. He was remarkably superior to selfish considerations, invariably devoting his official revenue to promoting the influence of whatever station he filled, and contributing largely from his private purse to science, hospitality, and charity. He was indifferent to emolument, but zealous for usefulness and honor. More adroit tacticians and political courtiers superseded him in office ; but their very names are now forgotten, except when recalled as associated with his; while the measures they ridiculed, and the achievements they deemed chimerical, are indissolubly wrought into the local features and the civic life of the country.

It would be now an ungracious task to review the forms of political animosity, which, like a swarm of venomous insects, hung around the career of this brave citizen. When we compare the incidental annoyance with the ultimate triumph, the struggle with the victory, we are tempted to exclaim, with the hero of

a

that lake whose tide he married to the sea, "There is glory enough," and, in a like generous spirit, to pass unrecorded the mean arts of faction and the outrages of party hatred. The history of Clinton's great achievement is like that of every undertaking that is in advance of the time. It is fortunate that in men of true genius the will is usually as strong as the aim is original, and that perseverance goes hand in hand with invention. It is remarkable that even Jefferson thought the governor of New York a century beyond his age in the design he cherished. To the scepticism of intelligent friends was united the bitter opposition of partisan foes. Indignities, gross slanders, violent newspaper attacks, personal disrespect, and all the base weapons of sectional jealousy, were employed in vain. The thunders of Tammany Hall proved innocuous; satirical pamphlets only excited equally caustic replies; his failure as a presidential candidate, and his unjust removal from the office of canal commissioner, only drew more strongly towards him the few who appreciated his abilities and shared his projects. He was offered the secretaryship of state by a chief magistrate who subsequently, at the festive board of the opposition, proposed the health of Clinton as a public benefactor. He retreated from official toil to his library, and knew how to soothe the wounds inflicted by reckless ignorance with the balm of literature and science. A man who can forget personal grievances over the pages of Linnæus or Baeon is above the need of sympathy. His courtesy was never laid aside, even when the poisoned shafts of detraction were flying thickly around him, nor his dignity invaded while the insolent shout of revengeful triumph filled the air. He was conscious of a mission above the spoils of office. The social consideration he enjoyed more than atoned for the casual loss of political distinction; foreigners of renown sought his dwelling; men of science were his favorite companions, books his most reliable consolation; and the great scheme he so long advocated, with the labor incident to its progress and consummation, gave genial employment to all his faculties. Now that the watch words of party are forgotten, and the ravings of faction have died away, his noble presence stands forth in bold relief, on the historical canvas of that era, as the pioneer of the genius of communication, whose magic touch has already filled with civilized life the boundless valleys of the West, then an untracked forest; as the Columbus of national improvement, and the man who most effectually anticipated the spirit of the age, and gave it executive illustration.

19*

1

THE VOCALIST,
Τ

JENNY LIND.

a

The Life of the North is to us a fresh revelation; and, by a striking coincidence, one after another of its phases have come upon our transatlantic vision in rapid succession. Previously, Swedenborg, Charles XII., and Linnæus, were the names most gratefully associated with that region. To many Americans, Thorwaldsen was the only name associated with art, but a few years since; and to those who have visited Rome, the benign and venerable man is a vivid and pleasing reminiscence, appropriate to the idea of his grand apostolic figures, and the affectionate honor in which his native Denmark holds the memory of its noble sculptor. But with a Norwegian violinist fairly commenced our popular knowledge of the genius of Northern Europe. The play of the wind through her forest pines, tlie glint of her frozen streams, the tenderness of her households, and the solemnity of her faith, seemed to breathe in the wizard tones of his instrument. Then the spirit of her literature began slowly to win its gentle but impressive way to the American heart. Longfellow's translation of Bishop Tegner's " Children of the Lord's Supper," with the graphic introduction descriptive of rural life in Sweden, touched the same chord in New England breasts that had vibrated to the religious pathos of Bryant, Dana, and Hawthorne; while not a few readers became simultaneously aware of a brave Danish poet, recently followed to the tomb by the people of Copenhagen, with every token of national grief. The dramas of

Ehlenschläger, from their union of familiar expression with the deepest feeling, though but partially known in this country, awakened both curiosity and interest. Then, too, came to us the domestic novels of Miss Bremer, portraying so heartily the life of home in Sweden, and appealing to the most universal sympathies of our people. Finally, Ilans Andersen's delicious storybooks, veiling such fine imaginative powers under the guise of the utmost simplicity, raised up for him scores of juvenile admirers, while children of a larger growth enjoyed the originality of his fictions with equal zest, as the offspring of rare human sympathy and original invention. The pictures wafted to our shores by the late revolutionary exigencies of the Continent have often yielded glimpses of northern scenery. Norwegian forests, skies, and mountains, attracted the eye at the Dusseldorf gallery; and thus, through both art and literature, the simple, earnest, and poetic features of life in the North were brought within the range of our consciousness. It developed unimagined affinities with our own; and, as it were, to complete and consecrate the revelation, we heard the vocal genius of Northern Europe — the Swedish nightingale, Jenny Lind.

Stockholm is justly regarded as the most elegant city of Northern Europe. It is situated at the junction of the lake Mälar with an inlet of the Baltic. Although usually described as founded on seven isles, it is, in point of fact, mainly situated on three; the smallest and most central having been the original site, and still constituting the most populous and active section. The irregularity of its form, and the blending of land and water, render the appearance of the city remarkably picturesque. From the elevated points, besides the various buildings, craft of all kinds in motion and at anchor, numerous bridges and a fine background of mountains are discernible, and combine to form a beautiful panorama. The royal palace is exceeded in magnificence only by that of Versailles.

From an unpretending edifice in one of the by-streets of the city of Stockholm, in Sweden, a quarter of a century ago, a troop of children might have been seen to emerge, at noon, and break the silence that at other hours invested the place, with the lively chat and quick laughter natural to emancipated scholars. In a

a

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »