Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 27, January, 1860
Part 5 out of 5
benevolent and gifted, but inconsistent and vacillating subject, is
discussed:--_Cromwell_, which gives a completer, more authentic, and
less prejudiced account of the eventful life of the great Puritan leader
than is to be found in any other publication known to us:--_Crusades_,
a complete picture in little of those great fitful blazes of religious
enthusiasm by which it flickered into its final extinction; (for,
afterward, only a semblance of it was made a stalking-horse by
politicians;) and this article is quite a model of epitome:--_Cuneiform
Inscriptions_, in which the writer has presented concisely and clearly
the fruits of a careful examination of all the many theories that have
been broached with regard to these important and puzzling records of the
ancient world, without revealing a preference, if he have one, for
any; a wise course, where, in a case of such consequence, the views
of learned men are so conflicting, but one not always easily
followed:--_Damascus Blades_, a very interesting, and, for general
purposes, a very full description of the peculiarities of those famous,
and, it appears, not too much lauded weapons:--_Deaf and Dumb_, a very
copious article of eleven pages, rich in historical and biographical
detail, and giving full accounts of the various methods of instruction
adopted for this class of persons in all times and countries, with a
large body of statistical information upon the subject; an article of
great interest, but perhaps undue length:--_Death_, which conveys much
information on a subject as to which the grossest and most deplorable
misconceptions prevail; an article equally remarkable for its careful
and minute presentation of the phenomena of death and for the placid and
philosophical spirit in which it is written:--_Deluge_, in which, with
the ingenuity before shown in the treatment of similar subjects, the
various accounts of that event, and the facts and theories relating to
it, are laid before the reader in a manner to which no one, of whatever
creed, can object, and a new and very ingenious and rational mode of
accounting for the phenomenon in question is proposed;--_Dog_, the
fulness of which makes it acceptable to the lover of natural history,
the sporting man, and the general reader:--and the last article,
_Education_, one of great value, which describes the systems of
instruction pursued in all ages and countries, and which, without
entering upon the support of any one of them, presents to the reader
such an impartial and detailed summary of the distinguishing features of
them all, that he can form an intelligent opinion upon them for himself.
The volume is so meritorious, that we have not looked for faults; but,
as we turned the leaves, we noticed a few such as the following:--that
the river Dove, in England, should be mentioned as "noted for its
picturesque scenery," and yet its association with Izaak Walton and
Charles Cotton, its chief glory, be passed unnoticed; and that Discord
should be defined as, "_in music_, a combination of sounds inharmonious
and unpleasing to the ear"; whereas, although, out of music, discord
means a sound inharmonious and displeasing to the ear, in music discord
is the golden bond of harmony, the life and soul of expression, that for
which the ear yearns with a yearning that is inexpressible, and enjoys
with poignancy of pleasure. We asked, too, if Thomas Dowse should be
honored with a page and a half, in which his fall from a tree, his
rheumatic fever, and the head winds which prevented him from visiting
Europe are chronicled,--while the eminent French painter, Couture, whose
use of the pallet is marked by such striking originality, that it has
produced an impression upon the works of a generation of painters,
has twelve lines! And we can hardly be accused of hypercriticism, in
directing the attention of the editors to a sentence like the following,
in the article _Diptera_, p. 498, 2d col.:--"Though _this order_
contains the bloodthirsty mosquito, the disgusting flesh-fly, and many
insects depositing their eggs in the bodies of living animals, _it_ is a
most useful one, supplying food to insectivorous birds, and _themselves_
[who? what?] consuming decomposing animal and vegetable substances,"
etc. But these are instances of oversight in not very important matters,
or of inaccuracy of expression, or of difference of judgment between
the editors and ourselves as to plan, which even in our judgment do not
affect the value of the work in which they occur. Graver errors could be
found in almost every work of great scope that ever came from the
press. We indicate them that we may afford some help toward a nearer
approximation to that perfection which is unattainable.
_Tom Brown at Oxford: a Sequel to School-Days at Rugby._ By THOMAS
HUGHES, etc. Part I. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1859.
Many men write successful books; but very few have the power of making
a book succeed by naturalness, simplicity, and quiet strength, as Mr.
