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IX.-NOTICES AND CRITICISMS.
Infelicia. By Adah Isaacs MENKEN. Philadelphia, &c., 1868.
No publisher's name appears on this book; but it is advertised by J. B. Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia; and on inquiry we have been informed that it is those gentlemen who introduce it to the American public. But we cannot say we are surprised at this. Why would they refuse to become the sponsors of a book so strongly recommended by the author of “Spiritual Wives ? " Whatever panders to vice is very apt to pay; we have no doubt, therefore, that Lippincott has made quite a handsome affair of that work, Well may his countrywomen thank bim for giving all the currency in his power to Mr. Hepworth Dixon's estimate of their virtue and fidelity!
He has now a still stronger claim on their gratitude, if it be true that it is he who recommends them this book. But some will ask, Has he a daughter, a wife, or a sister ? We do not know whether he has or not; nor do we want to make any inquiry about his private affairs. We only judge him by his public acts; we ask, what would be said of the publisher of a sort of autobiography of Lola Montez, written in what is vulgarly called "prose run mad," and interspersed with eulogies from her paramours, the tout ensemble being styled poems, and attributed to the heroine ?
It may be urged that perhaps Mr. Charles Dickens would not have honored Lola with an autograph letter to be prefixed to her “Infelicia," as he has Adah Isaacs Menken, although the former was certainly a more beautiful woman than the latter. Whether she was more virtuous, or as much so, it is not for us to say, although a censorious world has taken nearly equal liberties with the reputation of both. If Lola was not entirely innocent, perhaps Adah was. At least, this must be the belief of Mr. Lippincott; and we all know that an actress of the third or fourth rank is very liable to be slandered, especially when possessed of a certain amount of charms, and imbued with more than ordinary confidence in the honor and fidelity of mankind, especially of men who separate from their wives when they rise in the world!
Be this as it may, the “volume of poems" entitled Infelicia is not worth much. Had it been the work of an angel, it could not have done much good; the profane would have said that, after all, ambrosia must be intoxicating, or otherwise it should be concluded that angels sometimes rave, and utter things which neither gods nor men can understand. At all events, we must confess that we do not understand one fourth of the fine " poetry
"attributed to Adah; and this one fourth is half “Proverbial
Philosophy,” half “Leaves of Grass." It reads as if Tupper and Walt. Whitman had dictated to Adah alternately, leaving her time, however, to introduce some theatrical ejaculations here and there. But our judgment and taste may be at fault; our readers may entirely disagree with
As a matter of course, one of the best "poems” receives the first place. We will pot garble this, but give the whole of the first stanza of “Resurgam:"“Yes, yes, dear love! I am dead !
Dead to you!
Dead for ever!
black despair. Years and years the songless soul waited to drift out beyond the sea of pain where the shapeless life was wrecked.
The red mouth closed down the breath that was hard and fierce.
And Death left an old light in my eyes, and old music for my tongue, to deceive the crawling worms that would seek my warm flesh.
But the purple wine that I quaff sends no thrill of Love and Song through my empty veins.
Yet my red lips are not pallid and horrified.
Dead in this beauty!
"-p. 9. Is this poetry? or what is it? There are four other stanzas of the same kind, besides the closing one, which is brief and quite sanctimonious: “How did I die ? No man has wrenched his sbroud from his stiffened corpse to say:
' Ye murdered me!' No woman has died with enough of Christ in her soul to tear the bandage from her glassy eyes and say:
Ye crucified me!'
Turning over the leaves of Infelicia somewhat listlessly, we find a poem “after Ossian," entitled “Battle of the Stars," in which Love is made to do everything great and good. But it will remind the classical reader much more of the atheistic Roman, than of the Celtic bardespecially of the passage in which Lucretius makes all things proceed from “ Alma Venus," whom he declares to be the only creator of the universe,
Per te quoniam genus omne animantum
Concipitur, visitque exortum lumina solis. But let us see one or two of the numerous good things Love does in the hands of Adah, and how poetically and gracefully his actions succeed each other. It seems that for some reason or other, he is the particular friend of Garabaldi, and the sworn enemy of Austria: " It is thy powerful hand that lights up to Heaven the inspired life of Garabaldi. And it is thy undying power that will clothe Italy in the folds of thy wings, and
rend the helmet from the dark brow of old Austria, and bury her in the eternal tomb of darkness.”—p. 43.
Is pot this a curious sort of poetry "after Ossian !” We find more carious still, however, as we proceed-such for example as the following
" Their black unmuzzled hounds howl their impatience as we come on watch in
our glittering armor.”—p. 44.
The autobiographic part we leave it to others to extract. The moral lessons of Adah, may be very good for a publisher like Mr. Lippincott, but they are not such as we wish to present to our readers. We doubt whether they will pay in any sense, for if they have any charm, it is of a very coarse, outré kind.
We would gladly have passed the volume over in silence, but we find it is not alone in the newspapers, it is advertised as the work of a
fast woman." Placards as large as a barn door, are posted in all parts of New York headed in the largest letters “Adah Isaacs Menken," and proclaiming that all should read her “revelations." Whether Mr. Lippincott be the author of the sensational placard, we will not undertake to say; it is quite possible that he has a rival in the business of seeking to make money by dragging before the public what decency and manliness, not to mention respect for the sex, should veil from vulgar gaze.
