The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. I, No. 1, Nov. 1857

Part 5 out of 5

rarely convinces the doubters and deniers he aims to convert. "The Greyson
Letters" are evidently the work of an amiable, learned, accomplished, and
able man, interested in a wide variety of themes which especially attract
the attention of thinkers, but in his treatment of them indicating a lack
of deep and wide experience, and of that close, searching thought which
pierces to the core of a subject, and broods patiently over its living
elements and relations, before it assumes to take them as materials for
argumentation. This broad grasp of premises, which implies a penetrating
and interpretative as well as dialectic mind, is the distinguishing
difference between a great reasoner and an able logician. In regard to the
form of the work, we can see no reason why its essays should be thrown
into the shape of letters. The epistolary spirit vanishes almost as soon
as "Dear Sir" and "Dear Madam" create its expectation. The author's mind
is grave by nature and culture, and is sprightly, as it seems to us, by
compulsion and laborious levity. His nature has none of the richness and
juiciness, none of the instinctive soul of humor, which must have vent in
the ludicrous. Occasionally an adversary or adverse dogma is demolished
with excellent logic, and then comes a dismal grin or chuckle at the feat,
which hardly reminds us of the sly, shy smile of Addison, or the frolic
intelligence which laughs in the victorious eyes of Pascal. Still, with all
abatements, "The Greyson Letters" make a book well worthy of being read,
contain much admirable matter and suggestive thought, and might be allowed
to pass muster among good books of the second class, did they not come
before us with professions that seemed to invite the tests applicable to
the first.

* * * * *

_Essays in Biography and Criticism_. By PETER BAYNE, M.A., Author of "The
Christian Life, Social and Individual," &c. First Series. Boston: Gould &
Lincoln. 1 vol. 12mo.

This volume contains essays on De Quincey, Tennyson and his Teachers, Mrs.
Barrett Browning, Glimpses of Recent British Art, John Ruskin, Hugh Miller,
The Modern Novel, and Currer Bell. Though of various degrees of merit,
they all evince careful study and patient thought, and are written with
considerable brilliancy and eloquence. As a critic, Mr. Bayne is generally
candid, conscientious, and intelligent, with occasional remarks evincing
delicacy and depth of thought; but his perceptions are not always
trustworthy, and his judgments are frequently of doubtful soundness. Thus
when we are told that Wordsworth owed his fame to his moral elevation
rather than to his "intellectual or aesthetic capacities," and that there
is hardly an instance of the highest creative imagination in the whole
range of his poetry,--when we are informed that since Shakspeare no one
"has laid bare the burning heart of passion" so perfectly as Byron,--and
when the question is triumphantly asked, "Where, out of Shakspeare, can we
find such a series of female portraits as those" in Bulwer's "Rienzi,"--we
feel inclined, in this association of Byron and Bulwer with Shakspeare, and
this oversight of Wordsworth's claim to represent the highest original
elements in the English poetry of the present century, to dispute Mr.
Bayne's right to assume the chair of interpretative criticism. But still
there are so many examples in his book of fine and true perception, and so
evident a sympathy with intellectual excellence and moral beauty, that we
do not feel disposed to quarrel with him on account of the apparent
erroneousness of some of his separate opinions. Besides, his work is
written in a style which will recommend it to a class of readers who are
not especially interested in the subjects of which it treats, and it
cannot fail to stimulate in them a desire to know more of the great
writers of the century.

* * * * *

_White Lies. A Novel_. By Charles Reade. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1 vol.

