« PreviousContinue »
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LEIGH Hryi. A
New Edition, Revised by the Authz, with further Rerision and ani Intro duction by his Eldest Son. Londoa: Smith, Elder, & Co.
our beloved allegorist. We have not noticed this edition during its issue, believing we could render greater service to its spirited publisher when it was completed, and we could inform our readers, not that certain felicitous improvements were projected in this edition, but that they had been made. What these are we can best indicate in the words of the editor, Mr. Gilfillan“ Among the learned, to whom the presentation of an antique page forms no barrier, but acts often as a zest, there are few poems in our language more admired than "The Faerie Queen, but to the general reader, the old spelling is felt to be so repulsive as to make the work appear a sealed book.” We have felt the difference in reading a page of this emended orthography, as compared with the old, to be great as the difference between the medal rough and discoloured by rust, and when burnished and clean. The work done by Mr. Gilfillan for Spenser had been done long ago for Shakspeare, and now Spenser is as easily read as his great contemporary. The explanations given of obsolete terms are neither prolix nor meagre ; usually one word suffices, and the glossary being put at the side of the page, the reader glides along without the slightest interruption. Every obstacle being now removed to the full enjoyment of our glorious romantic poet, the flower of chivalry, we trust that every student of our language and literature will now avail himself of the privilege. The introductory essays by Mr. Gilfillan are worthy of his high name: one exhibits the construction and moral of the allegories of the several works-another, the life of the poet-a third, a dissertation on his poetry; all of them graphic and instructive. The type is doubtless familiar to our readers, and will be no mean charın to them when they indulge in the luxury of buying and reading this standard edition of Spenser.
This is a charming gossipping volume, written in Leigh Hunt's happiest style. Its entire length is a long picture gallery, where the portraits of his friends are préserved, and our host, in taking us through, kindly interweaves with his talk pleasant reminiscences of the hours he spent with each of them.
The greatest literary men of the past and present age are thus introduced and described to Coleridge, Keats, Byron, Campbell, Shelley, Carlyle, and Dickens. Leigh Hunt was intimate with them all, and here, as in a magical mirror, we see them pass before us, in the vraisemblance of life, along with a number of others, their associates and friends. Leigh Hunt's vapourous religious sentimentality hangs like a mist over portions of the book, damping and darkening the reader's mind as it did the author's.
Otherwise, a pleasanter railway or after-dinner companion could not be desired.
THE PUBLIC SPEAKER, AND HOW TO
MAKE ONE. By a Cambridge Man. London: James Nisbet.
If the title-page were an advertisement, stating what the author wanted to know, we could direct him where to get instructions how to make a public speaker ; but we warn our readers not to expect such instruction from this book, which only asks and does not tell - how ; unless this advice be sufficient which we give in three words what our author expands over 120 pp. Query,-How to make a Public Speaker. Answer,-Resolve and be.
MAURICE'S SOCIAL RELIGION, exemplified
in an Account of the First Settlement of Christianity in the City of Coerludd. By the Rev. Matthias Maurice. Seventh Edition. Edited by the Rev. F. Nicholas, Professor of Theology and Church History, Carmarthen College. London: Ward & Co.
A reprint and revise of a quaint, rich, old, unforgotten book, written by a contemporary and neighbour of Doddridge. Being a Welshman he reproduces an old Celtic city into which Christianity is just introduced, and illustrates the constitution and working of the apostolic churches from the fictitious history of the young church in Coerludd. The framework of the narrative is cumbrous wood-work, for the Rev. Matthias was no cunning workman in words or fancies ; but the matter enclosed is solid and precious. Like bullion-boxes, inside the rude carpentry there are pure and weighty ingots. Further, there is a severe realistic manner about the Puritan's fiction, which gives it an amazing hold on the imagination, so that these early Christians, despite their Welsh and unpronounceable names, excite deep and growing interest as we read of them.
absorbed demeanour of the romancist not unfrequently puzzled the quiet Cheshire country people. We mus own to a feeling of disappointment that after a silence of several years Mr. Hawthorne should make even Italy his first theme. He has written his name after those of De Stael, and Tieck, and Andersen, and many others from lands not Italian, who have made Italy the home of their ideal creations. Some curiosity must be felt as to the manner in which an author who succeeded in drawing a veil of old-world mystery and romance even over Boston can avail of the exhaustless materials which lie heaped around the Capitol and the Coloseum. We must frankly declare our opinion that the attempt has not been successful, and that the Romance of Monte Beni* will not add to the fame of the author of the Romance of Blithedale. Mr. Hawthorne seems to have concentrated in his latest work all the peculiar defects even of his best productions, and to have diffused over it less of his peculiar charm of thought, and style, and touch, than are apparent even in the slightest of his previous efforts. It is scarcely possible to arise from the perusal of this book without a feeling of disappointment and a sense of wasted genius.
Mr. Hawthorne is unquestionably a man of genius, and of characteristics thoroughly unborrowed and original. When his name first became known in English literature, a place among the foremost of his own art was readily and justly accorded to him. There appeared something in his writings which indicated the latent existence of a power yet to be developed and made profitable to the world. With the lapse of time it seemed almost certain that this vagueness and want of purpose would crystalize into clearness and well-directed force.
AFTER Mr. Hawthorne's long residence in this country, many of his admirers no doubt expected from him some work embodying his impressions of English scenery and English life. Liverpool, with its intense business energy and its entirely modern character, was scarcely a fitting home for the poetic or the romantic, but there were phases of its life of which we should all gladly have received his impressions. Picturesque glimpses of scenery there are too in its neighbourhood, as Mr. Hawthorne learned in his wanderings on the New Brighton shore, and among the Eastham woods, where the dreamy,
“ Transformation : or, the Romance of Monte Beni." By Nathaniel Hawthorne. London : Smith, Elder, & Co.
It is not surprising that Mr. Hawthorne's earlier works aroused the attention of a public languid from very satiety of novel reading. There was genius in them entirely peculiar, and almost inexplicable. Nawthorne took his reader with him into the centre of busy, bustling, and modern Boston, drew his magic circle, spake his conjuration, and the very spirit of the antique arose in gloom and cloud upon the scene. In his descriptions of some old Massachussetts family name, or
some Governor's council chamber, the very soul of the elder world seems to descend and hold communion with the reader. Occasional glimpses, too, of a gentle and tender feeling revealed themselves. The opening chapter of the “Scarlet Letter,” describing the little custom-house of Salem and its officials, was as quaint and genial as if it were a lost leaf from the essays of poor Elia. But there was a power in the “Scarlet Letter” rarely united with such quiet pathos. Scarcely is there in literature a contrast and a junction more terribly dramatic than those which separate and yet link together the Puritan preacher and the branded wearer of the fatal symbol. Is it not Maclise's painting of the play-scene in “Hamlet,” in which the artifice of the painter has caused the shadow of the stage-murderer to fall across the chamber right upon the figure of the fratricide King? It is thus that in the “Scarlet Letter” the shadow of the degradation and the guilt of the lost woman darkens the form of the preacher, and seems to mark out a black space upon which those two beings stand alone, appallingly distinguished from the pure brightness all around.
The “Blithedale Romance," in many respects the best, was surely the saddest of the author's productions. It is a dreary retrospect of enthusiasm uselessly expending its powers, and prematurely expiring : passion misdirected, and turning back to prey upon itself : principles the most unselfish and exalted worked
out without judgment, and either degenerating into melancholy monomania or breaking out into a wilder madness.
But the author ought to have gron to something still better, artistically and morally. The defects of previous labours would have been compensatei had the interval of years which followed the publication of the "Blithe dale Romance" been the precurser of a work wholly healthy and manly in tone, and which while developing to the fullest the high imagination and the spiritualized feeling of the author should borrow no unreal delusive, and disappointing attrac tions from the morbid, the mystic and the supernatural. Such a work the “Romance of Monte Beni" emphatically is not. It has all the special defects of its predecessors, and not many of their peculiar merits.
