The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 18/Number 110/Reviews and Literary Notices

The Atlantic Monthly (1866)
Reviews and Literary Notices

Featured in Volume 18, Number 110 of The Atlantic Monthly. (December 1866).

2336920The Atlantic Monthly — Reviews and Literary Notices1866


This volume of Mr. Bancroft’s History, the ninth of the entire work and the third of the narrative of the American Revolution, comprises the period between July, 1776, and April, 1778, including the battles of Long Island and White Plains, the surrender of Fort washington, the retreat of Washington through the Jerseys, the brilliant military successes of Trenton and Princeton, the capture of Philadelphia by Sir William Howe, and the memorable event which insured the success of the Revolution,—the surrender of Burgoyne. This enumeration is enough to show that, in the ground he has traversed, Mr. Bancroft has found ample scope for the display of those peculiar literary characteristics with which the readers of his former volumes are so familiar,—his rapid and condensed narration, his sweeping and sometimes rather vague generalizations, his brilliant pictures, his pointed reflections, and the sharp, cutting strokes with which he carves rather than paints characters. His usual diligence in the search of materials has not deserted him here; and he has been even more than usually successful in the amount and character of what he has found. In addition to very full collections relating to the war from the archives of England and France, he has obtained large masses of papers from Germany, among which last are many of great importance, especially for the study of military operations in 1777. Very valuable documents from the Spanish have been secured, through the courtesy of the Spanish government and the kind offices of that distinguished scholar and most amiable man, Don Pascual de Gayangos.

Investigators of the past are naturally inclined to overestimate the value of any new sources of information opened by their own diligence or sagacity of research, and a little of this feeling is perceptible in Mr. Bancroft's Preface; but, after all, we apprehend that the new evidence he has so diligently collected will not shake the deliberate verdict already passed alike upon men and events. Here and th'ere a gleam is thrown upon some single incident, or the motives and conduct of a particular actor; but the general lights and shadows of the historical landscape remain undisturbed. The statements and the views of Marshall and Sparks are substantially sustained. The patriotic American will not regret to see that Mr. Bancroft's investigations and conclusions lead him to exalt Washington in comparison with the soldiers and civilians who stood around him; and the reader of his pages will have fresh cause to admire,not merely the firmness and self-command of that illustrious man, but his abilities as a commander and a statesman. We have especially to thank Mr. Bancroft for the distinctness with which he shows how much the success of the Northern army was due to Washington's disinterested advice. His high praise of the commander-in-chief sometimeb glances aslope, and lights in the form of censure of some of his subordinate officers; and we should not be surprised if some of his strictures provoked replies and led to controversies. Some of those whom he criticises have left descendants, and those who have left no descendants have partisans who are jealous of the fame of their favorites, and will not lightly allow a leaf of their laurels to be blighted.

During the period embraced by this volume the constitutions of several of the States were formed, and the Articles of Confederation were adopted which gave to the several States a semblance of unity, and smoothed the path to the more perfect union which was established ten years later. These events present themes peculiarly congenial to Mr. Bancroft's powers of brilliant generalization and rapid condensation, and tempt him into that field of discursive reflection where he is fond of lingering, and where we follow him always with interest, and generally with assent. We quote with peculiar pleasure the following observations from the fifteenth chapter, on the constitutions of the several States of America, as being sound in substance and happy in expression:

