« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
and we find inferior authors availing themselves rapidly of the authority of his example. Indeed we fear, that it will soon be as discreditable for a great novelist to frame a good story, as it was a few years ago for a great man to write a good hand. We forbear to notice any of our author's minor faults, but cannot help remarking on the letters of Doña Martha, as singularly unfortunate specimens of epistolary composition.
His principal and only very striking merit, is his talent for description. This alone is, however, sufficient to redeem his greatest faults, and to entitle his work to a thorough perusal. We recollect no author, except Irving, who has painted American scenery with equal power. The descriptions of the Ohio and Mississippi, of the valley of the Commanches, and many other passages of the same kind, are such as would do honor to any author. It was a well known practice of many of the greatest masters of landscape painting, to confine themselves to the representation of inanimate nature, and to procure other artists to draw such figures, as might be necessary to complete their pictures. We should think that our author might derive a useful hint from this practice, did we not believe, that his defects in the construction of his story and the delineation of his characters were those of negligence, and that a writer, who has shown such talents in one branch of his art, and that a very important one, could scarcely fail of success in others, if willing to seek it by proper exertion.
2.-The Appeal for suffering Genius, a Poetical Address for the Benefit of the Boston Bard; and the Triumph of Truth, a Poem. By DANIEL BRYAN. 8vo. pp. 80. Washington. Way & Gideon.
To the poetical parts of this volume, the author has attached a Preface of considerable length, in which he explains his purpose, and a large part of which is taken up in apologizing for his juvenile effusions' published some years ago under the title of the Mountain Muse, or the Adventures of Daniel Boone.' That work, the wild offspring of a rude undisciplined fancy,' his maturer judgment tells him contains imperfections, and he thinks some persons have formed a false estimate of his powers as a poet, from an ignorance of the circumstances under which his early genius expanded itself.
Mr Bryan is moreover apprehensive, that certain readers and editors, into whose hands the Mountain Muse' happened to fall,
have suffered the films of prejudice so far to gather around their vision, as not to be able to see clearly the merits of his later productions. Of this he gives some strong instances in point. How far the author's impressions are in reality well founded we know not, but he is certainly right in his position, that the aberrations of a youthful muse ought not to stamp a man's fame forever, in defiance of the vigorous and mature efforts of manhood. Among the great names at the head of English poetry, he cites those of Shakspeare, Pope, Byron, and justly asks with what propriety their merits would be decided by their first productions. These it would be idle to call up at the present day; they are forgotten. And so in other cases, like that of our poet, for instance, a generous criticism would throw a veil over the imperfections of youth, and rejoice that better fruits have sprung from maturity of years; or, to express the same thought in the poetical numbers of the author,
'Shall golden ore be spurned because it came
From mines whence baser metals once were drawn?
Because dark mists obscured its struggling dawn?' No, we say, not so; grasp the gold where you can find it, and enjoy the light when it comes. We agree, therefore, with Mr Bryan, that if any one, whether through prejudice or perverseness, has passed judgment on his later works, merely from an opinion derived from a perusal of the Mountain Muse,' written fourteen years ago, he has done essential injustice to the author.
The present volume contains two poems; the first is an 'Appeal in Behalf of the Boston Bard,' with the benevolent design of exciting the sympathy of the public for suffering genius;' the second is called 'The Triumph of Truth,' and was occasioned by the establishment of the censorship over the press in France. The Appeal' touches on several topics calculated to kindle a strong interest in the case of the suffering bard, and the deep sensibility and kind feelings of the author blend themselves closely with his poetical imagery, and give a melancholy tone to the utterings of his muse. It is rather as a poet of feeling, than of high descriptive powers, that we should characterize our author. He is patriotic, too, as will be seen by the following extract.
'But England's bards are blessed with patrons now,
The enlivening sunshine of her smiles enjoy ;
At their creating touch. Columbians, rouse!
In The Triumph of Truth,' Mr Bryan draws a vivid picture of that political state of a country, in which it is necessary to impose restrictions on the press, to prevent the diffusion of knowledge, and the operation of free principles. His muse here speaks with becoming indignation, and 'crowned oppressors,' and 'sceptred tyrants,' who use their power to perpetuate ignorance, and entail slavery, are treated with very little respect. Considering that the subject is not altogether of a poetical cast, the author has managed it with a good deal of address; and if the flowers of poesy are less profusely scattered here, than in some other of his productions, this deficiency is in part at least atoned for, by the truly independent and patriotic spirit, which breathes through the whole poem.
We take pleasure in noticing the beautiful manner in which this volume is printed; it is highly creditable to the Washington press, and we could wish to see it made an example for printers in that quarter, as well as in some others.
3.-1. Collections of the New York Historical Society, for the Year 1826. Vol. IV. pp. 308. Being a Continuation of Smith's History of New York by the same Author. 2. History of the State of New York. By JOSEPH W. MOULTON. Part II. Novum Belgium. New York.
Bliss & White.
THERE is hardly such a thing, as a good history of any of the American Colonies before the Revolution. Those, which are respectable as narratives of events, are exceedingly deficient in the most important branches of history, philosophical and political research. Before the Revolution, indeed, no good history could be written, for events had not so far unfolded themselves, as to enable the historian to detect their bearings and relations towards the great issue of the independence of the colonies. Such a history might now be written, if all the materials could be collected; but here again a serious difficulty arises. The best materials are in great part lost, except such as have been preserved in the office of Trade and Plantations, in London.
It is very probable that many of the most valuable may be there. In the archives of the different States may be found the remnants of the old Journals of Assembly, or, as they were commonly called, ' Votes and Proceedings,' and also Journals of the Councils. But these are often dry and meagre as historical records, particularly the latter. The original orders and decrees of the government in England, and especially the correspondence with the governors of the Colonies, are materials of greater importance than all others; yet an exceedingly small part only of the papers of this description is now to be found in this country. Till copies of them shall be obtained from England, a full and accurate colonial history can never be written.
The materials in New York are as abundant, perhaps, as in any other state, yet very few remain of the kind here mentioned. The series of Dutch records, recently translated into English by Mr Vanderkemp, amounts to twentyfour manuscript folio volumes, embracing the period between the years 1638 and 1674. The 'Council Minutes' in manuscript are comprised in twentyfive folio volumes, extending from 1683 to 1775, with a few broken records afterwards, during the time the British held possession of the city of New York. The Journals of the Colonial Assemblies have been printed. Gaines's edition is a valuable work, in two large volumes, the first printed in 1764, and the other in 1776, embracing together the period between 1691 and 1775, the end of the colonial government. The papers in the Secretary's office relating to the Revolution are very full, till the close of the year 1777. After the new government was formed, near the end of that year, George Clinton was chosen governor, and the executive papers from that time during the war have never been returned to the public archives. The Minutes of the Proceedings of the first committee of safety in New York, of the subsequent Conventions, Provincial Congress, intermediate committees of safety, and of the Convention, that formed the Constitution of the State in 1777, are carefully copied out, and bound in ten folio volumes. These records have never been printed. When the new government went into operation, the Journals of Assembly and Senate were printed, and have thus been continued ever since. A valuable selection might be made for publication from the early minutes, particularly the proceedings of the Convention, which formed the Constitution. All the papers above mentioned have been collected, and are preserved with remarkable care in the Secretary's office. The State has made liberal appropriations for this purpose, as well as for reprinting the Journal of the Assembly, during the interesting period between the years 1766 and 1776. It only remains now to print a judicious selection
from the minutes of the early committees, provincial Congresses, and Conventions.
Smith's well known History of New York' was first published in the year 1756. The style is plain and the narrative perspicuous. The author in his preface calls it a narrative, and adds, it deserves not the name of history, though for brevity's sake I have given it that title; it presents only a regular thread of simple facts.' This is a just description of its character, and the work answers fully to the author's own opinion of it. He seldom goes aside to look for remote causes, or pursue consequences, or engage in political discussions. The great questions, which were always agitated more or less under some form, between the mother country and the colonies, and which at last produced a separation, he seldom touches. What we now want in the way of history is, that the state of these questions, interwoven with the narrative, should be traced step by step from the very beginning, and the gradual changes in popular institutions, feelings, and habits distinctly marked, till the great crisis of the assertion of independence. When such a history shall be written, it will be seen that the principles of freedom and self government were brought hither by the first colonists, and that they never ceased to be active, and to increase in energy and effect, till they came to their result in breaking the bonds of union, or rather the chains of servitude. It will be seen, that the American Revolution began with American colonization.
Smith's History, as published by himself, reaches from the first discovery of New York to the year 1732. An edition was published in Albany twelve years ago, which professes on the title page to be accompanied with a 'continuation from the year 1732, to the commencement of the year 1814;' but which does not in reality come down later than 1747. A short apology appears in the conclusion, and a promise that 'at some future day the chasm will be supplied in a manner worthy of the subject.' We believe that future day' has never come. This is the less to be regretted, however, since a continuation by the original author has now been brought before the public by the New York Historical Society. It is numbered as the fourth volume of the Society's Collections. After publishing his first work, Smith, it seems, wrote a continuation of his history down to the year 1762, which has remained in manuscript till lately, in the hands of his son, William Smith, who resides in Canada, and is one of his Majesty's Council for that province. By this gentleman the manuscript has lately been presented for publication to the Society. It is in all respects worthy of the patronage of that body, and is a valuaable acquisition to the historical literature of the country. We