« AnteriorContinuar »
the countenances of her friends, that there was no further remedy. But this seemed to have no effect upon her mind.
In the latter part of the night it was evident that the hand of death was upon her, and she was fully sensible of it. But her composure and her expressions of confidence in God continued. While one was praying at her bed-side hé besought the Lord to mitigate her sufferings, when she added in a strong voice, "or give me patience to bear them. Thy will be done, O God." | These remarks were made by her on several similar
When near her last she was asked, "Do you find Jesus precious still?" "O yes," says she, "he is more than precious." The morning of the day on which she died, being very pleasant, it was observed to her, "This is a beautiful day on which to enter heaven." "Yes," said she, "and I shall soon be there." "Yes," the person observed to her, "you will soon unite with your dear children and friends now in heaven." "O yes," said she, "I shall be no stranger in heaven." And for the first time in her life, perhaps, she shouted, "Glory, glory to God in the highest; blessed be the name of the Lord." The names of several of her connections, besides her children, were mentioned, as being in heaven. She supplied several names omitted.
When the coldness of death extended almost over her whole system, she was asked if Jesus was still precious? She answered, "Yes, indeed." These were among the last, if not the last words she pronounced. She frequently endeavored, after her hands were as cold as ice, to unite them, but could not, while her soul was uplifted to God. And such was her end, at Longwood, near Louisville, Kentucky, the 5th of December, 1841. In her, death was divested of all its horrors. The chamber in which she died seemed to be consecrated; and had it not been for the sufferings of the body, would have appeared more like heaven than earth.
In this sketch many things are omitted which might have been appropriately mentioned. The charities of the deceased have not been referred to. To the extent of her means, she clothed the naked and gave bread to the hungry. She sought, especially at Washington, the haunts of poverty, and administered relief to the unfortunate-not to the vicious. A just discrimination was always observed in her charities. But these acts were done in so private and unostentatious a manner, that her nearest connections were only made acquainted with them by accident. The Scripture injunction in such things, not to let one hand know what the other doeth, was strictly observed by her.
The leading qualities of her character were, abiding affection, deep sincerity, and surpassing moral firmness. Her mind was susceptible of high cultivation and of great expansion.
MENTAL pleasures never cloy; unlike those of the body, they are increased by repetition, approved of by reflection, and strengthened by enjoyment.
WE hardly ever read a review or a literary criticism, in any form, but what the question again presents itself to us, " Why is criticism so much respected-why so much dreaded?" To detail its history would require more references than we have any recourse to; and would also, in its progress, engross learning, to which we make no claim. Its history we attempt not to present; and yet we may, with a clever simplicity, guess, that it had no very large beginnings, nor any specific pretensions in its commencement, but was only the word-of-mouth comment of some reader, who besides the argument and the incident of a book, gave yet a third look, and either did, or did not, "quite like the way in which the thing was told," &c. A neighbor, perhaps, fancied differently, or for talk's sake took the other side of the question. May be too, he was a little witty, or, what should more provoke the derision of his opponent, pretended to a wit which he had not, and yet succeeded in calling up the laugh of the by-standers against the other. This was too bad-'twas unpassable and unpardonable. The dispute, we see, has by this time got into second hands; and 'tis not now the book, but the superior cleverness of the two antagonists, who make it their text in avenging each other, which is now the stake-and which shall, perhaps, in the course of discussion, elicit all the pedantry and all the egotism of both. But the book, the unlucky book, shall be lashed into an undeserved notoriety, or be, perhaps, condemned to a premature oblivion, not for its own sins, but for the sins of its commentators.
Why, then, should not individuals assume to weigh the merits of the commentator himself; especially as it regards his ability for the vocation assumed? And even if he is found worthy of the office by mental sufficiency, let us reflect how many other qualities and qualifications it shall yet require to constitute a critic. Not only truth, but candor is wanted. And besides thorough literary accomplishment, there should be taste and tact; and to the addition of good will and good humor, a yet further judgment and allowance of the position, age, desert, and opportunities of those "under the question:" and all these amenities for the author should be held in check by an impartiality so fair, that the balance should neither fall short nor exceed, by a breath of concession, nor a hair's breadth of censure. May be with all sufficient endowments for the office, we have yet seldom seen the critic who was practically what he might be.
