Recent Literature

MISS INGELOW’S novel, Off the Skelligs, we are told, makes as great a stir as Jane Eyre did in its day, and is claimed to be the great work of fiction of the present time, as if Middlemarch were not, and Turgénieff’s novels were still buried in the original Russian. There is, as we all know, a certain sort of praise which from its very warmth prepares the mind of the reader for a very moderate enjoyment of its object; but this new novel, we hoped, might well be good without deserving such loud-sounding admiration. The story is told autobiographically by a young girl who begins the account of her life with her earliest recollections. Passing over her infancy, we find her sailing in her uncle’s yacht with him and her brother Tom. While they are cruising about the Irish coast they are fortunate enough to save some people from a burning ship ; among them is one very grimy and scorched man whom Dorothea, the heroine, mistakes for a common Sailor, while in reality he is of gentle blood, as she finds out when he attempts with his blistered hand to hold a Greek Testament. His name is Brandon, and many pages further on we find Dorothea staying with his family and his stepfamily, Lon, Liz, and Valentine, who is sometimes called the “ the oubit,” just as Mr. Brandon is known as “ St. George,” over and above his own name, which is Giles. Valentine is a rattle-pated hobbledehoy, with the fearful loquacity sometimes seen in lads of his age, although, fortunately, it is generally held in subjection by their elders. Dorothea has a certain admiration for Brandon, not unmingled with awe for his great age, — he is almost thirty ; but Valentine studies Greek with her, amuses her by his nonsense, and finally asks her to marry him. She seems to think that disposing of her life is as trifling a matter as the directing of an empty envelope, and assents. In time, however, his wish to marry her grows cold, he disappoints her at the last moment, and so she gently marries Mr. Brandon instead, who has been in love with her all the time, but who, from highmindedness, has been keeping out of the way, in order to give Valentine a chance, and with this the story ends. Few, we fancy, would claim that the merit of the novel lay in the construction. The story drags fearfully ; but it is in the alleged naturalness of talk and action that we are bidden to find pleasure. Yet naturalness in itself is no more interesting than a photograph, quoad photograph, is entertaining to the eye. There is a naturalness which concerns itself with the representation of agreeable or interesting scenes of human life and which is sufficient to please even the surliest reader. Take, for instance, Miss Thackeray’s charming story, Elizabeth. There we have a perfectly natural account of the hopefulness, the little joys, the heartracking agonies of a very pleasing young girl told with unexcelled truth and simplicity. The Initials,—again, is it not a model of natural drawing in its record of the sayings and doings of the gracious heroine, her half-vulgar sister, and the everblushing hero ? Neither of these novels treats of frenzies of passion, nor of improbable feelings and actions. They merely describe very ordinary, every-day love-affairs ; they are, so to speak, genre-pictures of love-making ; but is there a girl living, unless perhaps those whose taste has been ruined by the strong waters of intenser novels, who does not sympathize with the well-told troubles of these heroines? In these novels there is plenty of naturalness, but it is naturalness applied to a deserving subject, not displayed in the wearying gossip and badinage of an extremely ordinary set of people. The paltriness of the subject of Off the Skelligs, — a girl and a boy, without an atom of love for one another, preparing to marry and to go to New Zealand together,—the absence of any passion in the characters, (not that they need be rolling their eyes about and biting their nether lips, but they should have some other emotion than the childish desire to ridicule one another,) the lukewarmness of all their feelings, seem to us to make a picture as unattractive as it is unnatural. The story is spun out with reports of all their long talks, as if a painter who wanted to try to paint a picture of domestic life could do nothing better than paint a panorama representing all the actions of a family for a whole month. He might give us an accurate copy of their life, but he would prove himself a poor artist.
