Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 5, No. 30, April, 1860
Part 5 out of 5
the problems are remarkable for beauty and difficulty.
We think that too much prominence has been given to certain openings.
While glad to see that model of all openings, the _Old Fourteenth_,
which is to draughts what the _Giuoco Piano_ is to chess, illustrated
by 186 games, of which 127 are original with the author, the brilliant
_Fife_ (the _Muzio_ of chess-players) explained by 67 games, the
_Suter_ by 72 games, and the _Single Corner_ by 258 games, we regret
that only 24 specimens should be given of the _Double Corner_, 42 (and
only 11 of these original) of the _Defiance_, and 51 (with but 14
original) of the fascinating and intricate _Ayrshire Lassie_, an
opening of which American students know very little. We regret this
meagre explanation of the three latter openings all the more that we
expected a particularly full and lucid presentment of them from Mr.
The definition of certain openings seems to us also incorrect and
inconsistent. The Scottish school, whom Mr. Spayth has sometimes
followed too closely, as in this instance, are singularly deficient as
theorists, and have never given the game anything like a philosophical
treatment. The _Whilter_ is _not_ "formed by the first three or five
moves." The bare notion of forming one opening in two different ways is
absurd and contradictory. The time will come when draught-players will
understand that the _Whilter_ is formed by the first three moves,
namely, 11.15--23.19--7.11, or else, 10.15--23.19--7.10, which is
really the same thing. The distinctive move of the opening is 7.11;
there is nothing characteristic in the 9.14--22.17, which may
intervene: those moves leave the game free to develop itself into a
_Fife_, a _Suter_, or even an _Old Fourteenth_; but the move of 7.11
determines the opening at once and finally. Then, under the title of
the _Double Corner_ the author includes several distinct openings,--and
so, too, under the _Bristol_. In this latter case, the Scottish
treatises are right and Mr. Spayth is wrong. A strange confusion is
also caused by the attempt to include a number of different openings
under the head of "Irregular."
It is useless to linger over the exhaustive plan of all our
draught-writers, but, in adopting their plan, Mr. Spayth's fault has
been merely that of his predecessors, and his merits are all his own.
The true plan for a draught-treatise is that adopted by Staunton in his
chess-writings. No man has time to write a treatise which shall embody
the entire practice of the game; and even if such an exhaustive
treatise were written, no man would ever have time to master its
instructions. But the theory can be fully set forth, and is as yet
almost entirely undeveloped. The subject of odds alone presents an
extensive field for future investigations.
We have found fault with Mr. Spayth's new volume wherever we honestly
could; and we dismiss it with an emphatic repetition of the opinion,
that it is by far the best work upon the game that has ever been
_The Adopted Heir._ By MISS PARDOE. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson &
Miss Pardoe ought to do better than this. There is much ability
displayed in her "Court of France"; and she has written a very clever
story, entitled "The Romance of the Harem." But this book is thoroughly
feeble and commonplace. The customary rich and whimsical nabob, whom we
all know so well, has returned to England, and is deliberating upon the
claims to his wealth of his several relations. His decision is soon
formed, but shrouded in an impenetrable mystery, which is open to the
usual objection to the novelist's impenetrable mysteries, of being
perfectly transparent. Having divined who will be the heir, after
reading forty pages, we are a little impatient that Miss Pardoe should
cherish the secret with every imaginable precaution until the 350th
page, when she brings it out with a flourish, as if no human sagacity
could possibly have discovered it.
This keeping secrets that are no secrets, the besetting weakness of
novelists, was once quite affecting. When Nicholas Nickleby acted at
Mr. Crummles's theatre, a thrill of terror ran through the
unsophisticated spectators, as the wicked relation poked a sword at him
in the dark in every direction except where his legs were plainly
visible. But readers are more exacting now. And we are all frightfully
sagacious. Long reading of novels gives a fatal skill in anticipating
their issues. If in the first chapter the poor little brother runs away
to sea, his anxious friends may bewail his loss, but we remain calm in
the conviction that he will return, yellow and rich, precisely in time
to frustrate the designs of the wicked, and to reward innocence and
constancy with ten thousand a year. All the good people in a story may
be puzzled to detect the author of an alarming fraud; but we know
better, and, fixing with more than a detective's accuracy upon the
gentlemanly, plausible villain, drag him forth long before our author
is ready to present him to our (theoretically) astonished eyes. The
whole village may be deceived by the venerable stranger, with his white
hair and benevolent spectacles, but our unerring eye instantly discerns
in him Black Donald, the robber-captain; and if we do not tremble for
our heroine, it is only because we are morally certain that her deadly
peril is only an excuse for her inevitable lover's "dashing up on a
coal-black barb, urged to his utmost speed," and delivering the
desolate fair, who has won our regard alike by her indignant virtue,
and the skill with which, while laboring under uncontrollable
agitation, she constructs sentences so ponderous and intricate that Mr.
