« AnteriorContinuar »
building and reservoir; passing the New Piazza, and the fine statues of the late and present Grand Duke.'
And of just such 'skimble-skamble stuff' is the whole book composed. The young author must surely live to be ashamed of a production so crude, disjointed and uninteresting.
TRUTH STRANGER THAN FICTION: a Narrative of Recent Transactions, involving Inquiries in regard to the Principles of Honor, Truth and Justice, which obtain in a Distinguished American University. In one volume, 12mo.
We have received the following letter, touching the work whose title is given above, and which was briefly noticed in our last number. The writer has availed himself of our offer to 'hear both sides,' but in our judgment, a review proper of the book itself should be forthcoming, to meet the exigencies of the case:
'TO THE EDITOR OF THE KNICKERBOCKER:
November 6, 1850. 'DEAR SIR: I have just arisen from the perusal of your very piquant summing up of that very remarkable book, with the hackneyed title, 'Truth Stranger than Fiction,' by Miss CATHARINE E. BEECHER. As you seem still open to conviction as to the real merits of this singular controversy, and willing to unravel the secret history of the book, I take the liberty of submitting a few observations that have occurred to me respecting it. I agree with you, 'this is a strange affair,' a stranger dénouement, and a book still more strange than either. I have not the honor of a personal acquaintance with the fair authoress, but congratulate the male sex in general, that she is still permitted to write her name 'Miss.' Though no ESCULAPIUs, I have some notions of hereditary disease, and I am not surprised that the calumniator of steamship discipline, and the libeller of one of the oldest literary institutions in America, should have sprung from the same source. The eaglets are worthy of a common eyrie. I am at a loss to discover what honest or pious motive could have dictated this book. It is painful to suspect the motives of any one, still more painful to suspect the motives of a sex proverbial for lack of suspicion. But the disguise which veils the hideous features that malice and wounded vanity have distorted into the 'Gorgon' before us, is too flimsy to baffle the most ordinary penetration. If the book is wonderful, the letter of the heroine to the authoress, declining permission to have the book published, is still more so; that is to say, if one reads it as the writer intended it should be read. But fortunately for truth and plain-dealing, duplicity has adopted a hackneyed device. The coquetry here exhibited is hardly worthy of one who could hold in abeyance for more than twelve months an unsophisticated youth ten years her junior. The trick of CÆSAR:
'You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
the harmless wranglings of rival quacks, in patent medicines, and 'Yankee notions,' and the late passage-at-arms between BARNUM and the Boston newspaper-editors, have familiarized us with this species of tactics; and in spite of charity and gallantry, the world will cry 'Humbug!' If the lady in question had been the first who had after twelve months' acquaintance before marriage, satisfied a gentleman that his purse and his person might be in better keeping than of the one who coveted both, she might have wondered at the failure of her own perfections. But why this lady should assume that her sex has 'as large a charter as the wind' in this respect, and that ours is 'cabined, cribbed, confined' to one chance in the great dice-box of matrimony, I can't for my life discover. The facts and circumstances detailed In this volume, in spite of suppressions and italicised words, have failed to convince me that there is any thing very marvellous in the story on one side or the other. And I see no reason why the ear of the public should be besieged' by a garbled and angry pasquinade upon a trivial affair occurring between two obscure individuals in a small city, in a small state. But the passion for notoriety has in our day become a sporadic disease, and must be fed with such pestilential vapors as low places and festering substances exhale.
'Here I would stop; but the letter!-I must say one word about that. It appears from Miss D- 's own story, that the person who has made all the mischief has reaped his 'only distinction' from association with her; that she is 'tired of being a victim' and does not wish to be a heroine." Really, we cannot but express our sorrow, that the bad eminence' to which she has exalted 'this person' should have been made more conspicuous, or that she herself should have been victimized
for the idle purpose of attempting to model a heroine out of such meagre materials by so clumsy an artist. One word to the writer and we have done. It is an old adage that 'God sends us meats, but the DEVIL sends us cooks;' and although we are inclined, from a perusal of another work of fiction by the same authoress, to the opinion that she may be a very good cook of physical food, we suspect that her instructions in the culinary art touching the 'food of the mind' have come from the source deprecated in the proverb. We recommend her in future to confine her attentions to the 'paté de foie gras' and sauce piquante of the kitchen, and her observations on 'high life' to 'below stairs: there she has been and may be respectable; beyond that,
'NONSENSE precipitate like running lead,
Slips through the crags and zig-zags of her head.'