— We think the best of Mr. Trowbridge’s stories, in the new volume of them just published, is The Man who stole a Meeting-House, which we suppose our readers have not forgotten. It deals, like all the others, with the rustic character of New England, bringing out here and there its lurking kindness and delicacy, but impressing you chiefly with a certain sardonic hardness in it, — a humorous, wrong-headed recklessness, which Mr. Trowbridge has succeeded in embodying wonderfully well in old Jedwort. The story is as good as the best in this sort of study, and in structure it is as much more artistic as it is less mechanical. In some of the other tales the coming coincidence and surprise may be calculated altogether too accurately by the reader: all is plotted as exactly as if for the effects of a comedy. This is true in a degree of Coupon Bonds, which is such a capital story, and so full of human nature; and it is almost embarrassingly true of Archibald Blossom and of Preaching for Selwyn. Mr. Blazay’s Experience, The Romance of a Glove, Nancy Blynn’s Lovers, and In the Ice, are better ; but none are so good as The Man who stole the Meeting-House, which for a kind of poise of desirable qualities — humorous conception, ingenious plot, well-drawn character, and a naturally evolved moral in old Jedwort’s disaster and reform—is one of the best New England stories ever written, to our thinking. They are all inviting stories ; they all read easily, and their vice of construction is one which they share with many admired masterpieces, but which we cannot help thinking a vice for all that. The Romance of a Glove is a pretty love-tale, in which people of a sort different from those of the other stories are successfully presented, but we suppose the book will be liked chiefly for its pictures of country life and character. There is one type which we have nowhere else found so well portrayed as in Mr. Trowbridge’s stories, namely, the jolly, glib, good-natured, thoroughly selfish rustic humorist. Such a character, in this volume, is Mr. Peleg Green, in Mr. Blazay’s Experience, and such in even better form was Sellick the constable in A Chance for Himself, one of the entertaining Jack Hazard series of boys’ books.
— “This story,” says the Argument of Mr. Morris’s Love is Enough, “ which is told by way of a morality set before an Emperor and Empress newly wedded, showeth of a King whom nothing but Love might satisfy, who left all to seek Love, and, having found it, found this also, that he had enough, though he lacked all else.” It opens with the wedding-procession of the Emperor and Empress, in a crowded street, Giles and Joan, peasant-folk, looking on and commenting. Then, after a speech from the Mayor and some dialogue between the new spouses, and some preluding of song and some prologuing by Love, the morality is presented. King Pharamond has just won his kingdom and is scarcely set on his throne ; but he is continually tormented and diverted from the honors and affairs of state by a vision or dream of love ; and at last he wanders away with a faithful old councillor to seek the valley shadowed forth in his dream, and after many cruel adventures they find it and his love there, the shepherdess Azalais. When he goes back to his own kingdom, he finds a very suitable person on the throne, and himself not missed; he finds that he does not care for what he has lost ; he returns contentedly to the love he has won. More music ; epiloguing by Love; another speech by the Mayor, who hopes their majesties have not been bored ; more dialogue by the Emperor and Empress; more comment by Giles and Joan. The performance closes with this sweet and tender bit of picturesqueness : —


Yea, praise we Love who sleepeth not !
— Come, o’er much gold mine eyes have seen,
And long now for the pathway green,
And rose-hung ancient walls of gray
Yet warm with sunshine gone away.


Yea, full fain would I rest thereby,
And watch the flickering martins fly
About the long eave-bottles red,
And the clouds lessening overhead :
E’en now, meseems, the cows are come
Unto the gray gates of our home,
And low to hear the milking pail :
The peacock spreads abroad his tail
Against the sun, as down the lane
The milkmaids pass the moveless wain,
And stable door, where the roan team
An hour agone began to dream
Over the dusty oats. —

Come, love,

Noises of river and of grove
And moving things in field and stall
And night-birds' whistle shall be all
Of the world’s speech that we shall hear
By then we come the garth anear :
For then the moon that hangs aloft
These thronged streets, lightless now and soft,
Unnoted, yea, e’en like a shred
Of yon wide white cloud overhead.
Sharp in the dark star-sprinkled sky
Low o’er the willow boughs shall lie ;
And when our chamber we shall gain
Eastward our drowsy eyes shall strain
Ifyet perchance the dawn may show.
— O Love, go with us as we go,
And from the might of thy fair hand
Cast wide about the blooming land
The seed of such like tales as this !
— O Day, change round about our bliss !
