Obrazy na stronie


other spheres, we are taught literally no and to ask ourselves on what principles thing. Sir Walter Scott, as a novelist, for he proceeds in his elaborate philosophical instance, was an altogether peculiar and reflections. significant phenomenon, making its ap-. It is difficult, we confess, to ascertain dispearance in the midst of English litera tinctly what his philosophical views are ; ture, to revive the images of feudal life, but as near as we can gather them from the at a time when the whole current of the maxims and theories he is fond of sportworld was agitated, and rushing on to an ing, they amount to this: that man is unknown future. What then did he ex universally corrupt, destitute alike of the press, what were his uses, what his value goodness which should prompt him into to the age ? Can a thoughtful mind con the right path, and of the intellect always sider him, without asking questions such to discern it; and as an inevitable result, as these ? Has he any real interest to us, running perpetually into lamentable eras a fact of history, except in his re rors, from which he is alone saved by an lations to the general course of literature, inscrutable Providence. Thus, when a and to the general life of society? Yet Mr. French Revolution comes,

in sudden Alison is satisfied with a few personal de access of frenzy, to spread its wickedness tails, and a very vague talk about his over the continent, a sober and constitution

brilliancy of fancy,” his “poetic concep al England is raised up to stay the deluge tions,” his "great and varied powers," and of Jacobinism ; thus when a wicked Mr. that poetic temperament which "threw Peel contracts the currency or establishes over the pictures of memory, the radiance free trade, to the infinite damage of the of the imagination;" adding, as a proof, landed aristocracy, Providence opens the both of his morality and immortality, in way to California, to supply the precious true Alisonian style, that “nothing ever metals and give an impulse to emigration : permanently floated down the stream of thus, on every occasion when the iniquity time but what was buoyant from its and short-sightedness of mortals get them elevating tendency !"

into hopeless straits, Providence steps Coleridge was no less than Scott a no in with its methods of relief! Now, we table man, not in himself merely, but in have as much faith in Providence as Mr. the important influence which he exer Alison, but we differ from him in believcised upon the poetic taste of his genera ing that it works, through human agency tion, and the new era which he may be and according to a fixed and intelligible said to have created in the speculative ten order, which is no further inscrutable dencies of the English mind. More than than we are ignorant, and which shows any man of his age, therefore, he deserves no favor either “to the just or unjust," at the hands of the historian, a rigid but proceeds in every respect rationally, analysis of his splendid powers, and a because it is itself the Supreme Reason. careful estimate of his bearing upon con There was a class of talewrights and temporary thought. At the least, he dramatists in German literature, which should have been described as something somebody called the Need-and-Helpmore than a considerable poet, and an ex School, because it was their habit to allow cellent translator, “with a strongly meta their characters to fall into all manner of physical turn of mind," less abstract dangers and difficulties, in order at the criand philosophical,” though“ more picto tical moment to come to their aid, either by rial and dramatic” than Wordsworth, providing some unexpected rescue, or killand not destined to "lasting celebrity," ing them all off at once. They very well because his "ideas and images are too ab illustrate the kind of Providence to which stract."

Mr. Alison seems to commit the universe, Our readers may, perhaps, object that -a Providence which creates a certain it is too much to expect of Alison any number of ninnies and villains, places philosophical view, either of men them in the midst of the scenery in which things; and we should admit the force of they are to move, sets them at work until the objection if he were not constantly they are all at loggerheads and begin to thrusting his reflections, which are meant throttle the life out of each other, and then. to be philosophical, into the course of at last, interposes to make a display of its his narrative. For not content with his own adroitness and compassion. verbose details of incidents, and his at We say this seems to be his theory of tempted portraitures of character, he deals the course of providential guidance, inassweeping judgments “round the land,” ut much as he is not always consistent in tering them with the most positive confi his expositions, accounting for the French dence, and claiming for them at times the Revolution, in one place, for example, authority of Heaven. We are bound, by alleging that it was a part of "the consequently, to look a little into his universal frenzy which at times seizes right to assume this lofty judicial attitude, mankind from causes inscrutable to hu-

