Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 2, Issue 12, October, 1858 by Various

Part 5 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Good-bye,--I said,--my dear friends, one and all of you! I have been
long with you, and I find it hard parting. I have to thank you for a
thousand courtesies, and above all for the patience and indulgence with
which you have listened to me when I have tried to instruct or amuse
you. My friend the Professor (who, as well as my friend the Poet, is
unavoidably absent on this interesting occasion) has given me reason to
suppose that he would occupy my empty chair about the first of January
next If he comes among you, be kind to him, as you have been to me. May
the Lord bless you all!--And we shook hands all round the table.

Half an hour afterwards the breakfast things and the cloth were gone. I
looked up and down the length of the bare boards, over which I had so
often uttered my sentiments and experiences--and----Yes, I am a man,
like another.

All sadness vanished, as, in the midst of these old friends of mine,
whom you know, and others a little more up in the world, perhaps, to
whom I have not introduced you, I took the schoolmistress before the
altar from the hands of the old gentleman who used to sit opposite, and
who would insist on giving her away.

And now we two are walking the long path in peace together. The
"schoolmistress" finds her skill in teaching called for again, without
going abroad to seek little scholars. Those visions of mine have all
come true.

I hope you all love me none the less for anything I have told you.

* * * * *


Just in the triumph week of that Great Telegraph which takes its name
from the ATLANTIC MONTHLY, I read in the September number of that
journal the revelations of an observer who was surprised to find that
he had the power of reading, as they run, the revelations of the wire.
I had the hope that he was about to explain to the public the more
general use of this instrument,--which, with a stupid fatuity, the
public has, as yet, failed to grasp. Because its signals have been
first applied by means of electro-magnetism, and afterwards by means of
the chemical power of electricity, the many-headed people refuses to
avail itself, as it might do very easily, of the same signals, for the
simpler transmission of intelligence,--whatever the power employed.

The great invention of Mr. Morse is his register and alphabet. He
himself eagerly disclaims any pretension to the original conception of
the use of electricity as an errand-boy. Hundreds of people had thought
of that and suggested it; but Morse was the first to give the
errand-boy such a written message, that he could not lose it on the
way, nor mistake it when he arrived. The public, eager to thank Morse,
as he deserves, thanks him for something he did not invent. For this he
probably cares very little. Nor do I care more. But the public does not
thank him for what he did originate,--this invaluable and simple
alphabet. Now, as I use it myself in every detail of life, and see
every hour how the public might use it, if it chose, I am really sorry
for this negligence,--both on the score of his fame, and of general

Please to understand, then, ignorant Reader, that this curious alphabet
reduces all the complex machinery of Cadmus and the rest of the
writing-masters to characters as simple as can be made by a dot, a
space, and a line, variously combined. Thus, the marks [Morse code:
.-.] designate the letter A. The marks [Morse code: -...] designate the
letter B. All the other letters are designated in as simple a manner.

Now I am stripping myself of one of the private comforts of my life,
(but what will one not do for mankind?) when I explain that this simple
alphabet need not be confined to electrical signals. _Long_ and _short_
make it all,--and wherever long and short can be combined, be it in
marks, sounds, sneezes, fainting-fits, canes, or children, ideas can be
conveyed by this arrangement of the long and short together. Only last
night I was talking scandal with Mrs. Wilberforce at a summer party at
the Hammersmiths. To my amazement, my wife, who scarcely can play "The
Fisher's Hornpipe," interrupted us by asking Mrs. Wilberforce if she
could give her the idea of an air in "The Butcher of Turin."

Mrs. Wilberforce had never heard that opera,--indeed, had never heard
of it. My angel-wife was surprised,--stood thrumming at the
piano,--wondered she could not catch this very odd bit of discordant
accord at all,--but checked herself in her effort, as soon as I
observed that her long notes and short notes, in their tum-tee,
tee,--tee-tee, tee-tum tum, meant, "He's her brother." The conversation
on her side turned from "The Butcher of Turin," and I had just time, on
the hint thus given me by Mrs. I., to pass a grateful eulogium on the
distinguished statesman whom Mrs. Wilberforce, with all a sister's
care, had rocked in his baby-cradle,--whom, but for my wife's long and
short notes, I should have clumsily abused among the other statesmen of
the day.