Burke's periods are trifles in comparison. And we know all this, simply
because there are certain things to be done, and only so many people to
do them. Miss Austen, indeed, could keep her secrets impenetrable; but
the art died with her, and our common sense is daily insulted by these
weak attempts at mystery. If the secret is one that cannot be
kept, why, let the author tell it us at once, and we can then follow
with sympathy the attempts to baffle those in the story who are trying
to detect it, instead of being offended with a shallow artifice. Here
lies the artistic error of that very clever book, "Paul Ferroll." We
all see at once that Mr. Ferroll murdered his wife, and the author
would have lost nothing and gained much by taking us into his
The style of the "Adopted Heir" is at once pompous and feeble. From
writers of the Mrs. Southworth school we should expect nothing else;
but Miss Pardoe was capable of something better.
_Fanny_. From the French of ERNEST FEYDEAU. New York: Evert D. Long &
If there be any one thing worse than French immorality, it is French
morality. This is a moral book, _a la Francaise_, and weak as
ditch-water. Nor is the ditch-water improved by being particularly
Edward, who is a mere boy, is in love with Fanny. This is natural
enough. Fanny, who is decidedly an old girl, who has been married for
fifteen years, and who has three children, is not less desperately in
love with Edward, whom she regards with a most charming sentiment, in
which the timid passion of the maiden blends gracefully with the
maturer regard of an aunt or a grandmother. This is not quite so
natural. Certainly, it can hardly be that she is fascinated by Edward,
who is the most disgustingly silly young monkey to be found in the
whole range of French novels. But the mystery is at once disclosed when
we read the description of Fanny's husband. He is "a species of bull
with a human face." "His smile was not unpleasing, and his look without
any malicious expression, but clear as crystal." We begin to comprehend
his inferiority to Edward,--to sympathize with the youth's horror at
the sight of this obnoxious husband, "who seems to him," as M. Janin
says in his preface, "a hero--what do I say?--a giant!--to the loving,
timid, fragile child." "In fine, a certain air of calm rectitude
pervaded his person." Execrable wretch! could anything be more
repulsive to true and delicate sentiment (as before, _a la Francaise_)
"I should say his age was about forty." Our wrath at this last atrocity
can hardly be controlled. It seems as if M. Feydeau, by collecting in
one individual all the qualities which most excite his abhorrence and
contempt, had succeeded in giving us, in Fanny's husband, a very
tolerable specimen of a gentleman. We pardon all to the somewhat
middle-aged lady, whose "feelings are too many for her"; and we only
regret that M. Feydeau did not see the eminent propriety of increasing
the lady's admiration by having this brutal husband pull Edward's
divine nose or kick the adored person of the _pauvre enfant_ down
_Life Without and Life Within: or, Reviews, Narratives, Essays, and
Poems_. By MARGARET FULLER OSSOLI, Author of "Woman in the Nineteenth
Century," "At Home and Abroad," "Art, Literature, and the Drama," etc.
Edited by her Brother, ARTHUR B. FULLER. Boston: Brown, Taggard, &
Of this volume little more need be said than that, had Margaret Fuller
Ossoli edited it, she might have reduced its size. Yet it is not
surprising that love and reverence should seek with diligence and save
with care whatever had emanated from her pen; and if the matter thus
laid before the world take something from her reputation, it also
completes the standard by which to measure her power. She appears to
have been without creative faculty, yet her perception of the gift in
others was often remarkable, and it pleased her to hold the possessor
of it up to admiration. Hence she devoted much time and attention to
the critical examination of art, music, and literature, and succeeded
in giving the works and lives which she reviewed a fresh interest and a
fuller meaning. Her articles on Goethe and Beethoven, in this volume,
furnish ample evidence of her capacity to appreciate the works and the
men of genius, and that, if she could not give good reasons for the
aberrations and eccentricities of their courses, she at least had a
heart large enough to look kindly upon them. Of books she was
a student and a lover; and in the short notices of new ones, which are
transferred from "The Tribune" to these pages, there is hardly one that
has not some thought of value to author as well as reader. Indeed, all
her prose writings are suggestive, and thus are capable of opening
vistas in the quickened mind which were unknown before. Authors of this
class often dart a ray into the recesses of our souls, so that we see
what they never saw, gain what they never gave. A book that increases
mental activity is incomparably better than one that multiplies
learning. The value of knowledge that lies in libraries is
overestimated by all save those who read Nature's runes. The Countess
Ossoli gathered from the garners, rather than from the glorious field,
and therefore she does not range with the marked originals. In this
rank she was not born. Her poems--which we think injudiciously
published--place her far down among the multitude. From these untuneful
utterances we gladly turn to her prose. There she shows strength of
character and goodness of heart. One aim, never lost sight of, is
perceptible through all, and gives unity to the whole; this is a
fervent desire to ennoble human life; consequently her works will long
have influence, and continue to call forth praise.