The “Romance of Monte Beni" is at least original in its structure. It is the story of a being almost eutirely animal in its origin, developed into emotion, painful struggles, and final exaltation by the remorse which follows a sudden deed of crime. In the old classic legend the higher life lights up in the animal nature at the first glimpse of human beauty. In the German story a soul enters the sprite-form of Undine with the visitation of human love. In Mr. Hawthorne's novel the nature of the Faun grows humanized and ennobled through the painful medium of remorse and despair. It is not difficult to see how the story gradually de veloped itself in the author's mind. Mr. Hawthorne when gazing on the marble Faun of Praxiteles in the sculpture gallery of the Capitol fell into his peculiar and dreamy meditations upon the mythic nature of the being who held that strange place between man and animal, having some of the form and some of the character of each, capable of a higher joy and love than the one race, incapable of the aspiration, the sorrow, the exaltation of the other
. The strange desire seized upon the author's
imagination to weave a modern romance around a central figure in whose being the elements of the wild joyous Faun nature were blended from a hereditary source. “The being here represented is endowed with no principle of virtue, and would be incapable of comprehending such, but he would be true and honest by dint of his simplicity." Donatello, the hero, is the heir of a line of Etruscan ancestors whose origin is traced back by the legends of the region in which their hereditary castle stands to the vanished race of the Faun which once peopled and made living the darkling depths of Tuscan forests. A sudden deed of blood, in defence of one he loves, first wakens sorrow and remorse and finally human aspirations and hope in the joyous, animal being of the nineteenth century Faun. By a dim mystical method brightened indeed by some flashes of beauty and gleams of genuine feeling is this moral wrought out. The theme is repulsive in itself, and Mr. Hawthorne has not endeavoured to soften or relieve, except in rare instances, its repelling features. The other creatures of the story are unfortunately but too familiar to Mr. Hawthorne's readers.
The highly-gifted, beautiful, proud woman, hunted down by some vague and terrible destiny, and eternally haunted by a mysterious and abhorred persecutor ; the fragile, spiritualized girl ; the earnest, aspiring artistthese are forms we have met in all our author's previous works. But their colours have begun to fade.
Artistically, as well as in a higher sense, this book seems to us a failure. The moral it professes to teach is surely open to the gravest exception. Never before, at least in the literature of our day, has crime been made the purifying furnace from which the soul comes out refined and glorified. Artistically the story is complicated and confused, its characters feeble, and only its incidents and reflections striking, while its conclusion is scarcely intelligible. Why should a man of genuine and natural power convert The slender thread of silk or cotton keeps them united with the small, familiar, gentle interests of life, thé continually operating influences of which do so much for the health of the character, and carry off what would otherwise be a dangerous accumulation of morbid sensibility. A vast deal of human sympathy runs along this electric line, stretching from the throne to the wicker-chair of the
himself into a kind of literary Cagliostro ? Might not the words Mr. Hawthorne has applied to our English sculptor be, with far greater strictness, now applied to himself ? “ Gifted with more delicate power than any other man alive, he has foregone to be a Christian reality, and perverted himself into a Pagan idealist, whose business or efficacy in our present world it would be exceedingly difficult to define.”
It would, indeed, be unjust not to declare that there are many scenes of great power, vivid descriptions of town and forest sights, quaint scraps of suggestive thought, and gleams of irresistible pathos scattered over these volumes. Some of the sketches of Italian scenery remind the reader of Mr. Brett's marvellous Vale of Aosta, with its sun and shadow, its thunderclouds, its vines, its rocks, and its radiant colours ; and here and there a stray passage of a quieter and homelier kind reminds us that we are communing with the author of the “Twice-Told Tales.” Here, for instance, are a few genial sentences in which Mr. Hawthorne meditates over his heroine, as she sits and mends a glove : There is something extremely pleasant and even touching -at least, of very sweet, soft, and winning effect-in this peculiarity of needlework, distinguishing women from men. Our own sex is incapable of any such by-play, aside from the main business of life ; but womenbe they of what earthly rank they may, however gifted with intellect or genius, or endowed with awful beauty -have always some little handiwork ready to fill up the tiny gap of every vacant moment. A needle is familiar to the feelings of them all. A queen no doubt plies it on occasions ; the woman-poet can use it as adroitly as her pen; the woman's eye that has discovered a new star turns from its glory to send the polished little instrument gleaming along the hem of her kerchief, or to darn a casual fray in her dress. And they have greatly the advantage of us in this respect.
humblest seamstress, and keeping high and low in a species of commonion with their kindred beings Methinks it is a token of healthy and gentle characteristics when women of high thoughts and accomplishments love to sew, especially as they are never more at home with their own hearts than while so occupied."