The early chapters of this novel lack the brisk movement, the sparkling
compactness, the stinging surprises of Mr. Reade's usual style, but he
kindles and condenses as he proceeds. As a whole, the work compares
favorabiy with his most brilliant compositions. He is a writer difficult to
criticize, because his defects are pleasing defects. Dogmatism is commonly
offensive, and Mr. Reade's dogmatism is of the most uncompromising, not to
say insulting character; yet it is exhibited in connection with insight
so sure and vivid, that we pardon the positiveness of the assertion for
the truth of what is asserted. Then he has a way of forcing Nature, much
against her wish, to be epigrammatic,--of producing startling effects by
artifices almost theatrical; and though his devices are obvious, they are
more than forgiven for the genuine power and real naturalness behind the
rhetorical masquerade. Other men's freaks and eccentricities lead to the
distortion of truth and the confusion of relations, but Mr. Reade has
freaks of wisdom and eccentricities of practical sagacity. Occasionally
he has a stroke of observation that comes like a flash of lightning,
blasting and shattering in an instant a prejudice or hypocrisy which was
strong enough to resist all the arguments of reason and all the appeals
of humanity. "White Lies" is full of examples of his power, and of the
peculiarities of his power. Blunt and bold and arrogant as his earnestness
often appears, it is capable of the most winning gentleness, the most
delicate grace, and the most searching pathos. The delineation of the
female characters in this novel is especially admirable. Josephine
and Laure are exquisite creations, and the Baroness and Jacintha,
though different, are almost as perfect, considered as examples of
characterization. In the invention and management of incidents, the
author exhibits a sure knowledge of the means and contrivances by which
expectation is stimulated, and the interest of the story kept from
flagging. We hope to read many more novels from the same pen as delightful
as "White Lies."

* * * * *

_Brazil and the Brazilians_. Portrayed in Historical and Descriptive
Sketches. By Rev. D.P. Kidder, D.D., and Rev. J.C. Fletcher. Illustrated by
one hundred and fifty Engravings. Philadelphia: Childs & Peterson. 1 vol.

Brazil is a country but little known to the majority of readers, and the
little that is known is so fragmentary that it is as likely to convey a
false idea as an incomplete one. The writers of this volume combine two
qualifications for the work of dissipating this ignorance. They have a
direct personal knowledge of Brazil, gained during a long residence in
the country, and they have carefully studied every valuable book on its
history and resources. The manners, customs, laws, government, productions,
literature, art, and religion of the people have all been carefully
observed under circumstances favorable for accurate investigation. The
result is a valuable, interesting, and attractive volume, well worthy of
being extensively read. The elegance of its mechanical execution, and the
profusion of engravings illustrating the text, will add to its popularity,
if not to its value.

* * * * *

_The Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt_. Now first entirely collected. Revised
by himself, and edited, with an Introduction, by S. ADAMS LEE. Boston:
Ticknor & Fields. 2 vols. 18mo.

Leigh Hunt has outlived all the enmities and enemies provoked either by his
merits or his demerits, and is especially interesting as the sole survivor
of the illustrious company of poets with whom the mind instinctively
associates him. Some burnt out; some died out; some dried up; but he
remains the same cosey, chirping, fine-natured, and self-pleased singer,
who won the love of Shelley and Keats, and roused the wrath of Gifford and
Wilson. We are glad to welcome his collected poems in their appropriate
attire of "blue and gold," and trust they will have a wide circulation
in the United States, as the genial poet is himself to be a participant
in the profits of the publication. We wish that a word of ours could
be influential in assisting this veteran of letters to reap from the
publication something more substantial than fame, yet in some degree the
expression of it,--something which shall give him assurance that his
volumes are on thousands of parlor tables, because the proofs of it are
palpable in the increased comforts afforded to his old age. And certainly
the poet deserves a wide circle of readers. Though he does not succeed in
the delineation of the great and grand passions of our nature, he is very
successful in the sphere of its humane and tender sentiments; and though
open to criticism for the jaunty audacity with which he coins dainty
sweetnesses of expression rejected by all dictionaries, and for an
occasional pertness in asserting opinions of doubtful truth, he is so
lovable a creature that we pardon his literary foibles as we would pardon
the personal foibles of a charming companion and friend. He has a genuine
love for all cheerful and cheering things, and power enough to infuse his
cheer into other minds. Disliking all internal and external foes to human
comfort, he is equally the enemy of evil, and of the morbid discontent
which springs from the bitter contemplation of evil. His nature is
essentially sprightly and sensuous, with here a bit of Suckling and there a
bit of Fletcher, carrying us back to an elder period of British poetry by
the careless grace and freedom of his movement, and proving his connection
with the present by the openness of his mind to all liberal thought and
philanthropic feeling. Good-humor and benevolence are so dominant in his
nature, that they prevent him from having any deep perceptions of evil and
calamity. He is personally affronted when he sees the thunder-cloud push
away the sunshine from life; and God, to him, is not only absolute Good,
but absolute Good Nature.