_Lectures on the English Language_. By GEORGE P. MARSH. New York:
Charles Scribner, 1860. pp. vi., 697.
An American scholar of wide range, at the same time thorough and
unpretentious, is a rarity; a philologist who is neither perversely
wrongheaded nor the victim of a preconceived theory is a still greater
one; yet we find both characters pleasantly united in the author of
these Lectures. Decided in his opinions, Mr. Marsh is modest in
expressing them, because they are the result of various culture and
long reflection, and these have taught him that time and study often
render the most positive conclusions doubtful, especially in regard to
such a topic as Language. Deservedly honored with diplomatic employment
in Europe, he has done credit to the choice of the Government by
turning the long leisure of a foreign mission to as great profit by
study and observation as if he had been a Travelling Fellow and these
had been the conditions of his tenure.
Addressed to a mixed audience, to the laity rather than to students,
these Lectures are more popular than scholastic in their character. Mr.
Marsh alludes to this with something like regret in his Preface. We
look upon this as by no means a misfortune. The book will, for this
very reason, reach and interest a much larger number of readers; and
while there is nothing in it to scare away those who read for mere
entertainment, they whose studies have led them into the same paths
with the author will continually recognize those signs, trifling, but
unmistakable, which distinguish the work of a master from that of a
journeyman. Scholarship is indicated not only by readiness of allusion,
and variety and aptness of illustration, but by a thorough
self-possession and chastened eloquence of style. A genius for language
comes doubtless by nature, but Mr. Marsh is too wise a man to believe
that a knowledge of it comes in the same way; his learning has that
ripened clearness which tells of olden vintages and of long storing in
the crypts of the brain; he has nothing in common with the easy
generalizers who know as little of roots as Shelley's skylark, and who,
seeking a shelter in welcome clouds, pour forth "profuse strains of
unpremeditated art" upon questions which above all others are limited
by exact science and unyielding fact.
We believe we are not going too far when we say that Mr. Marsh's book
is the best treatise of the kind in the language. It abounds in nice
criticism and elegant discussion on matters of taste, showing in the
author a happy capacity for esthetic discrimination as well as for
linguistic attainment. He does not profess to deal with some of the
deeper problems of language, but nevertheless makes us feel that they
have been subjects of thoughtful study, and, within the limits he has
imposed upon himself, he is often profound without the pretence of it.
We have spoken warmly of this volume, for it has both interested and
instructed us, and because we consider it one of the few thoroughly
creditable productions of Cisatlantic scholarship. We hope the
appreciation it meets with will be such that we shall soon have
occasion to thank Mr. Marsh for another volume on some kindred theme.
_The Marble Faun._ A Romance of Monte Beni. By NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE. 2
vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1860.
It is, we believe, more than thirty years since Mr. Hawthorne's first
appearance as an author; it is twenty-three since he gave his first
collection of "Twice-told Tales" to the world. His works have received
that surest warranty of genius and originality in the widening of their
appreciation downward from a small circle of refined admirers and
critics, till it embraced the whole community of readers. With just
enough encouragement to confirm his faith in his own powers, those
powers had time to ripen and toughen themselves before the gales of
popularity could twist them from the balance of a healthy and normal
development. Happy the author whose earliest works are read and
understood by the lustre thrown back upon them from his latest! for
then we receive the impression of continuity and cumulation of power,
of peculiarity deepening to individuality, of promise more than
justified in the keeping: unhappy, whose autumn shows only the
aftermath and rowen of an earlier harvest, whose would-be
replenishments are but thin dilutions of his fame!
