The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. I., No. 3, January 1858
Part 5 out of 5
was to secure "the great principle of Popular Sovereignty." On the
strength of these assurances alone, it was enabled to achieve its
hard-won victory in the last Presidential campaign. Mr. Buchanan
owes his position to them, as is repeatedly admitted by Mr. Douglas
in his speech of December 9th last,--and the whole nation, having
discussed and battled and voted on the principle, acquiesced, as it
is accustomed to do after an election, in the ascendency of the
victors. It prepared itself to see the application of the principle
which had been announced and defended as so important and wise.
Under these pledges and promises, what has been the performance? A
Convention, for which, inasmuch as it was illegally called by an
illegal body, a large proportion of the citizens of Kansas refused
to vote, frames a Constitution, in the interest and according to the
convictions of the slenderest minority of the people; it
incorporates in that Constitution a recognition of old Territorial
laws to the last degree offensive to the majority of the people; it
incorporates in it a clause establishing slavery in perpetuity; it
connects with it a Schedule perpetuating the existing slavery,
whatever it may be, against all future remedy which has not the
sanction of the slave-master; and then, by a miserable chicane, it
submits the Constitution to a vote of the people, but it submits it
under such terms, that the people, if they vote at all, must vote
_for_ it, whether they like it or not, while the only part in
which they can exercise any choice is the _clause_ which relates to
future slavery. The other parts, especially the Schedule, which
recognizes the existing slavery, and that almost irremediably, the
people are not allowed to pronounce upon. They are not allowed to
pronounce upon the thousand-and-one details of the State organization;
they are fobbed off with a transparent cheat of "heads I win,--tails
you lose";--and the whole game is denominated, Popular Sovereignty.
What is worse, the President of the United States argues that this
would be a fair settlement of the question, and that in the exercise
of such a choice, the glorious doctrine of Popular Sovereignty is
amply applied and vindicated. He admits that "the correct principle,"
as in the case of Minnesota, is to refer the Constitution "to the
approval and ratification of the people"; he admits that the only
mode in which the will of the people can be "authentically
ascertained is by a direct vote"; he admits that the "friends and
supporters of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, when struggling to sustain
its provisions before the great tribunal of the American people,"
"everywhere, throughout the Union, publicly pledged their faith and
honor" to submit the question of their domestic institutions
"to the decision of the _bona-fide_ people of Kansas, without any
qualification or restriction whatever"; but then,--and here is the
subterfuge,--"domestic institutions" means only the single
institution of slavery; and the Convention, in consenting to yield
_that_ (and this only in appearance) to the arbitrament of the
people, has fully satisfied all the demands of the principle of
Popular Sovereignty! Their other questions are all "political"; the
questions as to the organization of their executive, legislative,
and judicial departments, as to their elective franchise, their
distribution of districts, their banks, their rates and modes of
taxation, etc., etc., are not domestic questions, but political; and
provided the people are suffered to vote on the future (not the
existing) condition of slaves, faith has been sufficiently kept.
Popular Sovereignty means "pertaining to negroes,"--not the negroes
already in the Territory, but those who may be hereafter introduced;
for the monopoly of that branch of trade and merchandise, which is
already established, and the future growth and increase of it, must
not be interfered with, even by Popular Sovereignty, because that
would be "an act of gross injustice." In other words, Popular
Sovereignty is merely designed to cover the right of the people to
vote on a single question, specially presented by an illegal body,
under electoral arrangements made by its new officers,--which
officers not only receive, but count the votes, and make the returns,--
while all the rest is merely unimportant and trivial. It is just the
sort of sovereignty for which Louis Napoleon provided when he wished
to procure a popular sanction for the numberless atrocities of the
_coup-d'etat_ of the 2d December.
An old authority tells us that "it is hard to kick against the pricks";
and the President appears to have experienced the difficulty, in
kicking against the pricks of his conscience. He had committed
himself to a principle which he is now compelled by the policy of
his Southern masters to evade, and is painfully embarrassed as to
how he shall hide his tracks. He knows, as all the world knows, that
this jugglery in Kansas has been performed for no other purpose than
to secure a foothold for Slavery there, against the demonstrated
opinion of nine-tenths of the people; he knows, as all the world
knows, that if the Convention had had the least desire to arrive at
a fair expression of the popular will, on the question of Slavery or
any other question, it was easy to make a candid and honorable
submission of it to an election to be held honestly under the
recognized officers of the Territory; but he knows, also, that under
such circumstances the case would have been carried overwhelmingly
against the "domestic institution," and thus have rebuked, with all
the emphasis that an outraged community could give to the expression
of its will, the nefarious conduct which "the party" has pursued
from the beginning,--and this was a consummation not to be wished.
