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Woe! woe! to the warrior on shore or on sea,
With a shake of his head, and his eyes all aslant,
He whispered, “What doeth the land-lubber here ?"
The weather-worn tar, who had buffetted long
The wrath of the seas and the frowns of the world;
Yet ever had welcomed them all with a song,
And drank to his love when the canvass was furled ;With the breathings of flame and the roar of the thunder,
Even he looked perplexed, and grew pale in his turn, He is winding his way o'er prairie and mountain ;
As he took down his glass for a closer inspection,
And the red man awakes from his dream by the fountain. And eyed the “ strange craft" from its stem to its stem,
His judgment vibrating from fear to reflection.
He had danced on the deep to the music of storms,
And laughed till the darkness and tempest were o'er;
He had looked upon Death in its fearfullest forms, Ever on--ever on-like the sun in his course
But he never had met such a monster liefore! O'er the sands of the line, and the snows of the pole, At the stranger's approach his ambition was stirred, Unwasted, unweariod, the huge Iron Horse
And he sang, as the shrouds to the zephyrs were cast,Speedeth on, as the racer speeds on to the goal !
Bear away! bear away! Spread the sails to the gales, His footstep is heard in the Russian domains,
The “true Yankee" sailor was never yet past!"
There are sancies and facts which the muse may not mention, X.
All recorded and vouched for again and again,
How the tribes of the deep met in solemn convention, What a clatter of hoofs !- what a rattling and din!
And humbly implored him to leave their domain, What a whirling of chariot-wheels follow his track!
And tradition yet tells of the hosts that assembled, He reaches the sea, and he plunges in,
In order of battle, from regions afar;
As the Triton-trumps sounded the summons to war!
Make way for the Iron Steed!--bither he comes,
With the freight of all kingdoms and climes richly laden; The Islanders hailed his approach from afar,
He beareth the exiled away from their homesAs the mightiest monster they ever set eyes on;
He bringeth the lost lover back to his maiden. 'Twas a presage of wrath, or an omen of war,
He comerb--he goeth !-how widely apart And they watched it, and prayed, till it met the horizon :
We are torn, ere the tears of departure are dry !-Still nearer, still brighter the lurid light shines !
The herald of gladness to many a heartThere's a sound on the air, and a wake on the wave!
How many will hail his approach with a sigh! Old Neptune, affrighted, his sceptre resigns,
XVIII. And dives down the deep to his nethermost cave.
Unscathed by the tempest, unbarmed by the flood,
He must speed on his way till his mission shall cease; What a shudder of gloom-what a fearful commotion
In Battle, the fiercest avenger of blood, O'ertakes the poor bind in his birchen canoe,
Yet swiftest to carry the message of Peace! When the Jimness of night settles down on the ocean,
He must haste--he must haste--to the nations benighted, And the terrible torch blazes red on his view!
And scatter the darkness that broods in their skies, He watches its light as he sees it advancing
Till the lamps of the Cross on their altars are lighted, He lists, and a hoarse breathing breaks on his ear;
And Deatu, the pale Steed of the battle-field, dies!
The Chains of Attraction hath hitherto hound him,
How glorious his fight, from his trammels set free!
Of a gaily-rigged schooner, whose crew were all drowned; He's an infant to what he hereafter may be!
And tread with rude steps o'er his kindred that were,
Till the Angel of Science shall give to him wings, As he heard the huge fellow away in his rear;
And mark out his path through the regions of air!
pace, as long as Literature has to contend against PRESENT CONDITION OF LETTERS. the present absence or laxity of reflection which
prevails in the reading community,--the descripLETTER III.
tion of the features of the times in terms of goodTo William GILMORE SIMMs, Esq.