It would be easy to quote passages from these volumes illustrative of his
acute observation, his largeness of sympathy, his delicacy and daintiness
of touch, his sweetness, humor, pathos, and fancy. As a specimen of the
playful and beautiful ingenuity of his mind, we extract a portion of his
little poem on "Love-Letters made of Flowers."

"An exquisite invention this,
Worthy of Love's most honeyed kiss,
This art of writing _billets-doux_
In buds and odors and bright hues!
In saying all one feels and thinks
In clever daffodils and pinks;
In puns of tulips; and in phrases,
Charming for their truth, of daisies;
Uttering, as well as silence may,
The sweetest words the sweetest way.
How fit, too, for the lady's bosom!
The place where _billets-doux_ repose 'em.

"What delight, in some sweet spot
Combining _love_ with _garden_ plot,
At once to cultivate one's flowers
And one's epistolary powers!
Growing one's own choice words and fancies
In orange tubs and beds of pansies;
One's sighs and passionate declarations
In odorous rhetoric of carnations;
Seeing how far one's stocks will reach;
Taking due care one's flowers of speech
To guard from blight as well as bathos,
And watering every day one's pathos!"

From the exquisite little poem entitled "Songs of the Flowers" we should
like to cut a few stanzas; but our limits forbid.


What will the Muses do in these hard times? Must they cease to hold court
in opera-house and concert-room, because stocks fall, factories and banks
stop, credit is paralyzed, and princely fortunes vanish away like bubbles
on the swollen tide of speculation? Must Art, too, bear the merchant's
penalties? or shall not rather this ideal, feminine element of life, shall
not Art, like woman, warm and inspire a sweeter, richer, more ideal, though
it be a humbler home for us, with all the tenderer love and finer genius,
now that man's enterprise is wrecked abroad? Shall we have no Music? Has
the universal "panic" griped the singers' throats, that they can no longer
vibrate with the passionate and perfect freedom indispensable to melody?
It must not be. The soul is too rich in resources to let all its interests
fail because one fails. If business and material speculation have been
overdone, if we are checked and flung down in these mad endeavors to
accumulate vast means of living, we shall have time to pick ourselves up,
compose ourselves to some tranquillity and some humility, and actually,
with what small means we have, begin to _live_. Panic strangles life, and
the money-making fever always tends to panic. Panic is the great evil
now, and panic needs a panacea. What better one can we invent than music?
It were the very madness of economy to cut off that. Some margin every
life must have, around this everlasting sameness of the dull page of
necessity,--some opening into the free infinite of joy and careless
ideality, or the very life-springs dry up.

Music is a cheap luxury; the more so as one seeks real music for its own
sake, and not the music which is imported like the Paris fashions. This
winter it will be a question between whether we can afford to pay for it,
and whether we can afford to do without it. We think the absolute necessity
of some diversion, something to lift the leaden cloud, and keep us in a
state of natural buoyancy and courage, already settles the question. Music
we shall have, simply because we need it. Or view it from the opposite
side, from the point of mere political economy. Music, in many ways, has
built itself up into a great industry among us,--music-publishers, musical
instrument-makers, music teachers, musical performers,--all mutually
dependent, and together swelling the national industry to the amount of
many millions. It is the opportunities of hearing music, it is the concerts
and the operas, that give the impulse to this whole many-branched machine.
Taken together, it feeds many mouths, and helps turn many other very
different sort of mills, and plays its part in Wall Street and in State
Street, and its _notes_ in that sense enter as much into the general
currency as they do into the general ear in another. Now which is cheaper,
which is wiser, to employ these artists, and the crowds of workers whom
the public exercise of their talent keeps in motion, or cast them off upon
society to be a general burden in a more hopeless form? Surely, we can
afford the stoppage of some banks and factories, quite as well as we can
that of music. Let us look around, then, upon its prospects for the winter.