The nineteenth century has produced no more purely original writer than
Mr. Hawthorne. A shallow criticism has sometimes fancied a resemblance
between him and Poe. But it seems to us that the difference between
them is the immeasurable one between talent carried to its ultimate,
and genius,--between a masterly adaptation of the world of sense and
appearance to the purposes of Art, and a so thorough conception of the
world of moral realities that Art becomes the interpreter of something
profounder than herself. In this respect it is not extravagant to say
that Hawthorne has something of kindred with Shakspeare. But that
breadth of nature which made Shakspeare incapable of alienation from
common human nature and actual life is wanting to Hawthorne. He is
rather a denizen than a citizen of what men call the world. We are
conscious of a certain remoteness in his writings, as in those of
Donne, but with such a difference that we should call the one super-
and the other subter-sensual. Hawthorne is psychological and
metaphysical. Had he been born without the poetic imagination, he would
have written treatises on the Origin of Evil. He does not draw
characters, but rather conceives them and then shows them acted upon by
crime, passion, or circumstance, as if the element of Fate were as
present to his imagination as to that of a Greek dramatist. Helen we
know, and Antigone, and Benedick, and Falstaff, and Miranda, and Parson
Adams, and Major Pendennis,--these people have walked on pavements or
looked out of club-room windows; but what are these idiosyncrasies into
which Mr. Hawthorne has breathed a necromantic life, and which he has
endowed with the forms and attributes of men? And yet, grant him his
premises, that is, let him once get his morbid tendency, whether
inherited or the result of special experience, either incarnated
as a new man or usurping all the faculties of one already in
the flesh, and it is marvellous how subtilely and with what
truth to as much of human nature as is included in a diseased
consciousness he traces all the finest nerves of impulse and motive,
how he compels every trivial circumstance into an accomplice of his
art, and makes the sky flame with foreboding or the landscape chill and
darken with remorse. It is impossible to think of Hawthorne without at
the same time thinking of the few great masters of imaginative
composition; his works, only not abstract because he has the genius
to make them ideal, belong not specially to our clime or generation;
it is their moral purpose alone, and perhaps their sadness, that mark
him as the son of New England and the Puritans.
It is commonly true of Hawthorne's romances that the interest centres
in one strongly defined protagonist, to whom the other characters are
accessory and subordinate,--perhaps we should rather say a ruling Idea,
of which all the characters are fragmentary embodiments. They remind us
of a symphony of Beethoven's, in which, though there be variety of
parts, yet all are infused with the dominant motive, and heighten its
impression by hints and far-away suggestions at the most unexpected
moment. As in Rome the obelisks are placed at points toward which
several streets converge, so in Mr. Hawthorne's stories the actors and
incidents seem but vistas through which we see the moral from different
points of view,--a moral pointing skyward always, but inscribed with
hieroglyphs mysteriously suggestive, whose incitement to conjecture,
while they baffle it, we prefer to any prosaic solution.
Nothing could be more original or imaginative than the conception of
the character of Donatello in Mr. Hawthorne's new romance. His likeness
to the lovely statue of Praxiteles, his happy animal temperament, and
the dim legend of his pedigree are combined with wonderful art to
reconcile us to the notion of a Greek myth embodied in an Italian of
the nineteenth century; and when at length a soul is created in this
primeval pagan, this child of earth, this creature of mere instinct,
awakened through sin to a conception of the necessity of atonement, we
feel, that, while we looked to be entertained with the airiest of
fictions, we were dealing with the most august truths of psychology,
with the most pregnant facts of modern history, and studying a profound
parable of the development of the Christian Idea.
Everything suffers a sea-change in the depths of Mr. Hawthorne's mind,
gets rimmed with an impalpable fringe of melancholy moss, and there is
a tone of sadness in this book as in the rest, but it does not leave us
sad. In a series of remarkable and characteristic works, it is perhaps
the most remarkable and characteristic. If you had picked up and read a
stray leaf of it anywhere, you would have exclaimed, "Hawthorne!"
The book is steeped in Italian atmosphere. There are many landscapes in
it full of breadth and power, and criticisms of pictures and statues
always delicate, often profound. In the Preface, Mr. Hawthorne pays a
well-deserved tribute of admiration to several of our sculptors,
especially to Story and Akers. The hearty enthusiasm with which he
elsewhere speaks of the former artist's "Cleopatra" is no surprise to
Mr. Story's friends at home, though hardly less gratifying to them than
it must be to the sculptor himself.
_A Trip to Cuba_. By Mrs. JULIA WARD HOWE. Boston: Ticknor & Fields.
1860. pp. 251.
For readers of the "Atlantic," this little volume will need no further
commendation than the mere statement that nearly a quarter of it is
made up of hitherto unpublished material. Here and there it seems to us
a little too personal, and the public is made the confidant of matters
in which it has properly no concern. This, perhaps, is more the fault
of the present generation than of the author; but it is something we
feel bound to protest against, wherever we meet it. In other respects,
the book is one which we may thank not only for entertainment, but for
instruction. In its vivid picturesqueness, it furnishes the complement
to Mr. Dana's "To Cuba and Back." Mrs. Howe has the poet's gift of
making us see what she describes, and she is as lively and witty as a
French _Marquise_ of the seventeenth century, when a _De_ in the name,
petticoats, and Paris were an infallible receipt for cleverness. Toward
the end of her volume, Mrs. Howe enters a spirited and telling protest
against a self-constituted censorship, which would insist on a
traveller's squaring his impressions with some foregone theory of right
and wrong, instead of thankfully allowing facts to rectify his theory.