humored ridicule may possibly subserve a better
purpose than any more serious delineation. MoreMy Dear Sir.--You may have supposed from over, an effective caricature is often the truest of the tone and lenor of certain passages in my last portrails. The lineaments of the picture may not letter, that I was more inclined to langh whirnsi- correspond trait for trait with the original for cally over the fantasies and follies of the time, which it is designed, but the very exaggeration, than to analyse seriously the significance of its which constitutes the caricature, makes prominent phenomena. Yet it was very far from being alto- that general expression and significance, which gether so. All action presupposes two parties, an might be passed by unnoticed in any more correct agent and a patient-a thing acting and a thing presentment. I think, therefore, that I had a suffiacted upon. In all change there must consequently cient excuse for the license in which I indulged. be two ingredients,--the causes that effect the When I commenced these letters I indicated change, and the thing upon which it is operated. pretiy broadly my design of not suffering myself There are, therefore, two elements invariably, which to be trammelled by the strict rules of methodical require to be recognized and appreciated in the ex- composition. The thoughts, which rise at random, amination of any revolutionary movement, whether I present in the order in which they visit me, withthis be political, religions, or litcrary-namely, the out paying much regard to a nice, logical sequence agents of the reform, and the material upon which of ideas, or caring for artistic finish and elaborate it is superinduced. In the first instance, undoubt- development. If, therefore, you should have reaedly, we ought to restrict the former to those long son to complain of any want of connection in my latent but fermenting humors in the bosom of so- rambling reflections, you must deem it a natural ciety, which in time necessitate the change, and incident to the style and form which I have adoptconsider the latter as the reformers themselves. ed for the expression of my views. At present, I But as these so soon become identified with the am disposed to linger over the subject touched upon causes by which they are actuated, and which they in my last, and to dwell for a liule while longer on represent; and discharge all the main functions of the literary food of general readers, and those agents with respect to the mass of society, we may points of inquiry which may grow out of its examiso far pass over the earlier progress of mutation as nation, or be connected with it. to consider them the originators with reference. The food of the whale is said to be the smaller And, accordingly, I should place them in the former kinds of fish, whereof it devours whole shoals at of these two categories, as generał truth is more con- once, and the floating weeds which cover "full sonant with the purposes of my investigations than many a rood" of the Northern seas. It is one of a minute and unnecessary accuracy, and I should the curiosities of natural history, that this greatest regard the latter as representing society at large. of beasts should condescend 10 live upon such diIn estimating any intellectual or literary reform, minutive articles of diet. But in the psychological we must, therefore, consider no less diligently the world it cannot be deemed a less singular fact, that society to be reformed, and the phases which it the mighty monster of the land—facetiously and assumes during the progress of the revolution, courteously termed " the public,”—but more justly than the bold thinkers, be they authors, orators, or named Leviathan-should browze upon such priceactors, who extend, and in some measure produce less and unsubstantial garbage, as that with which it. In Literature, indeed, where the anthor and of late years it has been gorging itself. It has the public reciprocally act and react without inter- thrown away the wheat and has been living upon mission opon each other, in so intimate and so in the chaff. It has renounced solid food and has intricate a manner, it becomes of especial importance vented for its own indulgence a new kind of litethat we should examine the peculiarities of the rary pap. The trash and lighter productions of reader, with the same care with which we deler- Literature are beaten op together and compounded mine the characteristics of the writer. With the into a weak but saccharine solution, on the label former of these subjects I was partially engaged of which is written “haustus sæpe in die capienin my last communication, and though I wrote with dus," while the additional advice of the Newcastle some levity of expression, this did not prevent my doctor is given to the patient veiling an earnest meaning under it. I have yet
When taken to learn that Heraclitus was a better philosopher
To be well shaken. than Democritus. And since any reform, which may now be in progress, or may shortly be commen This is emphatically the age of Magazines-we ced, will have very great obstacles to encounter, have them in all shapes, sizes, varieties, and times and necessarily travel with a slow and unsteady'of
' periodic revolution, from the Semi-Monthly up
