Part 5 out of 5
shaped to the need of those who wield it, are of the best omen for our
having a swan at last.
[Footnote A: _Gedraengtes Handbuch der Fremdwoerter_, etc., etc.,
[Footnote B: Take, for instance, the "negro so black that charcoal made
a chalk-mark on him," or the "shingle painted to look so like stone
that it sank in water,"--itself overpersuaded by the skill of the
painter. We overheard the following dialogue last winter.
(Thermometer,--12 deg..) "Cold, this morning."--"That's _so_. Hear what
happened to Joe?"--"No, I didn't."--"Well, the doctors had ben givin'
him one thing another with merc'ry in't, and he walked out down to the
Post-Office and back, and when he come home he kind o' felt somethin'
hard in his boots. Come to pull 'em off, they found a lump o'
quicksilver in both on 'em."--"Sho!"--"Fact; it had shrunk clean down
through him with the cold." This rapid power of dramatizing a dry fact,
of putting it into flesh and blood, and the instantaneous conception of
Joe as a human thermometer, seem to us more like the poetical faculty
than anything else. It is, at any rate, humor, and not mere quickness
of wit,--the deeper, and not the shallower quality. Humor tends always
to overplus of expression; wit is mathematically precise. Captain Basil
Hall denied that our people had humor; but did he possess it himself?
for, if not, he would never find it. Did he always feel the point of
what was said to himself? We doubt, because we happen to know a chance
he once had given him in vain. The Captain was walking up and down the
_piazza_ of a country tavern while the couch changed horses. A
thunderstorm was going on, and, with that pleasant European air of
indirect self-compliment in condescending to American merit, which is
so conciliating, he said to a countryman lounging near, "Pretty heavy
thunder, you have here." The other, who had taken his measure at a
glance, drawled gravely, "Waal, we _du_, considerin' the number of
Even persons not otherwise interested in the study of provincialisms
will find Mr. Bartlett's book an entertaining one. The passages he
quotes in illustration are sometimes strangely comic. Here is one: "To
SAVE. To make sure, i.e., to kill game, or an enemy, whether man or
beast. _To get_ conveys the same meaning.... The notorious Judge W----
of Texas ... once said in a speech at a barbecue, (after his political
opponent had been apologizing for taking a man's life in a duel,)--
"'The gentleman need not make such a fuss about _getting_ such a
rascal; everybody knows that I have shot three, and two of them I
We have but one fault to find with Mr. Bartlett's Dictionary, and that
it shares with all other provincial glossaries. No accents are given.
No stranger could tell, for example, whether _hacmatack_ should be
pronounced hac'matack, hacma'tack, or hacmatack'. The value of Mr.
Wright's otherwise excellent dictionary is very much impaired by this
neglect. Ignorance of the pronunciation enhances tenfold the difficulty
of tracing analogies or detecting corruptions. The title of Mr.
Coleridge's volume (the second on our list) is enough to give scholars
a notion of its worth. It is the first instalment of the proposed
comprehensive English Dictionary of the Philological Society, a work
which, when finished, will be beyond measure precious to all students
of their mother-tongue. At the end of the volume will be found the Plan
of the Society, with minute directions for all those who wish to give
their help. Cooperation on this side the water will be gladly welcomed.
Of Dean Trench's two volumes, one is new, and the other a revised
edition. No one has done more than he to popularize the study of words,
which is only another name for the study of thought. His new book has
the same agreeable qualities which marked its forerunners, maintaining
an easy conversational level of scholarly gossip and reflection, the
middle ground between learning and information for the million. Without
great philological attainments, and without any pretence of such, he
gives the results of much good reading.
Mr. Craik's book is a compact and handy manual.