Hughes found the secret of doing in his "School-Days at Rugby." It is so
easy to be eloquent,--scarce a modern French novelist but has the gift
of it by the ream; so easy to be philosophical,--one has only to begin
a few substantives with capitals; and withal it is so hard to be genial
and agreeable. Since Goldsmith's day, perhaps only Irving and Thackeray
had achieved it, till Mr. Hughes made himself the third. It is no
easy thing to write a book that shall seem so easy,--to describe your
school-days with such instinctive rejection of the unessential, that
whoever has been a boy feels as if he were reading the history of his
own, and that your volume shall be no more exotic in America than in
England. Yet this Mr. Hughes accomplished; and it was in a great measure
due to the fact, that beneath the charm of style the reader felt a real
basis of manliness and sincerity.
His second book, "The Scouring of the White Horse," was less
successful,--in part from the narrower range of its interest, and
still more, perhaps, because it lacked the spontaneousness of the
"School-Days." In his first book there was no suggestion of authorship;
it seemed an inadvertence, something which came of itself;--but the
second was _made_, and the kind fairy that stood godmother to its elder
brother had been sent for and accordingly would not come.
In this first number of his new story Mr. Hughes seems to have found his
good genius again, or his good genius to have found him. We meet our old
friend Tom Brown once more, and commit ourselves trustingly to the same
easy current of narrative and incident which was so delightful in
the story of his Rugby adventures. We have no doubt the book will be
instructive as well as entertaining; for we believe the author has had
some practical experience as teacher in "The Working-Men's College,"--an
excellent institution, in which instruction is given to the poor after
work-hours, and which, beside Mr. Hughes, has had another man of genius,
Mr. Ruskin, among its unpaid professors. The work is to be published
simultaneously in this country and in England.
_Avolio; a Legend of the Inland of Cos, with other Poems, Lyrical,
Miscellaneous, and Dramatic._ By PAUL H. HAYNE. Boston: Ticknor &
Fields. 1859. pp. 244.
There is a great deal of real poetic feeling and expression in this
volume, and, we think, the hope of better things to come. The author has
not yet learned, and we could not expect it, that writers of verse tell
us all they can think of, and writers of poetry only what they cannot
help telling. The volume would have gained in quality by losing in
quantity, but to give too much is the mistake of all young writers, and
it is, perhaps, only by making it once for themselves that they can
learn to sift. It is so hard at first, when all the sand seems golden!
Of old the Muses were three, each of whom must reject something from the
poem, but when verse-writing became easier and more traditional, their
number was raised to nine, that they might be the harder to please. And
what a difficult jury they are! and how long they stay out over their
But, after all, it seems to us that Mr. Hayne has the root of the matter
in him; and we shall look to meet him again, bringing a thinner, yet
a fuller book. The present volume shows thoughtfulness, culture,
sensibility to natural beauty, and great refinement of feeling. We like
the first poem, which is also the longest, best of all. The subject is
an imaginative one,--and the choice of a subject is one great test of
genuine aptitude and ability. In this poem, and in some of the sonnets,
(which are good both in matter and construction,) Mr. Hayne shows a
genuine vigor of expression and maturity of purpose. There is a tone of
sadness in the volume, as if the author were surrounded by an atmosphere
uncongenial to letters. The reader cannot fail to be struck with this,
and also with the oddity of two or three political sonnets, in which Mr.
Hayne calls on his fellow-citizens to rally for the defence of slavery
in the name of freedom. The book is dedicated, in a very graceful
and cordial sonnet, to Mr. E.P. Whipple; and it is seldom that South
Carolina sends so pleasant a message to Massachusetts. Mr. Hayne need
only persevere in self-culture to be able to produce poems that shall
win for him a national reputation.
_Fairy Dreams; or Wanderings in Elfland._ By JANE G. AUSTIN. With
Illustrations by Hammatt Billings. Boston: J.E. Tilton & Co. 1859.
This is a pretty book for children, written with no little feeling and
fancy, and in a graceful style. The chimney-corner has been abolished
by the economical furnace-register, and Santa Claus, if he come at all,
must do it like an imp of the pit. The volumes for children to pore
over, as they bake by the stove, or stew over the black hole in the
floor, have also suffered an economic and practical change. No more
fires, no more pretty fancies, seems to have been the doom. Parents who
think, as we do, that children inhale practicality with our American
atmosphere, and that a little encouragement of the imaginative side of
their nature is not amiss, will be glad to drop Mrs. Austin's book into
the proper stocking. The stories are well told; that, especially, of
the Gray Cat is full of fanciful invention. The book is very prettily
manufactured also, though we think publishers are carrying their
fondness for tinted paper too far. Salmon-color is too much; the deepest
tint allowable is that of cream from a cow that has grazed among
_Twelve Years of a Soldier's Life in India:_ Being Extracts from
the Letters of the late Major W.S.R. HODSON, B.A., Trinity College,
Cambridge; First Bengal European Fusileers, Commandant of Hodson's
Horse. Including a Personal Narrative of the Siege of Delhi and Capture
of the King and Princes. Edited by his Brother, the Rev. GEORGE H.
