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in the midst of a generation of official lows : “Some personal mention, however theologians; keen publicists, who con- slight, should here exist as due to its tented themselves with political specula- author, a painter and designer of our tion, but never had ambition for affairs; own day, who is in many signal rescholars, who accumulated, but never spects very closely akin to Blake ; more published.
so, probably, than any other living artist What has been the case in New Eng- could be said to be. James Smetham’s land in such limited sense as a provin- work, generally of small or moderate cial civilization affords is emphatical- size, ranges from Gospel subjects, of the ly illustrated in England. The story subtlest imaginative and mental insight, still lingers of that unhappy heir to an and sometimes of the grandest coloring, earldom, who, vainly struggling in the through Old Testament compositions and meshes of fortune which forbade him to through poetic and pastoral themes of be anything but an earl, finally broke every kind, to a special imaginative form away altogether, took another name, of landscape. In all these he partakes shipped before the mast, and sought in- greatly of Blake's immediate spirit, bedependence by absolute suppression of ing also often nearly allied by landscape his inherited self. That was an excep- intensity to Samuel Palmer, in youth the tional case in its outward rebellion, but noble disciple of Blake. Mr. Smetham's it was typical of a class easily recog- works are very numerous, and, as other nizable by any one familiar with Eng- exclusive things have come to be, will lish social life. In a less ungovernable some day be known in a wide circle. form, the temper finds expression in the Space is altogether wanting to make eccentricity which appears frequently in more than this passing mention here of the English man of wealth and social them and of their producer, who shares position, but more significantly, though in a remarkable manner Blake's mental less noticeably, in the lives of men and beauties and his formative shortcomings, women who are not in rebellion, but sim- and possesses besides an individual inply are, so to speak, non-resistants ; who vention which often claims equality with oppose to the demands of society an ef- the great exceptional master himself.” fective inertia, and are not only content This was written presumably in 1880, to live far from the madding crowd, and or thereabout, when Smetham had passed forbidden by their lot to read their his- into that mental eclipse which is so tory in a nation's eyes, but positively delicately referred to in the volume of shape their lives after ideals which mag- Letters 1 which constitutes the fullest nify their simple occupations and seem record thus far published of his career. to set their being in a large place. We quote it because, brief as it is, it
Some such figure one may discover sets Smetham forth upon his artistic in James Smetham, whose name is side somewhat more sharply than the known incidentally to students of Wil- book itself, which is more fully occupied liam Blake literature by a thought with a presentation of Smetham's intelful article which he contributed to an lectual and religious nature. The brief English periodical as a review of Gil- introductory memoir by Mr. Davies christ's Life of Blake, and which Mrs. himself, we suspect, to be classed under Gilchrist reprinted in the second volume the head of private geniuses — may be of the new edition of that Life. In re- read profitably after as well as before ferring to this article, Mr. D. G. Ros- the reader has become directly acquaintsetti, in this new edition, wrote as fol- ed with Smetham through the letters.
1 Letters of James Smetham. With an Intro- and WILLIAM DAVIES. London and New ductory Memoir. Edited by SARAH SMETHAM York: Macmillan & Co. 1891.
These letters, extending over a score for publicity, and his letters and memoof years, and addressed mainly to the randa continued to be for himself and writer's intimate companions, though a his dearest friends. few were written also to men like Rus- Be this as it may, the reader comes to kin and Rossetti, who valued him for his be indifferent to Smetham's fame, and gifts in art, but scarcely belonged in the even to his artistic production, and takes inner circle of his friends, impress the an extraordinary satisfaction in interreader by their exceeding delicacy of course with this privacy of genius. With form, and slowly reveal a nature very him he is willing to leave the outer world, rare in its fineness of spirit. Evidently and take his pleasure in the cool shades they are drawn from a much larger of a reflective life. The sincere humility mass, and they must be taken also as which characterizes Smetham's connecdiffering only in outward form from a tion with the plain people to whom he considerable body of notes upon life, was a religious teacher and leader does literature, art, and religion, accumulated not seem another or incongruous eleby Smetham in the course of a patiently ment in a nature which was keenly suslaborious and loving life led on simple ceptible to beauty. Rather, one is dislines. To the world looking on casually posed to regard it as only another phase he was a not over-successful painter, a of that reverential attitude which Smeteacher of drawing, an occasional con- tham took toward art. The penetrating, tributor to periodicals. To the world often very subtle observations which he brought more closely into contact with makes to his friends on religious themes him he was a devout man, a class-leader could scarcely, we may think, have in the Methodist connection. To his formed the staple of his instruction to immediate friends he must have been a his humble disciples, yet there is an utgrave but not austere man, tremulously ter absence of anything like condescensusceptible to the faintest suggestion of sion in his habit of speech regarding beauty, whether in life, in nature, or in these disciples. The rare blending of art; giving expression in conversation lofty thought, acute criticism, and gentle, and in writing to searching, suggestive affectionate interest in common things thought, and putting into his pictures a and common men so marks the entire depth of meaning which cost him a nature of this delicately organized man travail of spirit.
that superficial incongruities disappear, Indeed, without knowing his pictures and the unworldliness which confronts save by description, we cannot avoid us is integral, not conventional.
We the conclusion that, though the simple make no quotations from these letters, domestic subjects, conscientiously paint though it would be easy to do so, but we ed, brought a genuine pleasure to the advise all who have not lost their taste painter, the more serious pictures made for elevated thought, shy pleasure, gensuch demands upon his sensibility that tle humor, and pure sentiment, touched he chose, almost from necessity, to throw throughout with an unaffected, simple, his thought and feeling rather into his but deep piety, to linger for themselves writing, and that thus his writing be- over the pages of this unusual book. came, through long practice, more firm During the last twenty years the and expressive. One seems to discover, South has been fruitful in writers of as the years lengthen, a deeper tone to novels and short stories. Cable, Harris, his writing, and yet a more confident Page, and Miss Murfree, for instance, touch, as though the pen came to be his have done work which, in their own lines, preferred implement. Yet with all this
Yet with all this has not been surpassed. It has been there appears to have been little craving much less fruitful in writers of a more
serious kind ; and hence we welcome with American literature, and an intiwith especial pleasure a book so excel- mate knowledge of old-time life in the lent alike from the literary and the his- Southern States. Finally, to a very real torical standpoints as Professor Trent's and affectionate sympathy with and rebiography of the almost forgotten South gard for Simms, a sympathy and regard Carolina novelist, Simms.) Mr. Trent which his readers are sure in the end to is evidently not only a man of wide read- share, he has added a noteworthy clearing and a close student of literature, but sightedness and impartiality of judgment also, what is much more important, a which give his criticisms of men and man of originality and of historic insight, events a permanent value. He has thus capable of seeing the facts as they are, been able to produce a book which stands and fearless enough to state his conclu- high even in so excellent a series as that sions as he sees them. His book is a
in which it appears,
- a series which, in credit to the scholarship of the South, Lounsbury's Cooper, has given birth to and is a real addition to the list of the best piece of literary biography that American works which deal with both has been produced anywhere of recent our literary and our political history; years. and this means, of course, that it is a Simms was born in Charleston, South real addition to English literature, using Carolina, in 1806, and died in 1870. the words in their larger and proper All his literary work which was worth
doing was done between 1834 and 1856. Simms was much the most consider. Throughout his life his home was in able of the Southern school of writers South Carolina, but he made repeated in the years before the war, - for Poe trips to the North and to the Southwest. belongs to no school and no section, He traveled and sojourned for months and he was the most prolific novelist, es- at a time among the Creeks and the sayist, and (Heaven save the mark !) poet Cherokees, and he lived much with the this country has ever produced. Yet he hardy white borderers; he was therefore is now almost completely forgotten. It familiar with Indians and frontiersmen is probable that most people, even among as they really were, knowing both their those who are fairly well read, do not so faults and their virtues. Moreover, he much as know the name of an author knew well “ the wealth of beauty and some of whose books, at least, are well charm hidden away in the chronicles and worth a permanent place on our book- traditions of his native State.” He had shelves. It is a pleasure to record the the good sense to see the rich and virgin fact that a faithful few have always re- fields which lay open to him, and he membered him, and that in the Atlantic made these fields his own. Of his poems, Monthly itself there appeared, a couple polemics, and historical and literary esof years ago, an appreciative review of says nothing need be said here. He his novels.
made his mark in the two series of borMr. Trent has prepared himself for der and of historical romances. In the his task very carefully and faithfully former he is not at his best, though in He has searched out all the available ma- them he gives some valuable sketches of terial, printed or in manuscript, dealing backwoods life, and draws some striking either with Simms's life or his writings. pictures of typical backwoods characHe possessed two great advantages at ters. His really excellent historical rothe outset, – a
a thorough acquaintance mances, such as The Yemassee and The 1 William Gilmore Simms. By WILLIAM P.
Partisan, are the works upon which his TRENT. [American Men of Letters.] Boston
title to lasting fame must rest. To beand New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1892. gin with, these romances possess the
merit of being eminently readable, — no most interestingly. He shows us a brave, slight virtue, though some modern book- dogmatic, generous -hearted man, who makers apparently look upon it rather went wrong politically, as all his assoin the light of a defect. In the next ciates did, but who was incapable of a place, though of course a disciple in the mean or cowardly action ; a man of genschool of Scott and Cooper, he did ori- uine even if misguided patriotism ; an ginal work in a line which no one else indefatigable literary worker; and in the had taken, and which was well worth days of sore trial after the war a pathettaking. His romances dealt with cer- ically courageous spirit, toiling unceastain picturesque phases of Carolinian ingly, in the teeth of overwhelming dishistory which had fired his imagination. aster, for the welfare of his children and His mind was saturated with the legen- friends; in short, a man who commands dary and historical lore of the Carolinas, our heartiest respect. Mr. Trent realizes while he had been born and brought that no biography is complete unless not up in the very localities about which he only the man, but his surroundings, are wrote. He was therefore “ following clearly outlined ; and he describes very out the universal principle of literary art appreciatively, and sometimes humorouswhich requires that a man shall write ly, the now utterly vanished life of the spontaneously and simply about those old South. He grasps the essential feathings he is fullest of and best under- tures with remarkable clearness ; and his stands.” He tried to charm his readers sketch abounds in many interesting dewith a true picture of the deeds and tails, the letters to and from Beverley the times by which he had himself been Tucker offering a case in point. There charmed ; and he succeeded. He was are one or two small and unimportant equally successful in describing the war- slips : for instance, in one place he seems fare waged by the early colonists against to confound two of the Bonhams, and the Indians, and the bitter, harassing occasionally his English is too colloquial; struggle between Tarleton's red dra- it is difficult to defend the use of such a goons and the weather-worn troopers of word as “ vim.” But these are merely Marion.
