The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 4, No. 24, Oct. 1859
Part 5 out of 5
with regard to a matter yet more trifling.] and that he thereby
subjected himself self to open rebuke in his own country; [Footnote
4: See Dyce's _Strictures_ etc., 1859, p. 28.] and he found, we suppose,
his justification for this course in his seniority and his opponent's
place of nativity. It is true, also, that, in the recently published
edition of Shakespeare's Works, just alluded to, he has vengefully
revived, in its worst form, the animosity which disgraced the pages of
the editors and commentators of the last century, and has attacked the
most eminent of critical English scholars, the Rev. Alexander Dyce,
throughout that edition, bitterly and incessantly, [Footnote 5: See
the edition _passim_.] and also unfairly and upon forced occasion,
as Mr. Dyce has conclusively shown, in a volume, [Footnote 6:
_Strictures on Collier's Shakespeare_, London, 1859.] the appearance of
which from the pen of a man of Mr. Dyce's character and position we yet
cannot but deplore, great as the provocation was. Mr. Collier has done
these things, which would not be tolerated among such men of letters in
America as are also gentlemen; and he has also made statements about his
folio which have been proved to be so inaccurate that it is clear that
his memory is not to be trusted on that matter; but, in spite of all
this, we neither will nor can believe, that, in his testimony as to the
manner in which he became possessed of this celebrated volume, or in his
description of its peculiarities, he has, with the intention to deceive,
either suppressed the true or asserted the false. Since his first
announcement of the discovery of the manuscript readings in that volume,
he has had no concealments about it; he has shown it freely to the very
persons who would be most likely to detect a literary imposition; he has
told all, and more than all, that he could have been expected to tell
about it; he has left no stone unturned in his endeavor to trace its
history; and, after finally putting all of its manuscript readings upon
record, and confessing frankly that he had been in error with regard
to some of them, and that there are many of them which are
"innovations,--changes which had crept in from time to time, [upon
the stage,] to make sense out of difficult passages, but which do not
represent the authentic text of Shakespeare," he gives the volume away
to the Duke of Devonshire, the owner of one of the most celebrated
dramatic libraries in England, on whose shelves he knew it would be
almost as subject to close examination as on those of the British
Museum. This is not the conduct of a literary forger in regard to the
enduring witness of his forgery; and we may be sure, that, unless
practice has made him reckless, and he is the very Merdle of Elizabethan
scholarship, Mr. Collier has been in this matter as loyal as he has
seemed to be.
But is the charge of forgery made out? It would seem that it is,--that
the discovery of pencilled memorandums in a modern hand and in modern
spelling, over which the readings in ink are written in an antique hand
and antique spelling, leaves no doubt upon the question. Yet, assuming
all that is charged at the British Museum to be established, we venture
to withhold our assent from the conclusion of forgery against all the
readings in question until the evidence in the case has been more
thoroughly sifted. Our reasons we must state briefly; and they can as
well be appreciated from a brief as a detailed statement.
And first, as to the "modern-looking hand" of the pencil-marks over
which the "antique-looking writing" in ink is found. All the writing
of even the early part of the seventeenth century was not done in the
quaint, and, to us, strange and elaborate-seeming hand, sometimes called
old chancery hand, specimens of which may be seen on the fac-simile
published with Mr. Collier's "Notes and Emendations." This
modern-looking hand, in which the pencil-marks appear, we venture to say
may be that of a writer who lived long before the date (1632) of the
volume on which his traces have been discovered, In support of this
supposition, we might produce hundreds of instances within our reach.
We must confine ourselves to one; and that, though somewhat more modern
than others that we could produce, shall be from a volume easily
accessible and well known to all Shakespearian scholars, and which
naturally came before us in connection with our present subject. In
Malone's "Inquiry, etc., into the Ireland Shakespeare Forgeries"
(London: 8vo. 1796) are two fac-similes (Plate III.) of parts of
letters from Shakespeare's friend, the Earl of Southampton. From the
superscription to one of them, written in 1621 to the Lord-Keeper
Williams, and preserved among the Harleian MSS., we give in fac-simile
the following words:--
[Illustration: script text which reads "the right honorable"]
We select these words only because they happen to contain six of
the letters most characteristic of the antique chancery hand of the
seventeenth century,--_t_, _h_, _e_, _r_, _g_, and _b_,--within a space
suited to the columns for which we write. The words themselves need none
of ours added to them to set forth their modern look. They might have
been written yesterday. The further to enforce our point, we add a
fac-simile of some writing of forty years' later date. It is in a copy
in our possession of Simon Lennard's translation of Charron "De la
Sagesse," which (the translation) was not published until 1658. On an
original fly-leaf, and evidently after the book had been subjected to
some years' hard usage, an early possessor of the volume has entered his
week's washing-account, in a hand of which the words following the date
afford a fair specimen.