"The spirit of the age moved the young nation to own justice as antecedent and superior to the state, and to found the rights of the citizen on the rights of man. And yet, in regenerating its institutions, it was not guided by any speculative theory or laborious application of metaphysical distinctions. Its form of government grew naturally out of its traditions, by the simple rejection of all personal hereditary authority, which in America had never had much more than a representative existence. Its people were industrious and frugal. Accustomed to the cry of liberty and property, they harbored no dream of a community of goods; and their love of equality never degenerated into envy of the rich. No successors of the fifth-monarchy men proposed to substitute an unwritten higher law, interpreted by individual conscience, for the law of the land and the decrees of human tribunals. The people proceeded with self-possession and moderation, after the manner of their ancestors. Their large inheritance of English liberties saved them from the necessity and from the wish to uproot their old political institutions; and as happily the scaffold was not wet with the blood of their statesmen, there was no root of a desperate hatred of England, such as the Netherlands kept up for centuries against Spain. The wrongs inflicted or attempted by the British king were felt to have been avenged by independence. Respect and affection remained behind for the parent land, from which the United States had derived trial by jury, the writ for personal liberty, the practice of representative government, and the separation of the three great co-ordinate powers in the state. From an essentially aristocratic model, America took just what suited her condition, and rejected the rest. Thus the transition of the Colonies into self-existent commonwealths was free from vindictive bitterness, and attended by no violent or wide departure from the past."

A considerable portion of this volume is occupied by a consideration of the relations between Europe and America. Advancing years do not seem to chill Mr. Bancroft's faith in progress, his confidence in democracy, his love of popular institutions, or to check his tendency to throw his speculations into an aphoristic form, and to present his conclusions positively, and with less of qualification and limitation than men of a more cautious temperament would do. So far as literary merit is concerned, the European chapters will be found the most attractive in the volume. They are sparkling, rapid, condensed, and pointed; they gratify our national pride; their animated and picturesque style never suffers the attention to flag for a moment; and yet it is in these very chapters that judicial criticism will find the most frequent occasion to pause and doubt, whether we consider the direction in which the stream of thought flows, or their merely rhetorical features. Mr. Bancroft's glittering generalizations do not always seem to us to wear the sober livery of truth. For instance, on page 500 we read: "The most stupendous thought that ever was conceived by man, such as never had been dared by Socrates or the Academy, by Aristotle or the Stoics, took possession of Descartes on a November night in his meditations on the banks of the Danube." It may be coldness of temperament, it may be the chilling influence of advancing years, but we cannot admire statements like these, and we are constrained to think them exaggerated and extravagant.

And on the next page Mr. Bancroft says: "Edwards, Reid, Kant, and Rousseau were all imbued with religiosity, and all except the last, who spoiled his doctrine by dreamy indolence, were expositors of the active powers of man." It is certainly an ingenious mind that finds a resemblance between Edwards and Rousseau. What exactly is the. meaning of "religiosity," we cannot say; but if it be used as a synonyme of religion, we demur to the assertion that Rousseau was imbued with religion, Rousseau, who in his youth allowed an innocent girl to be ruined by accusing her of a theft which he himself had committed, and in his ripened manhood sent to a foundling hospital the children he had had by his mistress, whose life was despicable and whose moral creed seemed to be summed up in the doctrine that every natural impulse is to be indulged. Rousseau was an enthusiast and a sentimentalist; he was a man of the exquisite organization of genius, and there are many passages in his writings which are colored with a half-voluptuous, half-devotional glow; but it seems to us a plain confusion of very obvious moral distinctions to represent such a man as imbued with the spirit of religion.

One of the most animated of Mr. Bancroft's chapters is the eighth, on the course of opinion in England, in which we have glimpses of Wilkes, of Barre, of Wedderburn, of Lord North, of Burke, and an elaborate character of Fox. This last is a happy specimen of Mr. Bancroft's peculiar style of portrait-drawing. The merits and defects of the subject are presented in a series of pointed and aphoristic sentences; and the likeness is gained, as in a portrait of Rembrandt, by the powerful contrast and proximity of lights and shadows. Virtues and vices stand side by side, like the black and white squares of a chess-board. Brilliant as the execution is, the man Charles James Fox seems to us reproduced with more distinctness and individuality in the easier, simpler, more flowing sentences of Lord Brougham. Mr. Bancroft's sketch has something of the coldness as well as the sharp outline of bas-relief. And strange to say, considering Fox's love of liberty, his love of America, and his hatred of slavery, the historian of liberty and democracy seems hardly to have done him justice. In the summary of the contents of the chapters prefixed to the volume, he unreservedly writes down "Fox not a great man," and such is the impression which the text leaves on the mind; but if Fox was not a great man, to whom in the sphere of government and politics can that praise be accorded?