You will see, in an instant, awakening Reader, that it is not the
business simply of "operators" in telegraphic dens to know this Morse
alphabet, but your business, and that of every man and woman. If our
school-committees understood the times, it would be taught, even before
phonography or physiology, at school. I believe both these sciences now
precede the old English alphabet.

As I write these words, the bell of the South Congregational strikes
dong, dong, dong;--dong, dong, dong, dong,--dong,--dong. Nobody has
unlocked the church-door. The old tin sign, "In case of fire, the key
will be found at the opposite house," has long since been taken down,
and made into the nose of a water-pot. Yet there is no Goody Two-Shoes
locked in. No! But, thanks to Dr. Channing's Fire-Alarm, the bell is
informing the South End that there is a fire in District
Dong-dong-dong,--that is to say, District No. 3. Before I have
explained to you so far, the "Eagle" engine, with a good deal of noise,
has passed the house on its way to that fated district. An immense
improvement this on the old system, when the engines radiated from
their houses in every possible direction, and the fire was extinguished
by the few machines whose lines of quest happened to cross each other
at the particular place where the child had been building cob-houses
out of lucifer-matches in a paper-warehouse. Yes, it is a very great
improvement. All those persons, like you and me, who have no property
in District Dong-dong-dong, can now sit at home at ease,--and little
need we think upon the mud above the knees of those who have property
in that district and are running to look after it. But for them the
improvement only brings misery. You arrive wet, hot or cold, or both,
at the large District No. 3, to find that the lucifer-matches were half
a mile from your store,--and that your own private watchman, even, had
not been waked by the working of the distant engines. Wet
property-holder, as you walk home, consider this. When you are next in
the Common Council, vote an appropriation for applying Morse's alphabet
of long and short to the bells. Then they can be made to sound
intelligibly. Daung ding ding,--ding,--ding daung,--daung daung daung,
and so on, will tell you, as you wake in the night, that it is Mr. B.'s
store which is on fire, and not yours, or that it is yours, and not
his. This is not only a convenience to you and a relief to your wife
and family, who will thus be spared your excursions to unavailable and
unsatisfactory fires, and your somewhat irritated return,--it will be a
great relief to the Fire Department. How placid the operations of a
fire where none attend except on business! The various engines arrive,
but no throng of distant citizens, men and boys, fearful of the
destruction of their all. They have all roused on their pillows to
learn that it is No. 530 Pearl Street which is in flames. All but the
owner of No. 530 Pearl Street have dropped back to sleep. He alone has
rapidly repaired to the scene. That is he, who stands in the uncrowded
street with the Chief Engineer, on the deck of No. 18, as she plays
away. His property destroyed, the engines retire,--he mentions the
amount of his insurance to those persons who represent the daily press,
they all retire to their homes,--and the whole is finished as simply,
almost, as was his private entry in his day-book the afternoon before.

This is what might be, if the magnetic alarm only struck _long_ and
_short_, and we had all learned Morse's alphabet. Indeed, there is
nothing the bells could not tell, if you would only give them time
enough. We have only one chime, for musical purposes, in the town. But,
without attempting tunes, only give the bells the Morse alphabet, and
every bell in Boston might chant in monotone the words of "Hail
Columbia" at length, every Fourth of July. Indeed, if Mr. Barnard
should report any day that a discouraged 'prentice-boy had left town
for his country home, all the bells could instantly be set to work to
speak articulately, in language regarding which the dullest imagination
need not be at loss,

"Turn again, Higginbottom,
Lord Mayor of Boston!"