The SLANG Dictionaries are both as ill-done as possible, and the author
of the smaller one deserves to be put under the pump for taking the
name of the illustrious Ducange, one of those megatheria of erudition
and industry that we should look on as an extinct species, but for such
men as the brothers Grimm. The larger book has the merit of including a
bibliography of the subject, for which the author deserves our thanks,
though in other respects showing no least qualification for the task he
has undertaken. We trust there are not many "London Antiquaries" so
ignorant as he. One curious fact we glean from his volume, namely, the
currency among the London populace of certain Italian words, chiefly
for the smaller pieces of money. What a strident invasion of
organ-grinders does this seem to indicate! The author gives them thus:
"Oney saltec, a penny; Dooe saltee, twopence; Tray saltee, threepence,"
etc., and adds, "These numerals, as will be seen, are of mongrel
origin,--the French, perhaps, predominating."! He must be the gentleman
who, during the Exhibition of 1851, wrote on his door, "No French
spoken here." _Dooe saltee_ and _tray saltee_ differ little but in
spelling from their Italian originals, _due soldi_ and _tre soldi_. On
another page we find _molto cattivo_ transmogrified into "_multee
kertever_, very had." Very bad, indeed! For one more good thing beside
the Bibliography, we are indebted to the "London Antiquary." In his
Introduction he has reprinted the earliest list of _cant_ words in the
language, that made by Thomas Harman in Elizabeth's time. We wish we
could only feel sure of the accuracy of the reprint. In this list we
find already the adjective _rum_ meaning _good, fine_,--a word that has
crept into general use among the lower classes in London, without ever
gaining promotion. The fate of new words in this respect is curious.
Often, if they are convenient, or have knack of lodging easily in the
memory, they work slowly upward. The Scotch word _flunky_ is a case in
point. Our first knowledge of it in print is from Fergusson's Poems.
Burns advertised it more widely, and Carlyle seems fairly to have
transplanted it into the English of the day. As we believe its origin
is still obscure, we venture on a guess at it. French allies brought
some words into Scotland that have rooted themselves, like the
Edinburgh _gardyloo_. _Flunky_ is defined in Fergusson's glossary as "a
better kind of servant." This is an exact definition of the Scotch
_hench-man_, the most probable original of which is _haunch-man_ or
body-guard. Turn haunch-man into French and you get _flanquier_;
corrupt it back into Scotch and you have _flunky_. Whatever liberties
we take with French words, the Gauls have their revenge when they take
possession of an English one. We once saw an Avis of the police in
Paris, regulating _les chiens et les boule dogues_, dogs and bull-dogs.
Vocabularies of vulgarisms are of interest for the archaisms both of
language and pronunciation which we find in them. The dictionaries say
_coverlet_, as if the word were a diminutive; the rustic persists in
the termination _lid_, which points to the French _lit_, bed. On the
other hand, he still says _hankercher_, having been taught so by his
betters, though they have taken up the final _f_ again. Sewel, in the
Introduction to his Dutch Dictionary, 1691, gives _henketsjer_, and
Voltaire, forty years later, _hankercher_, as the received
pronunciation. Sewel tells us also that the significant _l_ was still
sounded in _would_ and _should_, as it still is by the peasantry in
many parts of England.
Mr. Swinton's book, the last on our list, is an entertaining one, and
gives proof of thought, though sometimes smothered in fine writing. It
is written altogether too loosely for a work on philology, one of the
exactest of sciences. But we have a graver fault to find with Mr.
Swinton, and that is for his neglect to give credit where he is
indebted. He seems even desirous to conceal his obligations. The
general acknowledgment of his Preface is by no means enough, where the
debt is so large. The great merit of Dr. Richardson's Dictionary being
the number of illustrative passages he has brought together, it is
hardly fair in Mr. Swinton so often to make a show of learning with
what he has got at second hand from the lexicographer. Dr. Trench could
also make large reclamations, and several others. There is beside an
unpleasant assumption of superiority in the book. An author who says
that _paganus_ means village, who makes _ocula_ the plural of _oculus_,
and who supposes that _in petto_ means _in little_, is not qualified to
settle Dr. Webster's claims as a philologer, much less to treat him
with contempt. The first two blunders we have cited may be slips of the
pen or the press, but this cannot be true of the many wrong etymologies
into which Mr. Swinton has fallen. We hope that in another edition he
will correct these faults, for he shows a power to appreciate ideas
which is worth more than mere scholarship, vastly more than the
reputation of it among the unscholarly.
_A History and Description of New England, General and Local._ By A. J.
COOLIDGE and J. B. MANSFIELD. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings. In
Two Volumes. Vol. I. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Boston: Austin
J. Coolidge, 1859. pp. xxv., 1023.
This is a book of great labor, being nothing less in plan than a
condensed town-history of New England. In spite of all efforts to the
contrary, one is forced to admit that there is very little poetry in
American history. It is a record of advances in material prosperity,
and scarce anything more. The only lumps of pure ore are the _Idea_
which the Pilgrims were possessed with and its gradual incarnation in
events and institutions. Beyond this all is barren. There is a fearful
destitution of the picturesque elements. It is true that our local
historians commonly avoid all romance as if it were of the Enemy; but
if we compare their labors with "The Beauties of England and Wales,"
for example, the work certainly of uninspired men, we shall be
convinced that the American Dryasdust suffers from poverty of material.