While we write (the first week in October) the musical season, in what we
take to be the most music-loving of our cities, Boston, has not commenced,
or shaped itself into much distinctness of plan. The season is late;
hard times may make it later; yet shall "the winter of our discontent be
glorious summer" ere long. Boston, for its best music,--best in artistic
tendency, though not perhaps the most exciting or most fashionable,--has
always relied more than New York on its own quiet, domestic resources. Our
musical societies have been the centres of our musical activity, and have
more or less successfully provided us with sterling opportunities of making
ourselves acquainted with the master compositions in the various forms
of Oratorio, Orchestra, Chamber Music, etc., where the end has been more
to get at the intrinsic worth and beauty of the music, than to go into
fashionable raptures about some new-come singer or solo-playing virtuoso.
Yet virtuosodom and the Italian opera come in to reap an annual harvest
here too, and have and long will have their zealous party of admirers.
Were Opera an organized home industry among us, as much as other forms of
music,--were there some meaning in the name "Academy of Music" worn by
operatic theatres, it would be more useful to our artistic progress. But
Italian Opera, as managed, and "star" concerts generally, are no part of
the healthy, permanent development of our own musical resources. They
are speculations; they attack us from without, exploiting a factitious
enthusiasm, and exhausting the soil in one short season, so they may only
carry off the present fatness of the land. Operas and virtuoso concerts
are wholly in the hands of speculators, musical Jew-brokers, who do a
formidable business in old clothes, the worn-out musical celebrities of
Europe;--often with great skill, often much to our pleasure and advantage;
for it is much to us to hear great artists, even when the voice has lost
some of its freshness, and to admire now what long ago perhaps exhausted
admiration in the Old World. But the effect is bad on our domestic
industry. We almost need a musical protective system. Our good old society
concerts have been much thrown out of joint. Few of them of late, as
compared with former years, have paid. The dazzling novelties, that come
trumpeted with all the cunning speculators' arts, debauch us somewhat from
our wholesome, quiet love of pure, high music for its own sake, and lead
the public into little short-lived fanaticisms about certain prima donnas,
baritones, or tenors, and about music chiefly made to show off the singer,
full of the commonplaces that he loves to make "effect" in,--fanaticisms
alternating with _blase_ indifference. But this would lead us into a long
discussion, and it is our wish here to avoid vexed questions. For
the present we will avow no sides, of German or Italian, "light" or

The lovers of opera have something to look forward to in Boston; what, we
shall see when we survey the field elsewhere. Our noble Boston theatre
must needs be one point in the triangular campaign of the three cities.
And here we may allude, _en passant_, to the prospect of one novelty that
ought to interest our opera-lovers who are weary of the usual hackneyed
_repertoire_. Our townsman, Mr. L. H. Southard, the composer of "The
Scarlet Letter," has also written an Italian opera, on an Oriental subject,
with the title "Omano," the libretto by Signor Manetta, founded on
Beckford's "Vathek." A private or subscription concert will soon give an
opportunity of hearing some of its scenas, quatuors, etc. To come back,
then, to what is more peculiarly Bostonian in the way of music,--what
concerts shall we have? Of large societies, the only one remaining now
in operative force is the oldest and the largest, the Handel and Haydn
Society. This set the right example last May, in that splendid three-days'
Festival, of true domestic musical enterprise, organizing the whole thing
on the basis of internal and domestic means, with our own permanent nucleus
of orchestra and chorus, and drawing from without such other talent, such
solo singers, as were needed for the right interpretation of the noble
music, and not merely for their own private exhibition and profit. This was
genuine; this was wholesome; and the success warrants the best hopes for
another season. Carl Zerrahn, the excellent conductor upon that occasion,
is on his way home from Germany (his _old_ home) with new stock of zeal and
of new music, and the oratorio rehearsals will at once begin. It is event
enough for one winter, the single fact that Handel's "Israel in Egypt,"
that mightiest oratorio, which is one mountain range of sublime choruses,
will be the chief subject of study. It is proposed to give at least four
Sunday-evening performances, consisting of "The Messiah," of course, at
Christmas; Costa's "Eli," or "Elijah"; the "Requiem" of Mozart, and the
"Lobgesang" by Mendelssohn; and for the last, and we trust many last,
"Israel in Egypt." All this will he but so much rehearsal for the grander
Festival to follow. We have no organized orchestral or symphony society,
as we should have; but we have with us always the elements of a good
orchestra, who always work well together, and never better than last
year under the enterprise and drill of Mr. Zerrahn. Then we had glorious
symphonies and overtures, both old and new; and we shall have as good, and
still more brilliant concerts soon, if hard times do not daunt the leader's
very sanguine purpose. As a pendant, too, to the orchestral evenings, will
come cheap afternoon concerts in the Music Hall, where good symphonies
and overtures, with sparkling varieties for younger tastes, will hold out
weekly invitation.

