The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 1/Number 3/Literary Notices

The Atlantic Monthly
Literary Notices

"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 laborers.

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 judgments.

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 general law.

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, Köthen; we can form from them some correct idea of the powers of Keiser, Steffani, Graupner, Schieferdecker, Telemann, Grünwald, 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 are invaluable.


  _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 the poor."

       * * * * *



  _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 Thanksgiving-time.

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.

CARLYLE.

  "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."

PEABODY.

  "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.

CARLYLE.

  "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?"

PEABODY.

  "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 Monarchià" 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 Quarnãro."
  "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.

       * * * * *


FOREIGN.


  _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 Würben. 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 worth reading.


  _Une Eté 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.