[Illustration: script text which is illegible]
Probably not many readers of the "Atlantic" can decipher the whole of
this, although it is very neat, clear, and elegant. It is "Cloathes: 1.
shirt"; [Footnote: This memorandum is characteristic. In full it is as
"Sept: the 9th: Cloathes: 1. Shirt: 3: bands: 8 handkecheirfs: 4
neckcloaths: 7: pa: cuffs: 1. bootes tops: 1 cap: an old towell: a
The writer was evidently young, poor, and a dandy. His youth is shown
by his wearing neckcloths, which were a new and youthful fashion at
the date of this memorandum; his dandyism, by the number of his
handkerchiefs, (a luxury in those days,) and of his cuffs, which answer
to our wristbands, and by his lace boot-tops; his poverty, by his
wearing three bands, four neckcloths, and seven pair of cuffs (probably
one a day for the week) to one shirt. His having, in respect to the last
garment, was probably like Poins'] and if the reader [Footnote: "one
for superfluity and one other for use." The cap was probably that which
he wore when he laid aside his wig. His hose, of colored silk, probably
made only "semi-occasional" visits to the laundress.]
will examine the fac-simile in Mr. Collier's "Notes and Emendations," he
will find that it is even older in appearance than the marginal readings
there given. Clearly, then, if the pencil memorandums on the margins of
the Collier folio had been made by a person who wrote as the Earl of
Southampton (born in 1573) did in the first quarter of the seventeenth
century, and the ink readings were made to conform to them by a person
who wrote as the profaner of Charron's "Wisdome" with his washing-bill
did in the third quarter of that century, the pencilled guide would
be "modern-looking," and the reading in ink written over it
"antique-looking," although the former might have been half a century
older than the latter. And that both pencil and ink readings are by the
same hand remains to be proved. The presumption in our own mind is, that
they are not. The margins of this folio, on the evidence of all who have
examined it, Mr. Collier included, are full of proofs that there were
many doubts and conjectures in the mind of its corrector, (shown by
erasures, reinsertions, and change of manuscript readings,) before the
work on it was abandoned; and is it not quite probable that some person
who was or had been connected with the theatre made memoranda of such
changes in the text as his memory suggested to him, and that these were
passed upon (it is in evidence that some of them wore rejected) by the
person who had undertaken to prepare the text for a new edition, or
the performance of the plays by a new company? That even all the ink
readings are by the same hand has not yet been established; and that
the writing in pencil and that in ink are by one person is yet more
uncertain. It is, in our opinion, more than doubtful. To assume it is to
beg the question.
Next, as to the suspicious circumstance, that the pencil spelling is in
some places modern, while that of the ink reading is old; as "body" in
pencil, and "bodie" in ink. We wonder that such a fact was noticed by
a man of Mr. Hamilton's knowledge; for it can be easily set aside; or
rather, it need not be regarded, because there is nothing suspicious
about it. For the spelling of the seventeenth century, like its syntax
and its pronunciation, was irregular; and the fatal error of those
who attempt to imitate it is that they always use double consonants,
superfluous final e-s, and _ie_ for _y_. And even supposing that these
pencilled words and the words in ink were written by the same person,
the fact that the word, when written in pencil, is spelled with a _y_ or
a single _l_, when written in ink with _ie_ or double _l_, is of not the
least consequence. This will be made clear to those who do not already
know it, by the following instances (the like of which might be produced
by tens of thousands,) from "Euphues his England," ed. 1597, which
happened to lie on our table when we read Mr. Hamilton's first letter.
