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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 6, April, 1858 by Various

Part 5 out of 5

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cheat by false weights that kept the shape but lacked the substance of
legitimate precedent. We are forced to think that there must be a bend
sinister in the escutcheon of the descendants of such men, when we find
them setting the form above the substance, and accepting as law that
which is deadly to the spirit while it is true to the letter of
legality. It is a spectacle portentous of moral lapse and social
disorganization, to see a statesman, who has had fifty years' experience
of American politics, quibbling in defence of Executive violence against
a free community, as if the conscience of the nation were no more august
a tribunal than a police justice sitting upon a paltry case of assault.
Yet more portentous is it to see a great people consenting that fraud
should be made national by the voice of a Congress in which the casting
vote may be bought by a tide-waitership, and then invested with the
solemnity of law by a Court whose members are selected, not for
uprightness of character or breadth of mind, but by the inverse test of
their capacity for cringing in subservience to party, and for narrowing
a judgment already slender as the line of personal interest, till it
becomes so threadlike as to bend at the touch, nay, at the breath, of
sectional rapacity. Have we, then, forgotten that the true prosperity of
a nation is moral, and not material? that its strength depends, not on
the width of its boundaries, nor the bulk of its census, but on its
magnanimity, its honor, its fidelity to conscience? There is a Fate
which spins and cuts the threads of national as of individual life, and
the case of God against the people of these United States is not to be
debated before any such petty tribunal as Mr. Buchanan and his advisers
seem to suppose. The sceptre which dropped successively from the grasp
of Egypt, Assyria, Carthage, Greece, Rome, fell from a hand palsied by
the moral degeneracy of the people; and the emasculate usurper or the
foreign barbarian snatched and squandered the heritage of civilization
which escheated for want of legitimate heirs of the old royal race,
whose divine right was the imperial brain, and who found their strength
in a national virtue which individualized itself in every citizen. The
wind that moans among the columns of the Parthenon, or rustles through
the weeds on the palaces of the Caesars, whimpers no truer prophecies
than that venal breath which, at a signal from the patron in the White
House, bends all one way the obsequious leaves of a partisan press,
ominous of popular decadence.

Do our leading politicians, and the prominent bankers and merchants who
sustain them, know what a dangerous lesson they are setting to a people
whose affairs are controlled by universal suffrage, when they affirm
that to be right which can by any false pretence be voted so? Does not
he who undermines national principle sap the foundations of individual
property also? If burglary may be committed on a commonwealth under
form of law, is there any logic that will protect a bank-vault or a
strong-box? When Mr. Buchanan, with a Jew broker at one elbow and a
Frenchman at the other, (strange representatives of American diplomacy!)
signed his name to the Ostend circular, was he not setting a
writing-lesson for American youth to copy, and one which the pirate hand
of Walker _did_ copy in ungainly letters of fire and blood in Nicaragua?

The vice of universal suffrage is the infinitesimal subdivision of
personal responsibility. The guilt of every national sin comes back to
the voter in a fraction the denominator of which is several millions.
It is idle to talk of the responsibility of officials to their
constituencies or to the people. The President of the United States,
during his four years of office, is less amenable to public opinion than
the Queen of England through her ministers; senators, with embassies in
prospect, laugh at instructions; representatives think they have made a
good bargain when they exchange the barren approval of constituencies
for the smile of one whom a lucky death, perhaps, has converted into
the Presidential Midas of the moment; and in a nation of adventurers,
success is too easily allowed to sanctify a speculation by which a man
sells his pitiful self for a better price than even a Jew could get for
the Saviour of the world. It cannot be too often repeated, that the only
responsibility which is of saving efficacy in a Democracy is that of
every individual man in it to his conscience and his God. As long
as anyone of us holds the ballot in his hand, he is truly, what we
sometimes vaguely boast, a sovereign,--a constituent part of Destiny;
the infinite Future is his vassal; History holds her iron stylus as
his scribe; Lachesis awaits his word to close or to suspend her fatal
shears;--but the moment his vote is cast, he becomes the serf of
circumstance, at the mercy of the white-livered representative's
cowardice, or the venal one's itching palm. Our only safety, then, is
in the aggregate fidelity to personal rectitude, which may lessen the
chances of representative dishonesty, or, at the worst, constitute a
public opinion that shall make the whole country a penitentiary for
such treason, and turn the price of public honor to fairy-money, whose
withered leaves but mock the possessor with the futile memory of
self-degradation. Let every man remember, that, though he may be a
nothing in himself, yet every cipher gains the power of multiplying by
ten when it is placed on the _right side_ of whatever unit for the time
represents the cause of truth and justice. What we need is a thorough
awakening of the individual conscience; and if we once become aware how
the still and stealthy ashes of political apathy and moral insensibility
are slipping under our feet and hurrying us with them toward the
crater's irrevocable core, it maybe that the effort of self-preservation
called forth by the danger will make us love the daring energy and the
dependence on our individual strength, that alone can keep us free and
worthy to be freemen.