A traveller is bound to tell us what he saw, not what he expected or
wished to see; and it is only by comparing the different views of many
independent observers that we who tarry at home can arrive at any
approximate notion of absolute fact. The general inferiority of modern
books of travel is due to the fact that their authors write in the fear
of their special fragment of a public, and report of foreign countries
as if they were drummers for Exeter Hall or the Southern Planters'
Association, rather than servants of Truth.
_Poems by Two Friends_. Columbus, Ohio: Follett, Foster, & Co. 1860.
The Two Friends are Messrs. John J. Piatt and W. D. Howells. The
readers of the "Atlantic" have already had a taste of the quality of
both, and, we hope, will often have the same pleasure again. The volume
is a very agreeable one, with little of the crudeness so generally
characteristic of first ventures,--not more than enough to augur richer
maturity hereafter. Dead-ripeness in a first book is a fatal symptom,
sure sign that the writer is doomed forever to that pale limbo of
faultlessness from which there is no escape upwards or downwards.
We can scarce find it in our hearts to make any distinctions in so
happy a partnership; but while we see something more than promise in
both writers, we have a feeling that Mr. Piatt shows greater
originality in the choice of subjects, and Mr. Howells more instinctive
felicity of phrase in the treatment of them. Both of them seem to us to
have escaped remarkably from the prevailing conventionalisms of verse,
and to write in metre because they have a genuine call thereto. We are
pleased with a thorough Western flavor in some of the poems, especially
in such pieces as "The Pioneer Chimney" and "The Movers." We welcome
cordially a volume in which we recognize a fresh and authentic power,
and expect confidently of the writers a yet higher achievement ere
long. The poems give more than glimpses of a faculty not so common that
the world can afford to do without it.
_Vanity Fair_, Frank J. Thompson, 113 Nassau Street, New York.
This is the first really clever comic and satirical journal we have had
in America,--and really clever it is. It is both sharp and
good-tempered, and not afraid to say that its soul is its own,--which
shows that it has a soul. Our readers will be glad to know where they
can find native fun that has something better in it than mere _patois_.
_Twenty Years Ago and Now_. By T. S. ARTHUR. Philadelphia: G. G. Evans.
In attempting a novel, Mr. Arthur has gone beyond his powers. This
story is not new, and is not interesting; and its only merits are the
quiet, unpretending style and kindly spirit shown in the author's
little tales of mercantile life, many of which are very good.
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Explanation of the Dark Sayings and Allegories which abound in the
Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Bibles. Also, the Real Sense of the
Doctrines and Observances of the Modern Christian Churches. By G. C.
Stewart, Newark, N. J. New York. Ross & Tousey. 18mo. pp. 234. 75 cts.
A Trip to Cuba. By Mrs. Julia Ward Howe. Boston. Ticknor & Fields.
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Essays, Critical and Miscellaneous. By T. Babington Macaulay. New and
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Life and Times of Gen. Sam. Dale, the Mississippi Partisan. By J. F. H.
Claiborne. Illustrated by John M'Lenan. New York. Harper & Brothers.
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Persius by the late William Gifford, Esq. New York. Harper & Brothers.
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Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's Mission to China and Japan in the
Years 1857, '58, '59. By Laurence Oliphant, Esq., Private Secretary to
Lord Elgin, Author of "The Russian Shores, of the Black Sea," etc. New
York. Harper & Brothers. 8vo. pp. xvi., 645. $2.75.
Hours with the Evangelists. By I. Nichols, D.D. In Two Volumes. Vol. I.
Boston. Crosby, Nichols, & Co. 12mo. pp. x., 405. $1.25.
A Dictionary of English Etymology. By Hensleigh Wedgewood, M. A., late
Fellow of Chr. Coll. Cam. Vol. I. _A-D_. London. Truebner & Co. New
York. Redfield. pp. 507.
The Marble Faun; or, The Romance of Monte Beni. By Nathaniel Hawthorne,
Author of "The Scarlet Letter," etc. In Two Volumes. Boston. Ticknor &
Fields. 16mo. pp. 283, 284. $1.50.
Wolfe of the Knoll, and other Poems. By Mrs. George P. Marsh. New York.
Scribner. 12mo. pp. 327. $1.00.
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