To refer, from across the water, to the earliest which we ever saw: "The Edinburg," "Blackwood's," and the "Quarterly." These giants in the art of criticism, were notorious for opposition and partisanship. And what the one would, for that cause only, it would sometimes seem to us, that another would not. And the poor book, bepraised by the Hercules of the North, should but "defer its fate," and be made succumb to the Jupiter Tonans of the South-having its choice of demolition. We allow that the public, in the mean
time, were amused and enriched from the archives of || an innate system of might over right. And by this belles-lettres and black-letter; that wit and acumen, vicious selfishness, the actors betraying others are also whetted up by opposition and spurred on by rivalship,|| self-betrayed. made a stirring show in the literary arena; that attention was engrossed, and intellectuality was excited and rewarded. But when the magazines of wrath were expended, when the giants themselves were getting exhausted, then also was their victim, the book, annihilated and buried out of sight, under the more exciting spectacle of the combat itself.
The critic claims to sit in judgment upon the merits of a composition, as such. And as it regards literary proprieties in the peculiar sense of rules, terms, unities, suitableness of allusion, &c., we would accord to him a supremacy of dictation. But in some other particulars, as choice of subject, the fable, method of treatment, purpose, taste, tact, skill, &c., the reader may not unfrequently claim equality of decision-equal right of suffrage and opinion. And still further, as he would be faithful to the author and to himself, let him see the original work, (not always read,) and say whether the reviewer's ministration has been of fairness and truth, or of misrepresentation and prejudice.
The action of right is always salutary, and such a right is vested in us. The proverb says, "Our soul's our own;" which in reverence we suppose means, that under God, no man can fetter it. If we permit him, which is another matter, we betray the truth. We do indeed "sell our birth-right for a mess of pottage ;" and our posterity shall, in the meanness of their lineage, like the descendants of Esau, for many a day bewail our apostasy.
We would say that in accepting a critique, the review of an author, we would hold the critic in abeyance to our decision of his own fairness, before we go all lengths of opinion, or before we side with him at all. And for this purpose, let us by all means see the book itself, as well as the review of it.
We are often good-humored enough to laugh with the critic, may be at his wit; let us also be just enough to laugh at him, if in his jump of judgment he fall short of his aim, and expose himself to the hit intended for his author. Wit, we have said-but in soberness we do not admit that wit is a fair weapon in the case, albeit much of criticism is built upon it. Wit is not only not truth, but it is often adverse to it, sometimes its direct contrary. And this makes the point of our marvel, why this bugaboo criticism is held in so much dread, so unfair reverence. It is notorious that in all cases of popular interest or discussion, whether of politics, polemics, of civil or even of literary questions, a party is formed; and the adherents on either side are not only warm and in earnest, but they are often zealous to the measure of blinding themselves to the merits of the cause at issue-and yet worse, of blinding themselves to their own fairness of decision. And this error once allowed, gains force by the nature of the thing itself: the exciting and the stimulating of passion and party, over offended truth, embroils a true judgment, and establishes as it were,
Whatever may be the stimulus in regard to closer interests, this matter of literary partisanship, in the outset, is often arbitrary and purely gratuitous. To the fair and proper critic we would defer; but we cannot assume that every reader in his vivacity of dissent or of championship, is influenced by his own delighted or offended tastes. If he is neutral in these conditions of a critic, perhaps it were better that he also preserved a neutrality of opinion-or rather, we would say, of expression-and assuming to himself the pacific sanction of, "None so impertinent as an intermeddler," shall leave the belligerents of the schools to fight out their own battles, in their own way. But if such an one will assume to dictate, we would hint that he is, not very modestly perhaps, making his own judgment, instead of his author's, the standard of the public liking. This is especially so as it regards subjects peculiarly of taste; for which, although there is a standard, yet few authors affect to reach it, and few readers are so hypercritical as to demand a thorough and continued conformity to it in the book.