While we hold the moral aspect of the great question now before the
country to be cardinal, there are also some practical ones which the
Republican party ought never to lose sight of. To move a people among
whom the Anglo-Saxon element is predominant, we will not say, with Lord
Bacon, that we must convince their pockets, but we do believe that moral
must always go hand in hand with common sense. They will take up arms
for a principle, but they must have confidence in each other and in
their leaders. Conscience is a good tutor to tell a man on which side to
act, but she leaves the question of _How to act_ to every man's prudence
and judgment. An over-nice conscience has before now turned the stomach
of a great cause on the eve of action. Cromwell knew when to split hairs
and when skulls. The North has too generally allowed its strength to be
divided by personal preferences and by-questions, till it has almost
seemed as if a moral principle had less constringent force to hold
its followers together than the gravitation of private interest, the
Newtonian law of that system whereof the dollar is the central sun,
which has hitherto made the owners of slaves unitary, and given them the
power which springs from concentration and the success which is sure
to follow concert of action. We have spent our strength in quarrelling
about the character of men, when we should have been watchful only of
the character of measures. A scruple of conscience has no right to
outweigh a pound of duty, though it ought to make a ton of private
interest kick the beam. The great aim of the Republican party should
be to gain one victory for the Free States. One victory will make us a
unit, and is equal to a reinforcement of fifty thousand men. The genius
of success in politics or war is to know Opportunity at first sight.
There is no mistress so easily tired as Fortune. We must waste no more
time in investigating the motives of our recruits. Have we not faith
enough in our cause to believe that it will lift all to its own level of
patriotism and devotion? Let us, then, welcome all allies, from whatever
quarter, and not inquire into their past history as minutely as if we
were the assignees of the Recording Angel and could search his books at
pleasure. When Soult was operating in the South of France, the defection
of two German regiments crippled all his combinations and gave the
advantage to Wellington. Ought Wellington to have refused their aid? For
our own part, if Mr. Douglas be the best tactician, the best master of
political combination, we are willing to forget all past differences and
serve under him cheerfully, rather than lose the battle under a general
who has agreed with us all his life. When we remember, that, of the two
great cathedrals of Europe, one is dedicated to Saint Peter who denied
his Lord under temptation, and the other to Saint Paul who spent his
early manhood in persecuting true believers, and that both these patrons
of the Church, differing as they did in many points of doctrine, were
united in martyrdom for their belief, we cannot but think that there is
room even for repentant renegades in the camp of the faithful.

While we insist that Morals should govern the _motives_ of political
action, and that no party can be permanently strong which has not the
reserve of a great principle behind it, we affirm with no less strength
of conviction that the details of our National Housekeeping should be
managed by practical sense and worldly forethought. The policy of states
moves along the beaten highways of experience, and, where terrestrial
guide-posts are plenty, we need not ask our way of the stars. The
advantage of our opponents has been that they have always had some sharp
practical measure, some definite and immediate object, to oppose to our
voluminous propositions of abstract right. Again and again the whirlwind
of oratorical enthusiasm has roused and heaped up the threatening masses
of the Free States, and again and again we have seen them collapse like
a water-spout, into a crumbling heap of disintegrated bubbles, before
the compact bullet of political audacity. While our legislatures have
been resolving and re-resolving the principles of the Declaration of
Independence, our adversaries have pushed their trenches, parallel after
parallel, against the very citadel of our political equality. A
siege, if uninterrupted, is a mere matter of time, and must end in
capitulation. Our only safety is in assuming the offensive. Are we to be
terrified any longer by such Chinese devices of warfare as the cry of
Disunion,--a threat as hollow as the mask from which it issues, as
harmless as the periodical suicides of Mantalini, as insincere as
the spoiled child's refusal of his supper? We have no desire for a
dissolution of our confederacy, though it is not for us to fear it. We
will not allow it; we will not permit the Southern half of our dominion
to become a Hayti. But there is no danger; the law that binds our system
of confederate stars together is of stronger fibre than to be snapped by
the trembling finger of Toombs or cut by the bloodless sword of Davis;
the march of the Universe is not to be stayed because some gentleman in
Buncombe declares that his sweet-potato-patch shall not go along with
it. But we have no apprehension. The sweet attraction which knits the
sons of Virginia to the Treasury has lost none of its controlling force.
We must make up our minds to keep these deep-descended gentlemen in the
Union, and must convince them that we have a work to accomplish in it
and by means of it. If our Southern brethren have the curse of Canaan in
their pious keeping, if the responsibility lie upon them to avenge the
insults of Noah, on us devolves a more comprehensive obligation and the
vindication of an elder doom;--it is for us to assert and to secure the
claim of every son of Adam to the common inheritance ratified by the
sentence, "In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou earn thy bread." We are
to establish no aristocracy of race or complexion, no caste which Nature
and Revelation alike refuse to recognize, but the indefeasible right of
man to the soil which he subdues, and the muscles with which he subdues
it. If this be a sectional creed, it is a sectionality which at least
includes three hundred and fifty-nine degrees of the circle of man's
political aspiration and physical activity, and we may well be easy
under the imputation.

But so rapid has been the downward course of our national politics under
the guidance of our oligarchical Democracy, that the question on which
we take issue, whatever it may once have been, is no longer a sectional
one, and concerns not the slavery of the negro, but that of the Northern
white man. Whatever doubt there may be about the physical degeneration
of the race, it is more than certain that the people of the Northern
States have no longer the moral stature of their illustrious ancestry;
that their puny souls could find room enough in but the gauntlet finger
of that armor of faith and constancy and self-devotion which fitted
closely to the limbs of those who laid so broad the foundations of our
polity as to make our recreancy possible and safe for us. It wellnigh
seems as if our type should suffer a slave-change,--as if the fair hair
and skin of those ancestral _non Angli sed angeli_ should crisp into
wool and darken to the swarthy livery of servility. No Northern man can
hold any office under the national government, however petty, without an
open recantation of those principles which he drew in with his mother's
milk,--those principles which, in the better days of the republic,
even a slaveholder could write down in the great charter of our
liberties,--those principles which now only the bells and cannon
are allowed to utter on the Fourth of July or the Seventeenth of
June,--bells that may next call out the citizen-soldiery to aid in the
rendition of a slave,--cannon whose brazen lips may next rebuke the
freedom whose praises they but yesterday so emptily thundered.