"For that _Honnie_ taken excessiuelie, cloyeth the stomacke though it be
_Honny_." (Sig. Aa3.) In this instance, "honey," spelled first in the
old way, as to the last vowel sound, on its repetition, in the same
sentence, is spelled in what is called the new way; but in the example
which follows, the word "folly," which appears first as a catchword
at the bottom of the page in modern spelling, is found in the ancient
spelling on the turning of the leaf: "Things that are commonlie knowne
it were foll_y_ foll_ie_ to repeate." (Sig. Aa.) English scholars may
smile at the citation of passages to establish such a point; but we are
writing for those who are too wise to read old books, and who have their
English study done, as the Turk would have had his dancing, by others
for them. And besides, Mr. Hamilton has shown that even an English
professor of antiquarian literature can forget the point, or at least
not see its bearing on the subject in hand.
The modern-looking hand and the modern spelling of the pencilled
memorandums do not, then, compel the conclusion that there has been
forgery, even although they underlie the antique-looking hand and the
old spelling; but let us see if there is not other evidence to be taken
into consideration. We have before us the privately-printed fac-similes
of the eighteen passages in Mr. Collier's folio, above referred to.
Perhaps they may help us to judge if the corrector's work is like that
of a forger. From the first we take these four lines [_Tempest_, Act I,
Sc. 2];--"Lend thy hand
And plueke my Magick garment from me: So [Sidenote: _Lay it downe._]
Lye there my Art: wipe thou thine eyes, have comfort,
The direfull spectacle," etc.
In those lines, the corrector, beside supplying the stage direction _Lay
it downe_, has added a comma after "hand," substituted a period for the
colon after "Art," and a capital for a small _w_ in "wipe." Would
a forger do such minute and needless work as this, and do it so
carelessly, too, as this one did? for, to make the colon a period, he
merely strikes his pen lightly through the upper point; and, to make the
small _w_ a capital, he merely lengthens its lines upward.
In the passage from "The Taming of the Shrew," we see, what Mr. Collier
himself notices in his "Notes and Emendations," that the prefix to the
tinker's speeches, which in the folios is invariably _Beg._ [Beggar],
is changed to _Sly;_ and this is done in every instance. We have not
counted _Sly's_ speeches; but they are numerous enough to force the
unanswerable question, With what possible purpose could this task
have been undertaken by a forger? for the change adds nothing to our
knowledge of the interlocutors, and produces no variation in the
In a passage given from "The Winter's Tale," Act IV. Sc. 3, we find
"_Pol._ This is the pettiest Low-borne Lasse, that ever,
Ran on the greene-sord: Nothing she do's _or seemes,_"--
where "seems" is changed to "says," by striking out all but the first
and last letters, and writing _ay_ in the margin. In a passage given
from "Troilus and Cressida," Act V. Sc. 2, we have this line:--
"Good traders in the flesh, set this in your painted cloathes,"--
where the _a_ in the last word is struck out. In a speech of the Moor's,
given from "Othello," Act IV. Sc. 1, we notice this sentence:--
"It is not words that shakes me thus, (pish)."
where the final _s_ is struck from "shakes." This is strange work for a
forger of antique readings, a man who is supposed to be detected at his
work by writing "bodie" in ink, when his pencil memorandum was "body."
For, in these instances, he has _modernized the text_, and, except in
the first, that is _all_ that he has done. If he had wished his text to
look old, he would have left the last _e_ in "seemes," and read "sayes";
he would not have been at the trouble of striking out the _a_ in
"painted cloathes;" [Footnote: See As You Like It, in the folio of 1623,
p. 196, col. 2, "I answer you right painted _cloath_," and Henry VIII.,
_Idem_, p. 224, col. 2, "They that beare the _Cloath_ of Honour ouer
her."] and he would have left the _s_ in "shakes," which superfluity is
one of the most marked and best-known characteristics of English books
published before the middle of the seventeenth century. Instances of
this kind, in which a forger would have defeated his own purpose to gain
nothing, must be countless upon the nine hundred and odd pages of the
Collier folio, of which the eighteen fac-similes, from which we have
quoted, do not give us as much as would fill a single page of the
Again, we find the author of these manuscript readings scrupulously
leaving a mark of the antiquity of his work, which we must regard as a
mark of its genuineness. (For a man can blow hot and blow cold, though
satyrs have not sense enough to see the right and the reason of it.) In
a passage given from "Timon of Athens," Act IV. Sc. 2, the first line is
"Who _wou_ld be so mock'd with glory, or to live."