I have suggested the propriety of introducing this alphabet into the
primary schools. I need not say I have taught it to my own
children,--and I have been gratified to see how rapidly it made head,
against the more complex alphabet, in the grammar schools. Of course it
does;--an alphabet of two characters matched against one of
twenty-six,--or of forty-odd, as the very odd one of the phono-typists
employs! On the Franklin-medal-day I went to the Johnson-School
examination. One of the committee asked a nice girl, what was the
capital of Brazil. The child looked tired and pale, and, for an
instant, hesitated. But, before she had time to commit herself, all
answering was rendered impossible by an awful turn of whooping-cough
which one of my own sons was seized with,--who had gone to the
examination with me. Hawm, hem hem;--hem hem hem;--hem, hem;--hawm, hem
hem;--hem hem hem;--hem, hem,--barked the poor child, who was at the
opposite extreme of the school-room. The spectators and the committee
looked to see him fall dead with a broken blood-vessel. I confess that
I felt no alarm, after I observed that some of his gasps were long and
some very staccato;--nor did pretty little Mabel Warren. She recovered
her color,--and, as soon as silence was in the least restored,
answered, "_Rio_ is the capital of Brazil,"--as modestly and properly
as if she had been taught it in her cradle. They are nothing but
children, any of them,--but that afternoon, after they had done all the
singing the city needed for its annual entertainment of the singers, I
saw Bob and Mabel start for a long expedition into West Roxbury,--and
when he came back, I know it was a long featherfew, from her prize
school-bouquet, that he pressed in his Greene's "Analysis," with a
short frond of maiden's hair.

I hope nobody will write a letter to "The Atlantic," to say that these
are very trifling uses. The communication of useful information is
never trifling. It is as important to save a nice child from
mortification on examination-day, as it is to tell Mr. Fremont that he
is not elected President. If, however, the reader is distressed,
because these illustrations do not seem to his more benighted
observation to belong to the big bow-wow strain of human life, let him
consider the arrangement which ought to have been made years since, for
lee shores, railroad collisions, and that curious class of maritime
accidents where one steamer runs into another under the impression that
she is a light-house. Imagine the Morse alphabet applied to a
steam-whistle, which is often heard five miles. It needs only _long_
and _short_ again. "_Stop Comet_," for instance, when you send it down
the railroad line, by the wire, is expressed thus: ... - .. .... .. .
.. -- . - Very good message, if Comet happens to be at the telegraph
station when it comes! But what if Comet has gone by? Much good will
your trumpery message do then! If, however, you have the wit to sound
your long and short on an engine-whistle, thus:-Scre scre, scre;
screeee; scre scre; scre scre scre scre; scre scre--scre, scre scre,
screeeee scrceeee; scre; screeeee;--why, then the whole neighborhood,
for five miles round, will know that Comet must stop, if only they
understand spoken language,--and, among others, the engineman of Comet
will understand it; and Comet will not run into that wreck of worlds
which gives the order,--with his nucleus of hot iron and his tail of
five hundred tons of coal.--So, of the signals which fog-bells
can give, attached to light-houses. How excellent to have them
proclaim through the darkness, "I am Wall"! Or of signals for
steamship-engineers. When our friends were on board the "Arabia" the
other day, and she and the "Europa" pitched into each other,--as if, on
that happy week, all the continents were to kiss and join hands all
round,--how great the relief to the passengers on each, if, through
every night of their passage, collision had been prevented by this
simple expedient! One boat would have screamed, "Europa, Europa,
Europa," from night to morning,--and the other, "Arabia, Arabia,
Arabia,"--and neither would have been mistaken, as one unfortunately
was, for a light-house.