There is no need to remind us of Hawthorne; but he is such a genius as
is rare everywhere, and could conjure poetry out of a country
In books of this kind we see evidence of what is called the
"enterprise" of our people on every page,--one almost hears the hum of
the factory-wheels, as he reads,--but that is all. It is not to be
wondered at that foreigners fail to find our country interesting, and
that the only good book of American travels is that of De Tocqueville,
who deals chiefly with abstract ideas. It is possible to conceive minds
so constituted that they may reach before long the end of their
interest in the number of shoes, yards of cotton, and the like, which
we produce in a year. The only immortal Greek shoemaker is he who had
the good luck to be snubbed by Apelles, and Penelope is the only
manufacturer in antiquity whose name has come down to us.
One thing in the narrative part of this volume is striking,--the
continual recurrence of massacre by the French and Indians. This is
something to be borne in mind always by those who would understand the
politics of our New England ancestors. We confess that we were
surprised, the other day, to see a journal so able and generally so
philosophical as the London "Saturday Review" joining in the outcry
about the treatment of the Acadians. If our forefathers were ever wise
and foreseeing, if they ever showed a capacity for large political
views, it is proved by their early perception that the first question
to be settled on this continent was, whether its destiny should be
shaped by English or Keltic, by Romish or Protestant ideas. By what
means they attempted to realize their thought is quite another
question. Great events are not settled by sentimentalists, nor history
written in milk-and-water. Uninteresting in many ways the Puritans
doubtless were, but not in the least _spoony_.
The volume before us contains a vast amount of matter and fulfils
honestly what it promises. It tells all that is to be told in the way
of fact and statistics. The first settlers, the clergymen, the
enterprising citizens, the men of mark,--all their names and dates are
to be found here. Of the literary execution of the book we cannot speak
highly. The style is of the worst. If a meeting-house is spoken of, it
is a "church edifice"; if the Indians set a house on fire, they "apply
the torch"; if a man takes to drink, he is seduced by "the intoxicating
cup"; even mountains are "located." On page 68, we read that "the
pent-up rage that had long heaved the savage bosom, and which had only
been _smouldering under the pacific policy of Shurt_, now knew no
bounds, and burst forth like the fiery torrent of the volcano"; on the
same page, "the impending doom which, like a storm-cloud in the
heavens, had overhung with its sable drapery the settlements along the
coast, _and Pemaquid in particular._" Of a certain tavern we are told
that the daughters of the landlord were "genteel, sprightly,
intelligent young ladies, ambitious of display and of setting a rich
and elegant table." This is no doubt true, but surely History should
sift her tacts with a coarser sieve.
In spite of these faults, the book is one which all New Englanders will
find interesting, and we hope that in their second volume the authors
will balance their commendable profusion of industry with a
corresponding economy of fine writing.
_An Oration, delivered before the Municipal Authorities of the City of
Boston, July_ 4, 1850. By GEORGE SUMNER, etc, etc, Boston. 1859. pp.
The opposition in the Common Council to the order (usual on such
occasions in Boston) to print the oration of Mr. Sumner, and the series
of assaults it has encountered front the administration press, have
given it a considerable, though secondary, importance. Intrinsically a
performance of great merit, those on whom the weight of his arguments
and learning fell disclosed their sense of its power by the anger of
their debate and their efforts to repel it.
Its value, as containing a fresh and instructive contribution to the
knowledge of our Revolutionary history, derived from original sources
of inquiry, explored by Mr. Sumner in person, would alone have rescued
from neglect any ordinary Fourth-of-July oration.
