« السابقةمتابعة »
has possessed advantages, which fall to the lot of few, of making himself acquainted with a region rapidly growing in political and commercial importance. Possessing, as he does, every requisite for producing a much more ample work, from the materials that have come within his reach, we sincerely hope that he will present the public with a full narrative of the revolution, and with such information, in regard to the country, as he is so well qualified to impart.
Of the Reports made five years ago to the Secretary of State concerning Chili, by Judge Bland, and Mr Poinsett, we have thought it unnecessary to speak, as they are already familiar to many of our readers, and accessible to all. future period, however, we shall have occasion to refer to these valuable documents in a view, which we propose to take, of the revolutionary history and political condition of Chili.
ART. XVIII.-The Pilot, a Tale of the Sea. By the Au
thor of the Pioneers, &c. New York. Charles Wiley.
1823. 2 vols. OUR literature, to use a trite comparison, is like our territory, the greater part as yet uncultivated and wild. The yeoman who
goes into our forests, and opens a little prospect of habitations, and fields of grain and of grass, in the midst of the wilderness, may be regarded as a sort of peaceful conqueror; a champion, who subdues the land and makes it pay tribute. So the author of any literary work, upon a subject peculiar to ourselves, and truly American, undertakes a like enterprise; he peoples the regions of fancy and memory; he reclaims and makes fertile the intellectual waste; he opens the solitude to the light; and, under his hands, it begins to teem with life and action, and to present a thousand pleasing objects. Now, in the case of the woodsman, if he supplants the forest trees with fields of wheat and corn, the main purpose is effected, and we acknowledge, that he has done a creditable thing, and deserves well, without considering too critically, whether in his sowing and planting he has followed the broadcast or drill method. So in regard to original works of imagination and taste; if an author really succeeds in adding something to the permanent intellectual stock; if, on the whole, he produces objects worthy to remain and be admired, he is entitled to our good will and praise, and ought not to be judged by the minor imperfections, the quaedam maculae, from which no work of art is free. The author of the Pilot seems to us to have fully and decidedly established this claim upon the public in his favor, as he has produced works, which well deserve to be, and will be, a permanent part of our literature; and in a province where very few adventurers have preceded hiin with any tolerable success.
The scene of this story is laid in the northeastern coast of England, and the neighboring part of the German Sea. During the war of our revolution, an American frigate and schooner are seen, by a group of the country people, to approach this coast at a point where the navigation is dangerous, and at a time, when a storm, approaching from the northeast, seems to threaten them with certain shipwreck. A Scotchman and Irishman, who are of this group, are made to describe, in their respective dialects, the appearance of the vessels as they come in sight from behind a headland. The immediate
purpose of coming into this dangerous place, is to procure a pilot from on shore. This pilot, 'a small man in a drab pea-jacket,' is afterwards plainly intimated to be Paul Jones; but he remains, through the story, incognito; he is a mysterious personage under the name of Mr Gray, on whom much depends, as many of the events turn upon his conduct and interference. He is at first known only to Munson, the captain of the frigate, and afterwards to Griffith the lieutenant; the reader is not expressly let into the secret.
Characters of this description are substituted for what used to pass under the name of the machinery of epic poetry; for the gods of the ancient writers, and the witches, fairies, and other supernatural beings, introduced into the older of the modern writers of fiction, to bring the other personages into situations, which would otherwise be too improbable, or help them out, when they could not retrieve themselves. giant, a wizard, or spirit, not excepting the White Maid of Avenel, makes but a sorry figure in a modern story, in which the author affects any regard to probability. Yet the reader must
be interested, and his feelings must be disturbed by imminent perils, desperate situations, and hairbreadth escapes; and it is rude and inartificial in the author, to resort only to good fortune in these emergencies. In the conclusion of the story, it is quite excusable to hurry to a happy result, with a flush of good luck, in the death of rich uncles, liberality of the government, exposure of knavery, clearing up of misunderstandings, the long deferred requital of love, and other pleasing occurrences. But it shows poverty of invention to bring alfairs into such a conjuncture in the midst of the action, that unless the wind changes, or some of the personages are killed off, the story must end. Some extraordinary and powerful agent is needed for the trying occasions, about whom the author casts something of mystery and obscurity, that the reader may magnify to himself everything belonging to this personage, and give credit to the prodigies told of him. The Pilot is a personage of this description. He interposes in times of difficulty; and he is probably also intended by the author to give something of historical reality to the story. But to the reader, he is quite a secondary character in the piece.