He therefore wriggles and shuffles, with an absurd and transparent
inconsistency, to defeat the popular will, and yet mouth it bravely
about "the great principle of Popular Sovereignty."
The President thinks that it is time that these troubles in Kansas
were at an end, and we cordially agree with him in the sentiment;
but he needs scarcely to be reminded that they never will be at an
end, until the wicked schemes, which have been so long persisted in,
to override the convictions and hopes and interests of a large
majority of the Kansas settlers, are utterly abandoned by those who
are in power.
Of the remaining and mostly routine topics of the Message we have no
occasion to speak; and we only regret that the deficiencies of the
most important parts are so glaring as to oblige us to treat them
with undisguised severity.
* * * * *
THE WEDDING VEIL.
Dear Anna, when I brought her veil,
Her white veil, on her wedding-night,
Threw o'er my thin brown hair its folds,
And, laughing, turned me to the light.
"See, Bessie, see! you wear for once
The bridal veil, forsworn for years!"
She saw my face,--her laugh was hushed,
Her happy eyes were filled with tears.
With kindly haste and trembling hand
She drew away the gauzy mist;
"Forgive, dear heart!"--her sweet voice said;
Her loving lips my forehead kissed.
We passed from out the searching light;
The summer night was calm and fair:
I did not see her pitying eyes,
I felt her soft hand smooth my hair.
Her tender love unlocked my heart;
'Mid falling tears, at last I said,
"Forsworn indeed to me that veil,
Because I only love the dead!"
She stood one moment statue-still,
And, musing, spake in under-tone,
"The living love may colder grow;
The dead is safe with God alone!"
_The Spanish Conquest in America, and its Relation to the History
of Slavery and to the Government of Colonies_. By ARTHUR HELPS. Vols.
I. and II. London, 1855. Vol. III. London, 1857.
This work has a double claim to attention in America;--first, on
account of its great intrinsic merit as a narrative of the
beginnings of the European settlement of this continent; secondly,
as containing a thorough and exceedingly able account of the
planting of Slavery in America, and the origin of that system which
has been and is the great blight of the civilization of the New World.
Mr. Helps is endowed in large measure with the qualities of an
historian of the highest order. A clear and comprehensive vision, a
wide knowledge and careful study of human nature, free and generous
sympathies are united in him with a penetrative imagination which
vivifies the life of past times, with a reverence for truth which
excludes prejudice and prepossession, and with a profoundly
religious spirit. The tone of his thought is manly and vigorous, and
his style, with the beauty of which the readers of his essays have
long been familiar, is marked by quiet grace and unpretending
strength. There are many passages in these volumes of wise
reflection and of pleasant humor. In the drawing of character and in
the narration of events Mr. Helps is equally happy. The pages of his
book are full of lifelike portraits of the great soldiers and great
priests of the time, and of animated pictures of the scenes in which
they were engaged.
Mr. Helps has investigated his subject with zeal, industry, and
patience. He has sought out the original authorities, has brought to
light many important facts, has redeemed some great memories from
unjust oblivion, and has presented a new view of several of the
chief features of the history. In a graceful advertisement to the
third volume he says, "The reader will observe that there is
scarcely any allusion in this work to the kindred works of modern
writers on the same subject. This is not from any want of respect for
the able historians who have written upon the discovery or the
conquest of America. I felt, however, from the first, that my object
in investigating this portion of history was different from theirs;
and I wished to keep my mind clear from the influence which these
eminent persons might have exercised upon it."