HODSON, M.A., Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. From the
Third and Enlarged English Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1860.
16mo. pp. 444.
This book should be widely read; or we might better say, this book _will
be_ widely read,--so widely, indeed, that there is no need for us to
repeat its story here, or to give an abstract of its contents. Hodson
was a man worth knowing, and his letters show him to us as he was.
The special qualities of which Englishmen are proud, as the traits
of national character, belonged in an uncommon degree to him. He was
eminently truthful, staunch, and brave; he had a clear eye, a strong and
ready hand, cool judgment, stern decision, and a tender heart. He might
have borne the old Douglas motto on his shield.
He was trained under as good teachers as a young man ever had. At Rugby,
under Dr. Arnold; then, for a year or two, living among the ennobling
associations of Trinity College; then at Guernsey, as a young soldier,
under Sir William Napier; then in India, with James Thomason,
Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Provinces, one of the best rulers
that India ever knew, "_facile princeps_ of the whole Indian service";
and finally passing from him to serve under Sir Henry Lawrence, the
noblest soldier of India, a man for whom common words of praise are
insufficient,--Hodson had an unrivalled set of masters, and his life
proves him to have been worthy of them.
The British rule in India is of such sort as to test the qualities of
its officers to the last point. If they have anything good in them, it
is sure to be brought into full action. Such responsibilities are thrown
on them as at once to stimulate them to exertion of their best powers.
Men who in the ordinary fields of work might remain all their lives mere
commonplace mediocrities, under the discipline of Indian service, find
out and show their real value. The Indian mutiny exhibited how common
the rare qualities of foresight, energy, and enduring courage, and the
still higher qualities of submission, patience, and faith, had become
among those against whom the natives rose like a flood to overwhelm them
in destruction. The little bands of English at Cawnpore, at Lucknow, and
at many a less famous station, stood like rocks against the dashing of
the storm. The qualities that enabled them to win the admiration even
of their enemies, and to call forth the respect and the sorrow of the
world, were the result, not of sudden stress, but of long and habitual
training. The reader of Hodson's memoir will gain a knowledge of the
processes by which such characters are developed.
The letters which make up the larger part of this book are written
with animation and simplicity, and are full of spirited accounts of
adventure, of rough and various service. The narrative which they afford
of the siege of Delhi is of absorbing interest. The picture of the
little army of besiegers, wasted by continual disease and exposure to
the heats of an Indian summer,--worn by the constant sallies and attacks
of a host of enemies trained in arms,--saddened by the receipt of evil
tidings from all quarters,--feeling that upon their final success rested
not only the hope of the continuance of British supremacy in India, but
the very lives of those dear to them,--and, worst of all, compelled
to submit to a succession of incompetent generals, whose timidity and
irresolution baffled the best designs of officers and the dashing
bravery of the troops;--the pictures which Hodson gives of this little
army, of its unflagging spirit and resolution, and its valorous deeds,
are drawn with such truth as to bring the successive scenes vividly
before the imagination. Hodson himself was one of the best and most
useful of a noble corps of officers. His modesty does not hide the
grounds of the enthusiasm which was felt for him by his men,--of the
admiration that he excited among his fellows. The story of the capture
of the King and Princes, after the fall of Delhi, is one of the most
interesting stories of daring ever told. You hold your breath as you
read it. It was a gallant deed, done in the most gallant way.
Altogether, the book is one of thoroughly manly tone and temper,--a book
to make those who read it manlier, to put to shame the cowardice of easy
life, to make men more honest, more enduring, more energetic, by the
example which it sets before them. Hodson's life was short, but its
result will last. There was no sham about it, no meanness,--nothing but
what was large, true, and generous. As one turns the last page, it is
with no regret that such a man should have died in the fight, for he
was a Christian soldier. He was the _preux chevalier_ of our times. The
words in which Sir Ector mourns for his brother, Sir Lancelot, are fit
for his epitaph. "'Ah, Sir Lancelot,' said hee, 'thou were head of
all christen knights! An now I dare say,' said Sir Ector, 'that, Sir
Lancelot, there thou liest, thou were never matched of none earthly
knight's hands; and thou were the curtiest knight that ever bare shield;
and thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrood horse;
and thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman;
and thou were the kindest man that ever strook with sword; and thou were
the goodliest person that ever came among presse of knights; and thou
were the meekest man and the gentlest that ever eate in hall among
ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortall foe that ever
put speare in the rest.'"