This being pretty nearly the state of the case, why is it that criticism is so much dreaded-so much feared? Certainly the book criticised is essentially what it was before the critic took it in hand. No comment of his shall either enhance or detract from its intrinsic merits. If he deals fairly, in condemning he but makes an exposition of weaknesses and errors, which certainly were better amended than left. Suppose that in the writer there have been errors of ignorance, not of imposition, is it not a simple thing, if conviction have wrought its work, to acknowledge them-nobly and simply acknowledge them, without all that suffering before the public? Such apology is due them, as readers; but no more, no sacrifice of feeling for an unintentional fault. The author who makes this apology, gives earnest by this act of candor, that by-and-by at least, he will evolve that measure of truth for his readers, which is in him, and for which they shall yet have cause to thank him. But if he lets a selfish vanity sink him, he must sink.
If the criticism is not just, many a reader will find it out. And although ridicule may have pointed its shaft, the laugh elicited shall be light and transient, detracting not from the authority of individual opinion, and involving neither our judgment, nor our sense of desert; but if unfairly urged, calling for our animadversion and prompting defense. If the denouncing shall be altogether unworthy, vile and vituperative, it carries, in its own character, its refutation along with it; and we have instantly a full conviction of the case, and we see rather the reviewer's prejudice, than those faults of the author which, we perceive, he is more than disposed to aggravate. So that criticism is not, in all instances, of so genuine authority, as may at first be supposed. A literary work, it is said, is the property of the public. If the "author is too bashful to face the public, he should never present himself in type."
remains a question. In addition to the esprit du corps which tends to keep them a unit, we also think they have too good taste to sin much in this particular. They have been so notoriously warned by the strife of British reviewers, that discretion should adopt the question where taste surrenders it; lest, in conflicting houses, for the sake of each other, both should come to be doubted.
Another instance we would notice, and it is the extreme case-one in which the tender mercies of the reviewer are indeed of cruelty and death. We mean those instances in which the effusions of youthful genius (which are necessarily confused, and the most so in the fullest minds) are violated and heckled, torn up and butchered to death. What abomination is this what dullness, what insensibility! There is no literary legislation, at least in legal sense; nothing penal, even We have already hinted, that even amongst profesas it regards the property of literature. But the pos- sed and allowed critics the case sometimes occurs, session of genius is somewhat more precious than this, where the poetical temperament is not at all accredited; and as such it should be guarded. The French Cousin instances of reviewers, who prefer even a cold and bartells us, and he is good authority, that "genius is the ren rhetoric to the richest fullness of the mens divinor: possession of the world." As such, then, should it be cases where they afford no cognizance of the "fine defended against individual hostility-its germs foster- frenzy," for the honestest of all reasons-because they ed, and guarded from the rude assault of envy or of cannot. This insufficiency, being of nature's parsidullness. We have in particular view the fate of the mony, should in their own case, like other dullness, be English Keats, a victim of this sort; and although we allowed the pass; but when in its ignorance it assumes know not the instances, yet are they too often alluded the authority of criticism, it should also, like other emto for us to doubt the fact, that his genius and life were pyricism, meet the public scoff-since, being referable both sacrificed, whilst he was yet very young, to the to opinion only, it is beyond the lash of a condign punhorrors of public derision as the conceived result of a ishment. We have sometimes seen one of these selfbarbarous and denouncing critique. We have seen constituted judges take in hand the beautiful, soulbut one of his effusions-the Delphic Apollo-from || breathing effusion of some youthful poet, and by miswhich, abrupt and irregular as it is, we should at once apprehension and misrepresentation, tear and mangle read him a poet born; and that from its tone-uncom- and deform it out of all shape and comeliness, and then mon, wistful, earnest, vehement, and desiring as it is pronounce upon it the verdict suited to its debased conwe should say he was a poet, such an one as in all of dition. It would remind us of nothing so much as of time has seldom been. some fair young stag, bounding on the hill-side, throwThe law of England provides that a peer of the||ing up its antles, and snuffing in the purity and joy of realm shall be tried only by his peers; and so in the all around it—or else leaping away to some limpid realm of poesy should we say, that none of other clime, spring, quaffing and taking at every change a new inor other soul, should try the poet. The native consti-spiration of delight and of existence! But lo! he is tution, the gift, is what alone should constitute the ability to do it. Mr. Channing has beautifully defended Milton against the "rules," by saying that he "violated none so great as those he obeyed." The insufficiency of the critic in this walk of literature we have not unfrequently noticed. Nor is it surprising that it should That what is so little tangible, so sublimated, so subtle, so much of fantasie in its tastes and essence, so evanescent of sense, so irresponsible to all common tests as poetry, should be so little understood. So rare indeed is the true poetical temperament, that being perceived and known only by its affinities, to the many the “very language in which you would note it, is a strange tongue."