Come, restful night, when day is done !
Come, dawn, and bring a fairer one ! ”
We are careful to give this passage, because it is the only poetical passage we have found in the whole skilfully attenuated triviality from which we take it, and which is otherwise too dull for any words of ours to tell; nobody but Mr. Morris could give a just sense of its inexorable dreariness, its unrelenting lengthiness, and serious vacuity. It is, indeed, and in all sad earnestness, a morality, after the true deadly mediaeval fashion, and after reading it one can begin to imagine the ordinary condition of people with whom the morality was a recreation.
— Mrs. Ames tells the story of Alice and Phoebe Cary’s lives with somewhat too much an air of suppressed emotion. Here and there, as where she speaks of “ two souls finely veined with a many-shaded deep humanity,” we are not sure that we know what she means ; and there are certain lapses of taste, and some indiscretions; yet on the whole she has done her work with coherence, temperance, and simplicity. The sisters, her heroines, as we may call them, were as tenderly endeared to those who met them in daily intimacy as to those who knew them afar off through their poetry. They were the daughters of a farmer in Southern Ohio, and their lives up to womanhood were spent in the seclusion of a country neighborhood and amidst the cares and toils of a farm-house. But the spring of a finer and higher life was in them, and they turned naturally and resistlessly toward literature. Their father was a man of delicate instincts, and their mother a woman of uncommon mind and character ; but their conditions were as unpromising as might be : they were poor, in a new country, with little schooling, remote from books, daughters of a large family. They were, however, not merely people of great native sensibility, but there was a religious strain in them which as to creed took the most generous and hopeful form, and on another side shaded into a sad spirituality. As the girls grew up, a dark means of education came to them in the frequent deaths in the family, and the poetry of Alice took a permanent cast from the gloomy thoughts and experiences of her early days ; it sang of graves and forever yearned for the lost. Her dead dwelt with her; the whole family had a touch of the seer even in childhood; and in her latest years she told the story of one of those strange occurrences which those who like may discard as idle illusions.
“ Well, the new house was just finished, but we had not moved into it. There had been a violent shower ; father had come home from the field, and everybody had come in out of the rain. I think it was about tour in the afternoon, when the storm ceased and the sun shone out. The new house stood on the edge of a ravine, and the sun was shining full upon it, when some one in the family called out and asked how Rhoda and Lucy came to be over in the new house, and the door open. Upon this all the rest of the family rushed to the front door, and there, across the ravine, in the open door of the new house, stood Rhoda with Lucy in her arms. Some one said, ‘ She must have come from the sugar camp, and has taken shelter there with Lucy from the rain.’ Upon this another called out, ‘ Rhoda ! ’ but she did not answer. While we were gazing and talking and calling, Rhoda herself came down stairs, where she had left Lucy fast asleep, and stood with us while we all saw, in the full blaze of the sun, the woman with the child in her arms slowly sink, sink, sink into the ground, until she disappeared from sight. Then a great silence fell upon us all. In our hearts we all believed it to be a warning of sorrow, — of what, we knew not. When Rhoda and Lucy both died, then we knew. Rhoda died the next autumn, November 11 ; Lucy, a month later, December 10, 1833. Father went directly over to the house and out into the road, but no human being, and not even a track, could be seen. Lucy has been seen many times since by different members of the family, in the same house, always in a red frock, like one she was very fond of wearing.”