For the select few, who hold communion in the love of classical quartet
and trio music by the great masters,--in the piano poems of Chopin,
Mendelssohn, and Beethoven, there will be abundant opportunities. The
Mendelssohn Quintette Club, the German Trio, Mr. Satter, the pianist,
and would we might add Otto Dresel, will give series of concerts in the
pleasant Chickering Saloon, that holds two hundred. Alas! we may be
disappointed there. The Masonic Temple has been sold to the government for
a United States Court-house. Think of the musical associations that haunt
and consecrate the place, and think of the uses to which it may soon be
put! What profanation! Hitherto the only _chains_ that have surrounded that
Temple have been chains of harmony, which one may wear and not be a slave!
It has been a Temple of Concord;--may we hope that it will be in truth a
Temple of Justice!--For virtuoso concerts, we shall have what the managers
at New York send us. We shall of course have Vieuxtemps and Thalberg, if no

In New York the campaign has been opened for this month past, and we do not
yet hear that the troubles down in Wall Street have discouraged the lessees
of the Academy of Music. Great is the array of singers and of players that
revolve around the little knot of musical speculators in New York. Strange
to say, Italian opera has German managers. They catch the birds, having
beforehand caught and prepared the public. But it is as well to state, that
there are _two_ great operatic enterprises, as there are two rival musical
broker managers: to wit, Maretzek and Ullman; the former backed by Marshall
of the Philadelphia Academy, and proceeding forth with hope to conquer
from that centre; the latter backed by Thalberg, and strengthened by the
Strakosch and Vestvali tributaries that roll proudly in from scenes, of
conquest in the Western States and Mexico. The Ullman party hold the New
York Academy; the other party hold the theatres of Philadelphia and Boston;
either must make itself felt at the three points, to avoid a losing game.
Hence these harmonious and deadly rivals have perforce entered--into a
league of amity and commerce, whereby they exchange singers, so that all
shall in turn be heard at every theatre. At New York the company includes,
for leading soprani, Madame Lagrange, the wonder of the last two years,
greatest of vocal gymnasts, and fine actress always, with voice well worn,
and Madame Frezzolini, as the last imported celebrity from Europe; her
voice, too, is past its prime, but her art is pronounced immaculate, and
she is quite a charmer, if we may trust the critics. For contralto there
is Vestvali, the dashing tall one, who delights in man's clothes, and
sings Charles the Fifth, the baritone (!) role in "Ernani." There is a
delicate new tenor, Labocetta, and another named Maccaferri, and a fresh,
universally admired baritone, Gassier; and there is our old buffo friend,
Rocco, and many more. Besides whom are two famous announcements, yet to
come from Europe: the French tenor, Roger, and the German basso, Formes.
The orchestra and chorus are, we suppose, as usual; the conductor better;
he is Herr Anschuetz, who has had experience in London, and who subdues his
orchestra to sympathetic support of the singers. With Max it is the other
way; he loves to ride full swing upon the top of his forces, brass and
all, _fortissimo_, conquering and to conquer. Is "Il Trovatore" wanted,
everlasting "Trovatore,"--music that whirls and fascinates, possessed
and driven by one fixed idea of burning at the stake, with furies of
love and jealousy to match,--they borrow from the other company (under
the "amicable" treaty) Brignoli, of the golden tenor voice, who sings
so sweetly and sulks so proudly lazy, and Amodio, that ton of juvenile
humanity, whose weighty baritone and eagerness to please make up for the
see-saw alternation of his two only expressions and gesticulations,--those
of vulgar love-making and mock-heroical revenge. These, with Gazzaniga, the
charming, lively, natural Gazzaniga, whose voice _is_ fresh, and who can
sing and act so charmingly in genial music, such as Donizetti's "Elisir d'
Amore," with also Assoni, the buffo, and Coletti, the bass, compose the
year-old and tried nucleus of the Philadelphia opera, which opened the
first Monday in October. To these are added new attractions, in the shape
of old celebrities from Europe: namely, Ronconi, the great _Don Giovanni_
of the London opera; Tagliafico, the basso; Stecchi-Bottardi, tenor from
Her Majesty's; Signora Ramos, prima donna from Turin; Signora Tagliafico;
and greatest of all, to come when he has got through with the Russians, the
famous tenor, Tamberlik.