Criticism in its treatment, is, we know, sometimes ultra, sometimes under-though it less rarely offends us by the "too much," than it does by the too little of praise. It sometimes temporizes rather than discriminates its subject—and whilst the poor author is "damned with faint praise," the reader (of the review only) is left with a very inadequate idea of how much may be found in the book itself. This, we think, is more often a device of deliberate intention, than are the instances of condemnation as noticed above.
Our country is getting to be a literary country; and though we cannot assert that there is as yet no party spirit in "the trade," we are happy that the fact yet
seen-he is marked-the envious archer takes his aim, he draws the bow, the shaft has sped, and that fair young creature staggers first, then falls-in the midst of being yields up his life, with nature's struggling, tearful agony. Even after he has languished and died on the spot, the victim of butchery-the relentless sportsman, more insatiate than death, still pursues him and says, "Behold, what a vile carcase is there!" Such has sometimes been the martyrdom of genius; even such was meted to Keats.
But the style and treatment of this branch of literature has undergone a great change in recent days. Not only a necessary change, of conformity to the change of tone in popular compositions; but a change in its own handling and treatment of its "subjects." And criticism would seem, by general consent, to be of a less stern and rigorous character; also would it impress us as being much less earnest, looser, and not so much in point now as formerly. In short, it gives us the idea of a test less to be dreaded and less respected, than when only the discriminating, the great, the tremendous wielded the pen. Their power was their intellectual superiority. But now the thing is common; every other reader is also a critic; may be for the pleasure of scribbling, may be for our good. Often the thing is purely gratuitous, neither demanding nor deserving our thanks. We neither fear nor tremble;
and it is not worth while to lose our temper-for || ter afford most capital hints and methods for the attainthough we have been interrupted and annoyed, yet as ment and culture of this power of the mind. Its expo
little harm has been done, our magnanimity, reversing the adage, takes the "deed for the will," and so settles the matter comfortably. The department, we do fear, is not as dignified as it has been.
sition and argument are lucid and cogent, and the discussion is in itself a complete illustration of its subject matter. We think the book (not now at hand) is called the Evangelical Magazine, or some title of that import. But we hold our hand-for we have just now, while We suppose the piece alluded to is by the editor. But penning this article, seen three or four or five American who is he? Why, like the god of the Lama worship, criticisms, each of which, in different degrees, has de- is he hidden away from his votaries? Acquaintancelighted and satisfied us. One, professing to be a noticeship could exert none but a genuine influence in this of Longfellow's poetry and style, we should say affords, at short, an exposition and analysis of the soul of poe- We were also well pleased with a notice from the sie, of its claimings and methods, and of its proper editor of the Methodist "Quarterly," for April, 1842; aliment. It also shows large acquaintance with its in which he commends to his brethren, and to students artistical laws of rhyme and rhythm, of euphony and for the ministry, a book which has hitherto been withmeasure, &c., as well as of its essentials of temper and held from them—a Classical Dictionary. The present of tone. One of its expositions, simply beautiful as it edition, a revision of Lempriere's, is expurgated of its is, should be engrossed as an apothegm of poetry, in || offensive portions, and its fables pointed to a better siggold or adamant. It is questioning the propriety of nificancy. Heathen mythology being often the only promiscuous subjects, and rejecting utilitarian and even key to classical elucidation, must either be resorted to, didactic ones for the Muse; it decides, with the evidence or the access closed against the student who would take of all that ever wrote, that “beauty, in widest accepta- counsel or heed of the ancients; who would delectate tion, is alone the legitimate subject of poesie." The with their poets, or participate in the lore of their sages; rule must be considered, also, in its large admission of or even would he wander and muse amid their high "sublimity." This explication, or rather the difficulty places, this should be his most efficient guide-book. which it explains, had ever been a