A considerable space in these volumes is devoted to an investigation
of the character and condition of the native races of the continent
at the period of the Spanish Conquest. This subject is treated with
peculiar skill and learning, and with unusual power of sympathetic
analysis and appreciation of remote and obscure developments of
society. Another portion of the history, which his plan has led
Mr. Helps to treat at length and with exhaustive thoroughness, is
the early relations between the conquerors and the conquered,
embracing the method of settlement of the different countries, the
whole disastrous system of _ripartimientos_ and _encomiendas_, which,
in its full development, led to the destruction of the native
population of Hispaniola, and to the introduction of negroes into
this and the other West India islands to supply the demand for
Another most interesting portion of his subject, and one which has
never till now been fairly exhibited, relates to the labors of the
Dominican and Franciscan monks, and their admirable and unwearied
efforts to counteract and to remedy some of the bitterest evils of
the conquest. Theirs were the first protests that were raised
against slavery in America, and their ranks afforded the first
martyrs in the cause of the Indian and the Negro. Las Casas has
found an eloquent and just biographer, and Mr. Helps has the
satisfaction of having securely placed his name among the few that
deserve the lasting honor and remembrance of the world. The
narrative of Las Casas's life is one of strong dramatic interest.
His life was a varied and remarkable one, even for those times of
striking contrasts and varieties in the fortunes of men; and in
Mr. Helps's pages one sees the man himself, with his simplicity and
elevation of purpose, his honesty of motive, his energy, his
impetuosity, his courage, and his faith.
The three volumes already published embrace the progress of Spanish
conquest from the first discoveries of Columbus to Pizarro's
incursion into Peru. It is sincerely to be hoped that Mr. Helps may
continue his work, at least to the period when the Spanish conquest
and colonization were met and limited by the conquest and the
colonization of the other European nations. Its importance, as a wise,
thoughtful, unpolemic investigation of the origin and the results of
Slavery, is hardly to be overestimated. The space allowed to a
critical notice does not permit us to render it full justice. We can
do little more than recommend it warmly to the readers of history
and to the students of the most difficult and the darkest social
problem of the age.
_Handbook of Railroad Construction, for the Use of American
Engineers. Containing the Necessary Rules, Tables, and Formulae for
the Location, Construction, Equipment, and Management of Railroads,
as built in the United States_. With 158 Illustrations. By GEORGE L.
VOSE, Civil Engineer. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1857. 12 mo. pp. 480.
All who trust their persons to railroad cars, or their estates to
railroad stocks, will welcome every effort to enlighten that
irresponsible body of railroad builders and managers in whose wits
we put our faith.
The work which we here notice is intended for uneducated American
engineers, of whom there are unfortunately too many. The rapidity
with which our railroads have been built, and the experimental
character of this new branch of engineering, have obliged us to
resort to such native ability and mother wit as our people could
afford. The great body of our railroad engineers have had no training
but the experience they have blundered through; and even our
railroad financiers are men more distinguished for courage and
energy than for experimental skill. Mr. Vose's book will doubtless
be of great service in remedying these evils, by bringing within the
reach of every intelligent man a valuable and very carefully
prepared summary of such rules, formulas, and statistics as our
railroad experiences have furnished and proved.
Railroad engineering and management have united almost every branch
of mechanical and financial science, and have developed several new
and peculiar arts; so that the successful construction, equipment,
and management of a railroad require a rare combination of
accomplishments. Managers hitherto have been too little acquainted
with their business to settle many questions of economy, but they
are now beginning to look upon their enterprises with cooler
The "Handbook" discusses several questions of economy, but seeks,
especially in its rules and formulas, to avoid those risks by which
economy has often been turned into the most ruinous extravagance. On
the question of fuel, our author advocates the use of coke as the
most economical and convenient, and every way preferable where it
can be readily obtained. He also urges, on economical grounds, a
more moderate rate of speed in railroad travel; thus showing that we
may save our forests, our lives, and a considerable expense all at
the same time.
The style is clear, and, for a work not professing to be a complete
treatise, but only a manual of useful facts, the arrangement is
admirable. The book is thoroughly practical, and touches upon such
matters, and for the most part upon such matters only, as are likely
to be of service to the practical man; yet it is quite elementary in
its character, and free from unnecessary technicalities.
The book has, however, one great fault. It is full of errata. No
carefully prepared table of corrections can make amends for such a
fault in a book in which typographical correctness is of the
greatest importance. To insert in their places with a pen more than
two hundred published corrections is a labor which no reader would
willingly undertake. We hope, therefore, that a new and correct
edition will soon be published.
_The Life of Handel_. By VICTOR SCHOELCHER. Reprinted from the
London Edition. New York: Mason, Brothers.