In his Preface to this volume, Mr. Bancroft informs us that one more volume will complete the American Revolution, including the negotiations for peace in 1782; and that for this the materials are collected and arranged, and that it will be completed and published without any unnecessary delay. This volume will bring into the field Spain, France, and Great Britain, as well as the United States, and, from the nature of the subject it presents, will undoubtedly be so treated by Mr. Bancroft as to be not inferior in interest or value to any of its predecessors.

Griffith Gaunt; or, Jealousy. By Charles Reade. With Illustrations. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.

In discussing the qualities of this remarkable novel before the readers of "The Atlantic Monthly," we shall have an advantage not always enjoyed by criticism; for we shall speak to an audience perfectly familiar with every detail of the story, and shall not be troubled to résumer its events and characters. There has been much doubt among many worthy people concerning Mr. Readers management of the moralities and the proprieties, but no question at all, we think, as to the wonderful power he has shown, and the interest he has awakened. Even those who have blamed him have followed him eagerly,—without doubt to see what crowning insult he would put upon decency, and to be confirmed in their virtuous abhorrence of his work. It is to be hoped that these have been disappointed, for it must be confessed that, in the dénouement of the novel, others who totally differed from them in purpose and opinion have been brought to some confusion.

It is not as a moralist that we have primarily to find fault with Mr. Reade, but as an artist, for his moral would have been good if his art had been true. The work, up to the conclusion of Catharine Gaunt's trial, is in all respects too fine and high to provoke any reproach from us; after that, we can only admire it as a piece of literary gallantry and desperate resolution. "C'est magnifique; mais ce n'est pas la guerre." It is courageous, but it is not art. It is because of the splendid elan in all Mr. Reade writes, that in his failure he does not fall flat upon the compassion of his reader, as Mr. Dickens does with his "Golden Dustman." But it is a failure, nevertheless; and it must become a serious question in aesthetics how far the spellbound reader may be tortured with an interest which the power awakening it is not adequate to gratify. Is it generous, is it just in a novelist, to lift us up to a pitch of tragic frenzy, and then drop us down into the last scene of a comic opera? We refuse to be comforted by the fact that the novelist does not, perhaps, consciously mock our expectation.

Let us take the moral of "Griffith Gaunt,"—so poignant and effective for the most part,—and see how lamentably it suffers from the defective art of the dénouement. In brief: up to the end of Mrs. Gaunt's trial we are presented with a terrible image of the evils that jealousy, anger, and lies bring upon their guilty and innocent victims. Griffith Gaunt is made to suffer—as men in life suffer—a dreadful remorse and anguish for the crimes he has committed and the falsehoods to which they have committed him. A man with a heart at first tender and true becomes a son of perdition, utterly incapable of tenderness and truth,—consciously held away from them by ever-cumulative force. The spectacle is not new,—it is old as sin itself; but it is here revealed with the freshest and most authentic power, and with a repelling efficacy which we have seldom seen equalled in literature. Mrs. Gaunt justly endures the trouble brought upon her by pride and unbridled bad temper, and unavoidably endures the consequences of another's wrong. Mercy Vint is a guiltless and lovely sacrifice to both almost equally.

What is the end? Mercy Vint is given in marriage to the honestest and faithfulest gentleman in the book, whose heroism we admire without envying. But in any case so good a woman would have achieved peace for herself, and it is at some cost to our regard for her entirety that we consent to see her rewarded by being made a nobleman's wife and the mother of nine children. In this character she lives a life less perfect and consequent than she might have led in a station less exalted, but distant from the circles in which she could not appear at the same time with the man who had infamously wronged her without exciting whispers painful to herself and embarrassing to her husband. Indeed, there seems to be rather more of vicarious expiation in her fate than the interests of population and of "young women who have been betrayed" have any right to demand.