want and a puzzle Edited by Anthon, it is of discreet authority-and is to us, in our judging of much poetry, of many poems recommended by the editor of the Quarterly. This from gifted minds, which some how or other yet fell short critique, in the freeness of its admissions, pleased short of the propriety, the unctuous efficiency of oth-us; the tact and keeping were in point to the book reers, less important, less elaborated, and from less talent-vised; as also to its specific object-the advancement ed sources. But now that the riddle is read to us, its of those addressed. very simplicity of explication would seem to rebuke Although we have contemned a partial and spurious our dullness, excepting upon the axiom, "that the veri- dictation, yet would we acknowledge the uses of a fair ties of nature are so direct of cause and effect, and so criticism, as being salutary both upon their subject well suited to their own purpose of condition, that we author, and the public. Such writings need not be were wiser perhaps in our research, if we would more mistaken. By their tone and tenor we shall soon disoften say to ourselves, 'Not so fast,' and 'not so far."" cern of what spirit they are; whether of benignity as Another hardly less luoid and able critique is afforded affording aid and enlightenment to the literary Tyro, to the subject of Lowell's poetry. Much discrimina- or whether, disregarding justice and humanity, they ting guidance and admonition are propounded, and a obey the promptings of a ribald, invidious, and selfliberal and hearty allowance of encouragement bestow-seeking vanity. And many a reader, who should not ed-encouragement, that boon and guerdon of the poetical temperament; and this without compromitting the possibility of a conceited self-sufficiency. The Tyro is put upon his studies, and his models of nature, and his probation of industry, for the excellence that he may achieve. This is a generous and honest criticism, and we respect the writer in his vocation of critic. Another is styled a "Chat about Keats." This also betokens the true taste, the racy smack and relish of the pure Helicon.
These three reviews are all in Graham's Magazine for March, 1842. We have no clue to the authorship of either, excepting that to that upon Lowell, the initial C. is appended. We may have misread the letter; perhaps it was G.-Graham?
be able to note the literary deficiencies of the author, neither his grammatical commitments, his rhetorical violations, nor his classical inaccuracies, shall yet in the review at once perceive that an unfair motive is at work, instigating to a false judgment of the matter in question-for the odiousness of ill-nature is of immediate cognizance. Such a critic establishes his own character, at least; and we can only compare him to some unclean reptile, which might itself escape detection, but that betrayed by its abominable odor, it is at once obnoxious to the sense of all within its reach.
EVILS are more to be dreaded from the suddenness of their attack, than from their magnitude, or duration. In a periodical, emanating from Newton Centre, In the storms of life, those that are foreseen are half Massachusetts, we have lately read a review touching overcome; but the tiffoon is a just cause of alarm to the subject of "Original Thinking," in which, although the helmsman, pouncing on the vessel, as an eagle on the text book is not largely adverted to, yet does the wri-l the prey.
O, CANST thou thus these fragrant flowers admire Formed with such beauty, such transcendent skill, And not discern the feelings they inspire,
To search for charms more elevated still?
Canst thou not in each blending color trace
To make thee still more excellent and wise?
Too bright to ever find for thought a grave.
'Twas made to grasp for joys far more sublime,
To answer the Creator's great design,
O, how I wish I could present a form
Whose beauty should surpass all thou hast seen, Prepared this inward temple to adorn,
Reflecting light from heaven's refulgent beam! Couldst thou but view this angel from the skiesBenign religion, soother of the breast
Joy would spring up and sparkle in thy eyes,
And all in heaven and earth would own thee blest.
'Tis this alone can calm the troubled soul,
And touch life's deep impenetrable springSubdue the passions with complete control,
And unexhausted stores of pleasure bring.
But thou hast never learned to search for truth,
May Heaven avert thy doom, accept the prayer
No ray of hope can reach that soul of thine!
May unbelief, in the last trying hour,
Yield to the power of truth's unerring sway, And thy poor soul feel mercy's gentle power, And on some angel wing be borne away!
S. B. T.
"For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do," Paul.