The services and aids of Spain, material and moral, pecuniary and
diplomatic, to the American Revolutionary cause,--the introduction,
through the fortunes of Captain John Lee of Marblehead, of the American
question into the policy and polities of Spain,--the effect of the
arrival of our National Declaration of the 4th of July, 1776, on the
fate of that gallant New England cruiser, then detained as a pirate,
for his heroic exploits under our infant and unknown flag,--the
incidents of vast and varied labor and accomplishment in our behalf,
connected with the name and administration of the eminent Spanish
minister and statesman, Florida Blanca,--the weaving and spreading out
of that network of influences and circumstances, in the toils of which
France and Spain entangled Great Britain, until she found herself
confronted by much of the physical and all the moral power of the
Continent, and from which all extrication was made hopeless, until the
American Colonies should be free,--the origin of "the armed
neutrality," and the shock it gave to the naval power of England, in
the very crisis of the hopes of American liberty,--are presented in a
narrative, clear, condensed, and original.
From the aspect of peace and freedom in which our country so happily
reposes, going on prospering and increasing, "by confidence in
democratic principles, by faith in the people, and by the spirit of
mutual forbearance and charity," the orator turns to that Europe to
which our fathers there looked for succor, now "echoing to the clang of
arms, and hostile legions arrayed for combat."
A tribute to Italy, for the gifts, poured out from her treasures of
art, science, medical skill, and political knowledge, of literature and
philosophy, to all the uses and adornments of human life, introduces a
reference to the Italian Republics of the Middle Ages, which are shown
to have been based on these great principles:--That all authority over
the people emanates from the people,--should return to them at stated
intervals,--and that its holders should be accountable to the people
for its use. "To those Republics," it is added, "we also owe the
practical demonstration of the great truth, that no state can long
prosper or exist where intelligent labor is not held in honor, and that
labor cannot be honorable where it is not free."
Mr. Sumner's defence of democratic republican ideas,--of the fitness of
the European peoples for self-government,--his repulse of those
unbelieving theorists who would consign the French and the Italians to
the eternal doom of oppression,--are manly, powerful, and unanswerable.
His hearty love of genuine democratic principles, as taught by the old
republican school of statesmen and philosophers, and his zealous pride
of country, which always made him one of the most intensely American,
in thought, word, and deed, of all the Americans who have ever
sojourned in the Old World, shine forth from every page of the Oration.
And in the honest ardor of his defence of the natural and political
rights of man, as they were taught by Turgot, by Montesquieu, by
Jefferson, not content with declamation or rhetoric, he ploughs deep
into the reasoning by which they were demonstrated or defended, and
ranges wide over the fields of learning by which they were illustrated.
Careful for nothing but for the truth itself, he refutes the errors of
a French writer who had charged practical ingratitude on the part of
America towards de Beaumarchais, the agent of the first benefactions of
France to these Colonies, and arraigns and exposes the historical
mistakes of Lord Brougham and of President Fillmore, unfavorable to
Republican France and to Continental liberty.
The crimes of Austria are shown to have been made possible by the moral
support Austria has received from the government of England. The fruits
of the reverses suffered by Hungary, and by other nationalities
struggling for independence and popular liberty, are exhibited in the
sacrifices since endured by England in the war in the Crimea, and in
the embarrassments of the present hour.
Among our own duties and responsibilities to the great and world-wide
cause of liberty,--discussed thus far in its relations to Europe,--Mr.
Sumner proceeds to present the grand duty we owe, not less to ourselves
than to Europe, of giving to the struggling nations an example of
government true to the memories of our National Anniversary, and to the
fundamental ideas of civil freedom "implied in an independent, but
rigidly responsible judiciary, and a complete separation of the
legislative and judicial functions."
From Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Marshall, and Story,--to say nothing
of English and French jurists,--Mr. Sumner brings authority to define
and illustrate the true place of the judicial office in the political
system of a free government. And here, fidelity to those principles of
liberty he had explained and defended, fidelity to the "good old cause"
itself, at home and in the grand forum of the nations, demanded and
received the frank avowal, that "a recent scene in the Supreme Court of
the United States has shown that Jefferson was no false prophet, and
has furnished at the same time a serious warning to all who prefer a
government based upon law to either despotism or anarchy."
The clear and sharp, merciless and logical veracity with which he
discriminates between the solemn judgment of a tribunal and a stump
speech from the bench,--the startling narration of decisions and
statutes, practice and precedent, condensed into a few of the closing
pages of the Oration, with which the discussion read by Chief Justice
Taney in the famous case of Dred Scott is confronted and exposed,--are
among the greater merits of this elaborate and able discourse. It must
have required of one not in the arena of political strife, who for a
large part of his manhood has occupied himself abroad in the studies of
an intelligent scholar and a patriotic American, somewhat of
self-denial, to throw away the certainty of almost universal cheers for
his performance, by incurring the displeasure of some of his audience
and many of his countrymen.