The long and short of it is, that whoever can mark distinctions of time
can use this alphabet of long-and-short, however he may mark them. It
is, therefore, within the compass of all intelligent beings, except
those who are no longer conscious of the passage of time, having
exchanged its limitations for the wider sweep of eternity. The
illimitable range of this alphabet, however, is not half disclosed when
this has been said. Most articulate language addresses itself to one
sense, or at most to two, sight and sound. I see, as I write, that the
particular illustrations I have given are all of them confined to
signals seen or signals heard. But the dot-and-line alphabet, in the
few years of its history, has already shown that it is not restricted
to these two senses, but makes itself intelligible to all. Its message,
of course, is heard as well as read. Any good operator understands the
sounds of its ticks upon the flowing strip of paper, as well as when he
sees it. As he lies in his cot at midnight, he will expound the passing
message without striking a light to see it. But this is only what may
be said of any written language. You can read this article to your
wife, or she can read it, as she prefers; that is, she chooses whether
it shall address her eye or her ear. But the long-and-short alphabet of
Morse and his imitators despises such narrow range. It addresses
whichever of the five senses the listener chooses. This fact is
illustrated by a curious set of anecdotes--never yet put in print, I
think--of that critical dispatch which in one night announced General
Taylor's death to this whole land. Most of the readers of these lines
probably read that dispatch in the morning's paper. The compositors and
editors had read it. To them it was a dispatch to the eye. But half the
operators at the stations _heard_ it ticked out, by the register
stroke, and knew it before they wrote it down for the press. To them it
was a dispatch to the ear. My good friend Langenzunge had not that
resource. He had just been promised, by the General himself, (under
whom he served at Palo Alto.) the office of Superintendent of the
Rocky-Mountain Lines. He was returning from Washington over the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, on a freight-train, when he heard of the
President's danger. Langenzunge loved Old Rough and Ready,--and he felt
badly about his own office, too. But his extempore train chose to stop
at a forsaken shanty-village on the Potomac, for four mortal hours, at
midnight. What does he do, but walk down the line into the darkness,
climb a telegraph-post, cut a wire, and apply the two ends to his
tongue, to _taste_, at the fatal moment, the words, "Died at half past
ten." Poor Langenzunge! he hardly had nerve to solder the wire again.
Cogs told me that they had just fitted up the Naguadavick stations with
Bain's chemical revolving disc. This disc is charged with a salt of
potash, which, when the electric spark passes through it, is changed to
Prussian blue. Your dispatch is noiselessly written in dark blue dots
and lines.

Just as the disc started on that fatal dispatch, and Cogs bent over it
to read, his spirit-lamp blew up,--as the dear things will. They were
beside themselves in the lonely, dark office; but, while the men were
fumbling for matches, which would not go, Cogs's sister, Nydia, a sweet
blind girl, who had learned Bain's alphabet from Dr. Howe at South
Boston, bent over the chemical paper, and _smelt_ out the prussiate of
potash, as it formed itself in lines and dots to tell the sad story.
Almost anybody used to reading the blind books can read the embossed
Morse messages with the finger,--and so this message was read at all
the midnight way-stations where no night-work is expected, and where
the companies do not supply fluid or oil. Within my narrow circle of
acquaintance, therefore, there were these simultaneous instances, where
the same message was seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt. So
universal is the dot-and-line alphabet,--for Bain's is on the same
principle as Morse's.

The reader sees, therefore, first, that the dot-and-line alphabet can
be employed by any being who has command of any long and short
symbols,--be they long and short notches, such as Robinson Crusoe kept
his accounts with, or long and short waves of electricity, such as
these which Valentia is sending across to the Newfoundland Bay, so
prophetically and appropriately named "The Bay of Bulls." Also, I hope
the reader sees that the alphabet can be understood by any intelligent
being who has any one of the five senses left him,--by all rational
men, that is, excepting the few eyeless deaf persons who have lost both
taste and smell in some complete paralysis. The use of Morse's
telegraph is by no means confined to the small clique who possess or
who understand electrical batteries. It is not only the torpedo or the
_Gymnotus electricus_ that can send us messages from the ocean. Whales
in the sea can telegraph as well as senators on land, if they will only
note the difference between long spoutings and short ones. And they can
listen, too. If they will only note the difference between long and
short, the eel of Ocean's bottom may feel on his slippery skin the
smooth messages of our Presidents, and the catfish, in his darkness,
look fearless on the secrets of a Queen. Any beast, bird, fish, or
insect, which can discriminate between long and short, may use the
telegraphic alphabet, if he have sense enough. Any creature, which can
hear, smell, taste, feel, or see, may take note of its signals, if he
can understand them. A tired listener at church, by properly varying
his long yawns and his short ones, may express his opinion of the
sermon to the opposite gallery before the sermon is done. A dumb
tobacconist may trade with his customers in an alphabet of short-sixes
and long-nines. A beleaguered Sebastopol may explain its wants to the
relieving army beyond the line of the Chernaya, by the lispings of its
short Paixhans and its long twenty-fours.