It is a remarkable fact, and one not very creditable to the musical
public of England, that the works of Mainwaring, Hawkins, Barney,
and Coxe should remain for almost an entire century after the death
of Handel our main sources of information concerning his career, and
that the first attempt to write a complete biography of that great
composer, correcting the errors, reconciling the contradictions, and
supplying the deficiencies of those authors, should be from the pen
of a French exile. And yet during all this time materials have been
accumulating, the fame of the composer has been extending, the demand
for such a work increasing, and the number of intelligent and
elegant English writers upon music growing greater.
M. Schoelcher's work, though perhaps the most valuable contribution
to musical historical literature which has for many years appeared
from the English press, leaves much to be desired. Excepting a
correction of the chronology of Handel's visit to Italy, very little,
if anything, of importance is added to what we already possessed in
regard to the early history of the composer. We look in vain for the
means of tracing the development of his genius. The impression left
upon the mind of the reader is, that his powers showed themselves
suddenly in full splendor, and that at a single bound he placed
himself at the head of the dramatic composers of his age. This was
not true of Hasse, Mozart, Gluck, Cherubini, Weber, in dramatic
composition; nor of Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, in other branches of the
musical art. However great a man's genius may be, he must live and
learn. To attain the highest excellence, long continued study is
necessary; and Handel, as we believe, was no exception to the
The list of works consulted by M. Schoelcher, prefixed to the
biography, shows that he has by no means exhausted the German
authorities which may be profitably used in writing upon the early
history of Handel: indeed, the author, though of German descent, is
unacquainted with the German language. We can learn from them the
state of dramatic music at that time in Berlin, Leipsic, Brunswick,
Hanover, Koethen; we can form from them some correct idea of the
powers of Keiser, Steffani, Graupner, Schieferdecker, Telemann,
Gruenwald, and others, then in possession of the lyric stage; we can
thus estimate the influences which led Handel from the path that
Bach so successfully followed, into that which he pursued with equal
success; and though the amount of matter relating to him personally
be small, much that throws light upon his early life still remains
inaccessible to the English reader.
The biography of a great creative artist must in great measure
consist of a history of his works; and the great value of the
book before us arises from the searching examination to which
M. Schoelcher has subjected the several collections of Handel's
manuscripts which are preserved in England, one of which, in some
respects the most valuable, has fallen into his own possession. This
examination, for the first time made, together with the first careful
and thorough search for whatever might afford a ray of light in the
various periodicals of Handel's time, has enabled the author to
correct innumerable errors in previous writers, and trace step by
step the rapid succession of opera, anthem, serenata, and oratorio,
which filled the years of the composer's manhood. For the general
reader, perhaps, M. Schoelcher has been drawn too far into detail,
and some passages of his work might have been better reserved for
his "Catalogue of Handel's Works"; but these details are of the
highest value to the student of musical literature, and, indeed,
form for him the principal charm of the work. The importance of the
author's labors can be duly appreciated only by those who have had
occasion to study somewhat extensively the musical history of the
last century. For them the results of those labors as here presented
_Sermons of the_ REV. C. H. SPURGEON, of London. Third Series.
New York: Sheldon, Blakeman & Co.
There can be no doubt of the merit of these sermons, considered as
examples of method and embodiments of character. Whatever elements
of Christianity may be left unexpressed in them, it is certain that
Mr. Spurgeon has succeeded in expressing himself. His discourses at
least give us Christianity as he understands, feels, and lives it.
They should be studied by all clergymen who desire to master the
secret of influencing masses of men. They will afford valuable hints
in respect to method, even when their spirit, tone, and teaching
present no proper model for imitation. Mr. Spurgeon, we suppose,
would be classed among Calvinists, but he is not merely that.
Without any force, depth, amplitude, or originality of thought, he
has considerable force and originality of nature. He detaches from
their relations certain doctrines of Calvinism which especially
interest him, and so emphasizes and intensifies them, so blends them
with his personal being and experience, that the impression he
stamps upon the mind is rather of Spurgeonism than Calvinism. He
gives vivid reality to his doctrines, because they are incorporated
with his nature,--and not merely with his spiritual, but with his
animal nature. He is thoroughly in earnest from the fact that he
preaches himself. His converts, therefore, are likely to mistake
being Spurgeonized for being Christianized; for the Christianity he
preaches is not so much vital Christianity as it is Christianity
passed through the vitalities of his own nature, and essentially
modified and lowered in the process. To understand, then, the kind
of influence he exerts, we have simply to inquire, What kind of man
is Mr. Spurgeon?