Mrs. Gaunt fully expiates her error before her trial ends. But how of her husband? Mr. Reade seems to like his Griffith Gaunt, who is not to our mind, and who is never less worthy of happiness than at the moment when his wife forgives him. It is not that he is a bigamist and betrayer of innocence that his redemption seems impossible through the means employed; but how can Catharine Gaunt love a coward and sneak, even in the wisdom which a court of justice has taught her? This furious and stupid traitor is afraid to appear and save his wife lest he be branded in the hand; and we are to pardon him because, at no risk to himself, he gives the worthless blood of his veins to rescue her from death. If the fable teaches anything in Griffith Gaunt's case, it is this: Betray two noble women, and after some difficulty you shall get rid of one, be forgiven by the other, come into a handsome property, and have a large and interesting family. If the reader will take the fate of Griffith Gaunt and contrast it with that of Tito Melema, in "Romola," he shall see all the difference that passes between an artificial and an artistic solution of a moral problem.

Defective art is noticeable in the minor as well as the principal features of the dénouement of Griffith Gaunt. There is the case of the unhappy little baby of Mercy. It is plain that the infant is a stumbling-block in its mother's path to Neville Cross; but we have scarcely begun to lament its presence, when it is swiftly put to death by a special despatch from the obliging destiny of the denouement. The event is a coincidence, to say the least, and is scarcely less an operation than the transfusion of blood by which Griffith Gaunt and his wife are preserved to a long life of happiness. But this part of the work is full of wonders. The cruel enchantments are all dissolved by more potent preternatural agencies, and a superhuman prosperity dwells alike with the just and the unjust, Mrs. Ryder excepted, who will probably go to the Devil as some slight compensation for the loss of Griffith Gaunt.

But if the conclusion of the fiction is weak, how great it is in every other part! The management of the plot was so masterly, that the story proceeded without a pause or an improbability until the long fast of a month falling between the feasts of its publication became almost insupportable. It was a plot that grew naturally out of the characters, for humanity is prolific of events, and these characters are all human beings. They are not in the least anachronistic. They act and speak a great deal in the coarse fashion of the good old times. Griffith Gaunt is half tipsy when Kate plights her troth to him; and he is drunk upon an occasion not less solemn and interesting. They are of an age that was very gallant and brutal, that wore goldlace upon its coat, and ever so much profanity upon its speech; and Mr. Reade has treated them with undeniable frankness and sincerity. Mercy Vint alone seems to belong to a better time; but then goodness and purity are the contemporaries of every generation, and, besides, Mercy Vint's puritan character is an exceptional phase of the life of the time. It is admirable to see in this fiction, as we often see in the world, how wise and refined religion makes an ignorant and lowly-bred person. As a retrospective study, Griffith Gaunt cannot be placed below Henry Esmond. As a study of passions and principles that do not change with civilizations, it is even more excellent. Griffith Gaunt himself is the most perfect figure in the book, because the plot does not at any period interfere with his growth. We start with a knowledge of the frankness and generosity native to a somewhat coarse texture of mind, and we readily perceive why a nature so prone to love and wrath should fall a helpless prey to jealousy, which is a thing altogether different from the suspicion of ungenerous spirits. It is jealousy which drives Griffith to deceive Mercy Vint, for even his desolation and his need of her consoling care cannot bring him to it, and it is only when his triumphing rival appears that this frank and kindly soul consents to enact a cruel lie. The crime committed, there is no longer virtue or courage in the man, and we see without surprise his cowardly reluctance to do the one brave and noble thing possible to him, lest he be arrested for bigamy. The letter, so weak and so boisterous, which he gives Mercy Vint to prove him alive before the court, is in keeping with the development of his character; and it is not unnatural that he should think the literal gift of his blood to his wife a sort of compensation and penance for his sins against her. The wonder is that the author should fall into the same error, as he seems to do.