* * * * *


_Etudes sur Pascal_. Par M. VICTOR COUSIN. Cinqieme Edition, revue et
augmentee. Paris: 1857. pp. 566. 8vo.

We render hearty thanks to M. Cousin for this new edition of a favorite
work. No library which contains Pascal's "Provinciales" and "Pensees"
should be without it.

"Of all the monuments of the French language," says M. Cousin, in the
_Avant-propos_ to this new edition, "none is more celebrated than the
work 'Les Pensees,' and French literature possesses no artist more
consummate than Pascal. Do not expect to find in this young
geometrician, so soon consumed by disease and passion, the breadth,
surface, and infinite variety of Bossuet, who, supported by vast and
uninterrupted study, rose and rose until he gained the loftiest reaches
of intellect and art, and commanded at pleasure every tone and every
style. Pascal did not fulfil all his destiny. Besides the mathematics
and natural philosophy he knew scarcely more than a little theology,
and he barely passed through good society. It is true, Pascal passed
away from earth quickly; but during his short life he discerned
glimpses of the _beau ideal_, he attached himself to it with all his
heart and soul and strength, and he never allowed anything to leave his
hands unless it bore its lively impress. So great was his passion for
perfection, that unchallenged tradition tells us he wrote the
seventeenth 'Provinciale' thirteen times over. 'Les Pensees' are merely
fragments of the great work on which he consumed the last years of his
life; but these fragments sometimes present so finished a beauty, that
we do not know which most to admire, the grandeur and vigor of the
sentiments and ideas, or the delicacy and depth of the art."

This praise is unexaggerated. What a career was run by this genius!
Discovering the science of geometry at twelve years of age,--next
inventing the arithmetical machine,--discovering atmospheric pressure,
while every philosopher was prating about "Nature's horror of a
vacuum,"--inventing the wheelbarrow, to divert his mind from the pains
of the toothache, and succeeding,--inventing the theory of
probabilities,--establishing the first omnibuses that ever relieved the
public,--then writing the "Provinciales,"--dying at thirty-three,
leaving behind him two small volumes (you may carry them in your
pocket) which are the unchallengeable title-deeds of his immortal fame,
the favorite works of Gibbon, Voltaire, Macaulay, and Cousin! Where
else can so crowded and so short a career be found?

It is scarcely possible to repress a smile in reading this work and
discovering the patient care with which M. Cousin avoids speaking of
the "Provinciales." And it is strange to say (no contemptible proof of
the influence exercised by the Church of Rome, even when checked as it
is in France) that no decent edition of the "Provinciales" can be found
in the French language. While we possess M. Cousin's "Etudes sur
Pascal," and M. Havet's edition of "Les Pensees," the only editions of
"Les Provinciales" of recent date are the miserable publications of
Charpentier and the Didots. Editions of Voltaire and Rousseau are
numerous, elaborate, and elegant; for atheism is pardoned much more
easily than abhorrence of the Jesuits.

The volume named at the head of this article contains a great many
valuable documents relating to Pascal and his family: all of Pascal's
correspondence known to exist, including his celebrated letter on the
death of Etienne Pascal, his father, which is usually printed in "Les
Pensees," being cut up into short sentences to fit it for that work, a
large part of it being omitted; his singular essay on Love; curious
details concerning the De Roanner family; an essay on the true text of
the "Pensees"; a curious fac-simile of a page of that work; and a
discussion (perhaps M. Cousin would say a refutation) of Pascal's
philosophy. But we must protest against the easy manner in which M.
Cousin wears his honors. When a book has reached its fifth edition and
is evidently destined to a good many more during the author's lifetime,
he lies under an obligation to place the new information he may have
collected, and the additional thoughts which may have occurred to him,
during the intervals between the different editions, in a form more
convenient to the render than new prefaces and new notes. To master the
information contained in this work is no recreation, but a severe task,
and one not to be accomplished except upon repeated perusals of the
book. This is the more inexcusable because M. Cousin is now free from
all official and professional cares; and it would involve the less
labor to him, as he never writes, but dictates all his compositions.