When we look back upon the providential series of events which prepared
this continent for the experiment of Democracy,--when we think of those
forefathers for whom our mother England shed down from her august
breasts the nutriment of ordered liberty, not unmixed with her best
blood in the day of her trial,--when we remember the first two acts of
our drama, that cost one king his head and his son a throne, and that
third which cost another the fairest appanage of his crown and gave a
new Hero to mankind,--we cannot believe it possible that this great
scene, stretching from ocean to ocean, was prepared by the Almighty
only for such men as Mr. Buchanan and his peers to show their feats of
juggling on, even though the thimble-rig be on so colossal a scale that
the stake is a territory larger than Britain. We cannot believe that
this unhistoried continent,--this virgin leaf in the great diary of
man's conquest over the planet, on which our fathers wrote two words of
epic grandeur,--Plymouth and Bunker Hill,--is to bear for its colophon
the record of men who inherited greatness and left it pusillanimity,--a
republic, and made it anarchy,--freedom, and were content as serfs,--of
men who, born to the noblest estate of grand ideas and fair expectancies
the world had ever seen, bequeathed the sordid price of them in gold.
The change is sad 'twixt Now and Then: the Great Republic is without
influence in the councils of the world; to be an American, in Europe, is
to be the accomplice of filibusters and slave-traders; instead of men
and thought, as was hoped of us, we send to the Old World cotton, corn,
and tobacco, and are but as one of her outlying farms. Are we basely
content with our pecuniary good-fortune? Do we look on the tall column
of figures on the credit side of our national ledger as a sufficing
monument of our glory as a people? Are we of the North better off as
provinces of the Slave-holding States than as colonies of Great Britain?
Are we content with our share in the administration of national affairs,
because we are to have the ministry to Austria, and because the
newspapers promise that James Gordon Bennett shall be sent out of the
country to fill it?

We of the Free States are confessedly without our fair share of
influence in the administration of national affairs. Its foreign and
domestic polity are both directed by principles often hostile to our
interests, sometimes abhorrent to our sense of right and honor. Under
loud professions of Democracy, the powers of the central government and
of the Executive have increased till they have scarcely a match among
the despotisms of Europe, and more than justify the prophetic fears of
practical statesmen like Samuel Adams and foresighted politicians like
Jefferson. Unquestionably superior in numbers, and claiming an equal
preeminence in wealth, intelligence, and civilization, we have steadily
lost in political power and in the consideration which springs from it.
Is the preponderance of the South due to any natural superiority of an
Aristocracy over a Democracy? to any mental inferiority, to lack of
courage, of political ability, of continuity of purpose, on our own
part? We should be slow to find the cause in reasons like these; but we
_do_ find it in that moral disintegration, the necessary result of that
falsehood to our own sense of right forced upon us by the slave-system,
and which, beginning with our public men, has gradually spread to the
Press, the Pulpit, nay, worse than all, the Home, till it is hard to
find a private conscience that is not tainted with the contagious mange.

For what have we not seen within the last few years? We have, seen the
nomination to office made dependent, not on the candidate's being large
enough to fill, but small enough to take it. Holding the purity of
elections as a first article of our creed, we have seen one-third of
the population of a Territory control the other two-thirds by false or
illegal votes; hereditary foes of a standing army, we have seen four
thousand troops stationed in Kansas to make forged ballots good by real
bullets; lovers of fair play, we have seen a cowardly rabble from the
Slave States protected by Federal bayonets while they committed robbery,
arson, and Sepoy atrocities against women, and the Democratic party
forced to swallow this nauseous mixture of force, fraud, and Executive
usurpation, under the name of Popular Sovereignty. We have seen Freedom
pronounced sectional and Slavery national by the highest tribunal of the
republic. We have seen the legislatures of Southern States passing acts
for the renewal and encouragement of the slave-trade. We have seen the
attempted assassination of a senator in his seat justified and applauded
by public meetings and the resolutions of State Assemblies. We have
seen a pirate, for the hanging of whom the conscious Earth would have
produced a tree, had none before existed, threaten the successor of
Washington with the exposure of his complicity, if he did not publicly
violate the faith he had publicly pledged.--But enough, and more than
enough.

It lies in the hands of the people of the Free States to rescue
themselves and the country by peaceable reform, ere it be too late, and
there be no remedy left but that dangerous one of revolution, toward
which Mr. Buchanan and his advisers seem bent on driving them. But the
reform must be wide and deep, and its political objects must be attained
by household means. Our sense of private honor and integrity must be
quickened; our consciousness of responsibility to God and man for the
success of this experiment in practical Democracy, in order to which the
destiny of a hemisphere has been entrusted to us, must be roused and
exalted; we must learn to feel that the safety of universal suffrage
lies in the sensitiveness of the individual voter to every abuse of
delegated authority, every treachery to representative duty, as a
stain upon his own personal integrity; we must become convinced that
a government without conscience is the necessary result of a people
careless of their duties, and therefore unworthy of their rights.
Prosperity has deadened and bewildered us. It is time we remembered
that History does not concern herself about material wealth,--that the
life-blood of a nation is not that yellow tide which fluctuates in
the arteries of Trade,--that its true revenues are religion, justice,
sobriety, magnanimity, and the fair amenities of Art,--that it is only
by the soul that any people has achieved greatness and made lasting
conquests over the future. We believe there is virtue enough left in the
North and West to infuse health into our body politic; we believe that
America will reassume that moral influence among the nations which
she has allowed to fall into abeyance; and that our eagle, whose
morning-flight the world watched with hope and expectation, shall no
longer troop with unclean buzzards, but rouse himself and seek his eyrie
to brood new eaglets that in time shall share with him the lordship of
these Western heavens, and shall learn of him to shake the thunder from
their invincible wings.

* * * * *

LITERARY NOTICES.

_Library of Old Authors_. London: John Russell Smith, 1856-7.

Many of our older readers can remember the anticipation with which they
looked for each successive volume of the late Dr. Young's excellent
series of old English prose-writers, and the delight with which they
carried it home, fresh from the press and the bindery in its appropriate
livery of evergreen. To most of us it was our first introduction to the
highest society of letters, and we still feel grateful to the departed
scholar who gave us to share the conversation of such men as Latimer,
More, Sidney, Taylor, Browne, Fuller, and Walton. What a sense of
security in an old book which Time has criticized for us! What a
precious feeling of seclusion in having a double wall of centuries
between us and the heats and clamors of contemporary literature! How
limpid seems the thought, how pure the old wine of scholarship that
has been settling for so many generations in those silent crypts and
Falernian _amphorae_ of the Past! No other writers speak to us with the
authority of those whose ordinary speech was that of our translation
of the Scriptures; to no modern is that frank unconsciousness possible
which was natural to a period when yet reviews were not; and no later
style breathes that country charm characteristic of days ere the
metropolis drew all literary activity to itself, and the trampling feet
of the multitude had banished the lark and the daisy from the fresh
privacies of language. Truly, as compared with the present, these
old voices seem to come from the morning fields and not the paved
thoroughfares of thought.