_Friends in Council_. A Series of Readings and Discourse thereon. A New
Series. 2 vols. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1860.
The best class of readers in England and America are sure to give a
cordial welcome to a new book by Mr. Helps. Nothing better need be said
of this second series of "Friends in Council" than that it is a worthy
sequel of the first. It is the work of a man of large experience and
wide culture,--of one who is at the same time a student and a man of
the world, versed in history and practically acquainted with affairs.
Refined thoughtfulness and common sense combine to give value to all
that Mr. Helps writes, and he is master of a style at once manly and
elegant, quiet and strong. Two famous lines, which occur in a passage
quoted in these volumes, serve well to characterize their merits:--
"Though deep, yet clear,--though gentle, yet not dull,--
Strong without rage,--without o'erflowing, full."
Such books have a special worth in these days of hasty writing. They
admit one to the companionship of thoughtful, well-mannered gentlemen.
One feels that he has been in good company, after reading them; and,
whatever he may have gained of wisdom from the friends he has met in
council, he is also improved in temper and in manners by their society.
The conversations which form the setting of the essays in these volumes
enable Mr. Helps to present in an easy and effective way various sides
of the important questions that he discusses. Completeness of statement
is rarely to be obtained upon any of the deeper topics of life. If the
golden side be displayed, the silver side is likely to be hidden. The
same man holds various, though not irreconcilable opinions upon the same
subject, according to the different lights in which he views it or the
different phases it presents. The most honest man must sometimes
appear inconsistent for the sake of truth; and the clearer a man's own
convictions, the wider will be his charity for those of others. Mr.
Helps exhibits admirably this natural and necessary diversity of
thought, existing even where there is a coincidence of principle and of
The essays upon War and Despotism are, perhaps, the ablest in these
volumes, and deserve to be seriously viewed in the light of passing
events. They are distinguished by freedom from exaggeration and by their
moderation of statement. As in so many of the productions of the best
English writers at the present day, something of despondency in regard
to the condition of the world is to be traced in them. And truly, to one
who looks at the state of Europe and of our own country, there is more
need for faith than ground of hope.
But at this Christmas season, this season of peace and good-will, let
all our readers read the essay on Pleasantness. And if they will but
take its teachings to heart, we can wish them, with the certainty of the
fulfilment of our wish, a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
_The Marvellous Adventures and Rare Conceits of Master Tyll Owlglass._
Newly collected, etc., by KENNETH R.H. MACKENZIE. With Illustrations by
Crowquill. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1860. pp. xxxix., 255.
This is a very beautiful edition of a very amusing book. The preface and
notes of Mr. Mackenzie will commend it to scholars, while the stories
themselves will divert both young and old. A book of this kind, which
can keep life in itself for more than three hundred years, must have
some real humor and force at bottom. It is as good a specimen of
mediaeval fun as could anywhere be found. With nothing like the satiric
humor of the "Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum," it appeals to a much larger
circle of readers. We are very glad to meet it again in so handsome a
dress, and with such really clever illustrations. It is just the book
for a Christmas gift.
_Reynard the Fox, after the German Version of Goethe._ By THOMAS
JAMES ARNOLD, Esq. With Illustrations from the Designs of Wilhelm von
Kaulbach. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 346 and 348 Broadway. 1860. pp.
It is very well that Mr. Arnold should tell us on the title-page that
his version is _after_ that of Goethe. Nothing could be truer,--and it
is a very long way after, too. By substituting the slow and verbose
pentameter of what is called the classic school of English poetry for
the remarkably forth-right and simple eight-syllabic measure of the
original, the translator has contrived to lose almost wholly that homely
flavor of the old poet, which Goethe carefully preserved. We do not mean
to say that this is altogether a bad version, as such things go; on the
contrary, it has a great deal of spirit, as it could hardly fail to
have, unless it belied its model altogether;--but it is as far as
possible from giving any notion of the characteristic qualities of
"Reinaert de Vos." If Mr. Arnold must change the measure, Chaucer's
"Nonnes Preestes Tale" would have been a safer guide to follow.
The book, in spite of its American title-page, is wholly of English
manufacture. It is a very handsome volume, and Kaulbach's illustrations
are copied with tolerable success, though with inevitable inferiority to
the German originals. Kaulbach is hardly so happy an animal-painter as
Grandville, but he has at least given his subjects in this case a more
human expression than in his monstrous caricatures of Shakspeare.
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