* * * * *

_Belle Brittan on a Tour; at Newport, and Here and There._ New York:
Derby & Jackson. 1858.

The compulsion of hunger, or the request of friends, was the excuse for
the printing of sorry books in Pope's time; and it has not become
obsolete yet. The writer of the book, the title of which we have given
above, pleads the latter alternative as the occasion of this
publication. He says it was "a few friends" that preferred this
request. It is unfortunate for him that he had any so void of judgment
and empty of taste. He thinks his Letters will "receive unjust
censure," as well as "undue praise." We think that he may relieve his
mind of any such apprehension. We cannot think his book at all likely
to receive more dispraise than it richly merits. A more discreditable
one, not absolutely indictable, we hope, has seldom issued from the
American press.

What motive the author had in assuming a female character, we know not.
He certainly has been very unfortunate in his female acquaintance, if
he accurately imitates their tone of thought and style of talk, in his
letters. Should they happen to fall in the way of any foreigners, we
beg them to believe that this is not the way in which American women
converse. But we think that there can scarcely be a cockney so spoony
as not to "spy a great peard under her muffler," and know that it is a
man awkwardly masquerading in women's clothes. It is a libel on the
women of the country, to put such balderdash into the mouth of one who
may be supposed to have been finished at a fifth-rate boarding-school.

The letters are in the worst style of the "Own Correspondents" of
third-rate papers. The "_deadhead_" perks itself in your face at every
turn, in flunkeyish gratitude for invitations, drinks, dinners, and
free passes,--from "the gentlemanly Lord Napier," down to "intelligent
and gentlemanly" railway-conductors, "gentlemanly and attentive"
hotel-clerks, "gracious, gentlemanly, and gallant" tavern-keepers, and
their "lovely and accomplished brides." The soul of a footman is
expressed by the pen of an abigail,--and the one not a Humphrey
Clinker, nor the other a Winifred Jenkins,--and we are expected to
admire the result as a good imitation of a lively, intelligent,
well-bred American young lady! We protest against the profanation.

The letters take a wide range of subject, and treat of "Shakspeare,
taste, and the musical glasses," in a vein that would have done no
discredit to Lady Blarney and Miss Arabella Wilhelmina Amelia Skeggs
themselves. We might divert our readers with some specimens of
criticism, or opinion, did our limits admit of such entertainment. We
can only inform them, on Belle Brittan's authority, that worthy Dr.
Charles Mackay, who suffers throughout the book from intermittent--nay,
chronic--attacks of puffery, is "one of the best living poets of
England"; Mademoiselle Lamoureux, the _danseuse_, is "better than
Ellsler"; and pretty Mrs. John Wood, the lively _soubrette_ of the
Boston Theatre, "possesses many of the rarest requisites of a great
actress"! But these are inanities which an inexperienced and
half-taught girl might possibly utter in a familiar letter. Not so, we
trust, as to the belief expressed by Belle Brittan, in puffing "Jim
Parton's, Fanny Fern's Jim's," Life of Burr,--"more charming than a
novel," because, as she implies, of the successful libertinism of its
hero,--when she says, speaking in the name of the maidens of America,
"We all, I suppose, must fall, like our first parents, when the hour of
_our_ temptation comes"!