VOL. 1.-37



man wisdom ;” and yet, in another place, assigning a dozen natural causes, in the oppressions of the previous reigns, for all its sanguinary violence; or again, insisting on the radical depravity of man, and his inevitable tendency to all sorts of self-destruction, while at the same time he tries to make out that there is, after all, a steady progress and general improvement of the race. But, it is evident that both these views cannot be true; for if there is progress, there must be a law of progress, and consequently, no incessant proclivity to evil; or if there is that uniform proclivity to evil, then there can be no general progress, only a capricious, occasional, and useless fluctuation between good and evil. We must do Mr. Alison the justice, however, to confess that for the most part he adopts the obscurant theory, or that view of human affairs which, when it cannot confirm its own prejudices by the actual facts of the case, refers the whole to inscrutable wisdom.

As a matter of course, then, he distrusts all popular movements, even to the extent of doubting whether popular education does any good ; regards representative government every where as a failure, detesting the United States especially, because it is an illustrious example of its success; imagines England to be on the verge of bankruptcy and dissolution, because freetrade has been carried there, and the popular element of the constitution is coming into the ascendant ; is filled with consternation by every proposal of change, and vaticinates like another Jeremiah over the entire future. In short, we do not know a philosopher on the face of the earth, who, if his own philosophic essayson man and nature are correct, ought to feel more uncomfortable than he, in the present advancing condition and brightening prospects of mankind.

We shall not, therefore, quarrel with him for his inveterate, silly, and miserable toryism; nor take him to task, as we might, for those reiterated misrepresentations in which he chooses to indulge in respect to the character and progress of Democracy, particularly as it has developed itself in this country (for he appears quite incorrigible in both respects, being either insensible to the force of facts, or meanly unwilling to admit them), but, on the contrary, we shall proffer him our sincerest compassion for the difficulties of his position. A man who writes the history of the nineteenth century, under a serious conviction that its experiences are a solemn warning against liberalism, is one of the saddest spectacles that can be presented to our eyes. The labor of Sisyphus was nothing to his: the fruitless experiments of the Danaides

were nothing. in short, nothing but that swimming pig, by which Southey in the Devil's Walk, illustrates England's commercial prosperity, can be his parallel. Every stroke that he makes only cuts his own throat,-every fact that he records upsets his theory. Or, rather, he is obliged to read the riddle of things backwards. We ought not consequently to have been surprised, as we were a little way back, that Mr. Alison should give such sterile and incomplete accounts of the great movements in literature, science and practical art, which have distinguished the years of which he writes. If he had done so, with any completeness, he would have been compelled to abandon his obscurantism, and to adopt a view of the progress of human affairs quite damaging to his pet notions of the extreme naughtiness and littleness of God's last creation, Man. He was prudent, if not wise, in time!

Gervinus, one of the most accomplished and profound of German historians, lately sentenced to prison at Baden for the publication of his opinions, taking up the doctrine of Aristotle, that the law of human development was from the participation of the few to that of the many in government, demonstrates and confirms it by the subsequent experience of two thousand years. It is not a fancy, he says, nor an opinion, nor a declamatory phrase, nor a hypothetical judgment, but the ab solute, scientific order, as certain as the courses of the stars, or the process of growth in the individual being. But what Gervinus proves, mainly in the political sphere, made still more manifest by the entire course and consequence of the develop ment of literature and science, is particularly striking in the wonderful achievements of the last half century. In the death-blows which it has given to the old feudal and aristocratic maxims and practices, in the ame liorations it has wrought in the spirit of the laws, in the growing political power, moral elevation, and intellectual enlightenment of the masses of the people, in the almost universal diffusion of letters, as well as in their humanitarian tone, in the greater cheapness of all the appliances of everyday life, whereby the luxuries of the past age have become the daily comforts of this. in the prodigious movements imparted to trade, by the discovery of new outlets for population, new fields for labor, new rewards for enterprise ; in short, in the indescribably numerous and inexhaustible sources of enjoyment and wealth, bestowed upon all communities by the revelations of science and their practical ap plications, we find the condition of mankind advanced beyond even the dreams of