When Alice was thirteen her mother died, and two years later a step-mother came to make life yet harder and barrener for her. But she and her sister kept their courage through all, writing at night and by stealth, and publishing in whatever newspapers West or East would print their verses for nothing. A cruel disappointment in love befell Alice, and shortly after that she left home to seek her fortune in New York. She dared, she said once, because she was so ignorant; if she had known she never would have dared. Presently her sister Phoebe came to her, and by ceaseless industry and the closest economy they won themselves a home, and made it so graceful and pleasant that it became a sort of salon. The rest is the monotonous story of unremitted literary labor, interrupted at last in the case of Alice by a most painful and lingering disease. After her death Phoebe was lost in the world ; her objects and interests were gone, and three months afterward she also died. Nothing can be more pathetic than the story of her last days and of her sudden death at Newport, apart from the friends seeking to be with her, and alone with the faithful servant, to whom with kisses and caresses she talked now of how they would live on their return from New York, and now of how she wished to be dressed for the grave. The whole story of the sisters’ lives is touching and elevating. Their place in literature it is no present affair of ours to fix ; but it does not seem too much to say that, with all her defects, Alice Cary is the first of our poetesses, and that both the sisters Wrote poetry that has been more popularly loved and remembered than that of any other American women. For the rest we may safely leave their reputation to that able critic, Time, who unhappily cannot be induced to write for the magazines and newspapers. The poetry of the Cary sisters was very unequal, and this is true also of Alice’s prose ; but her stories had always a taste of the soil, an odor of the fields and woods, a native flavor that pleases. We think she touched her highest point in the story of Dr. Killmany, published some years ago in these pages.
— Miss Luyster has put into the very pleasant English characteristic of her for’mer translations the life of the sculptor Thorvaldsen, and the result is as agreeable a book as we have lately had the fortune to read. It is illustrated by thirtyfive exquisite woodcuts of Thorvaldsen’s compositions from drawings by Gaillard ; a second part is a study of Thorvaldsen’s genius and place in art, and the life is completed by a full descriptive catalogue of all his works. The chief impression that you get from the whole is that the Greeks are of all times and nations. A young Danish boy, son of a humble carver in wood, comes early in this century to Rome, and enters upon the lifelong expression of a nature as simply and purely Greek apparently as ever was in the world. His imagination instinctively clothed itself in Greek forms; in an age when all things come through literature, his education was so entirely artistic that he had to get from others the mythological subjects which his works so splendidly illustrated. As far as books were concerned, he was an ignorant man ; but his culture from means that refined the Greeks was as rich and full as that of any sculptor of antiquity, — and no more, one might almost add; only the world which Thorvaldsen knew was so much wider and wiser than that of Athens. He could scarcely be claimed for Christianity ; he Hellenized his sacred subjects as he did all others ; his life seems to have been quite unconsciously unmoral. He kept also to the last a perfect simplicity of heart and mind. The world had done its worst to spoil him ; it had heaped him with honors and flatteries of every kind ; kings and princes had been his friends ; his days had been passed among the great ; in his last years at Copenhagen he was the supreme distinction of every company in the best society ; but to the last he did not see why he should not dine with his serving-man Wlikens, — “as good in your place as I in mine,” — and he declined the king’s invitation to dinner one day because he was engaged to an old friend, whose birthday it was. The light of the enchanted life of artists in the easy Roman society of old days is on the greater part of this charming story ; but it is not less interesting when this yields to the twilight of Thorvaldsen’s declining years in his native city amidst the love and care of tender friends and the veneration of a whole people, — an old man, full of achievement and fame, working to the end, and modelling a bust on the morning of the day he died. It is a beautiful story, simple, grand, and calm, not to be read without one’s regrets for certain things, like improper Anna Maria, and poor jilted Miss Mackenzie, and a habit of large promises and heroical delays, yet rising serenely above one’s impertinent remorses, and standing forth in its successive events with the tranquil charm of a Greek bas-relief.
— The Life and Times of Henry, Lord Brougham, written by Himself, can hardly be regarded as a valuable contribution to the history of the period which it covers. The work contains numerous errors, but the touching apology at the close overcomes any disposition to harsh criticism. “ Let it be recollected,” says the venerable autobiographer, “ that I began this attempt after I was eighty-three years of age, with enfeebled intellect, failing memory, and but slight materials by me to assist it. Above all, that there was not left one single friend or associate of my earlier days, whose recollections might aided mine. All were dead. I alone have survived of those who had acted in the scenes I have here faintly endeavored to retrace.”
But notwithstanding these errors — most of which are not serious — the work possesses more than common interest for the general reader. The “times” from 1800 to 1834, especially in European politics, are full of interest; and the “life,” of which some account is given here, was certainly a remarkable one.