THE LIFE OF JOHN RANDOLPH, of Roanoke. By HUGH A. GARLAND. In two volumes. D. ApPLETON AND COMPANY.
THESE are two interesting volumes, and form a valuable addition to the history of our public affairs, at an eventful period of our national career. But independent of the commendation which they deserve in this latter regard, they are equally deserving of praise for the vivid picture which they afford of the singular person whose career they detail with great minuteness. As an individual personal history, the work is full of interest. It contains a large amount of copious and unreserved correspondence with the most intimate friends of Mr. RANDOLPH, written as only himself ever wrote. Not a thought or feeling is concealed from these cherished friends of his bosom; and the letters to them, sometimes written daily, may be said to constitute a diary of his daily life. The letters were freely confided to the editor, and he seems to have made a well-discriminated use of them. If there is any thing to be found fault with in the volumes it is an occasional tendency in the writer to prolong his own text by episodes which strikes us as sometimes out of place, or at least unnecessary. We pass at once to the few quotations from the personal correspondence for which we can find space. The following is from a letter to his staunch and life-long friend, the late FRANCIS S. KEY, of Baltimore, author of 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' a man of genius and a Christian gentleman, whose own letters, in the volumes before us, are models of composition:
'I HEARTILY Wish that I were qualified in any shape to advise you on the subject of a new calling in life. Were I premier, I should certainly translate you to the see of Canterbury; and if I were not too conscious of my utter incompetency, I should like to take a professorship in some college where you were principal; for, like you, my occupation (tobacco-making) is also gone. Some sort of employment is absolutely necesssary to keep me from expiring from ennui. I see no reviews,' nor any thing else of that description. My time passes in uniform monotony. For weeks together I never see a new face; and, to tell you the truth, I am so much of Captain GULLIVER's way of thinking respecting my fellow-Yahoos, (a few excepted, whose souls must have transmigrated from the generous Houyhnhnms,) that I have as much of their company as is agreeable to me, and I suspect that they are pretty much of my opinion; that I am not only ennuyé myself, but the cause of ennui in others. In fact, this business of living is, like Mr. BARLOW's reclamations on the French Government, dull work; and I possess so little of Pagan philosophy, or of Christian patience, as frequently to be driven to the brink of despair. The uses of this world have long seemed to me stale, flat, and unprofitable;' but I have worried along, like a worn-out horse in a mail coach, by dint of habit and whip-cord, and shall at last die in the traces, running the same dull stage, day after day.
'When you see RIDGELY, commend me to him and his amiable wife. I am really glad to hear that he is quietly at home, instead of scampering along the bay shore, or inditing dispatches. Our upper country is slid down upon the lower. Nearly half our people are below the falls. Both my brothers are gone.'