It was not, however, in the interest of any opinion of African slavery
that the case of Scott was here referred to. It was in the interest of
republican liberty everywhere, endangered by all departures in the
model republic of the world from fundamental principles of good
government, and all the more perilled in proportion to the station,
quality, and character of the active offender.
And Mr. Sumner was right. The truth of history, the law of this land,
and of all lands where there is any law which marks a boundary
between legal right and despotic usurpation, unite to denounce,
and will forever condemn, the judicial magistrate whose great name is
tarnished and whose "great office" is degraded by this political
_pronunciamento_, uttered from the loftiest judicial place in America.
Stripped of verbiage and technicalities, the case is within the
humblest comprehension. The chief justice and a majority of his
associates held that Dred Scott, who sued his master for his freedom in
the Federal court, had been already legally declared to be the slave of
that same master by the highest court of the State of Missouri, in
which State Scott resided at the time. They held that this decision of
the Missouri court was binding on all other tribunals; and that the
Federal court had no authority to reverse it, even if wrong.
The _merits_ of the cause then before the court were thus conclusively
disposed of, whether the decision be regarded as bearing on the main
issue between the parties, or on the plea in abatement filed by the
defendant, avowing that Scott was not a _citizen_ of Missouri,--an
averment, if true, fatal to his standing in the Federal court,--since
its jurisdiction of the cause depended on the citizenship of the
litigants. In a word, if he was a _slave_, he was no _citizen_, If he
was the slave of Sanford, his doom was fixed, his dream of rights
dissolved. If the decision of the Missouri court was finally binding,
the functions of the Federal tribunal were at an end.
What, then, was the pertinency of going on to argue the effect of the
Ordinance of 1787 over Scott while a resident in Illinois, or of the
Missouri Compromise on him during his residence in Wisconsin, or the
effect of his color, race, or ancestral disabilities upon a cause
controlled finally and beyond appeal by the authority of a decision
already made and recorded?
Mr. Buchanan made hot haste to use this _pronunciamento_ of his chief
justice, issued only a few hours after his inauguration as President,
and withheld until after the election of 1856 had taken place. He
proclaimed--on its authority as a judicial exposition of a point of
constitutional law--the existence of slavery in the Territory of
Kansas. And he endeavored to make it efficient and powerful by
practical application in the administration of the government of the
Territory, and by interpolating these bastard dogmas, dropped from the
Federal bench, into the creed of the political party of which he was
the official chief.
These _dicta_ of Mr. Chief Justice Taney made Dred Scott neither more
nor less a _slave_, neither more nor less a _citizen_, than he had been
without their utterance. But they aided the purpose of subjugating
Kansas, of opening all American territory to slavery, of Africanizing
the continent by reopening the slave-trade, of breaking down barriers
which State legislation has interposed against the introduction of
slaves, and of putting the propagandists of slavery in full possession
of every power.
We gladly record our sense of the skill, learning, and intrepidity with
which Mr. Sumner fulfilled his task of presenting, defining, and
defending, within the brief limits of a single oration, the cause of
Liberty,--Liberty,--American, European, universal.
* * * * *
_Out of the Depths._ The Story of a Woman's Life. London: Macmillan &
Co. 8vo. pp. 381.