The character of Kate Gaunt is treated in the dénouement with a violence which almost destroys its identity, but throughout the whole previous progress of the story it is a most artistic and consistent creation. From the beautiful girl, so virginal and dreamy and insecure of her destiny in the world, with her high aspirations and her high temper, there is a certain lapse to the handsome matron united with a man beneath her in mind and spirit, and assured of the commonplace fact that in her love and duty to him is her happiness; but as Love must often mate men and women unequally, it is perfectly natural that Love in her case should strive to keep his eyes shut when no longer blind. Great exigencies afterwards develop her character, and it gains in dignity and beauty from her misfortunes, and we do not again think compassionately of her till she is reunited with Griffith. In spite of all her faults, she is wonderfully charming. The reader himself falls in love with her, and perhaps a subtile sense of jealousy and personal loss mingles with his dissatisfaction in seeing her given up again to her unworthy husband. She should have been left a lovely and stately widow, to whom we could all have paid our court, without suffering too poignantly when Sir George Neville finally won her.

Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie. By Henry W. Longfellow. With Illustrations by F. O. C. Darley. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.
Maud Muller. By John G. Whittier. With Illustrations by W. J. Hennessy. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.
The Vision of Sir Launfal. By James Russell Lowell. With Illustrations by S. Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.
Flower-de-Luce. By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. With Illustrations. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.

Of these volumes three have long since taken their place in the letters of America, and in the hearts of all who know and love the purest, the truest, and the best that poesy can oifer. To them in their secure position will now be added "Flower-de-Luce," Mr. Longfellow's latest volume, which, containing indeed for the most part only such lyrics as he has already contributed for desultory publication, is yet rich with the fruit of the deep insight, wise thought, earnest feeling, and ripe scholarship of his full maturity.

But it is not our purpose to pause in criticism over works that may fairly be said to have passed beyond the province of contemporary criticism. Rather is it our desire to welcome them as they are tendered to us in a new form, and to commend the artistic character of their presentation. For these books indicate that out of the many attempts which have been made in this country some of them most creditable, too, and nearly approaching thorough excellence to produce illustrative and mechanical effects equal to those of England and continental Europe, there has at last come an absolute accomplishment, from which we hope and are ready fo believe there will be no recession.

One book of great beauty would hardly raise our faith so far. It might be the result of a fortunate combination of propitious circumstances, an accident of which the best intent in the world could not cause a deliberate repetition, for chance can work well as easily as ill, may make a plan as simply as mar it, and none need be told how often the best-devised schemes "gang a-gley" by reason of some fortuity for which no allowance had been made.

But when from the same press there emanate in a single season several books, prepared at different times by different hands, although, of course, under the same general direction and supervision, the natural inference is, that something positive has been attained, either in the principle of manufacture, or in a better understanding of the elements which must enter into the composition of a really elegant book, and a juster estimate of the manner in which these elements are to be combined.

In the four books under consideration, all the necessary conditions appear to have been recognized and fulfilled. It is, of course, too much to say that they are perfect, and many who "are versed in the particulars of lineal art will perhaps find things which they might wish otherwise. But with all such qualification, these volumes show indisputably that in the matter of illustration and typography the New World is now quite the equal of the Old.

The artists engaged—to whose names, as mentioned above, should be added those of H. Fenn, G. Perkins, S. Colman, Jr., and W. Waud, as illustrators of "Flower-de-Luce"—are all men well known, and most of them are eminent in their profession. Each has had a subject which suited closely his capacity and taste, together, evidently, with the liberty of treating his theme according to his own discretion, and as amply as he pleased, the brief poem, "Maud Muller," for instance, having been supplied by Mr. Hennessy with thirteen illustrations, while in the other volumes equal liberality is manifest.

We have not the space to make, as we should like to do, an exact analysis of these volumes, comparing each artist's series of drawings, one by one, with his chosen passages of the text ; but a careful examination convinces us that as a whole these designs are remarkably appreciative and apt. Every person will .not expect his own ideal Evangeline or Sir Launfal to appear before him on the page, but every reflective mind will find, we think, such a parallelism between poetry and picture as is not only consistent with exactness, but will further serve to illuminate and beautify the text.

