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each in the perfection of its works! He who leads us among the scenes and objects so rapidly alluded to above, will, if he possess any power of sympathy, or felicity of description, cast a spell on the reader's heart which will enchain him to the narrative. The lover of antiquity, particularly, will feel the attractions of a work, a large portion of which brings into view the memorials of classic times.
Mr. Colton's post in the United States navy has afforded him excellent opportunities for observation, and he seems to have improved them to good effect. The fortunes of a life at sea, adventures on land, interesting scenery, rare objects, men and manners in their wide variety, female beauty, and the beauty of the relics of antiquity, are described with strong enthusiasm, and, at the same time, with much taste and judgment. We consider these publications (which are essentially one continued work under different titles) as a favourable specimen of that class of books of travels, in which the first glowing impressions made by a visit to a foreign country are recorded. These impressions, though oftentimes in need of correction by subsequent observation, are valuable on many accounts, aside from their power of fixing the attention of readers, when thrown off in their life and freshness. Prolonged and familiar acquaintance with foreign places and scenes is apt, of course, to beget comparative indifference towards them: one becomes less sensible to their distinctive features. It is the difference, the contrast between one's own country and other countries, which, first of all, and most powerfully affects the traveller. This dissimilarity the reader is interested in knowing, and he receives a vivid conception of it, when the journalist gives those views that first struck his own mind. These passing and rapid sketches answer every purpose, in presenting to us the scenery of nature, monuments of art, external manners, and national costume. But to give an account of the character of a people, their literature and philosophy, the nice shades of their social habits, and subjects of like kind, is a task which, of course, can be more satisfactorily accomplished by means of a protracted residence in a foreign land. Yet, there is a vast difference among writers in this respect. The same advantages would be turned to a very different account by different orders of mind.
If we may anticipate a remark in this place, our author, from some felicitous touches on the character and policy of the people whom he visited, would seem to have made up, in tact and discrimination, what he wanted of prolonged acquaintance.
Judging from Mr. Colton's books, he appears to have possessed excellent qualifications for writing on the subjects which he has selected. Their general features indicate the man of feeling and taste, of keen observation, independent views, and
various knowledge. To prepare a pleasing and able account of the regions which he visited, requires a cast of mind and a species of information which belong not to every sagacious man or good writer. A union of several characteristics, and those, too, of a choice kind, is demanded. We want not, as in Chateaubriand, all enthusiasm ; nor, as in Eustace, all taste; nor yet, as in Forsyth, all science and epigram. In regard, however, to the last-named author, if our recollection may be trusted in a perusal of his work on Italy many years since, we may be permitted to say that he appears to us to stand at the head of his tribe among English tourists. Still, the severity and dry details of science should be enlivened by enthusiasm and taste. In a work designed for popular use, we want the substance-the results of critical and learned research, without its forms. It is possible to find dull tourists, uninteresting writers, learned though they should be, on the Troad, by the banks of the Ilissus, or amid the ruins of Pæstum. Now, nothing can atone for the want of feeling and eloquence amid such scenes.
But not so with our author. His constitutional sensibility comes happily into play here. It is readily awakened by the hallowed scenes which meet his eye, and he pours forth a full and warm heart, with an inspiration becoming his theme. Indeed, we have remarked throughout his work, that he kindles with every object of beauty and curiosity, whether in nature or art, whether of ancient or modern date—that he is keenly alive to the incidents which are constantly occurring to a travellerand that he has a quick sense of the ludicrous, eccentric, or absurd. This general susceptibility of impression is what we like to see in a painter of nature and of men. He who is destitute of it should not go to Asia Minor, Greece, or Italy, and write a book of travels, with an expectation of its being ever read.
In connection with his stock of sensibility, so desirable in a tourist, Mr. Colton possesses the power of giving utterance to it in no common degree. His command of language is not the least important of his accomplishments. He seems to be endowed with the faculty of saying whatever he pleases, and just in the manner he would choose. The most minute and delicate shades of thought are marked with a distinctness and precision which the discerning reader will not fail to admire. We have been struck, in particular, with his selection and use of epithets. They are always appropriate and significant in his hands, and often paint a thought as if it had been thrown upon canvass. We feel the power of a well-chosen adjunct in the vivid images or trains of reflection which it raises in the mind; and the writer may congratulate himself, whose quick susceptibilities suggest to him the very terms best adapted to awaken the emotions of others. VOL. XX.--NO. 40.
The author's kindness of heart and truly catholic spirit are every where displayed in his pages. He looks over the wide surface of society with a candour and benevolence which embrace its various and often conflicting interests. Towards unessential and educational errors he is commendably lenient, and when he has occasion to utter the language of censure, unless in cases of flagrant and inexcusable wrong, it is with a spirit of gentleness which conciliates, rather than offends, its objects. He who goes abroad, and views the varieties of the human family, and mingles with all descriptions of men with their individual and endless differences, in respect to opinions, tastes, customs, and pursuits, will learn to be forbearing and liberal, if he is not so by nature. Our author's candid and catholic feelings, we believe, were directed by a sense of moral obligation, and, indeed, emanated from such a source.
There are passages of great pathos in his volumes, though they are often introduced and worked into some unexpected digression, and do not appear as parts of the regular narrative. This may be considered a defect simply as to his manner, or the form of his work, since those passages might have produced a still better effect under other circumstances. There is every evidence of profound feeling in our author, from the effects produced, notwithstanding the numerous fanciful and sportive pieces which, at the same time, constitute portions of the work under review. Indeed, strokes of pathos and sallies of humour succeed each other at intervals so inconsiderable, that the reader, affected one monient with deep sympathetic grief, becomes at the next the picture of
“Laughter holding both his sides." We have remarked, in many other cases besides the present, that the pathetic is nearly allied to the comic in the same individual—the profoundest feeling with the most sportive tendencies; so nearly do extremes meet in character and genius, as well as
This consideration may reconcile the reader to the seeming incongruity which exists in our author-those light phantasies supervening upon the most touching tales of grief. We should feel, however, little inclination to censure this gamesome mood, so much is it redeemed by fine touches of the pathetic, did we not question the propriety of introducing the digressions themselves, at least with such frequency. The interest of the real narrative, it will be allowed, must be affected, in some degree, by the interruption—as the reader, in the mean time, is thrown into a state of suspense, and waits impatiently for the denouement. The power of melting the heart should be held sacred, and employed with the best effect. He who can open the fountains of feeling, in the description of the nun of
Santa Clara, may well spare a tirade against the members of our congress. The author, however, has acknowledged his sin. “I must confess,” he says, towards the close of his second book, “digression is my fault
, and candidly own, were a man to treat his wife with as much neglect as I do my narrative, if she had any spirit she would apply for a divorce, and, if there were any justice in the court, obtain it.”
We have before hinted our opinion of the author's diction, at least in one of its features; but we may take a more general view of it with propriety. There can be, we should think, but one sentiment respecting it, with competent judges. We have read his books with much pleasure, as works of taste, and felt that we had come in contact with a polished and powerful intellect. He has evidently brought to his task the literary skill which it demanded—the power of a neat, discriminating, and energetic expression. We cannot say, as is sometimes said in the fastidiousness of criticism, that his style is scarcely noticed, because it is so inartificial and perfect a vehicle of thought. For what is thought, aside from the forms which embody itthe terms in which it is presented to our minds! What is beautiful, energetic thought, on an author's page, but a form of mental exhibition, in which we recognize grace and vigour ! The truth is, we always notice the diction of a writer, if we notice any thing, and that, as conformed or not to our notions of an excellent model. The characteristics of Mr. Colton's style will be found to be elegance, precision, and force. He seldom suffers himself to write a careless, obscure, or feeble sentence. Passages of fine, and even eloquent composition abound in his books. To use his own figure, in a beautiful eulogium on the English tongue, he comes near to his own conception of dexterity in wielding it. “ He weaves his feelings into a broad, bright chain of language, and casts the radiant web, in a glowing belt, round the great firmarnent of letters."
The felicities of his diction are peculiarly worthy of notice, in his descriptions of the scenes and monuments of antiquity. We have already alluded to this topic; but his classical touches deserve a single comment by themselves. We have seldom met with any thing better of the kind. We have read more prolonged, ambitious, or elaborate accounts; but, for a book of travels, these are less in place than our author's concise and vivid pictures, produced almost by a single dash of the pen. By a judicious combination of circumstances, he crowds into a single paragraph the pith of a whole disquisition. He evokes the misty but beautiful spirit of antiquity, in his few breathing, burning, melting thoughts. This portion of his book indicates, in no doubtful manner, those accomplishments of the scholar
and man of taste, which fit one to receive and communicate the inspiration of the consecrated memorials of elder time. We will not enlarge here, as we may soon have an occasion to produce an extract or two from passages of this description, which have made a lively impression on our minds.
Mr. C. has an original vein, and richly so. His turn of thought is entirely his own-it has little resemblance to that of ordinary minds. He thinks like a man of genius; and, whether in sallies of humour, in meditative effusions, or in continuous narrative and description, he evidently draws from the deep fountains within. The whole face of his book shows, that he relies on his own resources, is guided by his own judgment, and gives us his own impressions and sentiments. Those brief comments on matters of taste, fancy, domestic life, morality, and similar topics, which are interspersed along his narrative, are conceived in a manner no less original than impressive. With itineraries, guides, and other mens' accounts of the regions which he surveyed, he professes to have had no concern in the preparation of his books; and we may well believe him, from the fresh and racy character of every page.
Of the power of Mr. Colton's fancy, we could say much, were it necessary. His books throughout are an exhibition of this pleasing, though somewhat dangerous, faculty. His imagination, every one will allow, takes a wide range. It is not, however, absolutely wild and ungovernable, even in its freest career—its merriest moods. It gambols, indeed, but somewhat by rule. The scholar's chastened taste, and sound notions, restrain or shape the movements of this capricious power. He holds the reins with a good deal of dexterity; and though we have thought that he drove at times too much like Phaeton, yet we have not observed that he has ever made so unhappy a plunge as that ambitious charioteer. To speak less in a figure, though on such a subject figures will come, and the structure of language almost forces them upon us, Mr. C., it is well known, has a fine poetical vein. His ordinary prose representations show the fancy of the bard ; and his pages are, in part, a record of the bright and beautiful things which we dream of in poesy. We should know his predilections on this subject, aside from the regular verses which are scattered throughout his work. The poetic cast of thought is a marked distinction, let it appear in whatever form or department of composition it may. It may be visible in prose as well as in verse, technically so called. It appears strikingly, both in its more unpretending and more avowed forms, in the volumes under review.
The poems, of themselves, deserve more than the passing notice we can now bestow upon them. We have admired the felicity and appropriateness of several of the pieces which close