to the Annual, from the duedecimo to the quarto. and with each fresh bait crashes down what he had This observation is neither original nor new, but, imbibed before, making himself a veritable hellus like Jack Sylvester's reply to Ben Jonson, it has librorum; and if for him there be any resurrection a decided merit in its truth. Yet these Magazines of thoughts, they come up in dreams, crude, unare, with a few rare and note-worthy exceptions, connected, distorted and anamorphosed, like the wishy-washy, vapid, and valueless—they contain fantastic shapes of the night-mare. Thus he goes a scanty infusion of thought in a very copious on day after day, destroying more and more the menstruum of words. Notwithstanding this, they stone and healthy action of his alimentary organs. are popular, as their extensive circulation evinces, The morbid appetite, which commenced as a disand the ablest authors of the country contribute to ease, has, in this way, with time and indulgence,
Whence then is their popularity- matured into a habit--and as long as a sufficiency and how happens it that really good writers can of the matériel littéraire is supplied, he takes but be induced to compose for them-or having been scant heed of its form, its substance, or its essence, induced to do so are unable to elevate their charac- provided only that it act as a stimulant, and be not ter to the dignity of a solid Literature ? Here are so strong or solid as to operate like a narcotic on three facts apparently anomalous, requiring to be his enfeebled system. When such is the character accounted for. The explanation of the first will of the generality of readers—the large class of furnish in a great measure the explanation of the purchasers, whose coin is the talisman, which, in others; and I think that the popularity of the fee- a high degree, encourages, excites, and rewards bler Magazines may be in no slight degree attri- the manifestation of literary excellence, we can buted to the present condition of the reading public. easily account for the popularity of any Magazines,
I once asked a friend of mine, whose appetite however worthless they may be. But under these for apples was most remarkable, why, out of a circumstances what most we expect the Literature large basket full, he never selected his fruit of the day to be ? Its present condition affords the “Oh,” said he, “it were nonsense to be picking natural and easily comprehended answer-so far, and choosing when I design eating all-the only at least, as its obvious defects are concerned, for result would be to ensure for the best a priority of the seeds of promise which we may recognize in consumption, and in making my choice, I should the vast garden of cultivated weeds, are largely waste time more profitably employed in eating attributable to other causes. they will all have to be digested, or left undigested We have now surmounted the difficulty of distogether.” Now our very worthy friend, the pub- covering how weak Magazines, containing nothing lic, is pretty much in the same condition, with res- but silly love tales, insipid poetry, and dropsical pect to the golden apples of Literature, as this gen- essays, without any artistic excellence or critical tleman with respect to the fruit of the trees of sagacity, have succeeded in obtaining for themearth. The table of the general reader of this selves such an extensive popularity, as to have day is abundantly strewed with Newspapers, Maga- rendered them for a time the solitary sabstitute for zines, Reviews, Serials, &c., &c. He reads them all true Literature. The object of a Review is to all—a scrap here and a scrap there—not with the form and guide public opinion--to direct public design of gratifying any very fastidious appetite, taste-to lead public judgment. In this country or indulging any very critical taste-not to enjoy Reviews have scarcely ever done this, and of late the more evanescent savor and more delicate juices years they have but seldom effected it in England. of the fruit, nor in the hope of deriving any solid But a Magazine or an Annual lays claim to no nutriment, but to satisfy the cravings of a gullet such high pretensions as these-it designedly caters become morbidly voracious, and to fill a stomach to tastes already formed : If these be good, it hungering after quantity rather than the epicurean strives to rise to their requirements, or to compete delights of quality. The frequency of his meals with others for enlightened favor ; if bad, it panders that is the superabundance of new books and new to them, it helps to degrade them, vitiated though numbers of periodicals—has taught him to swallow they already be. Asordinarily the Newspaper rather without any attempt at mastication. He is at a follows in the wake of political feelings and indifeast of letters, what, according to Abernethy, the cates their current than directs them, so the MagaAmerican Secretary of Legation was over a din-zine almost invariably and perhaps inevitably, lowers ner table. His palate is never cultivated-be itself to the tone and literary habits of the hour. swallows so often, and bolts his morsels so hur-And in this country, this natural but injurious tenriedly, that the stomach is loaded and a wholesome dency has been materially heightened by the condigestion precluded. He soon is suffering all the version of a large proportion of our Newspapers evils of an intellectual dyspepsia. He reads mere-into Weekly Magazines. A thing so ephemeral ly for the momentary excitement, and to stay the in its nature, so transient in its effects as a Weekly, cravings of a stomach, which, like Oliver Twist, would not receive a perusal, unless in matters deepis continually asking for more. He has lost all ly touching the interests or feelings of the people, his ruminating capacity—he reads again and again, 'without it accommodated itself to all their shifting