The answer to this question is given on every page of his sermons.
He has no reserves, but lets his character transpire in every
sentence. He is a bold, eager, earnest, devout, passionate,
well-intentioned man, with considerable experience in the sphere of
the religious emotions, full of sympathy with rough natures, full of
mother wit and practical sagacity, but, as a theologian, coarse,
ignorant, narrow-minded, and strikingly deficient in fine spiritual
perceptions. These qualities inhere in a nature of singular vigor,
intensity, and directness, that sends out words like bullets. Warmth
of feeling combined with narrowness of mind makes him a bigot; but
his bigotry is not the sour assertion of an opinion, but the racy
utterance of a nature. He believes in Spurgeonism so thoroughly and
so simply that toleration is out of the question, and doctrines
opposed to his own he refers, with instantaneous and ingenuous
dogmatism, to folly or wickedness. "I think," he says, in one of his
sermons, "I have none here so profoundly stupid as to be Puseyites.
I can scarcely believe that I have been the means of attracting one
person here so utterly devoid of one remnant of brain as to believe
the doctrine of baptismal regeneration." The doctrine, indeed, is so
nonsensical to him, that, after some caricatures of it, he asserts
that it would discredit Scripture with all sensible men, if it were
taught in Scripture. God himself could not make Mr. Spurgeon believe
it; and doubtless there are many High Churchmen who would retort,
that nothing short of a miracle could make them assent to some of
the dogmas of their assailant. Indeed, the incapacity of our
preacher to discern, or mentally to reproduce, a religious character
differing in creed from his own, makes him the most amusingly
intolerant of Popes, not because he is malignant, but because he is
Spurgeon. If he had learning or largeness of mind, he would probably
lose the greater portion of his power. He gets his hearers into a
corner, limits the range of their vision to the doctrine he is
expounding, refuses to listen to any excuses or palliations, and
then screams out to them, "Believe or be damned!" In his own mind he
is sure they will be damned, if they do not believe. So far as
regards his influence over those minds whose religious emotions are
strong, but whose religious principles are weak, every limitation of
his mind is an increase of his force.
This theological narrowness is unaccompanied with theological rancor.
A rough but genuine benevolence is at the heart of Mr. Spurgeon's
system. He wishes his opponents to be converted, not condemned. He
very properly feels, that, with his ideas of the Divine Government,
he would be the basest of criminals, if he spared himself, or spared
either entreaty or denunciation, in the great work of saving souls.
He throws himself with such passionate earnestness into his business,
that his sermons boil over with the excitement of his feelings.
Indeed, it is difficult to say whether our impressions of him,
derived from the written page, come to us more from the eye than the
ear. His very style foams, rages, prays, entreats, adjures, weeps,
screams, warns, and execrates. His words are words that everybody
understands,--bold, blunt, homely, quaint, level to his nature, all
alive with passion, and directed with the single purpose of carrying
the fortresses of sin by assault. The reader who contrives to
preserve his calmness amid this storm of words cannot but be vexed
that rhetoric so efficient should frequently be combined with notions
so narrow, with bigotry so besotted, with religious principles so
materialized; that the man who is loudly proclaimed as the greatest
living orator of the pulpit should have so little of that Christian
spirit which refines when it inflames, which exalts, enlarges, and
purifies the natures it moves. For Mr. Spurgeon is, after all,
little more than a theological stump-orator, a Protestant Dominican,
easy of comprehension because he leaves out the higher elements of
his themes, and not hesitating to vulgarize Christianity, if he may
thereby extend it among the vulgar. It has been attempted to justify
him by the examples of Luther and Bunyan, to neither of whom does
he bear more than the most superficial resemblance. He is, to be sure,
as natural as Luther, but then his nature, happens to be a puny
nature as compared with that of the great Reformer; and, not to
insist on specific differences, it is certain that Luther, if alive,
would have the same objection to Mr. Spurgeon's bringing down the
doctrines of Christianity to the supposed mental condition of his
hearers, as he had to the Romanists of his day, who corrupted
religion in order that the public "might be more generally
accommodated." Bunyan's phraseology is homely, but Bunyan's
celestializing imagination kept his "familiar grasp of things divine"
from being an irreverent pawing of things divine. Mr. Spurgeon's
nature works on a low level of influence. Deficient in imagination,
and with a mind coarse and unspiritualized, though religiously
impressed, he animalizes his creed in attempting to give it
sensuous reality and impressiveness. If it be said that by this
process he feels his way into hearts which could not be affected by
more spiritual means, the answer is, that the multitude who listened
to the Sermon on the Mount were not of a more elevated cast of mind
than the multitude who listened to Mr. Spurgeon's sermon on
"Regeneration." But the truth is, that Mr. Spurgeon's preaching is
liked, not simply because it rouses sinners to repentance, but
because it gives sinners a certain enjoyment. It is racy, original,
exciting, and comes directly from the character of the preacher. It
is relished, as Mr. Spurgeon tells us in his Preface, by "princes of
every nation and nobles of every rank," as well as by humbler people.