Here, by a misprint both in the first and second folio, there is a
syllable too much for rhythm; and the corrector properly abbreviates
"Who would" into one syllable; but he does it, not by striking out all
of "would" but the _d_, as a forger of modern days inevitably would
have done: he scrupulously leaves the _l_, which was pronounced in
Shakespeare's time, and for many years after; though this, we believe,
was never remarked until the appearance of a work very recently
published in this country!
To revert to some of the aimless work of this supposed forger. There are
many passages in the Collier folio, some of a few lines, others of many,
which are entirely stricken out; and of these there is not one that we
have noticed which it could possibly have been intended to represent as
spurious. What was a forger to gain by this? It could but serve to throw
discredit on his work. And again, in these erased passages, and on
erasures for new readings, the verbal and literal changes are still
made, and made, too, in points of not the slightest moment as to the
text, and which, in fact, produce no change in it, Take this instance,
in a passage given from "Hamlet," Act V. Sc. 2:--
"_Hora_. Now cracks a Noble heart:
Good night sweet Prience," etc.
Here "sweet Prience" is struck out, and "be blest" substituted in the
margin; but, previously to this change, the first e had been struck out
in "Prience,"--a change of no more consequence than if the capital N
in "Noble" had been changed to a small one. What, too, did the forger
propose to gain by putting, at great pains to himself, commas, in
passages like this, from "Timon of Athens," Act IV. Sc. 2:--
"To have his pompe, and all state comprehends,
But onely painted like his varnisht Friends"?
where he inserts a comma after "painted," properly enough, but
without at all changing the sense of the passage, or facilitating our
comprehension of it in the slightest degree.
But enough, although we leave much unsaid. For we think that our readers
can hardly fail to conclude with us, that proof far stronger and more
complete than the discovery of modern-looking pencil-marks under
antique-looking words in ink is required to prove Mr. Collier's folio a
fabrication of the present day. This external physical evidence is, to
say the least, far from conclusive, even on its own grounds; and the
internal moral evidence, ever the higher and the weightier in such
questions, is all against it. The forgery may be proved hereafter; but
it has not been proved yet. The character of the ink is not clearly
established in all the readings which have thus far been submitted to
experiment, as Mr. Maskelyne admits; and that question is still to be
determined. We await with interest the appearance of a pamphlet upon the
subject, which is now in preparation at the British Museum. Meantime,
upon this brief examination of the subject in a light as new to us as
to our readers, we venture to repeat the opinion which we have before
expressed, that many, if not all, of the corrections in this folio were
made in the third quarter of the seventeenth century. The dropping of
superfluous e-s, (as in "sayes,") and a-s, (as in "cloath,") and s-s,
(as in "shakes,") points to as late a date as that; and the retention
of the _l_ in the abbreviation of "would" indicates a period before the
reign of William and Mary. We conjecture, that, possibly, some of the
readings are spurious, and were added by a person who found the volume
with many ancient corrections, and seized the opportunity to obtain the
authority of age and the support of those corrections for others of
later date. This, however, is but a conjecture, and upon a point of
little consequence. Indeed, the chief importance of this investigation
at the British Museum, to all the world but Mr. Collier, is, that,
whether the pencil-marks, which the corrector chose in some cases to
follow, in others to disregard, prove to be ancient or modern, the
corrections are now deprived of all pretence to authority, and thrown
upon their own merits; which is just the position in which all candid
people desire to see them.
_The Exploits and Triumphs in Europe of Paul Morphy, the Chess
Champion_; including an Historical Account of Clubs, Biographical
Sketches of Famous Players, and Various Information and Anecdote
relating to the Noble Game of Chess. By Paul Morphy's late Secretary.
New York: D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 203.