Here is a great array, and great expense. Verily, it rains "stars," as it
rains meteors in our cold November nights. Perhaps it will pay,--perhaps
not. But for the interests of Art, and the true gratification and
advancement of the taste for music, one might ask whether a better economy
of means would not have dictated fewer "stars," and more completeness in
the orchestra, the chorus, and the general _ensemble_, so that we might for
once hear and enjoy _an opera_, and not merely a few singers lifted up on
the cheapest platform of an opera, loosely nailed together for their sakes.
And this question leads to another consideration of still more importance
to the real interests of Art. What music, what operas shall we hear? So
far, it has been the same old story, the same hackneyed round of "Norma,"
and "Lucia," and "Lucrezia Borgia," and "Ernani," and "Trovatore," and so
on, with once or twice the ever genial and sparkling "Il Barbiere." The
whole attraction lies (as always in these great musical _speculations_) in
the solo singers. These ever place themselves between you and good music;
they choose to sing the music that best shows their powers, no matter how
familiar, hackneyed, sentimental, commonplace, and trashy. If you call for
"William Tell," for the "Nozzi di Figaro," to say nothing of "Fidelio," or
"Oberon," or "Freischuetz," they have not the organization for it, have not
the chorus, the secondary singers, the artists who know and love the music;
it will not pay, and so forth. Our Academies must justify their name and be
domestic institutions, permanent lyric organizations, before we can call in
singers to illustrate an opera, instead of worn-out operas to illustrate
the singer.

Since penning the above, we hear of a fortnight's suspension of the Opera
in New York, to allow time for the preparation of the "Nozzi di Figaro,"
"Robert le Diable," "Les Huguenots," &c.

In close connection with the opera, the brilliant concerts of Vieuxtemps
and Thalberg go on. Probably there is nothing better of the virtuoso kind;
and as they bring in the orchestra sometimes, they give occasionally
something classical and great, performed in a masterly manner. Indeed,
all the music of New York seems to revolve now round the Ullman-Thalberg
centre. They sweep all into their orbit. With the Harmonic Society, they
give Sunday oratorios, promising "The Messiah," "Creation," "Elijah,"
David's "Desert," (!) and others.

We have not left ourselves room to more than hint at the truest musical
pride of New York, her Philharmonic Society, whose orchestra now numbers
eighty excellent performers, and whose list of regular subscribers reaches
eighteen hundred. They are rehearsing Spohr's symphony, "Die Weihe der
Toene," with Schumann's "Manfred" overture, and Beethoven's sublime
"Leonora," for their first concert, and will do much for classical music
by their four concerts. In Boston, in spite of our broken and disorganized
condition, we have ten or a dozen Symphony concerts in a winter. Chamber
Quartets, too, and Trios with Piano, will have their audiences,--let us
hope numerous enough to gladden the hearts of the artists.


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