Henry Brougham was born in Edinburgh on the 19th September, 1778. His ancestors on the paternal side, a good Border family which had been settled at Brougham in Westmoreland since the Conquest, were not remarkable for anything. His mother was a niece of Dr. Robertson, the famous historian. At seven years of age he went to the Edinburgh High School, of which Dr. Alexander Adam, “a teacher of the greatest merit,” was rector. He had the inestimable advantage, too, of having his studies directed at all times by his great kinsman, Dr. Robertson, then principal of the university. At the age of thirteen he graduated as head of the school, and then studied for a few months at home under a private tutor.
In 1800, at the age of twenty-two, he was called to the Scotch bar. He had an invincible repugnance to the profession he had chosen, and endeavored to obtain, through the influence of friends, an appointment in the diplomatic service. Nothing came of his efforts, and he was forced to continue at his profession and wait for business. There were many noted men at the Scotch bar then, — Harry Erskine, Charles Hope, Jeffrey, Tait, Blair, Ross, Gillies, and Macanochie, — and contact with them undoubtedly had a great influence in developing the powers of such a keen, observer of men and things as young Brougham.
In 1822 he joined Jeffrey and Smith in establishing the Edinburgh Review. The well-known account of the origin of the Review, as given by Sydney Smith, is, he says, somewhat inaccurate and even fanciful. It is evident that Brougham entertained rather a low opinion of Smith’s abilities as compared with his own. “ He (Smith) was a very moderate classic ; he had not the smallest knowledge of mathematics, or of any science ; he was an admirable joker ; he had the art of placing ordinary things in an infinitely ludicrous point of view, but he was too much of a jack-pudding.” Afterwards he commends Smith’s labors in connection with the Review, but in rather a patronizing way. It is perhaps well for the memory of the noble Lord that the reverend joker is not in a condition to review this work.
To the first four numbers of the Review it appears that Brougham contributed twenty-one articles of his own composition and four jointly with others. For the first twenty numbers he wrote eighty articles. It may be interesting to contributors for the press to know that the editor received at first £ 300 per annum, and the writers ten guineas a sheet of sixteen pages. Five or six years later the editor received £ 500, and the writers twenty guineas.
In 1808 Brougham was called to the English bar, and went on the Northern circuit, where he soon obtained a good share of business. In 1810 he entered the House of Commons, having been returned for the borough of Camelford, through the patronage of the Duke of Bedford. From this time until 1834. when he gave up the Great Seal, he was one of the foremost men in the three kingdoms. What he did towards securing the repeal of the Orders in Council (“ his greatest achievement,” he calls it), the abolition of the slave-trade and slavery, the defence of Queen Caroline, the reform of the legislative and judicial departments of the government, and the diffusion of knowledge, are too well known to be dwelt upon here.
The return of Brougham for the county of York, “ the greatest and most wealthy constituency in England,” immediately after the death of George IV., gave him naturally the leadership of the liberal party in the House. Within two weeks after the meeting of the new Parliament, the Wellington administration was forced from office on account of its opposition to parliamentary reform, and Brougham was induced reluctantly to give up his brief leadership and take the Great Seal under Lord Grey, with whom he had long been on terms of intimate personal friendship. As a minister he was not altogether successful. He was restless, vain, ambitious, and overbearing. He wanted to take the lead in everything, even with the king ; and Lord Grey, after vainly trying to preserve harmony in his cabinet, retired finally in sheer despair and disgust. Brougham continued to hold his office during the few months that the Melbourne administration was in power, and then retired, at the age of fifty-six, nevermore to sit at the council-board. In the House of Commons he would still have been a power to be conciliated ; but as a new peer, without office, he was no longer to be feared.
His great success while in office was as a judge. He revolutionized the Court of Chancery. During the four years he was chancellor he decided between seven and eight hundred matters and causes, and of these not more than a half a dozen were appealed. When he retired there were only two cases remaining to be heard, — a state of affairs in that court never, we believe, approached before or since. “ He attacked with gigantic power the whole fabric of the law, sweeping away its cumbrous and vexatious forms, simplifying, expediting, and cheapening the administration of justice.”