the most sanguine enthusiasts of former generations, and we see in them, also, a pledge of the more rapid and surprising conquests of the future. But Mr. Alison finds in them, and sees in them, no such things; finds in their past effects only a disturbance of his cherished notions of law and order, and sees in their future promises only another " dispersion of mankind,” like that on the plains of Shinar, produced, too, by the same unholy pride and ambition which raised the vain tower at Babel !

Now it is because he does not find and see these things, or, in other words, because he does not comprehend the spirit of the age he undertakes to describe, but stands in a relation of antagonism to it, that we pronounce him quite incapable of his task. We do not wish any actual specimens of his unskilfulness to convince us of his unfitness. He may string facts together with never so much industry, describe isolated scenes with the animation of a Napier, analyze individual character with the eye of a Scott; but so long as the characters and events he portrays are no more than so many shadows dancing upon the wall, -as they must be to the mind which has no clear and consistent clue to their movements, in a knowledge of their interior spirit, -he cannot become their historian. Á Sandwich islander, suddenly placed before the footlights at Niblo's, when Sontag or Alboni is electrifying the intelligent spectators with splendid visions of beauty and enjoyment, might as well hope to write a competent criticism of the performance for the next day's Tribune, as a historian of Mr. Alison's sympathies to depict the Nineteenth Century. Granting that he sees the incidents and events with as comprehensive and minute an eye as any other man, he can yet see only the outside of them, like the Otaheitan at the play; he does not see the motives of the performer, nor the scope of the drama. The principle which explains all—the struggle for human freedom-that contest of man for the mastery of nature, of society, of himself, which is the open secret of all history, he winks out of sight, and puts in its place

some marrowless, and conservative, highchurch dogma.

Nor is it less true of history in general, than it is of the history of the last half century, that without this guiding principle of freedom, it is a vast and innavigable ocean, clouded with mists, and darkness. The historian, who puts his little bark forth into it, moves forward without compass or chart. Innumerable counter-currents of tradition baffle him on all sides; huge sand-banks of authority arrest his course; the coral reefs of prejudice and the wrecks of stranded systems scrape his keel, the storms and winds of fierce war harry the atmosphere, so that he is driven he knows not whither, and makes the shore, when he arrives at all, by the merest chance. But had he carried with him the chart and compass, supplied by even a dim perception of that great law of freedom, which is the principle of all the evolutions of history, he might have defied the tempests and mastered the stormy seas, beholding beyond the chaos of the elements, a beautiful sunshine and the green world of peace.

But, without protracting this discussion, which the amiable editors of Putnam warn us already encroaches upon the limits they usually assign to their heavier articles, let us close by saying that this, then, is our estimate of the great English historian: that he is an exceedingly patient collector of facts, and sometimes an animated, but generally a drowsy and bungling narrator of them; that his style is too often slipshod, awkward and ungrammatical ; that his statements may be relied upon for the most part, except where the United States and democratic institutions are concerned, when his vehement prejudices bewray him into the grossest misrepresentations; but that his alarming deficiency in any general views, especially in broad and consistent principles of historical philosophy, which would enable him to detect the real inward life of society, renders him quite incompetent to a worthy discharge of the functions of an historian, especially of the period which he has undertaken to describe.

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FRIEND of my early days, true poet,

who, eagle-like, wouldst soar, in the flushed promise of thy scarce-fledged genius, sunward, undazzled; who, stricken down most sadly from thy pride of place among the empyrean stars of song, like that same eagle sore-imprisoned, now mopest thine uncounted days, with

“that noble and most sovereign reason, Like sweet bells jangled, ont of tune and harsh, That unmatched form and feature of blown youth Blasted with ecstacy—" it was with thee-with thee.