Intelligent or even inspired drawing is vain, if to it be not added faithfulness and fervor on the part of those whose handiwork follows that of the draughtsman, and upon whom his fate and fame greatly depend, the engraver and the printer. Heretofore it has seemed almost impossible for American representatives of these three arts to work together for good. The drawing might be faultless as it lay intact upon the wood, but the graver in a heedless hand or the manipulation of an injudicious pressman left little except the broad, indestructible characteristics in the impression which was eventually made public.

At last, let us be thankful, a new era has dawned, and we have here woodcuts which may confidently invite comparison with any as examples of the highest excellence which has yet been reached in this department. The thorough and intelligent workmanship of the University Press has preserved to us every line and shade which was intrusted to its care, and the prints are free alike from fade indistinctness and from rubious weight of color. The engraving which is so admirably represented is thoroughly good, and, to our thinking, it is of a better school than that which largely obtains in England at this time, and the degeneracy and slovenliness of which have been of late so much criticised and deplored by the best judges. The most of the designs have been engraved by Mr. A. V. S. Anthony, who ranks probably at the head of American engravers, and whose delicacy of feeling and touch, beautifully exemplified in the eighth and twelfth pictures of "Maud Muller," entitle much of his work to an estimation not far below that accorded to Linton or Thompson. The few remaining blocks were cut by Mr. J. P. Davis and Mr. Henry Marsh, who emulate most praiseworthily the excellence, skill, and fidelity of Mr. Anthony.

An American Family in Germany. By J. Ross Browne. New York: Harper Brothers.

If the author of this amusing book had been less devoted to his purpose of making fun, we think he could have made us a picture of German life which we should have been very glad to have in the absence of much honest information on the subject and the presence of a great deal of flimsy idealizing. As it is, we fear that his work, for the most part a truthful portraiture, will present itself only as a caricature to those unacquainted with the original, and that, for all Mr. Browne says to the contrary, many worthy people must go on thinking German life a romantic, Christmas-tree affair, full of pretty amenity, and tender ballads, and bon-bons. But some day, the truth will avenge itself, and without the least air of burlesque show us that often narrow and sordid existence, abounding in sensual appetites, coarse or childish pleasures, and paltry aims, and varnished with a weak and extravagant sentimentality, that social order still so feudally aristocratic and feudally plebeian, in which the poor are little better than vassals, and their women toil in the fields like beasts of burden, and the women of all classes are treated with rude and clumsy disesteem.

Mr. Browne's book is devotedly funny, as we hinted, but, in spite of this, is really very amusing. A Californian, rich from the sulriti guadagni of his shares in the Washoe mines, is carried to Frankfort by his enthusiastic wife, who is persuaded that Germany is the proper place to bring up American children. They live there in the German fashion, Mrs. Butterfield charmed and emulous of German civilization, Mr. Butterfield willing, but incorrigibly Californian to the last, and retaining throughout that amazing local pride in the institutions, productions, and scenery of his adopted State which Americans so swiftly acquire in drifting from one section of the Union to another. The invention of this family is not the least truthful thing in the book, which in many respects is full of droll good-sense and good humor.

Charles Lamb. A Memoir. By Barry Cornwall. Boston: Roberts Brothers.

It is not to any very definable cause that this charming book owes the interest with which it holds the reader throughout. It can scarcely be said to present the life or character of Lamb in a novel aspect, and even the anecdotic material in which it abounds does not appear altogether fresh. The very manner in which the subject is treated is that to which we are accustomed: for who has ever been able to write of Charles Lamb but in a tone of tender and compassionate admiration?