With the retirement from office the Autobiography ends, although he lived thirtyfive years longer, and did much valuable work in the cause of education.
— Dr. Döllinger is at once so good and so learned a man, the temper in which he speaks of religions from which he dissents is so tolerant, the great object of his later years, — religious union, — so desirable in itself, that one cannot help earnestly wishing that his labors should result in permanent advantage to the world. His influence, as far as it goes, must be for good, and all he writes possesses a certain interest for the earnest student. His Fables respecting the Popes evinces great familiarity with the early legends, accepted and apocryphal, of the Catholic Church, and contains much matter that is curious if it be not important : such as the story of the female Pope Joan ; the question in regard to the baptizing of Constantine by a Pope Sylvester, and that emperor’s alleged grant of privileges and territory to this hypothetical Pontiff; together with other similar matters, long subjects of controversy within the Church of Rome, if little thought of or cared for by outsiders.
But while one acknowledges laborious research and unfailing good temper, one misses in Döllinger’s writings, not only the ringing tones of a leader of thought, but also originality of idea and bold assumption of any advanced ground on which a great party might rally. In the “ Lectures on the Reunion of the Churches,” the author elaborately deplores the fact that only three tenths of the world is even nominally Christian ; and that this small Christian portion is distracted by dissensions ; seeing that the Eastern Catholic churches seceded from the Western or Roman branch ; and that the Church of Rome lost another large fraction by the Reformation : this latter offshoot splitting up again into a hundred conflicting sects.
Of Luther, personally, he speaks in high terms as a “Titan of the world of mind,” who has “impressed the indelible stamp of his thoughts on the German language and the German intellect ” ; but as to Protestantism be thinks it can only prosper by reuniting itself to the ancient Catholic Church as it stood and as it taught seven hundred years ago. Protestant preachers, he thinks, each preaching from “his own subjective point of view ” cannot gain “ the confidence and respect of the laity.” Their hearers have “ no feeling that the speaker is supported on tire broad stream of Christian tradition flowing down through eighteen centuries.” (p. 149.)
It is thus that his translator defines his position. Dr. Döllinger lays down, as an indispensable condition of all negotiations for reunion, the acceptance, not only of Holy Scripture, but also of the three oecumenical creeds, interpreted by the teaching of the ancient Church before East and West were separated ; that is, as far back as the twelfth century. Thus the great German seceder, while he rejects, as infallible master, “ that Italian priest who is called the Pope ” (p. 137), thinks there can be no general religious union while the Protestant principle of private judgment prevails ; the condition of such union being the recognition, by all Christians, of the Athanasian and Nicean Creeds.
It is very true that an infallible Bible cannot teach infallibly unless it be infallibly interpreted ; but it is equally true that the civilized world is outgrowing the time when any religious teachings will be received as infallible. Reason and conscience, fallible though they be, not creeds and traditions of a bygone age, must be the rule, in the future, whereby to prove all things, ere we unite in accepting that which is good.
If Dr. Döllinger were thirty years younger, he might gravitate to a broad ground of opinion upon which his dream of a united Christendom could gradually be realized. But the road is too far, and his time too short. We do not think that he will do more than to draw around him a comparatively small body of moderate ritualists who, like the English Tractarians and the disciples of Pusey, seek to escape the dissensions of Protestantism by falling back on the authority to be found in a mild form of apostolic succession, divested of a Papal head.
— The tracing of historic localities under the dry surface of modern American city life affords but an elusive and uncertain pleasure, so insignificant are the actual remains of the peculiar architecture or topographical features of our towns as they were in earlier times. In surveying the memorial regions of Boston as they now appear, one is obliged “ to draw strenuously upon the imagination,” if one would shape forth, in place of the crowded modern structures, any substantial picture of the past. Yet the story of these acres furnishes to the full Mr. Drake’s compact volume ; and, concentrated within the covers of a book, is more enjoyable, perhaps, than when wrenched with difficulty from the poor array of ancient buildings left to us. Under Mr. Drake’s guidance we may go From the Orange-tree to the Old Brick, or From Boston Stone to the North Battery, or make the Tour round the Common, without stirring from our casy-chair ; and it would be hard to say which of the various excursions is the most preferable. Mr. Drake urges a full harvest from every inch of the ground, giving all the direct and indirect personal and historic associations connected with each important tract or “lot”; though in some chapters the details concerning successive property-holders, their relatives and careers, become so dense as to make these portions rather valuable for reference than for ordinary perusal. There is a way open to a more literary treatment of these subjects, but Mr. Drake has compiled to perfection.