The author of this book is like an awkward angler, who fails to take a
trout himself, and spoils the water for the more skilful man who may
follow him. Its object is the illustration of that subject which has
been called "the greatest of our social evils," and which, in its
present aspect, is certainly one of the saddest that the statesman or
the moralist is called upon to contemplate, and yet one the duration of
which seems to be inevitably coexistent with every form of civilized
society yet known to the world. The author has sought his end by means
of a fictitious autobiography. This was of course. No unusual faculty
in the selection of methods was necessary to the choice; for only in
the autobiographical form could the inner life of a courtesan be so
revealed as to present a truthful and living picture of her soul's
experience. A fine novel of this kind would be a great book, and one
productive of much good; not, indeed, directly to the wretched class
that would furnish studies for it, but to society at large, and so
indirectly to the class in question, by providing a subject of this
kind which could be studied and talked about. Dumas _fils_' "Dame aux
Camelias" is a great melodramatic story; but it is so exceptional in
its incidents and episodical in its character, that its heroine is
quite worthless as a specimen for examination and analysis; and it is,
beside, so very French as to be almost valueless in this regard, for
that reason alone. What it would be well to have written is the story
of an abandoned woman, told simply and without any reserve, except that
of decency, and purely from a woman's point of view. But, except by a
woman, and at the cost of the experience to be recounted, this is
manifestly possible only to genius. The author of "Out of the Depths"
has not attained the _desideratum_; but has yet approached so near it,
that we fear the right man, or, possibly, woman, may be deterred from
the attempt to do better. If so, there is a good subject--good for the
making of a grand psychological, physiological, and dramatic
The subject of this professed autobiography, Mary Smith, is the
daughter of a gardener on a large English estate. Her family is much
noticed and favored by the ladies of the mansion, and she, who is
handsome and intellectual, soon acquires tastes and an education above
her position; and as she is vain and selfish and of a voluptuous
temperament, the consequence seems inevitable. Her first fault,
however, is committed with her betrothed husband, a young gentleman,
destined for the Church, by whose sudden death, at a time when his life
was more than ever essential to her happiness, she is left an outcast,
a creature to be spurned from the door of those upon whose tender care
Nature and themselves had given her unextinguishable claims. She finds
shelter and kind treatment with two girls who belong, though not
ostensibly, to the class into which she is about to fall, and soon she
appears as the mistress of a foolish young nobleman, for whom she has
not the least affection. At last he wearies of and parts with her, and
she finds a second companion and protector in an eminent barrister, who
takes pleasure in cultivating her literary tastes. Her unfaithfulness
to him results in a separation, and she passes into the hands of a
third keeper, who abandons her on occasion of his approaching marriage.
Infuriated at his desertion, she intrudes upon him at a social party at
his private chambers, and behaves so outrageously that she is handed
over to the police, and her name appears in public as that of an
infamous and disorderly woman. From this point she rapidly descends to
the lowest rank of her unfortunate class. On her way, a strong hand is
put out to save her. It is that of a gigantic young clergyman, who
allows her to think that she has decoyed him to her room, but who
really goes there to endeavor to turn her from her course of life. She
scorns his exhortations, and attempts to browbeat him; but she finds
him ready for a row upon the spot. He offers to fight her crowd of
bullies singlehanded, and when she locks the door upon him, twists the
lock off, hasp and all, with a turn of his wrist. Although they
part,--he none the worse, she none the better, for the interview,--it
is not without fruits; for he leaves her his address, and when, after
being reduced to the lowest depths of degradation and brought to the
last endurable pinch of suffering, she determines, at the death-bed of
a repentant companion, to reform at any cost, and does set her face
upward, and is beaten back and trodden under foot by the righteously
uncharitable of her own sex, she thinks of her big clergyman, seeks him
out, and by his instrumentality is taken into the country, and made the
mistress of a school in his parish. Here the friends of her youth find
her, forgive her, and cherish her; and she receives a proposal of
marriage from an estimable and wealthy farmer, who persists in his
suit, even after she has told him of her former life, and after the
small-pox, caught on a ministration of mercy, has harrowed all the
beauty from her face. But rapid consumption supervenes, and relieves
the author from the embarrassing position into which he had brought
This is all the story that Mary Smith has to tell; and it will be seen,
that, so far as the incidents are concerned, it is commonplace enough.
It is not distinguished by one novel incident, or one fresh character,
except, perhaps, the muscular divine. Even in the grouping and
narration of its old incidents it exhibits no dramatic power, and
little skill of characterization in the portraiture of its personages.