moods, and to every changing hue in the sky. compelled works of a higher order to descend from Moreover, the materials of which it is composed their elevated grounds, in order that they might are, of necessity, so hurriedly written, that their fight with more equal chances of success in the sole inspiration is derived from the fleeting excite- common plain. And thus, while they have conments of the outer world, from which they take tributed so largely to the deterioration of literary their complexion. There is no preconceived de- taste among the people, and to the debasement of sign, diligently matured, artistically arranged, care- Literature itself, they have impregnated those fully elaborated, or delicately finished. The profit Magazines, from which some antidote might have to be derived from the poem, tale, or essay, would been anticipated, with their own virus-a poison not repay the writer for the time, the talent, and which saps all the fountains of vigor, engenders the labor which these excellences require. And imbecility or actual paralysis, and corrodes the as for the reputation--but no man of sense would very bone and framework of Literature. care a fig for reputation in the present day, con Thus, the necessity of courting popularity in a scious as he must be how madly, how foolishly, new form has caused Magazines to forswear the how ridiculously praise has latterly been meted out excellence they might otherwise have attained, and with no sparing hand to every fool who had the to stoop to that standard-if such a chaotic abysm impudent fool-hardiness to cry aloud for fame. can with any propriety be denominated a standard And all the while it may be, that wisdom standeth to which the public taste had either been reduced, at the corners of the streets and in the market or was rapidly tending. But they have secured places but no man heareth her. The readers of their reward they have obtained that popularity the Paper, (to return from my momentary digres- which by these arts they wooed—and with it that sion)--the readers of the Paper do not require the more solid profit, for which alone such popularity higher excellences of conception and execution—was desirable—for to them the music of dollars is they do not anticipate them, they would have but much more welcome than the more intangible and slight appreciation for them, and might even fail ethereal rewards of a well-deserved and intelligent to recognize them if such should be pointed out encomium. And as the golden shower has fallen for their consideration. Hence, very little pains into their lap, in proportion as they have lowered are bestowed upon any thing designed for publica- themselves to the degraded tastes of that mighty tion in the columns of a Newspaper--and the fre- multitude, which is most incapable of judging, quent literary effusions crowded into the anoma- though best qualified to remunerate, they have been lous sheet, present little but a grotesque assem- corrupted, like Danae, without reluctance by the blage of dry bones and unconnected limbs, stolen pleasant rain-drops of their welcome seducer. from some forgotten arsenal of death, and galva To show still more strongly the state to which nized with a fit of momentary and unearthly life; Literature has thus been reduced, and the perilous while side by side with them appear a strange med straits into which rival publishers have been wafted ley of uncouth forms, with vitality enough it is by the breezes which competition has excited, I true, but presenting the spasmodic dance of quaint would remind you that most of the more popular figures, such as might be supposed to have peopled Magazines, and certainly all of the most feeble, some archetypal chaos, invented by Puck and his rest their principal claim to public favor on the companions, for their peculiar delectation. engravings with which their numbers are adorned.
If the consequences, pernicious in the extreme, These engravings are for the most part well exewhich have flowed from these Literary Newspa- cated and must have been costly, however low be pers had never been extended beyond the limits their excellences as specimens of art in other resof their own plethoric 'columns, the effect would pects. The perfection of design, the beauty of have been bad enough and truly lamentable. But arrangement, the harmony of proportions, and the the actual state of the case is infinitely worse than more delicate touches of the accomplished painter this. When the profits of the pedler-among may sately be neglected, for those into whose hands whose wares there is something to suit every body, they are likely to come, are seldom blessed with a though nothing worth the purchase-exceed those cultivated acquaintance in the arts. But in every of the regular tradesman, the latter will be dis- thing that attracts the undisciplined eye, they poscouraged in the pursuit of his ordinary routine, and sess every merit which would be sought. And it will either become an Autolycus himself, or will en-is on these engravings, more than on the table of deavor to unite the operations of the pedler with his contents, that the more popular Magazines trust Usual avocations. And this effect have these News- for success. This strongly indicates the low estipapers-hight Family—acted upon the Monthly mate which they and their readers must previously Magazines—they have brought them down to their have set upon the claims of Literature. We have own level, by usurping their functions, and retail-witnessed a state of things analogous to this in the ing to every clown inferior goods at a lower price, decline of the theatre. As the spirit of the drama than the other dispensers of periodical literature waned away, and the true dramatic taste became could afford. By provoking competition they have extinct in the audience even more than in the play