But we doubt whether Christianity should be vulgarized to give jaded
nobles a new "sensation," or in order to be made a fit "gospel for
* * * * *
_Roumania: the Border Land of the Christian and the Turk.
Comprising Adventures of Travel in Eastern Europe and Western Asia_.
By JAMES O. NOYES, M. D. Surgeon in the Ottoman Army. New York: Rudd &
Carleton, 310 Broadway. 1857.
DR. JAMES OSCAR NOYES, the author of this book, is an American all
over. He has the rapidity and eagerness of mind that the champagny
atmosphere of our northern hills gives to those who are stout enough
not to be wilted by our hot summers. For briskness, thriftiness,
energy, and alacrity, it is hard to find his match. He has made a
book of travels, and will make a hundred, unless somebody finds him
a place at home where he will have an indefinite number of
labors-of-Hercules to keep him busy,--or unless some African prince
cuts his head off, or he happens to call upon the Battas about their
Here he has been streaming through Eastern Europe and Western Asia,
so hilarious and good-tempered all the time, so intensely wide-awake,
so perfectly at home everywhere, so quick at making friends, so
perfectly convinced that the world was made for American travellers,
and so apt at proving it by his own example, that his friends who
missed him for a while not only were not astonished to find that he
had been a Surgeon in the Ottoman Army, during this brief interval,
but only wondered he had not been Grand Vizier.
In this instance the book is the man, if we may so far change
Monsieur de Buffon's saying. It is full of fresh observations and
lively descriptions,--perhaps a little too overlarded and
oversprigged with prose and verse quotations,--but as lively as a
golden carp just landed. It describes scenes not familiar to most
readers, tells stories they have never heard, introduces them to new
costumes and faces, and helps itself by the aid of pictures to make
its vivacious narrative real. We are much pleased to learn that the
work has met with a very good reception; for we consider it as the
card of introduction of a gentleman whom the American people will
very probably know pretty well before he has done with them, and be
the better for the acquaintance.
* * * * *
_Dante's Hell_. Cantos I. to X. A Literal Metrical Translation.
By J. C. Peabody. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1857.
A man must be either conscious of poetic gifts and possessed of real
learning, or very presumptuous and ignorant, who undertakes at the
present day a _new_ translation of Dante. Mr. J. C. Peabody might
claim exemption from this _dictum_, on the ground that his
translation is not a _new_ one; but he himself does not put in this
plea, and we cannot grant to him the possession of poetic power, or
declare that he is not ignorant and presumptuous. He says in his
Preface, with a modesty, the worth of which will soon become apparent,
"The present is on a different plan from all other translations, and
must be judged accordingly. While I disclaim all intention of
disputing the palm as a poet or scholar with the least of those who
have walked with Dante before me, yet, by such labor and plodding as
their genius would not allow them to descend to, have I made a more
literal, and perhaps, therefore, a better translation than they all."
Mr. J. C. Peabody is right in supposing that none of the previous
translations of Dante could descend to _such_ labor and plodding as
his. In 1849, Dr. Carlyle published his literal prose translation of
the "Inferno." It was in many respects admirably done, and it has
afforded great assistance to the students of the poet in their first
progress. Mr. Peabody does not acknowledge any obligations to it, or
refer to it in any way. Let us, however, compare a passage or two of
the two versions. We open at line 78 of the First Canto. We do not
divide Mr. Peabody's into the lines of verse.