Something, however, better than novelty of matter or method appears in this Memoir, and makes it the best ever written concerning the fine poet, exquisite humorist, and noble man, whom it brings nearer than ever to our hearts. Much was to be expected of Mr. Proctor in such a work, though much would have been forgiven him if he had indulged himself far more than he has done in an old man's privilege to be garrulous upon old times and old friends, and had confined himself less strictly to the life and character illustrative of Lamb's. As it is, there is nothing concerning any of Lamb's contemporaries that we would willingly lose from this book. In these sketches of the humorist's friends the subtile and delightful touches bring out his own nature more clearly, and he appears in the people who surrounded him hardly less than in his essays or the events of his career; while Mr. Proctor's long acquaintance with Lamb becomes the setting to a more careful picture than we have yet had of his singularly great and unselfish life; and we behold, not a study of the man in this or that mood only, but a portrait in which his whole character is seen. The sweetest and gentlest of hosts, moving among his guests and charming all hearers with his stammered, inimitable pleasantry; the clerk at his desk at the India House, and finally released from it into a life of illimitable leisure; the quaint little scholar of Christ's Hospital; the quaint old humorist taking his long walks about his beloved London; the author, known and endeared by his books; the careworn and devoted man, hurrying through the streets with his maniac sister on his arm, to place her in the shelter of a mad-house, it is not some one of these alone, but all of these together, that we remember, after the perusal of this Memoir, so graceful in manner, so simple in style, and so thoroughly beautiful and unaffected in spirit. There is no story from which the reader can turn with a higher sense of another's greatness and goodness, or an humbler sense of his own.

Character and Characteristic Men. By Edwin P. Whipple. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.

If we should say this is a book that brings its author under its title, and that he is in every page of it to us the unconscious subject of his own pen, we might sufficiently express our sense of its reality and vital strength. But no self-introduction could be more modest or undesigned. We know of no volume in which vigor walks with less attendance of vanity, or less motion of covert egotism in the stalwart stride; yet the style, which proverbially is the man, does not lack decisive stamp, but is too peculiar to be confounded with any other. It is not flaming, or flowing, or architectural. It is not built, but wrought, with blows of the hammer. We should emphasize the writer's historic taste, but that his learning is so at the service of his philosophy that it never burdens, but only arms. There is a tough welding of principle with fact, and fetching of opposite poles together in the constant circulation betwixt ideas and events. Sometimes an excess of antithesis shows a little too much the wrinkled brow of thought, striving to put more into a sentence than it will fairly carry, and corrugating the elsewhere smoother lines, as in a hilly country there was said to be too much soil to be evenly disposed of, and so part of it had to be pushed up into the sky. But this roughness is better than thinness; and in Mr. Whipple's book there are passages of swift, grand eloquence, and of intense peace and depth. Wit and humor, native to our author, with no malignity or pride for an ally, combine with sentiment and reflection, and his talent is never wrapped up in a merely elegant phrase, but in plain and homely words is the delivery of his sense. We would cite, in proof of the justness of our criticism, such essays as those on "Character," "Intellectual Character," and "Washington and the Principles of the Revolution." Those on Thackeray and Nathaniel Hawthorne show, with appreciative praise, the literary doctor's fatal feeling of the patient's pulse. The courtesy of Everett is gracefully owned; and there is a fine glimpse of that face of Thomas Starr King, which did not seem so much to mirror the sun as to make the sunbeam a shadow of itself; while a just tribute is paid to the original and courageous genius and research of our great enthusiast and naturalist, Agassiz. But this is a book to be mastered only by a thorough perusal, and no hasty diagonal glance along the leaves can render justice to it. While deserving attention for its general merits of intelligence, morality, humanity, and a spiritual faith, which no eye of friendship is needed to discern, in the judiciary department of letters it has an unrivalled claim. For faculty of pure criticism we know not Mr. Whipple's equal. The judgment-seat shines in his eye. We seem to be hearing all the time the kindly sentence of an infallible sight. We should be afraid of the decree which such knowledge, intuition, imagination, and logic combine to pronounce, but that no grudge provokes, or bribe can ever bias the court; and, while its just conscience cannot acquit hollow pretensions, over its own decisions preside an absolute purity and the loftiest ideal of human life.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse