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encourage or support an exclusive application to poetry, or even general literature ? Have we colleges with appendant institutions, by whose means indigent talent may be fostered, and when matured by learning, rewarded with profit, and so expanded into utility and fame?
We have an immense commerce—the spirit of traffic pervades every thing on the face of our continent, and education is encouraged because good order and prosperity in trade call for it, as a necessary incident: Literature has a share of our attention, because by it, relaxations from the cares of commerce are pleasantly filled up. Industry, coupled with a profitable object, is the distinguishing characteristic of our people. In Holland it is fashionable to be a man of business—with us, every thing that looks like idleness, is promptly rewarded either with angry reproach, or unconcealed contempt. This is right, and it has a very salutary effect; but, like many good principles, it carries us too far. No distinction is taken between positive inexertion, and that kind of application, whose result is not ready at hand, or whose ultimate advantage is not open to the powers of arithmetic. A wealthy merchant who trades in banks or lands, ships or stocks, begins the education of his son right early, with a view to make him a lawyer, a physician, or a clergyman: he enters him at college, when a school-madam has scarcely resigned her lawful authority over him, and, after struggling a few years through languages and sciences, his education is completed with his “ commencement speech," and he betakes himself “scarce half made up” to a learned avocation, with scholarship nearly sufficient to entitle him to admission into a European college. If, after a young man has shaken himself free from his professor's bonds, a love of learning leads him to a further cultivation of letters, his friends are alarmed, and a variety of gloomy opinions are given on his case—that he is losing his time that he should begin professional studies—that his learning, when commercially summed up, will fully meet the drafts of either law, physic, or divinity-and what has he to do with languages and sciences, when he has left college? All this may be worldly wisdom--but it is very unreasonable to seek and expect grain, where the green blade has been cropped close. Why should we look for profound learning when its pursuit is prevented ? and why should we hope for poetical excellence, when the leisure by which it is cultivated and
produced, is denied-by branding its votary as an idler, because he is guilty of devoting himself to one species of labour, in preference to another? It is a great mistake to suppose that poetic talent, even in natural poets, does not require studious cultivation. Pope thought differently. How great is the inequality
between the early, and matured productions of the best poets ! In this view, there is nothing humiliating in a confession of the puny state of our poetical efforts :-we are not eminent in learning, nor excellent in poetry; neither do we make chronometers, fine watches, lace, and a thousand other things, which older countries produce: but we possess the means of their production, should the demands and institutions of society require and support them.
If the number and excellence of British poets declined from the ardent pursuit of trade, though cherished in academic bowers guarded by entailed possessions, and courted to exertion by the smiles of rank and the hopes of preferment and profit; surely we have no reason to hope for poetical reputation, when pressed down by a like cause, and unsustained by like institutions. Why should the same debilitating principle, which smote the poetry of England in full grown vigour with feebleness, strike health and excellence into the poetic aspirations of a new country?
The little book before us is the effort of an American lady, and as such claims our attention, while its poetic merit challenges our respect. Every man of sense and sentiment, must view with hearty satisfaction the literary improvement of the females of his country. It gives the most unequivocal testimony of the refinement of society ; because the exercise of female attainment is always domestic and social. The wisdom, wit, or imagination of man may be of unrivalled excellence and the domestic circle still share but little of their influence, in pleasure or improvement, -professional duties, abstraction, or an unamiable cast of temper, may obscure his qualities; but the business of woman is domestic duty; therefore the place of weary relaxation to men is the scene of enlivened exertion to females, and in proportion as the minds of women are neglected or improved, the society which they give tone to, must be rude or polished.
The diction, thought, and versification, display refined taste, carefully improved by education : and though the poem, taken generally, wants that interest which might be produced from a better story, and incidents more skilfully enlarged or disposed; yet as it stands, perhaps the proportionable interest it creates by the force of poetic talent alone, is more a matter of credit to the lady, than if we were surprised into applause by the novelty of the tale, or the unexpectedness and ingenuity of the incidents. The following description of a storm at Hell-gate, is natural, flowing, and forcible.
•Where Hell-gate boils with awful roar,
High forming o'er a rocky steep,
The water like a sheet of snow
Amidst the pealing thunder's sound. The description of the appearance of morning, as viewed from the seashore, has considerable merit; and the Periphrasis for a ship, in the closing lines, is novel, poetical and elegant.
Gay beam'd the morn—a brighter sun
Along its dark and hastening tide.' This poem, when rightly considered, affords us no small cause for gratulation,-more indeed for what it indicates, than what it is. It proves that well-directed education of the most valued kind, is doing its good work among us,-it shows that there is a species of female improvement springing up, that depends, not upon charming the eye, or delighting the ear,—whose exertions are not cut up by the roots, from added years, a lame foot, an ailing finger or a heavy cold; but whose influence and advantage are co-extensive with life itself, and when accident or age sweep away all but the faded recollections of other accomplishments, they add force and value to lettered cultivation. It is a national object of deep and general interest, that the education of the female sex should be carefully improved, and their talents diligently encouraged. The manners of women have a most decisive influence on society, by moulding the minds of the young, restraining and polishing the adult, and ministering, with “ angel grace," comfort and consolation to age. Surely those duties must be performed, with an effect proportioned to the intellectual improvement of the agent. Narrow must be the intelligence, and unenviable the sentiment of that sceptic who hesitates, on the national necessity of female education.
Art. XI. Fany. Second Edition. New-York. Wiley and
Halsted. 1821. pp. 68.
Who has not read Fanny ?—both the first and the second editions of it—that delightful bagatelle, which some unknown but highly favoured protege of the Muses has brought out, to turn care into mirth, gravity into light-heartedness, ennui into self complacency, and pride, pedantry, affectation, extravagance, folly, and the first society-into fun.
We are not without apprehension that the notice we take of it, will be deemed by some, a matter of supererogation ; inasmuch as its popularity has already, anticipated all the encomiums, which, in our stern and censorial character, it could be supposed we should be at liberty to pass, on the frolic fancies of this son of Apollo. We shall not, however, suffer any fears on this point to overcome the consciousness of what belongs to our “high calling ;” nor permit, by our silence, an inference to be drawn, that we do not think some additional importance will be attached to a book, from its receiving at our hands, "recorded honours."
Brief as it is, we met with some embarrassments in its perusal, which we shall notify to our readers. Our earliest and virgin copy of the second edition,--without a cover on, and before it was half read-strayed somehow insensibly away from our critical fingers, into the fair and favourite hand of youth, taste, intelligence and beauty. We forthwith ordered another copy, which was captured in our library, almost as soon as it reached there, by a fine, good-hearted country syavan, who said, as he coolly rolled it up and consigned it to his pocket, that he had fallen in love with Fanny, from the “ expectations," which beamed upon her in the first edition; and he was anxious to know what effect her “misfortunes," set forth in the second, would have upon his passion. Another copy was then procured, but before we had an opportunity to cut the leaves, a literary friend who was on the point of sailing for England, called to bid us “good by,” and saying he had no time to go to the publishers, craved leave to take it, to amuse the passengers on the voyage; adding, that on his arrival in London, he would despatch it to Lord Byron, at Venice, just to let him know that we could give out the poetic fling on this side of the water, in as fine and careless a style as the wits “t'other side the ferry,”—and with better morals, than are displayed in his Beppo and Don Juan.
The Fanny, of the first edition was furnished by the appropriating sagacity and the sensitive fears of the day, with sundry
local habitions,” and a variety of “names.” She was decidedly recognised one evening, at a very famous tea party, un
der circumstances which left do doubt of her identity :-she was also reported to us, by one of the philosophicals, to have been at that very time, listening to Griscom's evening lecture on Astronomy-while we ourselves fancied, that it was no less a personage than this self-same expectant heiress, whom at that identical moment we were watching, as she threaded the mazes of a cotillion, at one of the City Hotel Publics. Fanny's father too by the same sort of appropriating legerdemain became, like Mrs. Malaprop’s Cerberus, “three gentlemen at once.” He was observed throwing an intent and business-like glance at “ Lang's Bulletin," which a fresh arrival had loaded with news; and yet it was insisted by one, that he was sitting at that very time, with a board of Insurance directors; and by another, that he had but then passed him, at the court end of Wall-street, doffing his beaver to Mr. Gelston, the collector.'
The second edition puts an end to all these shrewd conjectures, and leaves Fanny-with an indifferent shawl on—to music and a tear;' and her father-after being visited by the notary,' and taking a shilling's worth of Jupiter, through the showman's telescope,'—to Scudder and to Poetry. It is not surprising that a mere fancy-sketch, which, in its general lineaments, in its colouring, and its keeping, is so true to the collective features and characteristic expression of a large class, who are struggling for the reputation of having been admitted into the den of that mystical and equivocal " lion"—the first society, should have put curiosity on the alert, in search of a real original, and secured to conjecture the certainty of being mistaken. The father was
. A decent kind of person; one whose head
Was not of brains particularly full ;' Who had made and saved money in Chatham-street-moved to · Hanover-square'-gained consequence and self-importance-became bank and insurance director, philanthropist and politicianemployed all sorts of masters to teach Fanny all sorts of accomplishments—made presents of bivalve moluscas' to Dr. Mitchell-purchased a mansion in Broadway, to clear his “household coat from stain-set up a splendid equipage-gave magnificent parties-had the brokers for his friends, and stopp'd payment.'
• For two whole days they were the common talk ;
The party, and the failure, and all that,
Porter-house reasoning, and tea-table chat.
I pass'd their house-the shutters were all clos'd;