The beginning of the story is taken up in extricating the vessels from their perilous situation, in doing which the Pilot of course bears an important part. There is at first no remarkable skill displayed in the dialogue, nor any very striking exhibition of character or conduct in the actors. We do not mention this as a fault; the development of the characters has just commenced. From the first appearance of the vessels in the evening, until their escape from the impending perils the next morning, the dangerous situations, the combinations of incidents, the pictures of the heavens and the ocean, and the management of the vessels, inspire the reader with intense interest and anxiety; while, at the same time, his imagination is filled with a succession of grand and vividly drawn images.
The vessels being brought into a secure position under a clear sky, a consultation is held by the officers and the Pilot, in which it is determined to land, for the purpose of seizing and bringing off some members of parliament and other persons of distinction, whom the Pilot supposes to be amusing themselves at a hunting seat upon the coast.
seems to make some effort in this consultation, and, as it appears to us, without
brilliant success. His purpose, in this expedition on shore, is to change the scene to the residence of Colonel Howard, a tory refugee from Carolina, who has brought with him his niece, Cecilia Howard, who had been betrothed to Griffith, the lieutenant of the frigate ; and his ward, Katharine Plowden, also already betrothed to Barnstable, a junior lieutenant, and commandant of the schooner Ariel. The author's intention, as the reader anticipates, is to make two happy couples of these parties; but the course of true love never did run smooth,' for the old tory, though he esteems Griffith as a man, detests him as a whig and revolutionist, as heartily as he worships his sovereign lord, the king. Besides, he has with him, as one of his household, his loyal nephew, Mr Christopher Dillon, learned in the law, and, withal, of a sallow, shrivelled aspect, a lean, unsightly figure, and mean spirit; who thinks himself, and is thought by his good uncle, a surprisingly fitting match for his fair and wealthy cousin Cecilia. " The old man supposes that Kit, but for this rebellion, would have worn ermine, and the title of my lord chief justice of Carolina, whereupon Boroughcliffe, an English captain, and a guest, as well as guard in the house, says, God forbid that our friend shall lose his title, and he dubs him, upon the spot, Cacique of Pedee.
Among the other personages introduced here, is Alice Dunscombe, who acknowledges, that, in her youth, she had regarded the Pilot not with indifference; but she has too much loyalty to make irrevocable vows to one whom she almost persuades herself to regard as a pirate, and she strives to supplant whatever of affection for him she once indulged, by piety and a rigid sense of duty. This character is not badly conceived, but it is not sustained very successfully. Her argument with the Pilot upon the subjects of loyalty and love is too set, and makes one of the very few parts of the book of which there seemed to be too much. But we may be mistaken, for it has been admired by those who are good judges.
We are not disposed absolutely to find fault with Katharine Plowden, though we doubt whether she is really so sprightly, free, and debonair, as she affects to be. Cecilia Howard is intended as a conspicuous figure in the piece, and were she
New Series, No. 18. 41
the only one, we should hardly think it too much to say, that her portrait bears marks of being done by an unpractised artist. The defects seem not to be so much those of negligence and haste, as of difficulty and embarrassment in the execution. The author entitles himself, however, to have done more of this group still more indifferently, by the bold, free, and masterly style, in which he has hit off Captain Boroughcliffe.
The characters are brought together, one after another, at the house of the refugee, where the plot thickens, and affairs appear to be approaching a crisis. But we will not attempt to give an account of all the manæuvres, plans, reverses and successes, that follow each other here in rapid succession. The conversation between Boroughcliffe and the refugee, over the madeira, is kept up with great spirit, and does not flag on the introduction of the Pilot, Griffith, and Manual, the captain of marines, who had come on shore in disguise, and were detained by Boroughcliffe. The incident of the detention and detection of these three persons is particularly well managed. But what we formerly said of some parts of the Spy, is applicable to some of these scenes, in which the ladies bear a part, which sometimes labor and disappoint the reader.
On board of the Ariel, in the meantime, things go on more triumphantly, and we there meet with personages who all act with promptness and freedom, and speak without apparently being at any loss for thoughts or words. The Ariel lies in a small bay, where she had landed the party on shore, and on board of her are Barnstable, the midshipman Mr Merry, and, above all, the hero of the piece, our very pleasant acquaintance long Tom the cockswain from Nantucket, whose father was a Coffin, and his mother a Joy. Barnstable and long Tom Coffin being out in a whaleboat, the former exclaims, 'by heaven, Tom, there is the blow of a whale’tis a fin-back.' 'No, sir, 'tis a right whale,' answered Tom;
I saw his spout; he threw up a pair of pretty rainbows. He's a raal oil-butt, that fellow. And thus he could not resist the temptation of having a stroke of the harpoon at that impudent rascal.' While they were pulling towards their game,
Long Tom arose from his crouching attitude in the stern-sheets, and transferred his huge frame to the bows of the boat, where he made such preparations to strike the whale as the occasion required.