The Recreations of a Country Parson
Boston : Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.
THE essays of which this volume is made up were originally contributed to “ Fraser’s Magazine.” The “ Recreations ” they record are therefore those of an English, and not an American “ Parson”; but there is nothing in them which a parson of any church or denomination would feel inclined to repudiate, on the score either of their fineness of mental perception or healthiness of moral sense. The author tells us, that, in writing these essays, he has not been rapt away into heroic times and distant scenes, but has written of daily work and worry amid daily work and worry : and herein lies the charm of his discourses. He has one of those sensible, elastic, cheerful natures whose ideal qualities are not perverted by fretfulness and discontent. That most wicked of Byronisms, which consists in depreciating the duties of common life in order to exalt the claims of a kind of spiritualized sensuality and poetic self-importance, he instinctively avoids. The thirteen shrewd, suggestive, and practical essays which compose the present volume are transcripts of his own experience and meditations, and teem with facts and observations such as might be expected from the clear insight of a man who has mingled with his fellow-men, and who is curiously critical of the non-romantic phenomena of their daily life. The essays on the Art of Putting Things, on Petty Malignity and Petty Trickery, on Tidiness, on Nervous Fears, on Hurry and Leisure, on Work and Play, on Dulness, and on Growing Old, are full of fresh and delicate perceptions of the ordinary facts of human experience. His best and brightest remarks surprise us with the unexpectedness of homely common sense, as flashed on a world of organized illusions. The entire absence of rhetoric in the author’s mode of “putting things” adds to its effectiveness. He attempts to reveal the common, — one of the rarest of revelations; and shows what heroic qualities are needed to overcome the superficial circumstances of our life, and transmute them into occasions for that humble, obscure heroism which God alone apprehends and rewards. The freedom of the writer from all the stereotyped phrascology of sanctity in doing this work, and his innocent sympathy with everything cheerful, pleasurable, and lovable in Nature and human nature, only add to the power of his teachings. These “ Recreations ” of the “Parson ” will, to the generality of readers, produce more beneficent results than could have been produced, had he given us his most carefully prepared sermons,—for they connect religion with life. Nobody can read the volume without feeling the moral and religions purpose which underlies its graceful and genial exhibition of human character and manners. The common objection to clergymen is, that they are ignorant of the world. No sagacious reader of the present book can doubt that this parson, at least, is an exception to the general rule; for he palpably knows more of the world than most men who have made it a special study.