writer, the beautiful and gorgeous scenes of Sian-| exaggeration of the truth. That an intimate and field and Beverley divided the honors of Covent- profound familiarity with one good book will fit us Garden and the provincial theatres of England for the more ready and thorough appreciation of all with the charms of Astley's Menagerie, and the others I take to be just as sound a dogma as that licentious fascinations of Elsler and Taglioni. a diligent and untiring study of one department of The same things have occurred in this country, science or letters is the best preparative for more and one of the celebrated danseuses has displayed general intellectual pursuits. Old Burton has many her influence in this country. If the experience quaint and sensible remarks on my text, and the of the past were necessary to add greater force to practice of some of the most learned men has these inferences, I might refer you to that tempo- been in accordance with il; and inay be assured as rary failure of the theatres in the time of Shak- a partial confirmation of its accuracy. I will only speare, with which you are probably acquainted, and cite one instance, Sir William Jones, confessedly might cite to you the pathetic lamentations of my in a reliance on this proverb, made it a point to favorite Terence over the damnation of his Hecyra, read over the whole works of Cicero once every because the good people of Rome--(a flattering year-this was his one book, and from the encytranslation of populus studio stupidus)—were more clopædistic character of his selected author, there entranced by dancing girls, ihan by the represen- can be no doubt that, whether this adage be true or tation of genuine comedy. But I need not say untrue, he must have derived very great assistance more. I have no doubt you will fully agree with in his multifarious labors. But we rest upon his me in regarding the present careful illustration of practice without inquiring into its consequences. nearly all the more popular Magazines, as evincing But the advantage to be derived from this devotion a thoroughly depraved literary taste.
10 one book is not so much the mere information While speaking thus of the Magazines of the directly acquired, as the minute attention, the acday, I am happy to be able to except from the curate recollection, the critical appreciation, the sweeping generality of my censure the Southern collateral reflection and consequent expansion of Literary Messenger itself. From its first com- thought, all of which result from that tension of mencement under Mr. While to the present hour, mind which has in this way been produced. The it has always aimed at solid instruction, and the tendency of Magazine Literature is to produce elevation of literary taste, and has steadily exerted effects exactly the reverse of these-ihe lightness, itselt to give to its readers substantial fare. If it the tenuity, the diversity, the contrariety of the has failed fully to attain that ideal perfeciion which numerous articles introduce confusion and someit has kept before its eye, its has only fallen under times stupor into the mind; while the habit of readthat general law of humanity which has inevitably ing every thing over only once, and then, for the rendered the accomplishment of all human under- most part, in the most rapid and heedless manner, takings inferior to their conception. Certainly there destroys the faculty of attention, deadens the memhas never been any lack of exertion for the atiain- ory, cashiers the judgment, and paralyses the thinkment of excellence on its part. That it is still ing powers. Moreover, when a reader has accuscapable of improvement no one would more frankly tomed himself to this negligent mode of perusał, and admit than my old acquaintance, its Editor. I has trained his palate to a high relish for these would fain have included your former protégé in highly seasoned trifles, he is not merely indifferent this exception, but as that unfortunate banting is 10 more solid food, but he has lost the capacity now at rest with the things that have been and are for digesting it or even for swallowing it. Hence not, I will pass over its grave in silence.
a healthy literary taste is too apt to be destroyed While on the subject of Magazines I would de- by an immoderate devotion to Magazine reading. lay your intention a little while by inquiring into I might point out the injurious effects which their tendency. From the practice, thongh not periodicals have upon the frame and substance of from the experience of late years, it would appear Literature, but to this I shall shortly return. I think that this must be decidedly good ; but, for my part, it may be admitted that only to a very limited exI must think their influence injurious, except under tent can any benefit be derived from the wide eircertain very favorable circumstances. When 1 culation of periodicals. There can be no doubt tell you that I regard even the Edinburgh and that nothing is nearly so well adapted as they are Quarterly Reviews as the cause of much irrepara- to the diffusion of some literary cultivation among ble injury to the interests of Literature, you may all classes—and to the introduction of the idle, tha be surprised, and perhaps after all I can say may uneducated, or the overtasked, to some acquaintance continue to doubt. But such is my opinion, and with intellectual pleasures. The stimulating nature the question is, at least, worthy of examination. of their contents-lhe novelty, even the extrava
The man of one bouk-homo unius libri-has gance which they aim after-the frequency of their passed into an adage. And, though many proverbs issue, their cheapness, and even their engravings are truly nothing more than popularized and ac- contribute to render them welcome companions 10 credited lies, yet this one I deem to be only an'those who would not otherwise read at all. And if