Never, never, shall I now forget that breathless, dewy morning of July, when escaping, or ere the early sun had turned the dusky fleece of summer cloudlets into rose and amber, from the smoke and din and concourse of the awakening city, we sallied forth, well mounted, with hearts as light as our fleet horses' hoofs, with innocent intent, like that Earl Percy, whose rude legend was wont to stir the gentle heart of Sydney more than a trumpet

*. Our pleasure in the Highland woods,

That summer day to take.' How lovely was that sunrise, as we beheld it from the grassy esplanade, which lies along the brink of the storm-scarred Palisades, five hundred feet above the serene bosom of the brimful azure Hudson-an esplanade of smooth green mossy sward, as soft and even as if it had been pruned by the nibbling bidents of England's far-famed south-downs, stretching out, mile after mile, a graceful perspective of green undulations, like a velvet ribbon, not wider than an artificial race-course, or the wood-drive in some noble park, between the unshorn natural forest, and the half basaltic columnar precipices.

Broad and red the great sun rose, bloody-colored through the thin transparent sea-mist, over the rounded green hills of Westchester, and lighted up the whole glorious scene; the great rejoicing river, studded with snow-white sails of gliding sloops and graceful schooners; the broad bay glancing like a sea of gold studded with castled islands; the mighty city half veiled in the hazy smoke-wreaths, above which shimmered in the light air the fiegs and signals of her ten thousand masts, and glanced in the mid azure the slender spire of the elder Trinity.

Around us, the free, fresh underwood sent up a thousand aromatic perfumes, as our horses' flanks dashed the diamond dew-drops from their heavy sprays. The ferns and grasses, crushed by the iron

shod hoofs, had each its peculiar spicy odor; and if old England's primroses and violets were wanting on the thymy banks, and no bush woodbines trailed their honeyed trumpets from the crags, the many-clustered blooms of the white and rose-colored azaleas, and the fragrant spikes of the delicate spirceas, wooed either sense as pleasurably; and the fivepinnated Virginian ivy, and the sweetscented clematis, festooned the gray rocks, and draped the shadowy junipers with equally luxuriant verdure.

The atmosphere was alive with the hum of the wild bees and hundreds of merry insects, children of summer and the sun; and the sadly-trickling woodnotes of the hermit-thrush were mingled with the livelier whistles of the migratory bird, which, fraught with old time memories, and the regretful longings after the rural homes of the ancestral island, our forefathers surnamed of the bird, dear to the hospitable hearth, sweet robin-red-breast.

The golden orioles flashed to and fro among the thickest verdure, like winged fire-flakes, carrying the insect food" to their callow young, swinging safe in their pensile nests from the gnarled branch of the red cedar. The little American hares bounced up from their forms, among the winter-greens and brambles, and cocking up their cottony scuts, dived into the underwood and disappeared ; and, here and there, is by chance some rill of cool spring-water, before tossing its silver thread over the verge of the grim rocks, expanded itself into a tiny swamp, and nourished a scattered growth of willowtufts and alder-bushes, a mother woodcock would flush up on whistling pinions, with her plump, ruddy breast and full black eye, and lead her weakly-fluttering, half-grown young, into some safer covert.

In itself, every thing was beautiful and calm, and rural—more, even, than ruralsylvan. Gazing around us, on this side the river, without a sound or a sight to remind us of man's intrusion on "boon nature's" wild demesne, we might, with no vast stretch of fancy, have imagined ourselves leagues aloof in the old unbroken wilderness

Where Indian footsteps rare intrude

To break the sylvan solitude. Yet, casting one glance to the farther bank, the trim suburban villas announced the near vicinity of the great hive of men, the voice of whose uproarious bells, and


the muffled roar of whose morning guns, sions, their very presence, were swallowed had but now spoken audibly to our fleshy up in the great inky shroud, whence is ears of the body, deafening the subtler sued at intervals à low, hoarse, grumorgans of the soul.