The American Chess Congress, at New York, in October, 1857, by
the wide-spread interest which it awakened, revealed what was not very
generally suspected,--that the game of chess is played and studied in
the New World more generally, and on the present occasion, we may say
more thoroughly and successfully, than in the Old. This interest in
chess the subsequent career of Paul Morphy, the prime hero of that grand
encounter, has greatly widened and deepened; and to all who had the
chess-fever before his advent, or who have caught it since, this book
will be welcome. It fulfils all the promises of its title-page, and
tells the story of Paul Morphy's modestly achieved victories at home and
abroad with authority and intimate knowledge. Chess-players, and all who
take even an incidental interest in Mr. Morphy's adventures abroad,
will be glad to find here a particular account of his engagements with
Harrwitz, Anderssen, and especially of the match which he did not play
with Mr. Stanton, and why he did not play it. The whole of the Stanton
affair is recounted with much minuteness of date and circumstance, and a
production of all the letters which passed upon the subject; and we must
say, that upon the facts, (about which there appears to be no room for
dispute,) aside from any color given to them by the writer's manner of
stating them, the case has a very bad aspect for the English champion.
How much better would Mr. Stanton now be standing before his brother
chess-players, and, so much attention has the affair attracted, before
the world, had he been fairly beaten, like Professor Anderssen! His
reputation as a chess-player would have suffered no diminution by such
a result of an encounter with Mr. Morphy; that would only have shown,
that, well as Stanton played, Morphy played better,--as to which the
world is as well satisfied now as then it would have been. And as to
his reputation as a man,--what need to say a word about it? This
chess-flurry has been fraught with good lessons by example. The
frankness, the entire candor, and simple manliness of Professor
Anderssen, who went from Breslau to Paris for the purpose of meeting
Mr. Morphy and there contending for the belt of the chess-ring, and who
played his games as if he and his opponent were two brothers, playing
for a chance half-hour's amusement, is charming, and has won him regard
the world over. Such generosity is truly noble, and it appears yet
nobler by contrast with the endeavors of Harrwitz to worry and tire his
opponent into defeat, and his final contrivance to avoid a confession
that he was beaten. Mr. Stanton's conduct is a warning that cannot be
entirely lost upon men not utterly depraved, who are tempted into
petty duplicity to serve petty ends; and in the midst of all, how Paul
Morphy's modesty, dignity of carriage, generosity, and entire honesty of
purpose shine out and make us proud to call him countryman!
Mr. Morphy, in the speeches which he has been compelled to make
since his return from Europe, has spoken lightly of chess, as a mere
amusement. It became him to do so; and yet chess would seem to have its
value as a discipline upon natures amenable to discipline. We--that is,
the present writer, not all the contributors to the "Atlantic"--sat by
the side of Mr. Morphy when he won from Mr. Paulsen the decisive game at
the Chess Tournament in New York,--that game in which all the others
of that encounter culminated. The game was evidently approaching its
termination. Mr. Paulsen, who generally thinks out to its last result
his every move, deliberated half an hour and moved, and then, with a
slight flush upon his face, sat quietly awaiting the consequences.
Morphy, pale, collected, yet with a look of restrained--though entirely
restrained--nervousness, looked steadily at the board for about one
minute, after which his hand opened very far back, so that the knuckles
were much the lowest part of it, poised over a piece for a second or
two, and then swooped quickly down and moved it somewhat decidedly,
which is his usual way of moving. He remained looking intently upon
the board, which Paulsen studied for a few minutes, equally absorbed.
Looking up at last, the latter quietly said to his opponent,--"I don't
see how I can prevent the mate." Paul Morphy smiled, waved his hand
deprecatingly, and the tournament was won. The checkmate was about five
moves off, if we remember rightly. Restraint of this kind seems to be
imposed by a thorough study of this noble game, and its moral discipline
is quite as valuable as the sharpening of the intellectual faculties
which it accompanies.