We should not have given the space we have bestowed on this worthless
book, had it not been made the occasion of newspaper puffs innumerable,
recommending it to the public as something worthy of their time and
money. It is one of the worst signs of our time that a false
good-nature or imperfect taste should lead respectable papers to give
currency to books destitute of all merit, by the application to them of
stereotyped phrases of commendation. These letters, without a grace of
style, without a flash of wit, without a genial ray of humor, deformed
by coarse breeding, vulgar self-conceit, and ignorant assumption, are
bepraised as if they were fresh from the mint of genius, and bore the
image and superscription of Madame de Sevigne or Lady Mary Wortley!
This evil must be cured, or the daily press may find that it will cure

We know nothing of the author of this book, excepting what he has here
shown us of himself. He may be capable of better things, and when they
come before us, we shall rejoice to do them justice. But we advise him,
first of all, to discard his disguise, which becomes him as ill as the
gown of Mrs. Ford's "maid's aunt, the fat woman of Brentford," did Sir
John Falstaff. Or, if he will persist in playing the part of a woman,
let him bear in mind that to be unmanly is not necessarily to be
womanly, and that it does not follow that one writes like a lady
because he does _not_ write like a gentleman.

_Appleton's Cyclopaedia of Drawing_. Designed as a Text-book for the
Mechanic, Architect, Engineer, and Surveyor. Comprising Geometrical
Projection, Mechanical, Architectural, and Topographical Drawing,
Perspective, and Isometry. Edited by W.E. WORTHEN. New York: D.
Appleton & Co. 1857.

Mr. Worthen has given us in this book a most judicious and complete
compilation of the best works on the various branches of "practical"
drawing,--having, with real thoughtfulness and knowledge of what was
needed in a handbook, condensed all the most important rules and
directions to be found in the works of MM. Le Brun and Armengaud on
geometrical and mechanical drawing, Ferguson and Garbett on
architectural, and Williams, Gillespie, Smith, and Frome, on
topographical drawing.

It includes a very full chapter of geometrical definitions, a complete
and minute description of all the implements of mechanical drawing, and
solutions of all the useful problems of geometrical drawing,--a part of
the work especially needed by practical mechanics, and hitherto to be
found, so far as we know, only in the form of results in the
pocket-books of tables, or in the lengthy and elaborate treatises of
the heavy cyclopaedias, or works specially devoted to the topic.

There is an admirably condensed treatise on the mechanical powers,
containing all the problems of use in construction, with tables of the
mechanical properties of materials. In mechanical drawing there are
directions for the most complicated drawings, going up to the last
improvements in the steam-engine. The same completeness of elementary
instruction marks the section on architectural drawing, though in this
department we should have liked a fuller and better-chosen series of
examples, especially of domestic architecture,--an Italian villa
planned by Mr. Upjohn being the only really tasteful and appropriate
dwelling-house given. The designs by Downing, rarely much more than
commodious residences with great neatness rather than artistic beauty,
stand very well for that style of building which consults comfort and
attains it, but it is a misuse of words to call them artistic.
Picturesque they may be at times, but often the affectation of external
style puts Downing's designs into the category of Gothic follies and
Grecian villanies, in which the outside gives the lie to the
inside,--emulating in wood the forms of stone, giving to cottages on
whose roof snow will never lie three inches deep all the pitch a Swiss
_chalet_ would need. We are especially sorry to see a plate of Thomas's
house in Fifth Avenue, New York,--the most absurd and ludicrous pile of
building material which can be found on the avenue,--and to find such
evidence of taste as is shown by the editor's commendation of it as
"uniting richness and grandeur of effect," "admirably suited," etc. Mr.
Worthen, however, generally abstains from much expression of opinion as
to styles or the respective merits of works.

His examples of the steam-engine are nearly all from American models,
and include the oscillating engines of the "Golden Gate," the last
important advance in the construction of the marine engine; for,
although the form of the oscillator has been known for years, it had
never been applied to marine uses until the success of the "Golden
Gate" proved its applicability to the heaviest engines. The examples of
architectural details and ornaments are copious, and represent all
styles with great fairness; but there is much confusion in the
numbering of the plates, so that it is a problem at times to find the
illustration desired.

The tinted illustrations, though answering their proposed purpose, are
a disgrace to the art of lithotinting,--coarse, ineffective, and cheap.
The publishers, we think, would have profited by a little more
liberality in this respect.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest