« AnteriorContinuar »
The Expedition Of Humphry Clinker. By T. Smoixet, M. D. With a Memoir of the Author, by Thomas Roscoe, Esq., and illustrated by George Cbuikshank. In one volume. New-York; Harper And Bbothebs.
Siiakspeare has said — and the proverb withal is something musty — that it is not an easy matter to gild refined gold, or to paint the lily. With this undeniable truism staring us in the face, we do not feel justified in attempting to enlarge upon the merits of Smollet's works in general, or ' Humphry Clinker' in particular. The perfection of this author's style is, that he has none. Nature herself was his only goddess. Hence he has never been approached by imitation, though numerous attempts have not been wanting. 'Roderick Random' has produced more bastards in wit than even ' Tom Jones.' We once saw a copy of the first-named work that might indeed have been successfully counterfeited. It was one of an edition wherein some amateur benefactor of the human race had expunged what he considered the ' objectionable parts.' How had the fine gold become dim! The strong and judicious masses of light thrown by the hand of the great master upon his portraits were reduced to feeble touches, and the pure and genuine English was half frittered away. Bentley's alteration of Milton was not more ridiculous. Touching the book under notice, however—to return from our digression—it is only needful (for us to remark, that it is executed in the usual excellent manner of the publishers, and contains three or four spirited etchings by Cruikshanks. If modern readers have not vitiated their tastes till, ' like a sick girl, they prefer ashes and chalk to beef and mutton,' this is the book for their money.
The Works Of John Dbtden: In Verse And Prose. With a Life, by Rev. John Mitfobd. In two volumes. New-York: Geobge Dearborn.
To Enter into a detail of the characteristics of Dryden as a writer, or to speak in praise of him who has been justly termed the father of English versification, would at the present day be a work of supererogation. Still, it may not be out of place to suggest to our readers the propriety of refreshing their memories by re-perusing from time to time the productions of the good old sterling writers of the Augustan age of English literature, and those of their immediate predecessors— convinced as we are that from such sources more can be drawn, tending to improve the intellect and heart, than from the great majority of modern literary attempts. This may be owing in part to the greater elaborateness and depth of reasoning manifest in them, as also to the greater length of time devoted to their preparation in those days when a book was sometimes the work of the author's life, and generally concentrated the labor of years. Such works afford food for thought, and promote a healthy exercise of the intellectual powers, and are exceedingly difficult to skim through at the rate of a volume per hour.
The edition of Dryden before us is one of the neatest we have ever seen, and as a specimen of art, is very creditable to American typography. Dearborn's edition of standard authors should be on the shelves of every family library, for this, if for no other reason: he has carefully expurgated them of all those portions which, however congenial with the taste of the age in which they lived, are justly regarded as blemishes at the present day. This improvement, alone, should entitle the ' standard edition' to the preference in the minds of the judicious, who may wish to enjoy the beauties of the old writers without being offended with their occasional licentiousness. A fine portrait of Dryden, from the graver of Dick, and a handsome vignette titlepage, decorate the volumes.
Ws have been favored with the proof-sheets of an interesting, useful, and agreeable work, now in the press of Messrs. Gbigg And Elliott, of Philadelphia, entitled 'A pleasant peregrination through the prettiest parts of Pennsylvania, performed by Peregrine Prolix.' Perfectly plain to our perception, is the happy alliteration in this title. Peregrine is not a stranger to us. We have read of his doings and sights at the White Sulphur Springs in the South; we know the ripeness of his scholarship, the placid cordiality of his spirit, and the delicate keenness of his intellectual eye, which, glancing by the way-sides of life, directs thither the attention of his reader, with ample repayment for the same. In his peregrinations through Pennsylvania, he touches of course upon Philadelphia. Hear him:
'What a comfortable place is the city of Penn! How is Philadelphia adorned with neatness and with peace! How do her indwellers linger about her good things, and strangers delight in her rectangles 1 Severn! months since we had determined to make a journey through Pennsylvania, to explore her beauties, and survey the works of internal improvement, which have been brought into successful operation, with the good intent of letting our fellow creatures know what has been doing, and what is done; and where and how they may seek health and delight, within her borders. But until today the charms of this city have hung with such a weight about the neck of our natural inertia, as to nullify for a time the force of our truant disposition, and to retain us here two months longer than we intended.
'Philadelphia is a flat, rectangular, clean, (almost too clean sometimes, for on Satur
city. The Delaware washes its eastern and the Schuylkill its western front. The distance between the two rivers is one mile and three quarters, which space on several streets is nearly filled with houses. Philadelphia looks new, and is new, and like Juno always will be new; for the inhabitants are constantly pulling down and new-vamping their liouses. The furor ddendi with regard to old houses, is as rife in the bosoms of her citizens, as it was in the breast of old Cato with regard to Carthage. A respectable looking old house is now a rare thing, and except the venerable edifice of Christ Church in Second above Market Street, we should hardly know where to find one.
'The dwelling-houses in the principal streets are all very much alike, having much the air of brothers, sisters and cousins of the same family; like the supernumerary figures in one of West's historical paintings, or like all the faces in all of Stothard's designs. They are nearly all three stories high, faced with beautiful red unpainted Philadelphia brick, and have water tables and steps of white marble, kept so painfully clean as to make one fearto set his foot on them. The roofs are in general of cedar, cypress or pine shingles; the continued use of which is probably kept up (for there is plenty of slate,) to afford the fire-companies a little wholesome exercise.'
After a fair and free discussion of some of the excellent institutions of the city, the peaceful Peregrine discourseth upon the climate. Experience has taught us, that what he says in this regard is gospel. We confirm and bear witness thereunto. We have sweltered there in the early summer; we have wheeled upon the Delaware over the glassy ice, and imbibed mulled wine at Smith's Island, and at Kaign's Point, likewise. We have seen a bevy of quaker forms, of our sex, gliding up that river under full sail; and we have pushed our steel-clad way from the Navy-Yard to Kensington: we have been rowed by the Regatta Club from Fairmount to Belmont Cottage, of a sum
* 'Plautui, i- • 'Milli. Act i., K. 2,1.10.'
mer evening; and with these credentials to back our opinion, we again vouch for the fidelity of Prolix his dissertation on the climates of that meridian:
'The climate of Philadelphia is variable, and exhibits (in the shade,) all the degrees of temperature that are contained between the tenth below, and the ninetieth above zero, on the scale of Fahrenheit. In general, winter does not begin seriously until after Christmas, but he sometimes lingers too long in the lap of spring, and leaves a bridge of io on the noble river Delaware until the tenth of March.
'There are generally three or four weeks of severe cold, during which the thermometer sometimes at night sinks below zero, and sometimes during the day does not rise to the point of thaw. This period is generally enlivened by two or three snow storms, which set in motion the rapid sleighs, the jingle of whose lively bells is heard through day and night. The Delaware is not frozen over every winter, but there is always made an ample supply of fine crystalline ice to last the citizens until the next winter. The annual average duration of interrupted navigation may be four or five weeks. In March there is sometimes a little Scotch weather, in which Sawney would rub his hands and tell you, here is a fine cauld blawey snawey rainy day. There is however not much such weather, though the March winds have been known to blow (as Paddy would say,) even in the first week in April; after which spring begins with tears and smiles to coax the tardy vegetation into life.
'Spring is short and vegetation rapid. Summer sprinkles a day here and there in May, and sets in seriously to toast people in June; during which month there are generally six or eight days whose average temperature reaches the altissimum of summer heat. In July the days are hot, but there is some relief at night; whilst in August the fiery day is but a prelude to a baking night; and the whole city has the air of an enormous oven* The extremely hot weather does not continue more than six weeks, and so far from being a misfortune, it is a great advantage to the inhabitants; for it makes every body that can spare twenty dollars, take a pleasant journey every year, whereby their minds are expanded, their manners improved, and they return with a double zest to the enjoyments of Philadelphia, having learned, quantum est in rebus inane, that is, in the rebuses of other places.
'The autumn, or as the Philadelphians call it, the fall, is the most delightful part of the year, and is sometimes eked out by the Indian summer as far as Christmas. The fall begins in the first half of September and generally lasts until the middle of November, when it is succeeded by the Indian summer; a pleasant period of two or three weeks, in which the mornings, evenings and nights are frosty, and the days comfortably warm and a little hazy. The Indians are supposed to have employed this period in hunting and laying in game for winter's use, before the long-knives made game of them.'
We have scarcely got into this volume yet; and we promise ourselves much pleasure in its complete perusal. It will be found a useful book; for, if we mistake not, aside from its classical allusions and literary merit, it will be one of the best guides to the traveler in Pennsylvania, ever produced in so unpretending a way.
American Litkratukb— Intemhational Copy-bight Law Betwkin America Axd England. —Congress has done nothing on this subject, thus far, during the present session. The great number and high importance of the matters urged upon their attention have as yet prevented any action on a measure which we deem as important to the stability and success of our free institutions as any that can be named. It were an easy task to show how much of anti-American and anti-republican text and doctrine is circulated through our confederacy in the shape of floating literature. It were easy to show, how the sober virtues and the honest aims of the People are made to be viewed with derision, by there-produced feeling of European forms and customs, awakened by the cheap works that reach us from abroad. Give us the copy-right law required, and the gifted alone would receive their reward. We shall resume this subject, and discuss it more fully, anon.
* 'The »euon of the dog days. A witty Philadelphia lady being once asked, how many dog d«y» there are, tniwered th»t there mow be • gremt many, for every dog has hu diy. At lh«t time the city abounded in dofi, but the corporation hu lince made fierce war upon them, with a view perhaps of lessening the number of dog days, and improving the climate, by e*r1*Oi»f thoae i»no-cent bcuta.'
Park Theatre. —' The Jewess.' — This is a translation, or rather an alteration bjr PlanchS, from Scribe's 'La Juive.' It was performed in London with uncommon splendor, at the principal theatres, to the manifest advantage, it is said, of the treasuries thereof, and has been brought forward at the Park Theatre during the past month with equal magnificence of scenery, dress, and decoration. 'The Jewess' was originally intended to be produced in London as an opera, the part of Rachel written and arranged for Mrs. Wood; but the music not being of a character likely to please that lady, the design was altered, and the part given we believe, simply as it now stands, to Miss Ellen Tree. The principal characters of this drama are effective, and the language decidedly superior to the common rant and fustian of melo-dramatic compositions. Mr. Harrisos makes much of the character of the Jew Eltazer, particularly in the last act. His scene with Cardinal dc Srogny, previous to the application of the torture, is a noble specimen of melo-dramatic acting — possessing, as delineated by Mr. Harrison, all the effective excellence of that department of the drama, with much of the loftier and more delicate attributes of tragedy. Mrs. Hilbon succeeded with the part of Rachel better than could be hoped, considering her very delicate person, and the great physical effort necessary to the part. Some of the more quiet scenes with her father, were given with truth and feeling. Mrs. Gubner was every inch a princess, and seemed as if she had worn the rank and the robes all her days. Mr. Mason gave to his part all that it required, and that indeed is praiseworthy in Mr. Mason. We only wish the part required more. The procession in the second act is the most magnificent affair that we have ever witnessed, on the Park stage, in that line, and Mr. Blakeley's horse is conspicuous therein. The scenery, dresses, and embellishments of this piece are superb, andfar beyond precedent. The scenery is altogether very imposing, and will add much to the well-earned reputation of Mr. Evers. The ballet in the second act is arranged with much skill, and the dancing of the Misses Pabkers meets with general approbation — a feeling which we wish could be experienced for the efforts of the rest of the Corps du Ballet — but really, some of the ladies do fling about their pedal extremities in such shocking bad taste, and with such an apparent recklessness of tenure, that we have absolutely trembled, lest some pairs of these useful members should become disjointed, and thus clandestinely sent flying into the pit.
Opera, And The Woods. — Again, after filling the Bostonians with delight, and rousing into ecstacies the quiet sensibilities of the good and grave citizens of Philadelphia, the Woods and Brouoh have returned to us, and La Somnambula is again queen of the ascendant at the Park Theatre. Rapture is the order of the day, when speaking of this opera and its performers j and the whole vocabulary of praise has been exhausted in encomiums upon Mrs. Wood for her exquisite acting of the part of Amina, as well as for her wonderful musical powers, displayed in the execution of its soul-thrilling melodies. Mr. Wood has met with the like encomiums. The irresistible ' False one, I love thee still!' has won all hearts, and all hands; whilst the Count Rhodolpho has found in Mr. Brough a representative which has left nothing to be desired in the three great characters of this charming opera. But if we were in rhapsodies at its first representation, at the Park, what should be our state now, when witnessing its performance, improved, in every particular belonging to these characters, by almost three months of constant practice? It was hard to believe that there could be improvement where every thing seemed already and at once to have reached the climax of perfection. It has happened, nevertheless. Mrs. Wood has improved. There are passages of the music which she now renders with a more thrilling effect—points which she makes decidedly more emphatic, and there is an added charm of ease over all, which enriches and mellows the beauties of the character. Mr. Wood has improved, in like manner. The mmutisc of the stage business has become more familiar to him. The gem of the music now shines brighter than ever, and there appears to be no situation in which he is placed, or point in the character which he has not studied and compassed to perfection. Mr. Brough has improved, and not slightly, either. He sings with more ease; * his acting is more natural, and consequently less stiff and restrained, and there is now a certain repose and quiet in his manner 'which were not there before.' Altogether, this opera has become an immense favorite — greater now than ever — and all the fault we have to find with the good people of Boston and Philadelphia is, that they have absolutely forestalled all the epithets of encomium and admiration which we would otherwise bestow upon it What have we left to say, after all their expletives of ecstatic admiration? Not content, either, with exhausting the language in its praise, they have by every other means possible to the occasion evidenced their worship. But we are not to be outdone, and we venture to predict — albeit not a Jeremiah — that the opera ' La Somnambula' has yet to receive a triumph in New-York that will eclipse all its previous glories. c.
American Theatre, Bowshy. — ' The Jewess,' as produced at the Victoria Theatre London, in connexion with the still attractive Norman Leslie, has during the month crowded this establishment nightly with eager and admiring audiences. The scenery, dresses, and decorations of the former play by far exceed in splendor those of any other piece ever presented on the Bowery boards, and have elicited great and deserved praise. The principal characters were confided to actors fully able to render good justice to their personation. 'Rienzi,' from Bulwer's popular novel of that name, is in progress of preparation by Miss Medina. It affords a fine field for her acknowledged dramatic powers.
Franklin Theatre. — Perhaps theatricals were never more popular in New-York than at the present moment. The Franklin Theatre has been crowded, as we learn, nearly every night, for the last four weeks. Among other attractions, Mr. J. R. Scott has been conspicuous. He has been through with his usual routine of characters, in Richard 111., Venice Preserved, Damon and Pythias, etc. The improvement of this gentleman, arising from enlarged experience and close study, is not less honorable to himself than gratifying to his friends.
'American Criticism On American Literature,' is the title of a Lecture delivered before the New- York Mercantile Library Association in December last, by Edward S. Gould, Esq. It deprecates the frequent lavish praise bestowed upon native authors by the daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly publications of America. Many of Mr. Gould's assumptions are vigorously supported, and by sound argument We believe that the delinquency of which he complains has its origin, mainly, in an honorable motive — a disposition to encourage and foster American literature. It cannot be denied, however, that national partialities, or other less creditable causes, have misled many in this matter. The real genius of our country will be best sustained by just criticism, and not by excessive indulgence. While we reprobate the sometime unfairness and injustice of foreigners toward American authors, we should avoid the opposite extreme of too highly extolling those indigenous efforts which are unworthy of commendation — a course which can only serve to fill our country with crude productions. Fair, gentle and enlightened criticism will always in the end afford the most effectual encouragement to genuine merit. Praise of the indifferent in matters of literature is not, however, so very peculiar to, or remarkably preeminent in America, as Mr. Gould would seem to suppose. 'It hath been already of old time, which was before us.' Great
Vol. Vii. 56