« PoprzedniaDalej »
his dinner with satisfaction both evolved among us with such comto the inner man of inclination pleteness in these later days. Mr and the physical necessities of be- Lowell is himself the fine type of ing. But it is so quite a different which that image is the exaggeracategory that Mr Lowell's fine con- tion. The peculiar development coction belongs. The rude appe- which has in it so much of the tite might reject it as washy; the recoil from over-practical surrefined accepts its fine combination roundings, and the fastidious indiof lightly flavoured essences as the vidualism in which a number of fit beginning of a feast.
educated men shut out from public The writer is one of those Ameri. life are so apt to take refuge—is cans—nay, is perhaps the American softened in him not only by a par excellence who has wrought native geniality always delightful that change in public opinion in to encounter, but by the only respect to his country which, to practical touch which seems posan observer who has lived long sible to the highest class of letenough to be aware of it, is one tered American-the uses of the of the most curious things in re- diplomatic service, which give more cent history . When Dickens consistency and solidity than mere crossed the Atlantic, and produced literature imparts. More especithose • Notes' which are now ante- ally during his last tenure of office, diluvian, the Yankee was still an Mr Lowell has been the darling of object pour rire-always a comic polite society, which has not only figure wherever produced, and with loved and prized him as is his due, a sharp prejudice attached to him, but has been highly amused by the probably derived from the days of occasional rougher lick, as of a ReRepudiation, which many an Eng- publican tongue, with which it has lish household then remembered pleased him to season that overkeenly, but which now most people, refinement which is the special and above all the sinners them- quality of his race. No man has selves, have forgotten. It was been in such request for those kind of revelation to the super- elegant little essay-speeches which ficially judging, slightly informed have become a necessity of the masses when the war broke out, times—speeches which, without and there was displayed to us, taking the place of the more through the smoke and clouds, a general after-dinner article, has deglimpse of something like society-- vancé that heavier performance and rural families of established posi- improved upon it, as it is the mission tion, in a word, the gentlemen of the graceful American to do. whom we had not hitherto dis- Address on unveiling the bust covered in America. This, more of Fielding—Address on unveiling than anything else, we believe, the bust of Coleridge-Address as engendered that English leaning president of the Wordsworth Soto the cause of the South, which ciety,--such are some of the compuzzled and exasperated so many ponents of which this little book people both on this side of the is made up, all of them felicitous, Atlantic and on that. Probably pleasant to hear, just enough to it is for our sins in this descrip- accentuate the mild enthusiasm of tion that the American gentleman such occasions, when all was thin
—that all-cultured and accom- and fine and delicate, and any speplished being, the last and finest cial vigour of sentiment or opinion type of dilettante, for whom all was unnecessary. We ask ourthe ages have laboured-has been selves, however, whether it was
worth the trouble to reprint them? It ought to be interesting, howA book is a book, whether it is ever, to hear what such a writer has much worth keeping on our shelves to say upon the subject of Democor not. We have heard of an racy. Who so well qualified to judge expedient employed by the owner of the results of such a régime, and of a number of books—whom the advantages of it, as one of the we will not call, however, a book- most highly trained representatives lover—who burns his superfluous of the greatest democracy in the volumes at the end of the year, world ? It is true that Mr Lowell, and makes ghastly mirth over the like so many more of his countrypleasantness with which they con- men, makes his appreciation of the sume away into solid redness like a systems of government of his nablock of wood. Our soul shrinks tive country apparent, by spending from the thought. Burn a book! as little of his time as is practicaas well almost burn a man; nor ble under their immediate sway. would we have the mind be moved But, on the other hand, a demoby the badness or smallness of the cratic Government has the wit to book, any more than we could with employ his services, which is somesafety allow that an ugly, petty, thing in its favour, although not or deformed man might be given to leave him, as would have been up to the flames. The principle better still, to represent his country in this case is everything. There- permanently at the Court of St fore there lies a great responsi- James's, where he was so entirely bility upon the head of him who a persona gratissima. The short adds unnecessarily to the number address on this subject which of books. We excuse with the gives its name to this little volume warmest fellow-feeling the was delivered at Birmingham, not who has no other means of utter- an inappropriate place in which to ance, and must publish or die. discuss such a problem ; and it is But Mr Lowell had already got, rather in the character of an apolhot and hot, that incense of hu- ogist of democracy, making out man praise which is so sweet to that it is not so bad as it seems, most men. He had already been and that it has not at all done the applauded, caressed to the echo, harm that might have been expectand, no doubt a motive still more ed from it--which is a thing that present with him, had already done may be said of all systems of govall the good he was likely to do, ernment--that Mr Lowell speaks. in - respect of Fielding and the And also that it is a system of poets. Why, then, reprint these which, since we cannot stem the genial and pretty addresses, which advancing tide oi it, it is expedihad served their purpose so well? ent to make the best. " There is Every principle in our soul rises no good,” he says, “in arguing up against the suggestion of burn- with the inevitable. The only ing: but
know what will argument available with an east happen. We will keep this little wind is to put on your great-coat. volume on our shelves in a dusty corner until that end of time which “ To the door of every generation comes to all men arrives to us: there comes a knocking; and unless and then it will be carted away
the household, like the Thane of with a shoal of other such and sold Cawdor and his wife, have been doing
a deed without a name, they need waste paper. Why put this
not shudder. It turns out at worst burden upon a respectful critic's to be a poor relation who wishes to soul?
get in out of the cold. The porter
always grumbles, and is slow to open, racy are all of the palliative kind. • Who's there, in the name of Beelze. There is no doubt perfect reason bub ?' he mutters. Not a change for in his ironical complaint of the the better in our human housekeep
European ing has ever taken place that wise and good men have not opposed it, countries are good enough to send have not prophesied, with the alder- over to us, who have not attained man, that the world would wake up to the same skill in the manufacto find its throat cut in consequence ture of them; ” but it is perhaps a of it. The world, on the contrary, more doubtful conclusion when he wakes up, rubs its eyes, yawns, boasts that—“We have taken from stretches itself
, and goes about its Europe the poorest, the most igbusiness as if nothing had happened. Suppression of the slave-trade, aboli: norant, the most turbulent of her tion of slavery, trade-unions—at all people, and have made them over of these excellent pecple shook their into good citizens, who have added heads despondingly, and murmured, to our wealth, and who are ready
Ichabod.' But the trade-unions are to die in defence of a country and now debating instead of conspiring, institutions which they know to and we all read their discussions with be worth dying for.” We most comfort and hope, sure that they are
earnestly hope it may prove so, learning the business of citizenship and the difficulties of practical legis
and we have great faith in at once lation."
the assimilating power and the
uncompromising logic of that It is a whimsical comment upon strong American character which these words to read in the last is a new fact among the nations. number of the Century,' one of But there is no doubt that to abthe best-known of American maga- sorb all that scum of Europe, and zines, a stern attack upon the valu- reduce it to harmlessness, is no able institutions last commended, easy task. Mr Lowell is full of under the title of " A Tyranny epigrams, as might be expected. that cannot live in America." The Nothing is
natural for anonymous writer who makes this people whose education has been attack speaks somewhat big about neglected than to spell evolution “the people's instinctive percep- with an initial r,” he says. " Let tion of the fact that equality of us be of good cheer, remembering opportunity brings a differentiation that the misfortunes hardest to of natural abilities, and secures to bear are those that never come." the State the best results of the It is always pleasant to meet with greatest powers." “ All classes of those winged little sayings which society,” he adds, “ with a single attach themselves to our memories. exception, have learned the lesson There is one thing, however, on thoroughly and applied it; organ- which we may take this occasion ised labour alone refuses to admit to say our say. “ People are conits truth, and strives to resist its tinually saying that America is in application.” We wonder which the air,” Mr Lowell tells us : " and is right: and whether it will be I am glad to think it is, since this found that the trades-unions which means only that a clearer concepMr Lowell amiably commends for tion of human claims and human debating instead of conspiring, are duties is beginning to be prevalent." a tyranny which America will not It may mean that, though we endure.