"Art thou, then, that Virgil and that fountain
which pours abroad so rich a stream of
speech? I answered him with bashful front.
O glory and light of other poets! May the
long zeal avail me and the great love which
made me search thy volume. Thou art my
master and my author."
"Art thou that Virgil and that fountain,
then, which pours abroad so rich a stream of
speech? With bashful forehead him I gave
reply. O light and glory of the other bards!
May the long zeal and the great love avail me
that hath caused me thy volume to explore.
Thou art my master, thou my author art."
Opening again at random, we take the two translations at the
beginning of the Eighth Canto.
"I say, continuing, that long before we
reached the foot of the high tower our eyes
went upward to the summit, because of two
flamelets that we saw put there; and another
from far gave signal back,--so far that the
eye could scarcely catch it. And I, turning
to the Sea of all knowledge, said: What says
this? and what replies yon other light? And
who are they that made it?"
"I say, continuing, that long before unto
the foot of that high tower we came, our eyes
unto its summit upward went, cause of two
flamelets that we saw there placed; while
signal back another gave from far; so far the
eye a glimpse could hardly catch. Then I to
the Sea of all wisdom turned, and said: What
sayeth this and what replies that other fire?
And who are they that made it?"
We open again in Cantos Nine and Ten, and find a like resemblance
between Dr. Carlyle's prose and Mr. Peabody's metre; but we have
perhaps quoted enough to enable our readers to form a just idea of
the latter person's "labor and plodding." It is not, however, in the
text alone that the resemblance exists. J. C. Peabody's notes bear a
striking conformity to Dr. Carlyle's. There are fourteen notes to the
Second Canto in Mr. Peabody's book,--_all_ taken, with more or less
unimportant alteration and addition, from Dr. Carlyle, without
acknowledgment. Of the twelve notes to Canto Eight, nine are, with
little change, from Dr. Carlyle. We have compared no farther;
_ex uno omnes_. Now and then Mr. Peabody gives us a note of his own.
In the First Canto, for instance; he explains the allegorical
greyhound as "A looked for reformer. 'The Coming Man.'" The
appropriateness and elegance of which commentary will be manifest to
all readers familiar with the allusion. In the Fourth Canto, where
Virgil speaks of the condition of the souls in limbo, our professed
translator says: "Dante says this in bitter irony. He ill brooks the
narrow bigotry of the Church," etc. etc., showing an utter ignorance
of Dante's real adherence to the doctrine of the Church. He has here
read Dr. Carlyle's note with less attention than usual; for a
quotation contained in it from the "De Monarchia" would have set him
right. The quotation is, however, in Latin, and though Mr. Peabody
has transferred many quotations from the "Aeneid" (through Dr. Carlyle)
to his own notes, they are often so printed as not to impress one
with a strong sense of his familiarity with the Latin language. We
give one instance for the sake of illustration. On page 40 appear
the following lines:--
Terribili squarlore Charon eni plurina mento
Canities inculta jucet; staut lumina flaurina
Nor is he happier in his quotations from Italian, or in his other
displays of learning. Having occasion to quote one of Dante's most
familiar lines, he gives it in this way:--
Lasciatte ogni speranzi, voi ch'entrate.
Anacreon is with him "Anachreon"; Vallombrosa is "Vallambroso";
Aristotelian is "Aristotleian." Five times (all the instances in
which the name occurs) the Ghibelline appears as the "Ghiberlines";
and Montaperti is transformed into "Montapesti."
Nor is J.C. Peabody's poetic capacity superior to his honesty or his
learning; witness such lines as these:--
"My parents natives of Lombardy were."
"They'll come to blood and then the savage party."
"Like as at Palo near the Quarnaro."
"I am not Aeneas; I am not Paul."
We have exhibited sufficiently the merits of what its author
declares to be "perhaps a better translation" than any other. He
says that "the whole Divine Comedy of which these ten cantos are a
specimen will appear in due time." If the specimen be a fair one,
the translation of the "Purgatory" and the "Paradise" will not appear
until after the publication of Dr. Carlyle's prose version, for
which we may yet have to wait some time.