Even the "Retrospective Review" continues to be good reading, in virtue
of the antique aroma (for wine only acquires its _bouquet_ by age) which
pervades its pages. Its sixteen volumes are so many tickets of admission
to the vast and devious vaults of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, through which we wander, tasting a thimbleful of rich Canary,
honeyed Cyprus, or subacidulous Hock, from what dusty butt or keg our
fancy chooses. The years during which this Review was published were
altogether the most fruitful in genuine appreciation of old English
literature. Books were prized for their imaginative, and not their
antiquarian value, by young writers who sat at the feet of Lamb and
Coleridge. Rarities of style, of thought, of fancy were sought, rather
than the barren scarcities of typography. But another race of men seems
to have sprung up, in whom the futile enthusiasm of the collector
predominates, who substitute archaeologic perversity for aesthetic
scholarship, and the worthless profusion of the curiosity-shop for
the sifted exclusiveness of the cabinet of Art. They forget, in their
fanaticism for antiquity, that the dust of never so many centuries is
impotent to transform a curiosity into a gem, that only good books
absorb tone-mellowness from age, and that a baptismal register which
proves a patriarchal longevity (if existence be life) cannot make
mediocrity anything but a bore, or garrulous commonplace entertaining.
There are volumes which have the old age of Plato, rich with gathering
experience, meditation, and wisdom, which seem to have sucked color and
ripeness from the genial autumns of all the select intelligences that
have steeped them in the sunshine of their love and appreciation;--these
quaint freaks of russet tell of Montaigne; these stripes of crimson
fire, of Shakespeare; this sober gold, of Sir Thomas Browne; this
purpling bloom, of Lamb;--in such fruits we taste the legendary gardens
of Alcinoues and the orchards of Atlas; and there are volumes again which
can claim only the inglorious senility of Old Parr or older Jenkins,
which have outlived their half dozen of kings to be the prize of showmen
and treasuries of the born-to-be-forgotten trifles of a hundred years
ago.

We confess a bibliothecarian avarice that gives all books a value in our
eyes; there is for us a recondite wisdom in the phrase, "A book is a
book"; from the time when we made the first catalogue of our library, in
which "Bible, large, 1 vol.," and "Bible, small, 1 vol.," asserted their
alphabetic individuality and were the sole _B_s in our little hive, we
have had a weakness even for those checker-board volumes that only fill
up; we cannot breathe the thin air of that Pepysian self-denial, that
Himalayan selectness, which, content with one book-case, would have no
tomes in it but _porphyrogeniti_, books of the bluest blood, making room
for choicer newcomers by a continuous ostracism to the garret of present
incumbents. There is to us a sacredness in a volume, however dull; we
live over again the author's lonely labors and tremulous hopes; we see
him, on his first appearance after parturition, "as well as could be
expected," a nervous sympathy yet surviving between the late-severed
umbilical cord and the wondrous offspring, doubtfully entering the
Mermaid, or the Devil Tavern, or the Coffee-house of Will or Button,
blushing under the eye of Ben or Dryden or Addison, as if they must
needs know him for the author of the "Modest Enquiry into the Present
State of Dramatique Poetry," or of the "Unities briefly considered by
Philomusus," of which they have never heard and never will hear so much
as the names; we see the country-gentlemen (sole cause of its surviving
to our day) who buy it as a book no gentleman's library can be complete
without; we see the spend-thrift heir, whose horses and hounds and
Pharaonic troops of friends, drowned in a Red Sea of claret, bring it to
the hammer, the tall octavo in tree-calf following the ancestral oaks
of the park. Such a volume is sacred to us. But it must be the original
foundling of the book-stall, the engraved blazon of some extinct
baronetcy within its cover, its leaves enshrining memorial flowers of
some passion which the church-yard smothered while the Stuarts were yet
unkinged, suggestive of the trail of laced ruffles, burnt here and there
with ashes from the pipe of some dozing poet, its binding worn and
weather-stained, that has felt the inquisitive finger, perhaps, of
Malone, or thrilled to the touch of Lamb, doubtful between desire and
the odd sixpence. When it comes to a question of reprinting, we are more
choice. The new duodecimo is bald and bare, indeed, compared with its
battered prototype that could draw us with a single hair of association.

It is not easy to divine the rule which has governed Mr. Smith in making
the selections for his series. A choice of old authors should be a
_florilegium_, and not a botanist's _hortus siccus_, to which grasses
are as important as the single shy blossom of a summer. The old-maidenly
genius of antiquarianism seems to have presided over the editing of
the "Library." We should be inclined to surmise that the works to be
reprinted had been commonly suggested by gentlemen with whom they were
especial favorites, or who were ambitious that their own names should
be signalized on the title-pages with the suffix of EDITOR. The volumes
already published are: Increase Mather's "Remarkable Providences"; the
poems of Drummond of Hawthornden; the "Visions" of Piers Ploughman; the
works in prose and verse of Sir Thomas Overbury; the "Hymns and Songs"
and the "Hallelujah" of George Wither; the poems of Southwell; Selden's
"Table-talk"; the "Enchiridion" of Quarles; the dramatic works of
Marston and Webster; and Chapman's translation of Homer. The volume of
Mather is curious and entertaining, and fit to stand on the same
shelf with the "Magnalia" of his book-suffocated son. Cunningham's
comparatively recent edition, we should think, might satisfy for a long
time to come the demand for Drummond, whose chief value to posterity is
as the Boswell of Ben Jonson. Sir Thomas Overbury's "Characters" are
interesting illustrations of contemporary manners, and a mine of
footnotes to the works of better men,--but, with the exception of "The
Fair and Happy Milkmaid," they are dull enough to have pleased James the
First; his "Wife" is a _cento_ of far-fetched conceits,--here a tomtit,
and there a hen mistaken for a pheasant, like the contents of a
cockney's game-bag; and his chief interest for us lies in his having
been mixed up with an inexplicable tragedy and poisoned in the Tower,
not without suspicion of royal complicity. The "Piers Ploughman" is
a reprint, with very little improvement that we can discover, of
Mr. Wright's former edition. It would have been very well to have
republished the "Fair Virtue," and "Shepherd's Hunting" of George
Wither, which contain all the true poetry he ever wrote; but we can
imagine nothing more dreary than the seven hundred pages of his "Hymns
and Songs," whose only use, that we can conceive of, would be as penal
reading for incorrigible poetasters. If a steady course of these did not
bring them out of their nonsenses, nothing short of hanging would. Take
this as a sample, hit on by opening at random:--

"Rottenness my bones possest;
Trembling fear possessed me;
I that troublous day might rest:
For, when his approaches be
Onward to the people made,
His strong troops will them invade."