The Scientific Basis of Elucution demonstrated by "an analysis of the
Temperaments and Phrenological Facts, in connection with Mental
VERILY Wo Americans ought to be a wonderfully learned people! More text-books are manufactured for us annually than for any other people on the globe. We have now at least five hundred series of "spellers and definers” alone, not to mention grammars, geographies, atlases, etc., etc.; certainly more than thu English, Germans and French combined. The last has always new features, all the modern im. provements, and of course surpasses all the rest !
VOL. XVII.--NO. XXXIV. 25
We are reminded of these peculiar advantages by the very laborious efforts which some of our enterprising contemporaries are making just now, as the schools are opening, to please the various rival manufacturers of that important class of goods. Alas! for the poor scribes who have to puff good, bad and indifferent alike. If they were our mortal enemies, we could not wish them a harder fate.
Why not imitate our plan, and see if it would not prove the best in the long run; that is, set a price on your advertisements, which, while fair and moderate, will exclude the vulgar. If some of the latter be tempted by their avarice to patronize you still, instead of soap or paregoric, give them a little nitric acid. In other words, if a worthless book is sent to your office, inform your readers honestly that it is worthless, In time, respectable people will patronize you,—the judicious, spirited class, who, far from asking cheap goods for themselves, will not associate with those who deal in such.
The puffers will not be interfered with by us, however, in any more direct or personal manner than this, except they are uncivil to ourselves, and pat on airs, which do not belong to them; in which case wo might be tempted to show whom it may concern, the precise value and true character of the article in which they deal; for, though benevolent and peaceful in our disposition, we are not a " pon-combatant," and have never announced ourselves as such, for any purpose whatever.
But to return to the volume before us. This, we suppose, is the latest improvement. The title-page will give most of our readers a sufficient idea of its character. It seems that in future the rising generation must be taught phrenologically; if not, there can be no success ; stapicity and ignorance must prevail. Hitherto phrenology has had to perform its wonders alone; but in future it is to be aided by the Holy Spirit! At least, those who use the work before us will have that unspeakable advan tage; and accordingly it is recommended by a large number of pious school superintendents, whose letters are published at the beginning of the volume, so that no one need doubt the miraculous character of the " Scientific Basis."
Seriously, we are surprised at the countenance given the new doctrine by Superintendent Randall and his assistant, Mr. Kiddle, both of whom we have always regarded as sensible, thoughtful men. But it seems the author has once been a colleague of theirs; and it is well known that they are of a benevolent and obliging disposition. We think we do them much more credit by taking this view of the case than we should by supposing for a moment that they really believe the Holy Spirit acts in connection with the new “science."
In every other enlightened country, phrenology is regarded as an erploded theory. At no time has it been accepted anywhere by scientific men worthy of the name ; on the contrary such have invariably rejected it. This our readers will remember we have abundantly proved in a former number of this journal.*
Ther are we to palm off on the rising generation as a science what the English, French and Germans have denounced as an imposture, after a most careful and thorough examination of every thing claimed in its favor? But now the Holy Ghost is brought in as an ally of phrenology. We may expect that the next science introduced into our schools will be that of spirit-rapping; that spirit-rapping has more to do with the volume before us than the Holy Spirit, or any truthful spirit, we think we need hardly inform our readers.
Casar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, with a Vocabulary and Notes.
By William BINGHAM, A.M., Superintendent of the Bingham School. 12mo. pp. 348. Philadelphia. E. H. Butler & Co. 1868.
It always affords us pleasure to recommend a good text-book : and no one of a different character, bearing the imprint on the volume now before us, has ever fallen into our hands. Whether the name of Butler appears on a geography, an atlas, a grammar, a history, or an edition of some ancient classic, we are confident before we open a page of it that, at least, it is no catch-penny. Far be it from us to deny that the Harpers, Ivison, Phinney & Co. and Ticknor & Fields, publish some excellent works; and when we meet with such we most cheerfully recommend them. But we know no publisher more scrupulously or moro intelligently careful in his selections of text-books, than Batler; he is the only prominent publisher in America whose publications we have never thought deserving of censure.
We know very well how ready a certain class of minds are to attribute motives both for censure and approbation. It may, therefore, be said that our preference for the publications of this house results from self-interest ; but it is a false inference, Many whose books we have criticised have patronized us much more than Butler. Had self-interest been our motive, we would have praised the books of J. B. Lippincott, T. B. Peterson, A. S. Barnes, &c. These are the gentlemen who value puffs, and have as great a horror of criticism as Satan is said to have for holy water. But have we gratified them in this respect? Our readers will bear us testimony that we have always designated the sort of pabulum they furnish by its proper name ; yet if they so far improved in their taste and morals as to publish good books, even at the eleventh hour, none would recommend such more cheerfully than we. As it is, we leave the eulogizing of their wares to those who have a stomach for that sort of thing.
We have but little to say of “Bingham's Cæsar; so judiciously and carefully edited a text-book, needs no homily to recommend it. Some
.* Vide No. XIV. September, 1863, Art. Spuriousness and Charlatanism of Phrenology.