We have italicised a line or two to indicate our admiration of the force, simplicity and originality of Mr. RANDOLPH's epistolary style. He speaks, in another letter, of going to the Hot Sulphur Springs of Virginia to 'stew the rheumatism out of his carcase;' which carcase, we may remark in passing, seems never to have been free
from aches and pains. Perhaps the reader will find in this fact no small excuse for the petulance which sometimes characterized the subject of them. In one of his letters he says: 'My body is wholly worn out, and the intellectual part much shattered. My bodily infirmities are great and rapidly increasing, so that it will be impossible for me to sustain existence here when deprived of field exercises. I write now under the pressure of severe head-ache. You are not my physician, yet I cannot omit telling you that I am afflicted with a strange anomalous disease. It is of the heart; the most violent palpitations, succeeded by a total suspension of its functions for some seconds: and then, after several sudden spasmodic actions, the pulse becomes very slow, languid and weak. When the fit is on, it may be seen through my dress across the room.' Toward the close of the same letter, he adds: 'I wish I could say something of my future movements. I look forward without hope. Clouds and darkness hang upon my prospects; and should my feeble frame hang together a few years longer, the time may arrive when my best friends, as well as myself, may pray that a close may be put to the same.' Such expressions as the following are frequent throughout his correspondence: 'On the terms by which I hold it, life is a curse from which I would willingly escape, if I knew where to fly.' Mr. RANDOLPH was for a long period immersed in clouds and darkness on the subject of religion, but at last faith and hope were triumphant. After his reëlection for the second time to congress, he writes to a friend: 'You will have perceived, I hope, my good friend, from my letter by Dr.- that I have felt no disposition to indulge in an unbecoming triumph on the event of the late election in this district. I do assure you with the utmost sincerity, that, so far as I am personally concerned, I cannot but regret the partiality of my friends, who insisted on holding me up on this occasion. I am engrossed by sentiments of a far different character, and I look forward to the future in this world, to say nothing of the next, with anticipations that forbid any idle expression of exultation. On the contrary, my sensations are such as become a dependent creature, whose only hope for salvation rests upon the free grace of HIM to whom we must look for peace in this world, as well as in the world to come.' Elsewhere he remarks: 'My dear Sir, there is, or there is not, another and a better world. If there is, as we all believe, what is it but madness to be absorbed in the cares of a clay-built hovel, held at will, unmindful of the rich inheritance of an imperishable palace, of which we are immortal heirs?' We enter fully into the feelings of the author of the work before us, after the perusal of his pages, when he writes:
'WHEN We come to consider the solitude in which he lived, the emaciated condition of his delicate frame, worn down by long and torturing disease, the irritable state of his nervous system-'he was almost like a man without a skin'- the constant and sleepless excitement of his mental faculties, and of his brilliant imagination induced by this morbid irritability; when we throw ourselves into his condition, and conceive of the crowd of burning thoughts that pressed upon his mind, pass in melancholy review the many friends that had been torn from him by the hand of death, the many who had forgotten him and forsaken him as a fallen man, no longer serviceable to them; call to remembrance that his own father's house was desolate, St. GEORGE, his brother, in the mad-house, himself, like LOGAN, alone in his cabin, without a drop of his father's blood save that which coursed in his own well nigh exhausted veins; and, above all, when we call to remembrance his first, his youthful, and his only love, which is said to have greatly revived in his mind at this time with the painful, yet hallowed associations that clustered around its cherished memory-who can wonder that a man, with the temperament of JOHN RANDOLPH, under these circumstances should fling away all restraint, and should cry aloud in the anguish of his soul, and should so act and speak as to excite the astonishment of those around, and induce them to believe that he was a madman! In a similar situation DAVID was a madman; BYRON was a madman; ROSSEAU-all high-souled, deepfeeling men of genius, in the eye of the world were madmen.'
In one place, the eccentric Virginian gives an amusing pieture of a 'consort' which he attended, wherein a protegée of the hostess, who had 'been used to exhibition and display from the egg-shell,' sang but very little to his edification :
'I FELT very much ashamed of being there, not because the room was mean and badly lighted and dirty, and the company ill-dressed, but because I saw, for the first time, an American woman singing for hire. I would import our actors, singers, tumblers, and jack-puddings, if we must have such cattle, from Europe. HYDE DE NEUVILLE, a Frenchman, agreed with me, that although the lady was universally admitted to be very amiable, it was a dangerous example.' At first (on dit) she was unaffected, and sang naturallly, and, I am told, agreeably enough, but now she is a bundle of 'affectations,' (as Sir HUGH hath it,) and reminds me of the little screech 'owels,' as they say on the south side. Her voice is not bad, but she is utterly destitute of a single particle of taste or judgWere she a lady, and I in her company, my politeness should never induce me to punish myself by asking her to sing. When she was 'screeching,' I was strongly reminded of two lines of a mock Methodist hymn, that poor JOHN HOLLINGSWORTH used to sing when we were graceless youths at college:
'O THAT I, like Madame FRENCH,
Could raise my 'vice' on high,
Thy name should last like oaken bench,
From his solitude at Roanoke JOHN RANDOLPH sent forth lessons of wisdom which are well worthy of being learned by the young and the inconsiderate. We commend the following extracts from one of his letters, not only to all the sons of the 'first families in Virginia,' but to young men every where:
"ONE of the best and wisest men I ever knew has often said to me, that a decayed family could never recover its loss of rank in the world until the members of it left off talking and dwelling upon its former opulence. This remark, founded in a long and close observation of mankind, I have seen verified, in numerous instances, in my own connections, who, to use the words of my oracle, 'will never thrive until they become 'poor folks:" he added, "they may make some struggles, and with apparent success, to recover lost ground; they may, and sometimes do, get half way up again; but they are sure to fall back, unless, reconciling themselves to circumstances, they become in form, as well as in fact, poor folks.'