Southwell is, if possible, worse. He paraphrases David and puts into his
month such punning conceits as "Fears are my feres," and in his "Saint
Peter's Complaint" makes that rashest and shortest-spoken of the
Apostles drawl through thirty pages of maudlin repentance, in which the
distinctions between the north and northeast sides of a sentimentality
are worthy of Duns Scotus. It does not follow, that, because a man is
hanged for his faith, he is able to write good verses. We would almost
match the fortitude that quails not at the good Jesuit's poems with his
own which carried him serenely to the fatal tree. The stuff of which
poets are made, whether finer or not, is of a very different fibre from
that which is used in the tough fabric of martyrs. It is time that
an earnest protest should be uttered against the wrong done to the
religious sentiment by the greater part of what is called religious
poetry, and which is commonly a painful something misnamed by the noun
and misqualified by the adjective. To dilute David, and make doggerel of
that majestic prose of the Prophets which has the glow and wide-orbited
metre of constellations, may be a useful occupation to keep
country-gentlemen out of litigation or retired clergymen from polemics;
but to regard these metrical mechanics as sacred because nobody wishes
to touch them, as meritorious because no one can be merry in their
company,--to rank them in the same class with those ancient songs of the
Church, sweet with the breath of saints, sparkling with the tears of
forgiven penitents, and warm with the fervor of martyrs,--nay, to set
them up beside such poems as those of Herbert, composed in the upper
chambers of the soul that open toward the sun's rising, is to confound
piety with dulness, and the manna of heaven with its sickening namesake
from the apothecary's drawer. The "Enchiridion" of Quarles is
hardly worthy of the author of the "Emblems," and is by no means an
unattainable book in other editions,--nor a matter of heartbreak, if it
were so. Of the dramatic works of Marston it is enough to say that they
are truly _works_ to the reader, but in no sense dramatic, nor worth the
paper they blot. He seems to have been deemed worthy of republication
because he was the contemporary of true poets; and if all the Tuppers
of the nineteenth century will buy his plays on the same principle, the
sale will be a remunerative one. The Homer of Chapman is so precious
a gift, that we are ready to forgive all Mr. Smith's shortcomings in
consideration of it. It is a vast _placer_, full of nuggets for the
philologist and the lover of poetry.

Having now run cursorily through the series of Mr. Smith's reprints, we
come to the closer question of _How are they edited?_ Whatever the merit
of the original works, the editors, whether self-elected or chosen by
the publisher, should be accurate and scholarly. The editing of the
Homer we can heartily commend; and Dr. Rimbault, who carried the works
of Overbury through the press, has done his work well; but the
other volumes of the Library are very creditable neither to English
scholarship nor to English typography. The Introductions to some of
them are enough to make us think that we are fallen to the necessity
of reprinting our old authors because the art of writing correct and
graceful English has been lost. William B. Turnbull, Esq., of Lincoln's
Inn, Barrister at Law, says, for instance, in his Introduction to
Southwell: "There was resident at Uxendon, near Harrow on the Hill,
in Middlesex, a Catholic family of the name of Bellamy whom [which]
Southwell was in the habit of visiting and providing with religious
instruction when he exchanged his ordinary [ordinarily] close
confinement for a purer atmosphere." (pp. xxii.-xxiii.) Again, (p.
xxii.,) "He had, in this manner, for six years, pursued, with very great
success, the objects of his mission, when these were abruptly terminated
by his foul betrayal into the hands of his enemies in 1592." We should
like to have Mr. Turnbull explain how the _objects_ of a mission could
be terminated by a betrayal, however it might be with the mission
itself. From the many similar flowers in the Introduction to Mather's
"Providences," by Mr. George Offor, (in whom, we fear, we recognize
a countryman,) we select the following: "It was at this period when,
[that,] oppressed by the ruthless hand of persecution, our pilgrim
fathers, threatened with torture and death, succumbed not to man, but
trusting on [in] an almighty arm, braved the dangers of an almost
unknown ocean, and threw themselves into the arms of men called savages,
who proved more beneficent than national Christians." To whom or what
our pilgrim fathers _did_ succumb, and what "national Christians" are,
we leave, with the song of the Sirens, to conjecture. Speaking of the
"Providences," Mr. Offor says, that "they faithfully delineate the state
of public opinion two hundred years ago, the most striking feature being
an implicit faith in the power of the [in-]visible world to hold visible
intercourse with man:--not the angels to bless poor erring mortals, but
of demons imparting power to witches and warlocks to injure, terrify and
destroy,"--a sentence which we defy any witch or warlock, though he
were Michael Scott himself, to parse with the astutest demonic aid.
On another page, he says of Dr. Mather, that "he was one of the first
divines who discovered that very many strange events, which were
considered preternatural, had occurred in the course of nature or by
deceitful juggling; that the Devil could not speak English, nor prevail
with Protestants; the smell of herbs alarms the Devil; that medicine
drives out Satan!" We do not wonder that Mr. Offor put a mark of
exclamation at the end of this surprising sentence, but we do confess
our astonishment that the vermilion pencil of the proof-reader suffered
it to pass unchallenged. Leaving its bad English out of the question,
we find, on referring to Mather's text, that he was never guilty of the
absurdity of believing that Satan was less eloquent in English than
in any other language; that it was the British (Welsh) tongue which a
certain demon whose education had been neglected (not _the_ Devil) could
not speak; that Mather is not fool enough to say that the Fiend cannot
prevail with Protestants, nor that the smell of herbs alarms him, nor
that medicine drives him out.