We are confident that so honorable a publishing house as that of
Messrs. Ticknor and Fields must have been unaware of the character
of a book so full of false pretences, when they allowed their name
to be put on the title-page. But to make up for even unconscious
participation in such a literary imposition, we trust that they will
soon put to press the remainder of Dr. Parsons's excellent
translation of Dante's poem, a specimen of which appeared so long
since, bearing their imprint.
* * * * *
_City Poems_. By ALEXANDER SMITH, Author of "A Life Drama, and
other Poems." Boston: Ticknor & Fields.
On the first appearance of Alexander Smith, criticism became
light-headed, and fairly exhausted its whole vocabulary of panegyric
in giving him welcome. "There is not a page in this volume on which
we cannot find some novel image, _some Shakspearian felicity_ of
expression, or some striking simile," said the critic of the
"Westminster Review." "Having read these extracts," said another
exponent of public opinion, "turn _to any poet you will_, and
compare the texture of the composition,--it is a severe test, but
you will find that Alexander Smith bears it well." It was observable,
however, that all this praise was lavished on what were styled
"beauties." Passages and single lines, bricks from the edifice, were
extravagantly eulogized; but on turning to the poems, it was found
that the poetical lines and passages were not parts of a whole, that
the bricks formed no edifice at all. There were no indications of
creative genius, no shaping or constructive power, no substance and
fibre of individuality, no signs of a great poetical nature, but a
splendid anarchy of sensations and faculties. The separate beauties,
as the author had heaped and huddled them together, presented a
total result of deformity. It was also found, that, striking as some
of the images, metaphors, and similes were, they gave little poetic
satisfaction or delight. A certain thinness of sentiment, poverty of
idea, and shallowness of experience, were not hidden from view, to
one who looked sharply through the gorgeous wrappings of words. A
small, but sensitive and facile nature, capable of fully expressing
itself by the grace of a singularly fluent fancy, with an appetite
for beauty rather than a passion for it, with no essential
imagination and opulence of soul,--this was the mortifying result to
which we were conducted by analysis. Still, it was asserted that the
luxuriance of the young poet's mind promised much; let a few years
pass, and Tennyson and Browning and Elizabeth Barrett would be at
his feet. A few years have passed, and here is his second volume. It
has less richness of fancy than the first, but its merits and
demerits are the same. The man has not yet grown into a poet,--has
not yet learned that the foliage, flowers, and fruits of the mind
should be connected with primal roots in its individual being. These
are still tied on, in his old manner, to a succession of thoughts
and emotions, which have themselves little vital connection with
each other. The "hey-day in his blood," which gave an appearance of
exulting and abounding life to his first poems, has somewhat
subsided now, and the effect is, that "The City Poems," as a whole,
are leaner in spirit, and more morbid and despondent in tone, than
the "Life Drama." Yet there is still so much that is superficially
striking in the volume, such a waste of imagery and emotion, and so
many occasional lines and epithets of real power and beauty, that we
close the volume with some vexation and pain at our inability to
award it the praise which many readers will think it deserves.
* * * * *
_Der Reichspostreiter in Ludwigsburg, Novelle auf geschichtlichem
Hintergrunde_. Von Robert Heller. 1858.
A very interesting novel indeed, sketching life at the little court
of the Duke of Wurtemberg at the beginning of the eighteenth century,
and the overthrow of the government of a famous mistress of the Duke,
the Countess Wuerben. The main points of interest in the story are
historical, and the tissue of fiction interwoven with these is
remarkably well arranged. Herr Heller belongs to the school of
German novelists who, like Hermann Kurz, and others of minor mark,
make a copious and comprehensive use of historical facts in Art.
Their object and aim seem to be rather to illustrate and embody the
historical facts in the flesh and blood of tangible reality, than
merely to amuse by transforming history into a material for poetical
entertainment. With all that, the abovenamed little volume is amply
_Une Ete dans le Sahara_, par Eugene Fromentin. Paris. 1857.
A painter describes here a summer journey through the Desert of
Sahara, as far south from Algiers as El Aghouat, in the year 1853.
There is not much that is new in this book, considering the many
later and far more comprehensive and extensive illustrations of life
in the Great Desert, since published by Bayard Taylor, Barth, and
others; but it is a very interesting picture of this life, as seen
and drawn by a painter. His descriptions contain many landscape and
_genre_ pictures, by means of which a vivid idea of the scenery
and life are conveyed to the imagination of the reader.
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