"The blind pursuit of wealth, for the sake of hoarding, is a species of insanity. There are spirits, and not the least worthy, who, content with an humble mediocrity, leave the field of wealth and ambition open to more active, perhaps more guilty, competitors. Nothing can be more respectable than the independence that grows out of self-denial. The man who, by abridging his wants, can find time to devote to the cultivation of his mind, or the aid of his fellow-creatures, is a being far above the plodding sons of industry and gain. His is a spirit of the noblest order. But what shall we say to the drone, whom society is eager to shake from her encumbered lap? who lounges from place to place, and spends more time in 'Adonizing' his person, even in a morning, than would serve to earn his breakfast? who is curious in his living, a connoisseur in wines, fastidious in his cookery; but who never knew the luxury of earning a single meal? Such a creature, 'sponging' from house to house, and always on the borrow, may yet be found in Virginia. One more generation will, I trust, put an end to them; and their posterity, if they have any, must work or steal directly.
'Men are like nations: one founds a family, the other an empire; both destined, sooner or later, to decay. This is the way in which ability manifest itself. They who belong to a higher order, like NEWTON, and MILTON, and SHAKSPEARE, leave an imperishable name. I have no quarrel with such as are content with their original obscurity, vegetate on from father to son; whose ignoble blood has crept through clodpoles ever since the flood; but I cannot respect them. He who contentedly eats the bread of idleness and dependence is beneath contempt.'
Considering that the following came from an incorrigible old bachelor, we consider it worthy of heed:
You know my opinion of female society. Without it, we should degenerate into brutes. This observation applies with tenfold force to young men, and those who are in the prime of manhood; for, after a certain time of life, the literary man may make a shift (a poor one, I grant) to do without the society of ladies. To a young man, nothing is so important as a spirit of devotion (next to his CREATOR) to some virtuous and amiable woman, whose image may occupy his heart, and guard it from the pollution which besets it on all sides. Nevertheless, I trust that your fondness for the company of ladies may not rob you of the time which ought to be devoted to reading and meditating on your profession; and, above all, that it may not acquire for you the reputation of dangler — in itself bordering on the contemptible, and seriously detrimental to your professional character. A cautious old SQUARETOES, who might have no objection to employing such a one at the bar, would, perhaps, be shy of introducing him as a practitioner in his family, in case he should have a pretty daughter, or niece, or sister; although all experience shows, that of all male animals, the dangler is the most harmless to the ladies, who quickly learn, with the intuitive sagacity of the sex, to make a convenience of him, while he serves for a butt also. Rely upon it, that to love a woman as a 'mistress,' although a delicious delirium—an intoxication far surpassing that of champagne- -is altogether unessential, nay, pernicious, in the choice of a wife; which a man ought to set about in his sober senses, choosing her, as Mrs. PRIMROSE did her wedding-gown, for qualities that 'wear well.'
With these specimens' of the character of the volumes before us, we take our regretful leave of them, commending them to our readers as well calculated to enlist attention and reward perusal. They are well printed, upon good paper.
PROGRESS IN THE NORTH-WEST. Annual Discourse before the Historical Society of Ohio. By the President, WILLIAM D. GALLAGHER. Cincinnati: H. W. DERBY AND COMPANY.