scarcely think so; but it does asMr Lowell's plea, however, is suredly mean a confusion of magboth dignified and genial, though nitudes and a false impression of his arguments in favour of democ- greatness, which the present half
amused complacency of the English grandiloquence, which is no honour, mind toward America, and friendly but rather a wrong in its unreality, desire to humour and please the to persons and things which dekindred nation, confirms and real. serve all esteem and sympathy. ises. By what right, for instance, He is speaking of the death of has Longfellow his place in the General Garfield, a most touching spot sacred to the flower of English event, which moved all nations, genius? Because he is an Ameri- and especially Britain, with incan !_not, surely, nobody will pre- terest and sympathy of the deepest tend it, because he is a great poet, and purest kind. But yet we canfit to stand in the presence of not but feel an uneasy touch of Shakespeare and Milton, of Dryden exaggeration almost ludicrous in and Pope, of Wordsworth and the terms which are used. Coleridge. The most fervid Ameri
" That death scene was more than can cannot claim that place for the singular; it was unexampled. The gentle and facile writer, whom whole civilised world was gathered simple minds love, but who has about it in the breathless suspense no more claim to the rank of the of anxious solicitude-listened to the Sovran Poet than a hundred minor difficult breathing-counted the flutsongsters. Our good-nature, and tering pulse – was cheered by the that desire to be gracious to our the inevitable relapse. And let us
momentary rally, and saddened by big cousin which is characteristic of thank God and take courage, when the time, betrays us into the most we reflect that it was through the insincere flattery, and betrayal of manliness, the patience, the religiall standards of excellence in this ous fortitude of the splendid victim, way. Longfellow is no more the that the tie of human brotherhood equal of our glorious dead than
was thrilled to a consciousness of its
sacred function. . . It is no Washington Irving and – oh,
exaggeration to say that the probathos! – Mr N. P. Willis, are foundly touchirg spectacle of wofit to be placed on the level of manly devotedness, in its simplicity, Addison and Montaigne. We will its constancy, and its dignity, has go further and say, that instead moved the heart of mankind in a of chiming in with these absurd manner without any precedent in claims as it is now usual to do, living memory.” out of an equally absurd amia- This might all be genuine enough bility, we will not even admit the in a moment of deep feeling, and plea that though these heroes the sight of the good plain man, are not very great, they are great who had no pretension to be a comparatively, as the product of “splendid victim," fighting for his
young a country. No, we life through so many weeks, and do not allow it. It is the more of his wife's faithful nursing, did shame to America, in all her great. indeed touch everybody's heart; ness and strength, and freshness but not because of the unexampled and youth, with everything that sight : rather because it appealed ought to inspire, and enlarge, and to the fellow-feeling of humanity give size and splendour to her to men who knew what it genius, that she has nothing greater was to hold head against danger to produce than these. And Eng- and death, and women who had land, her old mother, is to blame nursed their husbands not less for echoing the crow of satisfied faithfully or long, without any apvanity with which they are pre- plause, or thought of it. And, sented to us. Mr Lowell himself after all, these fine words, which gives a specimen of this kind of were perhaps justified by the emo
tion of the moment, ring false series of pretty small books in
General Garsield was not a which they have presented various splendid victim offering himself for American novelists to this country. his country: he was a brave and The book before us is entitled good man, the victim of one of ‘Humorous Masterpieces.'? There those appalling accidents which are
two hundred of these sometimes make our human life or more, and they are all the proappear as if it were the sport of duction of American writers of fate or malignant demons. We the present century—nay, of half gave our sympathy, our anxious of the present century. Two hunhopes and fears, to the daily re- dred (or more) humorous mastercorded struggle. But we cannot pieces ! Imagine the exuberance give now assent to these of this new literature ! We in the swelling words. The French Old World could count our humorarchbishop who died upon the ists capable of producing masterbarricade was far more obviously pieces upon the fingers certainly a splendid victim ; but no one em- of both hands—perhaps of one, to ployed such a phrase in respect to be rigid : and in America they him. And it is really necessary, have already got fifty-five! This with America so much in the air, is a thing bewildering to the to make a protest on the subject. slower-going intellect on this side We are
not going to be made of the Atlantic. We have had to translate mediocre verse into two in our generation, and we deathless poetry, or honest excel- think ourselves very well off: and lence into greatness sublime, even
in America we
are aware there to please America. The laws of are doubts whether even these magnitude and littleness are un- two have much claim to the name. alterable.
They are not to be But the great Republic, in this as changed because the competitor in so many other ways, beats creabelongs to a new country, any tion. True, the humour is not more than because he himself is always of a very exquisite kind. young. The fate of Young Kirke There is a good deal about the White was as touching as that of vagaries of the “help,” Irish and young Keats, but we do not put black, which could not perhaps them in the same class; neither appear in a more carefully formed can we put Longfellow by the side of selection by the side of Sir Roger even Lord Tennyson, not to speak of de Coverley; and several conhis great predecessors—or General tributions concerning the difficulGarfield among those heroes and ties of gardening, a mild subject martyrs whose fame belongs to the which scarcely comes up to the civilised world.
Sentimental Journey,' and doTo step down a great deal lower mestic incidents of various dein the scale-a descent from Mr scriptions—courtships, bets, debts, Lowell which is like a tumble from oddities, and perplexities--none of the stars here is a bundle of which (though Mr Howells does three tolerably-sized volumes, pro- not think so very much of him) duced in very nice print and bind- could, we fear, stand competition ing by Messrs Douglas of Edin- even with those • Sketches by Boz,' burgh, a firm of publishers who which were a poor introduction of have done very good work by the Dickens. Now we have not the
1 Humorous Masterpieces from American Literature. T. Mason. Edinburgh : David Douglas.
Arranged by Edward