trivial errors. Unfortunately, his faults were many The most valuable portion of the book and grave. His natural talents were is that portraying Simms's relation to great, but his education was very de- the political movements which culminatfective, and he lived in a society totally ed in the civil war. Mr. Trent strikes devoid of a creative literary atmosphere. his true theme when he writes as a hisHe had no idea of such qualities as torian ; and if he fulfills the promise of thoroughness, finish, and self-restraint. this book he will eventually stand in the His style is hurried and slipshod ; many first rank of our politico-historical wriof his passages are wooden or bombas- ters. He possesses the rare quality of tic; and his petulant impatience of criti- seeing veracity," as Carlyle phrased it ; cism forbade his gaining any profit by he knows things as they really are, and experience. At one time he was foolish recognizes their true significance. He enough to make ventures in the field understands that men may believe in a : of European romance, only to meet de- cause with a touching earnestness and served and dismal failure. Yet, in spite sincerity of conviction, and may battle of all these failures and shortcomingsfor it with a valor so heroic as to make Mr. Trent is right in stating that Simms all their right-thinking opponents doubly has fairly won his place among Ameri- proud that they can still call them fellowcan men of letters.
countrymen; and that nevertheless this Of Simms the man Mr. Trent writes same cause may be historically indefen
sible. He goes straight to the root of men who have become eminent in conmatters, and, in fixing on what really tact with other men. It is also noticebrought about the civil war, he brushes able that the greater minds seem to be aside with good-humored contempt the those which are most deeply impressed cobwebs of childish sophistry which some by the great teacher. At the beginning well-meaning but not over clear-headed of the civil war, Mr. Seward was, we writers still persist in trying to spin will not say the greatest or wisest of around the subject. He has far too much Americans, but certainly the American common sense, he possesses a mind too statesman most prominent in both Euwell trained in the consideration of his- rope and America. The boyish exclatoric problems, and he has studied too mation of the Prince of Wales in 1859, deeply, to waste his time in seriously dis- “Mr. Seward, I have heard so much of cussing such propositions, for instance, you in England that I am very glad to as that a battle for human slavery can see you before I leave this country," really be a battle for civil liberty; and evidenced the position he had obtained he has too keen a sense of humor to pay under the most adverse conditions, and heed to the re-thrashing of constitutional in the most trying political period of theories which are now of as little inter- our history. The graduate of Williams est as the theses over which the mediæ- who is best known to his countrymen, val schoolmen wrangled, or as the seven
and indeed to the world, is, of course, teenth-century dogmas concerning the President Garfield ; and the lives of divine right of kings.
these two Americans seem wonderful In sum, Mr. Trent has produced a instances of self-construction. Yet each work of excellent performance, which attributed his success in life to his colcontains the promise of still better things lege president, held him in the greatest to follow.
reverence, deferred to him, sought his The power which the mind of a great counsel, and warmly declared him to be man may impart to the mind of a young the greatest, wisest, and best of men. man may some day be the subject of in- It is manifest that one who could so vestigation in scientific hypnotism. Cer- profoundly affect the minds and lives of tain it is that there have been great in- some of the greatest men of our time structors in the world who seem to have cannot have the story of his long life given to their pupils impulses, or ideas, fully told in this small volume of the Reor qualifications, or ambitions, by which ligious Leaders series. In strictest terms, the latter have risen into prominence. Dr. Hopkins was not a leader of religious Certain it is that two of our American thought. We should reckon as such, colleges, small, obscure, and exceeding- Luther, Calvin, Loyola, Knox, the Wesly poor in material equipment, have pro- leys, Edwards, Channing, Pusey, Newduced beyond their due proportion men
- men who, right or wrong, led, possessed of the faculty of becoming and led upon new religious lines. We prominent, and that these successful men might indeed turn back a century in have ascribed their success, with won- the same family, and properly take Dr. derful unanimity, to two great teachers. Samuel Hopkins as a leader of reliThat is to say, two microscopic specks gious thought. But the late president of upon the chart of population, hardly Williams was possessed of a great and discernible by the unassisted eye, have contented mind. The fifth chapter of suddenly thrown off judges, generals, Matthew formulated his theology; and governors, legislators, members of the
1 Mark Hopkins. By FRANKLIN CARTER cabinet, and even Presidents, - not per- (American Religious Leaders.] Boston and haps abstract thinkers or scholars, but New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1892.