But even those who have a sincere admiration of Mr. Morphy, and have a
sufficient knowledge of chess to appreciate his absolute mastery of the
game, must be unpleasantly affected by the public and extravagant manner
in which he has been lionized since his return from Europe. It was well
that the chess-players of New York should present him with a chessboard
so splendid that he can never use it; well that the cleverest men in
Boston should have him to dine with them; but what need of such blatant
publicity? what justification for such interminable and such miserable
speeches as were made at him in Gotham? Why did not one compliment in
each town suffice? and why must he be persecuted with watches and run
down by crowds? Why, except because some people are allowed to pamper
their silly vanity by means of other people's silly curiosity? Good
sense and good taste revolted at these exhibitions; but good sense and
good taste are undemonstrative, while folly and vulgarity are bold and
carry the day. In all such matters, we of this country allow ourselves
to be misrepresented by a comparatively few impudent people, with their
own ends to serve. This book is somewhat open to like objections. Its
title is too pretentious; its style is braggart, and tainted with the
vulgarity of an English flash reporter; and yet this is tempered by a
certain constraint, as if the writer could not but occasionally think
how ill such a style was suited to his subject. The portrait
is wretched, and a certain likeness to Mr. Morphy adds to its
_Summer Pictures_. From Copenhagen to Venice. By HENRY M. FIELD, Author
of "The Irish Confederates and the Rebellion of 1798." New York:
Sheldon, Blakeman & Co. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. 1859.
The unpretending title to this neat volume expresses the modest purpose
of the writer. Escaping from care and responsibility, he has made
a rapid tour through parts of Europe, some of which are rarely
frequented;--from London to Normandy; thence to Paris, Holland, Denmark;
through the Baltic to Berlin, Dresden, Prague, and Vienna; thence to the
Adriatic, Venice, Milan, and so round again to Paris.
To see all this with new eyes, and to present the world with a perfectly
fresh book of "Travels in Europe," requires a rare man and a rare
audacity; and we congratulate Mr. Field that he has not attempted the
doubtful task. But, in his rapid run, he has gathered a flower here, a
specimen there, a bit of history, a sight of a man, a pebble from the
Baltic, a moss from Venice, a sigh from the heart of Italy, a word of
hope and happiness from the domestic life of France. He has seen the
cloud rising in Italy, and ventures to hope, almost against possibility.
He has seen the firesides and _homes_ of France, and assures us that in
Paris, too, exist honest and warm and pure hearts, and generous and holy
souls, and that all France is not a den in which liars and charlatans
only struggle and tear one another. Mr. Field looks at things with
somewhat of a professional eye, and draws what encouragement he can for
the future of the Protestant religion. His facts and speculations will
thus interest a large and valuable class of readers, while to some few
of another class a certain suspicion of prosiness will be distasteful.
The volume is well prepared, and we are sure that the manly, generous
sentiments of the writer will be welcomed by a large number of personal
friends, and by a discriminating public.
_Adam Bede_. By GEORGE ELLIOT, Author of "Scenes of Clerical Life." New
York: Harper & Brothers. 12mo. pp. 496.
As Nature will have it, Great Unknowns are out of the question in any
other branch of the world's business than the writing of books. If,
through sponsorial neglect or cruelty, the name of our butcher or baker
or candlestick-maker happens to be John, with the further and congenial
addition of Smith, JOHN SMITH it is on sign-board, pass book, and at the
top, and sometimes at the bottom, of the monthly bills, in living and
familiar characters. But in the matter of authorship, the world is yet
far short of the Scriptural standard; in a variety of instances it has
found itself unable to know men by their works; and, in deference to
this short-sightedness of their fellows, merchants and lawyers and
doctors have their cards, and clergymen, at least once in every
twelvemonth, make the personal circuit of their congregations, so that
no sheep shall wander into darkness through ignorance of the shepherd.
We believe that no pursuit should be marked by greater frankness and
fairness than the literary. It is a question, at least, of kindness; and
it is not kind to set good people on an uneasy edge of curiosity; it is
not kind to bring down upon the care-bowed heads of editors storms of
communications, couched in terms of angry disputation; it is not kind to
establish a perennial root of bitterness, to give an unhealthy flavor to
the literary waters of unborn generations, as "Junius" did, and Scott
would have done, had he been able.
"Adam Bede" is remarkable, not less for the unaffected Saxon style which
upholds the graceful fabric of the narrative, and for the naturalness of
its scenes and characters, so that the reader at once feels happy and
at home among them, than for the general perception of those universal
springs of action which control all society, the patient unfolding of
those traits of humanity with which commonplace writers get out of
temper and rudely dispense. The place and the people are of the
simplest, and the language is of the simplest; and what happens from day
to day, and from year to year, in the period of the action, might happen
in any little village where the sun shines.