bling moan, preceded by a momentary And this contiguity it is of contrasts livid streak veining the blackness; by which lends such a charm to the land which we knew that the thunder-spirits scape scenery of America. Despite the had not deserted their old haunts in the newness, the raw, just finished look of Highlands. the towns, to which Dickens has so Perhaps it was the distant growlings humorously alluded in one of his spicy of the storm, perhaps the fidgetiness of caricatures, there is every where in the our horses-for that animal, as I have ofcountry, so soon as the wanderer's foot ten observed, is singularly sensitive to the has left the pavement, and before his presence of electricity in the atmosphere ears have lost the din of the city, an as —that recalled us from the contemplation pect of untutored and almost primeval of the noble view to more sublunary rusticity; a moss-grown charm of sylvan things. But when we were so awakened, eld, that involuntarily recalls the mind, if and found our good steeds bathed in dark not to Arcadian fancies, at least to the sweat, and that sweat chafed into white stranger realities of the stupendous change creamy lather, wherever bridle rein or which has occurred in these most familiar stirrup leather had turned the hairscenes within the narrow compass of two though we had not in the last five miles centuries.

exceeded a foot's pace-we resolved to No other country in the world can: make a brief halt in that pleasant place, point to scenes of almost primitive nature, both for the refreshment of our animals, still haunted by some of the shyest and and the consolation of our inner selves, wildest of the animal creation, in so near with such slight provisions as our sandcontiguity to the abodes of a civilization wich boxes and hunting-flasks might furalmost super-civilized, and more than nish. Nigh twenty years have elapsed Sybarite luxuriousness.

since I saw that spot; in all human proAll these things, or many of them for bability I shall never see it again ; and, Boz had not yet spoken to his world-wide were I to see it, I should most likely fail audience, and the lucubrations of Martin to recognize a single feature; but by some Chuzzlewit slept yet unformed in the strange freak of memory, which has womb of futurity-we babbled of, as we slurred over in oblivion a hundred nearer rode along, careless of time, and giving and more important matters, I remember ourselves up wholly to the enjoyment of every small particular of that scene, every the pleasant season, and to the impulsive accident of light and shade, as clearly as thoughts which sprang from each new if I had looked upon it yesterday. Yet object, that presented itself to our admira it was nothing. Nothing but the like of tion or our wonder.

which we all look upon every day, withMorning had melted before the fervors out notice enough, even, that we should of hot noon, as we pursued our way, heed say we forget it. less, if not unconscious, of distance; and A large white-oak tree shed a wide at length, as we reached a loftier summit shadow over the green sward, quite to the of the Palisades, beyond which the con edge of the precipice; and above the oak, tinuous line of columnar ramparts, whence above all the surrounding trees of the their familiar name, is interrupted by a somewhat stunted forest, towered the gideep wooded lap or basin, opening softly gantic skeleton of what had once been a to a cove of the great river, we paused, colossal white-pine, now barkless and drew bridle, and sat still.

weather-beaten, but still erect and stately, At first, we halted, on impulse only, to and pointing with its sapless arms to the gaze with earnest eyes on the splendid four winds of heaven. Above the sumprospect which greeted us; for we had mit of the pine, again, the work of man's advanced so far, that we might behold busy hands, rose a tall spear, secured with the huge barriers of the Hudson High bolts and braces, and capped by what lands upheaving themselves in vast, closely resembled a huge extinguisher of solemn, purple masses before our eyes, bright tin—the whole forming, strangely while above them, and through the out of place in that wild bit of unshorn breaks in their undulating outline. the forest, one of the triangulation stations triple summit of the distant Kaatskills of the coast survey, which was then laslept in a soft, cerulean shadow against boring, with its unequalled industry and the bright horizon. Anon, we might see science, on that portion of the Atlantic the fleecy masses of clouds gather, and sea-board. Immediately in front of us, thicken and grow dark, over the distant as we sat under the cool freshness of the mountains, until their form, their dimen oak, after picketing our horses duly wa.

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