Mr. Offor is superbly Protestant and iconoclastic,--not sparing, as we
have seen, even Priscian's head among the rest; but, _en revanche_, Mr.
Turnbull is ultramontane beyond the editors of the _Civilta Cattolica_.
He allows himself to say, that, "after Southwell's death, one of his
sisters, a Catholic in heart, but timidly and blameably simulating
heresy, wrought, with some relics of the martyr, several cures on
persons afflicted with desperate and deadly diseases, which had baffled
the skill of all physicians." Mr. Turnbull is, we suspect, a recent
convert, or it would occur to him that doctors are still secure of a
lucrative practice in countries full of the relics of greater saints
than even Southwell. That father was hanged (according to Protestants)
for treason, and the relic which put the whole pharmacopoeia to shame
was, if we mistake not, his neckerchief. But whatever the merits of the
Jesuit himself, and however it may gratify Mr. Turnbull's catechumenical
enthusiasm to exalt the curative properties of this integument of his,
even at the expense of Jesuits' bark, we cannot but think that he has
shown a credulity that unfits him for writing a fair narrative of his
hero's life, or making a tolerably just estimate of his verses. It is
possible, however, that these last seem prosaic as a neck-tie only to
heretical readers.

Anything more helplessly inadequate than Mr. Offer's preliminary
dissertation on Witchcraft we never read; but we could hardly expect
much from an editor whose citations from the book he is editing show
that he had either not read or not understood it.

We have singled out the Introductions of Messrs. Turnbull and Offor for
special animadversion because they are on the whole the worst, both of
them being offensively sectarian, while that of Mr. Offor in particular
gives us almost no information whatever. Some of the others are not
without grave faults, chief among which is a vague declamation,
especially out of place in critical essays, where it serves only to
weary the reader and awaken his distrust. In his Introduction to
Wither's "Hallelujah," for instance, Mr. Farr informs us that "nearly
all the best poets of the latter half of the sixteenth century--for that
was the period when the Reformation was fully established--and the whole
of the seventeenth century were sacred poets," and that "even Shakspeare
and the contemporary dramatists of his age sometimes attuned their
well-strung harps to the songs of Zion." Comment on statements like
these would be as useless as the assertions themselves are absurd.

We have quoted these examples only to justify us in saying, that Mr.
Smith must select his editors with more care, if he wishes that his
"Library of Old Authors" should deserve the confidence and thereby gain
the good word of intelligent readers,--without which such a series can
neither win nor keep the patronage of the public. It is impossible that
men who cannot construct an English sentence correctly, and who do not
know the value of clearness in writing, should be able to disentangle
the knots which slovenly printers have tied in the thread of an old
author's meaning; and it is more than doubtful whether they who assert
carelessly, cite inaccurately, and write loosely are not by nature
disqualified for doing thoroughly what they undertake to do. If it were
unreasonable to demand of every one who assumes to edit one of our early
poets the critical acumen, the genial sense, the illimitable reading,
the philological scholarship, which in combination would alone make
the ideal editor, it is not presumptuous to expect some one of these
qualifications singly, and we have the right to insist upon patience and
accuracy, which are within the reach of every one, and without which all
the others are wellnigh vain. Now to this virtue of accuracy Mr. Offor
specifically lays claim in one of his remarkable sentences: "We are
bound to admire," he says, "the accuracy and beauty of this specimen of
typography. Following in the path of my late friend William Pickering,
our publisher rivals the Aldine and Elzevir presses, which have been so
universally admired." We should think that it was the product of those
presses which had been admired, and that Mr. Smith presents a still
worthier object of admiration when he contrives to follow a path and
rival a press at the same time. But let that pass;--it is the claim to
accuracy which we dispute; and we deliberately affirm, that, as far as
we are able to judge by the volumes we have examined, no claim more
unfounded was ever set up. In some cases, as we shall show presently,
the blunders of the original work have been followed with painful
accuracy in the reprint; but many others have been added by the
carelessness of Mr. Smith's printers or editors. In the thirteen
pages of Mr. Offor's own Introduction we have found as many as seven
typographical errors,--unless some of them are to be excused on the
ground that Mr. Offor's studies have not yet led him into those arcana
where we are taught such recondite mysteries of language as that verbs
agree with their nominatives. In Mr. Farr's Introduction to the "Hymns
and Songs" nine short extracts from other poems of Wither are quoted,
and in these we have found no less than seven misprints or false
readings which materially affect the sense. Textual inaccuracy is a
grave fault in the new edition of an old poet; and Mr. Farr is not
only liable to this charge, but also to that of making blundering
misstatements which are calculated to mislead the careless or uncritical
reader. Infected by the absurd cant which has been prevalent for the
last dozen years among literary sciolists, he says,--"The language used
by Wither in all his various works--whether secular or sacred--is pure
Saxon." Taken literally, this assertion is manifestly ridiculous, and,
allowing it every possible limitation, it is not only untrue of Wither,
but of every English poet, from Chaucer down. The translators of our
Bible made use of the German version, and a poet versifying the English
Scriptures would therefore be likely to use more words of Teutonic
origin than in his original compositions. But no English poet can write
English poetry except in English,--that is, in that compound of Teutonic
and Romanic which derives its heartiness and strength from the one and
its canorous elegance from the other. The Saxon language does not sing,
and, though its tough mortar serve to hold together the less compact
Latin words, porous with vowels, it is to the Latin that our verse owes
majesty, harmony, variety, and the capacity for rhyme. A quotation of
six lines from Wither ends at the top of the very page on which Mr. Parr
lays down his extraordinary _dictum_, and we will let this answer him,
Italicizing the words of Romanic derivation:--

"Her true _beauty_ leaves behind
_Apprehensions_ in the mind,
Of more sweetness than all _art_
Or _inventions_ can _impart_;
Thoughts too deep to be _expressed_,
And too strong to be _suppressed_."