Mr. GALLAGHER, who is one of the most distinguished of all our western poets, has in the address before us shown himself master of a prose style of great compactness and force. We seldom see any thing in the journals or elsewhere, to which the name of this gentleman is attached, without giving it our immediate attention, nor are our expectations of enjoyment ever disappointed. In the present address, the writer treats of the facts connected with the past progress of the north-west, and of the conditions of its future advancement. In the opening of his theme we have this spirited illustration of the difference between ancient and modern civilization:
'THE ancient civilizations were sensuous; the modern civilization is spiritual. The ancient civilizations encouraged distinctions; the modern civilization proclaims, in tones that thrill and echo through the universe: GoD is no respecter of persons! The ancient civilizations made of woman a slave to man's caprices, appetites, and power, and denied her anything approaching to equality of state with him; the modern civilization declares her equality, praises and protects her virtues, seeks to educate her intellect and develop her deepest affections, and proclaims her a ministering angel' amid the doubt, and suffering, and nefarious wrongs of life. The ancient civilizat ons built the pyramids and the palaces of Egypt, founded the magnificent empires and the rich cities of Asia, erected the temples of Greece, and constructed the Appian Way and the Roman Aqueducts; the modern civilization builds the common school, the christian church, the lunatic asylum, the institution for the blind, the school for the deaf and dumb, the hospital, and the almshouse. The ancient civilizations inclosed their cities, and even their countries, within high and strong walls, to protect them alike from the rapacity and the weapons of neighboring peoples; the modern civilization connects its cities by good roads and canals, to invite visits from one another, and constructs railways from state to state, and across continents from ocean to ocean, to facilitate intercommunication, and thus brings and binds peoples together, instead of walling them apart. The ancient civilizations decorated the walls and columns of their temples and dwellings with paintings and sculptures, representing personal conflicts, conquerors returning from battle bearing the dismembered heads of the slain, and other evidences of the bloody exertion of brute strength; the modern civilization fills its private residences and public halls with paintings and statues that awaken the purer associations, call into activity the higher sentiments, and fill the mind and heart with images of beauty, truth, holiness, and love. The ancient civilizations sent armies abroad, to conquer and subdue with the sword and with fire; the modern civilization sends the school-master and the missionary abroad, to conquer and subdue with intellectual light, with gospel truth, with human and divine love.'
We were struck with this eloquent description of the agency of steam in peopling the great valley which stretches from the western slopes of the Alleghenies to the Mississippi and thence to the twentieth parallel of longitude:
'A NEW agent of civilization and settlement was now introduced. The keel of the steamboat had been plowing the waters of the West for three or four years. This description of navigation was no longer a mere experiment. Speaking relatively to what was then attempted, it had succeeded; and every time the escape of steam, or the splash of the paddles, woke the echoes of the still solitary shores, a requiem sounded for the departing Indian, and a song of gladness went up for the arrival of his adventurous successor. The genius of FULTON was, in the hands of these adventurers, the Lamp of ALADDIN; it opened to them freely the doors of the Great West, frightened away their enemies, and displayed to their enraptured gaze the many and glittering charms of this beautiful land. And still the paddles dashed the waters; and still the piercing shriek of the escape-pipe woke the deep echoes; and still the child of the forest receded farther and farther; and still rolled on the stream of emigration, through the gaps of the Cumberland, over the heights of the Alleghenies, down into the rich valley through which coursed the calm waters of the Ohio. And another period of ten years passed-the third decade in the half century—and the population was become two million, two hundred and ninety-eight thousand, three hundred and ninety.
"By this time, over nearly the whole broad bosom of the region which I have mapped out, were scattered the habitations of men, and introduced the institutions of Christian, civilized life. In the interiors of its different sections, the wigwams of the savage had given place to the cabins of the new comers, and the farm-houses of the first settlers. On the small streams, which every where sent up their glad voices, giving to the deep solitude a tongue that was eloquent, the hand of enterprise had taken the willing waters, and borne them to the clattering wheels of the manufactory, where they labored and yet sported, and, like virtue, were overruled and yet free. On the broad lakes, on the mighty rivers, the arm of STEAM,
'THAT fleshless arm, whose pulses leap
was propelling the gigantic hull, freighted with hundreds of human beings, coming from afar to cultivate the land, to fabricate its crude products, to engage in trade and commerce, to multiply and replenish the earth.' On the great natural highways, populous cities had taken the place of the