And not only does a matter-of-fact air pervade the narrative, but the
tale is told with such reticence of fact as well as of feeling, that it
reveals but little of the real life of a London courtesan, and leaves
the reader almost as ignorant as he was when he took up the book of
what it is that makes the horror of such existence; all of which might
have been imparted without any violation of the decorum proper to such
a book, and which, therefore, should not have been withheld. The book,
too, is much too goody-goody. There is too much preaching throughout
it, and in certain parts a suddenness in the kneeling down to pray that
is quite startling. This stupid sort of goodness helps much to defeat
the purpose of the work. Even the strong minister, although his is not
the old-fashioned way, seems to have more beef on his bones than brains
in his head, or he would not answer to a desperate exclamation of Mary
Smith,--"Don't say that. God only knows what is best for us all; even
you, and all like you, may begin to live for the good of society,
without being its bane." This is very true,--as true as Justice
Shallow's original observation, that "we must all die." But the idea of
attempting to impress a degraded woman of the town by telling her that
she, and all like her, might be brought to live _for the good of
But in spite of these faults, the book has one great merit, which is
not too common; it seems to be the truthful story of a real life. This
impression is partly the result of a peculiarity of style which is very
difficult to express otherwise than by saying that the use of language
seems to indicate that the writer is of the condition of life in which
Mary Smith professes to have been born, and has acquired a knowledge of
language and literature in the manner in which she relates that she
acquired hers. There is no vulgarity, but a certain air of constrained
propriety, and an absence of any elegance, or grace, or indications of
a slow and unconsciously acquired acquaintance with the phraseology of
cultivated society. If this be really assumed, the author has exhibited
a delicate refinement in the art of writing not surpassed in any work
of imagination known to us. Another ground for the seeming actuality of
the story, to those who have any knowledge of the class to which its
heroine belongs, is the cause to which she attributes her fall. This
was not seduction; for she confesses, what hardly one in a thousand of
her sisters in shame will fail to confess, if they speak the truth,
that she was not seduced;--and neither was it poverty; for her father
was well-to-do, and she the petted attendant, almost the friend, of a
young lady of wealth and station;--but it was her vanity and her
unrestrained passion. She is represented, in the first place, as
regarding a good match, a rich husband, as the great object of life;
and to such a woman chastity is not a sentiment, but a dictate of
prudence; just as to a man whose great purpose is the getting of money,
honesty is but the best policy. After she has met the man who brings
her fate with him, (it might as well have been any other of his class,)
she writes,--"The one great pleasing and wretched hope of my mind was
that I should see him again; for it is so pleasant to believe that any
man in a higher station should take an interest in me." And again she
speaks of "exultation at the prospect which opened before me of being
raised out of the station in life from which I sprang by birth"; and
again, of her "desire of being a lady." This vanity it is, this desire
to dress and live like the women above them, and have intercourse with
the men above them, which leads the greater number of our fallen women
to their ruin, or, rather, sends them to it with their eyes open; and
for the rest, when Mary Smith, living in her own fine house, the petted
mistress of the wealthy Mr. Plowden, was unfaithful to him, it was not
for love of fine clothes or fine society. It is not long since our
whole country was shocked by the dire results of a similar abandonment
to vanity and wantonness, about which the usual amount of commonplace
and cant was uttered. It is time that the very truth was told about
this matter, in sad earnestness and singleness of purpose. We hoped to
find the whole truth in "Out of the Depths"; but, finding only a part
of it, we can greet it only with a partial welcome.
_Reply to the "Statement of the Trustees" of the Dudley Observatory._
By BENJAMIN APTHORP GOULD, JR. Albany: Printed by Charles Van
Benthuysen. 1859. 8vo. pp. 366.
The question between Dr. Gould and the Trustees of the Albany
Observatory was not one of merely private or passing interest. It
concerned not only all men of science, but all men of honor. It
concerned all who like pluck, and who, in a quarrel, instinctively take
sides with one against many. It was of interest to men of science,
because the question was between show and reality, between newspaper
notoriety and the quiet advancement of real and enduring knowledge. It
concerned men of honor, because it was of some consequence to know
whether public sentiment in America would justify, nay, tolerate even,
the printing of confidential letters, and not only the printing, but
the garbling of them to suit the ends of personal spite. It concerned
lovers of fair-play, because it was to be settled whether it is right
to accuse a man of peculation whom you wish to convict of disagreeable
Dr. Gould's pamphlet is a thorough vindication of himself. It is so not
only as to graver charges, but incidentally, by its perfect quietness
of tone, it answers the accusation of bad temper. The hitting is none
the less severe that it is done with scientific precision, and the
astronomer shows his ability to make his antagonists "see stars" in a
less comfortable way than through a telescope. There is a grim humor,
too, as well as dignity, in the Cool way in which Dr. Gould
recapitulates all the charges made against him,--especially where he
condenses them in the Index. Better pamphlet-fighting has not been seen
since Bentley. The hardship of the matter is, that people are commonly
more ready to believe slander than to trouble themselves with reading a
refutation of it. It gave us particular satisfaction to see that the
American Association for the Advancement of Science had shown its sense
of the merits of the quarrel by electing Dr. Gould vice-president of
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