But space fails us, and we shall take up the editions of Marston and
Webster in a future article.

_Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain_, etc. By DR. WAAGEN.
Forming a Supplemental Volume to the "Treasures of Art in Great
Britain." 8vo. London. 1857.

The Manchester Exhibition, although containing a vast number of works
of Art, displayed but a small portion of the treasures of painting and
sculpture scattered through Great Britain, in the city and country
houses of the upper classes. Every year is adding greatly to the number
and value of both private and public galleries in England. It is but
three years since Dr. Waagen published his three ponderous volumes on
the "Treasures of Art in Great Britain," and he has already found new
material for a fourth, not less cumbrous than its predecessors. The
larger part of this last volume is, indeed, composed of descriptions of
galleries existing at the time of the publication of his first work, but
the most interesting portion of it relates to the acquisitions that have
been made within the last three years.

A better taste, and a truer appreciation of the relative merits of works
of Art, prevails in England now than at any previous time, and the
recent acquisitions are distinguished not more by their number than by
their intrinsic value. The National Gallery has at last begun to make
its purchases upon a systematic plan, and is endeavoring to form such a
collection as shall exhibit the historic progress of the various schools
of painting. The late additions to it have been of peculiar interest in
this view; including some very admirable pictures by masters whose works
are rare and of real importance. Among them are very noble works of
some of the chief earlier Florentine, Umbrian, and Venetian masters;
especially a beautiful picture by Benozzo Gozzoli, (the Virgin enthroned
with the infant Saviour in her arms and surrounded by Saints,)--a
thoroughly characteristic specimen of Giovanni Bellini, (also a Virgin
holding the Child,) in which the deep, fervent, and tender spirit, the
manly feeling, and the unsurpassed purity of color of this great master
are well shown,--and one of the finest existing pictures of Perugino,
the three lower and principal compartments of an altarpiece painted for
the Certosa at Pavia. We know, indeed, no work by the master of Raphael
to be set above this. Two of the best pictures of Paul Veronese have
also just been added to the National Gallery.

Still more important are the recent private purchases. The Duke of
Northumberland procured in Rome, in 1850, the whole of Camuccini's
famous collection. It contained seventy-four pictures, and many of
them of great value. Among them was a small, but precious picture
by Giotto,--a beautiful little Raphael,--three undoubted works of
Titian,--and, most precious of all, a picture, formerly in the Ludovisi
collection, painted jointly by Giovanni Bellini and Titian. It is the
Descent of the Gods to taste the Fruits of the Earth, half-comic in
conception, but remarkable for the grace of some of its figures; the
landscape is by Titian, and Dr. Waagen says, justly, that "it is,
without comparison, the finest that up to that period had ever been
painted,"--and we would add, few finer have been painted since.

Meanwhile Sir Charles Eastlake has obtained a picture by Mantegna, and
another by Bellini, both of which rank very high among the works of
these masters, and both in excellent condition. And Mr. Alexander
Barker, whose collection is becoming one of the best selected and most
interesting in England, has purchased several pictures of great value,
especially one by Verocchio, the master of Leonardo da Vinci, which Dr.
Waagen speaks of as "the most important picture I know by this rare
master." Mr. Barker has also made an addition to his collection so
recent as not to be described even in this last volume of the "Art
Treasures," but which is of unsurpassed interest. He has purchased from
the Manfrini Gallery at Venice, a gallery which has long been famous as
containing some of the best works of the Venetian school, eighteen of
its best pictures, and was lately in treaty for a still larger number.
He has already secured Titian's portrait of Ariosto, Giorgione's
portrait of a woman with a guitar, and other works by these masters, by
Palma Vecchio, Giovanni Bellini, and other chief Venetian painters. We
trust that he may bring to England (if it must leave Venice) Bellini's
St. Jerome, a picture of the most precious character.

This catalogue, long as it already is, by no means completes the list of
the last three years' gains of pictures for England. Such a record shows
how compact with treasures the little island is becoming. And meanwhile,
what is America doing in this way? The overestimate of the importance
and value of Mr. Belmont's collection in New York shows how far the
American public yet is from knowing its own ignorance and poverty in
respect to Art.

No praise can be given to the execution of Dr. Waagen's book. His
descriptions of pictures are rarely characteristic; his tone and
standard of judgment are worthless; his style of writing is poor; his
inaccuracies frequent; and his flunkeyism intolerable. It would be an
excellent undertaking for a competent person, using Dr. Waagen's book
as a basis, to compress the account of the principal private galleries,
those which really contain pictures of value, into one small and
portable volume,--to serve as a handbook for travellers in England, as
well as for a guide to the present place of pictures interesting in the
history of artists and of Art. Such a volume, if well done, would be of
vastly more value than these heavy four. The usual delightful liberality
of English collectors in opening their galleries to the public on
certain days would make such a volume something more than a mere
tantalizing exposition of treasures that could not be seen, and would
render it, to all lovers of Art, an indispensable companion in England.
We may add that this liberality might be imitated with advantage by the
directors of some collections in which the public have a greater claim.
We tried once in vain to get sight of the portraits of Alleyn and
Burbage at Bulwich College, and were prevented from seeing the Hogarths
in the Sloane Museum by the length of time required for the preliminary
ceremonies.

_The New American Cyclopaedia._ A Popular Dictionary of General
Knowledge. Edited by GEORGE RIPLEY and CHAS. A. DANA. Vol. I.
A--ARAGUAY. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 8vo.