We do not know where to look, in the whole range of contemporary
fictitious literature, for pictures in which the sober and the brilliant
tones of Nature blend with more exquisite harmony than in those which
are set in every chapter of "Adam Bede." Still life--the harvest-field,
the polished kitchens, the dairies with a concentrated cool smell of all
that is nourishing and sweet, the green, the porches that have vines
about them and are pleasant late in the afternoon, and deep woods
thrilling with birds--all these were never more vividly, and yet
tenderly depicted. The characters are drawn with a free and impartial
hand, and one of them is a creation for immortality. Mrs. Poyser is
a woman with an incorrigible tongue, set firmly in opposition to the
mandates of a heart the overflows of whose sympathy and love keep the
circle of her influence in a state of continual irrigation. Her epigrams
are aromatic, and she is strong in simile, but never ventures beyond her
own depth into that of her author.
_The Poetical Works of Edgar A. Poe._ With an Original Memoir. Redfield,
This pocket edition of the Poetical Works of Edgar A. Poe is illustrated
with a very much idealized portrait of the author. The poems are
introduced by an original memoir, which, without eulogy or anathema,
gives a clear and succinct account of that singular and wayward genius.
The copies of verses are many in number, and most of them are chiefly
remarkable for their art, rather than for their power of awakening
either pleasing or profound emotion. It is one poem alone which makes an
edition of these works emphatically called for. That poem, it is nearly
superfluous to mention, is "The Raven," and truly it is unforgetable.
In this weird and wonderful creation, art holds equal dominion with
feeling. The form not only never yields to the sweep of the thought, but
that thought, touching and fearful as is its tone, is made to turn and
double fantastically, almost playfully, in many of the lines. The croak
of the raven is taken up and moulded into rhyme by a nimble, if not a
mocking spirit; and, fascinating as is the rhythmic movement of the
verse, it appears like the dancing of the daughter of Herodias. This
looks incongruous; and so do the words of the fool which Shakspeare has
intermingled with the agonies and imprecations of Lear. In the tragedy,
this is held to be a consummate stroke of art, and certainly the reader
is grateful for the relief. Had Poe a similar design? Closely analyzed,
this song seems the very ecstasy of fancy; as if the haunting apparition
inspired the poet more than it appalled the man. We can call to mind no
one who has ever played with an inexplicable horror more daintily or
more impressively; and, whether premeditated or spontaneous, it is
an epitome of the life of the writer, for the marked traits of his
character are there, and almost the prevailing expression of his . . . .
* * * * *
It becomes the sad duty of the editors of the "ATLANTIC" to record the
death of its founder, MR. M.D. PHILLIPS. It indicates no ordinary force
of character, that a man, dying at the age of forty-six, should have
worked himself, solely by his own talents and integrity, to the head
of one of the largest publishing-houses of the country. But it was
not merely by strength and tenacity of purpose, and by clearness of
judgment, that Mr. Phillips was distinguished. He had also a generous
ambition, and aims which transcended the sphere of self and the limits
of merely commercial success. Showing, as he did, a rare courage (and
that of the best kind, for it was a courage based upon experience and
qualified by discretion) in beginning the publication of the "Atlantic"
during the very storm and stress of the financial revulsion of 1857, it
was by no means as a mere business speculation that he undertook
what seemed a doubtful enterprise. His wish and hope were, that the
"Atlantic" should represent what was best in American thought and
letters; and while he had no doubt of ultimate pecuniary profit, his
chief motive was the praiseworthy ambition to associate his name with
an undertaking which should result in some good to letters and some
progress in ideas and principles which were dear to him.
We speak of him as we saw him. He would not have wished a garrulous
eulogy or a cumbrous epitaph. A character whose outline was simple
and bold, and which was marked by certain leading and high qualities,
demands few words, if only they be sincere. It is less painful to say
that good word for the dead, which it is the instinct of human nature to
offer, when we can say, as of Mr. Phillips, that his mind was strong and
clear, that it was tenacious of experience, and therefore both rapid and
safe in decision, that he was courageous and constant, and acted under
the inspiration of desires and motives which he can carry with him into
the new sphere to which he has passed.
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