The design of this work is to furnish the American public with a
Cyclopaedia which shall be readable as well as valuable,--possessing
all the advantages of a dictionary of knowledge for the purposes of
reference, and all the interest which results from a scholarly treatment
of the subjects. Judging from the first volume, it will occupy a middle
ground between the great Encyclopaedias and the numerous special
Dictionaries of Art and Science; and if its plan be carried out with the
vigor and skill which mark its commencement, it will, when completed, be
the best and most condensed Cyclopaedia for popular use in any language.
The guaranty for its successful completion is to be found in the
character and abilities of the editors, and the resources at their
command. Mr. Ripley is an accomplished man of letters, familiar with the
whole field of literature and philosophy, gifted with a mental aptitude
equally for facts and ideas, a fanatic for no particular branch of
knowledge, but with a genial appreciation of each, and endowed with a
largeness and catholicity of mind which eminently fit him to mould the
multitudinous materials of a work like the present into the form of a
prescribed plan. Mr. Dana is well known as one of the chief editors
of the most influential journal in the country, as combining vigorous
intellect with indefatigable industry, and as capable, both in the
domain of facts and in the domain of principles, of "toiling terribly."
The resources of the editors are, literally, almost too numerous
to mention. They include the different Encyclopaedias and popular
Conversations-Lexicons in various languages,--recent biographies,
histories, books of travel, and scientific treatises,--the opportunities
of research afforded by the best private and public libraries,--and a
body of contributors, scattered over different portions of the United
States and Europe, of whom nearly a hundred have written for the present
volume, and, in some cases, have contributed the results of personal
observation, research, and discovery. These contributors are selected
with a view to their proficiency and celebrity in their several
departments. The scientific articles are written by scientific men;
those on technology and machinery, by practical machinists and
engineers; those on military and naval affairs, by officers of the army
and navy; and those which relate to the history and doctrines of the
various Christian churches and denominations, by men who have both the
knowledge of their subjects which comes from study and the knowledge
which comes from sympathy.

The plan of the editors implies a perfect neutrality in regard to all
controverted points in politics, science, philosophy, and religion;
and though they cannot avoid controversy as a fact in the history of
opinion, it is their purpose to have the Cyclopaedia give an impartial
statement of various opinions without an intrusion of their own or those
of their contributors. In considering how far, in the first volume, they
have succeeded in their general design, it must be remembered that a
Cyclopaedia which shall be satisfactory to all readers alike is an ideal
which the human imagination may contemplate, but which seems to be
beyond the reach of human wit practically to attain. Besides, each
reader is apt to have a pet interest in certain persons, events, topics,
beliefs, which stand in his own mind for universal knowledge, and he is
naturally vexed to find how their importance dwindles when they appear
in relation to the whole of nature and human life. In respect to
Biography, especially in a Cyclopaedia which admits lives of the living
as well as the dead, and to whose biographical department a great
variety of authors contribute, there is an inherent difficulty of
preserving the proper gradation of reputations. Doubtless, many an
American gentleman will find that this Cyclopaedia gives him an
importance, in comparison with the rest of the world, which time will
not sanction; and doubtless, some of the dead _A_s, if rapped into
utterance by the modern process of spiritual communication, would
complain of the curt statement which coffined their souls in a space
more limited than that now occupied by their bodies. The biographies,
however, of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Addison, Aeschylus, Mark
Anthony, Alfieri, Akenside, Allston, Agassiz, and a number of others,
are evidently by "eminent hands," and, as compared with the rest, are
treated with more fulness and richness of detail, with an easier and
more genial mastery of the subjects, and with less fear of being
redundant in good things. Still, most of the biographies serve the
primary purpose of the work as a book of reference, and contain as large
an amount of information as could well be crammed into so limited a
space.

Such a variety of minds have been engaged on the present volume, that
among its twenty-five hundred articles will be found every kind of
style, from austere scientific statement, to brilliant wit and fancy.
Two subjects, never before included in a Cyclopaedia in the English
language, namely, Aesthetics and Absolute, are ably, though far too
briefly treated. Entertainment is not overlooked in the plan of the
editors, and there are some articles, like those on Almacks, Actors, and
Adventures, which contain information at once curious and amusing.
The article "Americanism" might have been made much more valuable and
pleasing, had the subject been treated at greater length, with more
insight into the reasons which led to the establishment of an American
verbal mint, and with a more complete list of the felicities of its
coinage. The articles which refer to bodily health, such as those on
Appetite, Age, Aliment, Total Abstinence, contain important facts and
admirable suggestions in condensed statements. Agriculture, Agricultural
Schools, and Agricultural Chemistry are evidently the work of writers
who appreciate the practical wants of the farmer, as well as understand
the aids which science can furnish him. Two divisions of the globe,
Africa and America, come within the scope of the present volume, and,
though the special reader will notice in the articles devoted to them
some omissions, and some statements which may require modification, they
bear the general marks of industry, vigilance, and research. The paper
on Anaesthetics is evidently by a writer who meant to be impartial, but
still injustice is done to the claims of Dr. Jackson, and we trust that
in the next edition some of the statements will be corrected, even if
the whole question of the discovery is not more thoroughly argued. It
seems curious that a discovery which destroys pain should be a constant
cause of pain to every person in any way connected with it. It may not
be within the province of a Cyclopaedia to undertake the decision of a
question still so vehemently controverted; but we think it might be so
stated as to include all the facts, harmonize portions at least of
the conflicting evidence, and put some people "out of pain." We must
attribute it to a careless reading of the proof-sheets that the editors
have allowed the concluding paragraph in the article "Adams" to intrude
village gossip into a work which should be an example to American
scholarship, and not a receptacle of newspaper scandal.

In conclusion, we think that the impression which an examination of the
present volume, considered as a whole, leaves on the mind is, that the
editors have generally succeeded in making it both comprehensive and
compact,--comprehensive without being superficial, and compact without
being dry and dull. As a book for the desultory reader, it will be found
full of interest and attractiveness, while it is abundantly capable of
bearing severer tests than any to which the desultory reader will be
likely to subject it. Minor faults can easily be detected, but we think
its great merits are much more obvious than its little defects. The
probability is, that, when completed, it will be found to contain
articles by almost every person of literary and scientific note in the
United States; for the wide and friendly relations which the editors
hold with American authors and _savans_, of all sects, parties, and
sections, will enable them to obtain valuable contributions, even if
the general interest in the success of an American Cyclopaedia were not
sufficient of itself to draw the intellect of the country to its pages.
As a work which promises to be so honorable to the literature of the
country, we trust that it will meet with a public patronage commensurate
with its deserts.

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