— Of the few historic centres which we possess, Concord is, in a certain sense, the chief, since from thence was radiated the light which has illumined the vast expanse of the Union as it now is. But if it is rich in material for delicious revery upon the old New England, yet its modern literary associations have endeared the place to us in ways as powerful. It is a pregnant subject, therefore, to which Mr. Alcott gives expression in Concord Days, and one the very title of which takes us by its richness of suggestion. But in addition to these obligatory elements, we find in the book a cheerful and genial flavor of the author’s individuality, which is not its least agreeable feature. “ A book loses if wanting the personal element,” says Mr. Alcott. Certainly Concord Days cannot be impeached for this deficiency. The writer introduces us to his study, and there pulls down some massy diaries, from the substance of which this volume is made up. By an agreeable conceit, we are made to live through a summer of Concord life, each month, from April to September, having a chapter devoted to it. The events of the summer bring up a curious medley of affairs for comment, which are all treated in quaint disquisition, with abundant extracts from the author’s favorite books. In this way it becomes a kind of indirect Biographia Literaria ; while in the half-year’s experience, compressed into a half-hour’s reading, we are gently led over a wide range of subject, going in a single month, for instance, from berries to books, from books to ideal culture and Goethe. “ For a diary, slight arches suffice to carry the day’s freight across.” Most interesting are the remarks on notable writers of past and present times ; but we shall naturally look a little closer at the pages devoted to Concord celebrities. Thoreau and Emerson are charmingly exhibited in clear and penetrating sentences, but we are inclined to doubt that the writer has caught Hawthorne’s significance in all particulars. A mistaken view of his attitude during the war, which was at one time more common, we think, than now, seems to have found its way into the pages of his kindly neighbor. Concord Days, however, has another interest than that of its local and personal allusion, and this may be found in the peculiar philosophy which tinges the author’s view of things. Mr. Alcott is a delicate idealist; his book is a flowering of this idealism, and it wins an additional grace from the associations of a place like Concord and the sweetness and simplicity of the life that is led there.
— The Issues of American Politics is a work by an ambitious writer, whose zeal somewhat outruns his knowledge, but whose knowledge is by no means small. It displays much reading, not only of the newspapers and of public documents, but in that abstruse and unfamiliar region, American political history. Mr. Skinner is a thoughtful reader, also, and not merely a devourer of books and a collector of facts; and he possesses in a great degree that power of generalization which, as the author of Middlemarch says, “ gives man so much the superiority in mistake over the dumb animals.” Of course he generalizes too much, as all writers on politics and political economy do ; and moreover he falls into a polysyllabic style of writing, very bad in itself, and also faulty in this respect, — that it gives him the appearance of generalizing when he is only trying to state in a grandiose way some ordinary fact, event, or opinion. For example, having occasion in his first chapter to speak of the historical period when pastoral mankind first took to farming (or, as he puts it, “ inaugurated the cultivation of the soil ”), Mr. Skinner dilates as follows: “With the induction of this era man ceased to be a mere passive recipient of the perennial gifts of the soil, and by the donation of labor elected himself to a peerage with the forces of nature in persuading a responsive earth to augment its natural products and disseminate its hidden wealth.” In other words, man took a sharp stick, scratched on the dirt, and raised a few beans and yams. That this performance, however near it brought the owner of the stick to “ the threshold of civilization,” was not in itself a very profitable employment, may be gathered from another tumidity of Mr. Skinner’s on the next page. “To design and construct the requisite appliances for tillage,” he says, “ and then apply them to their practical purpose in the cultivation of the soil — and this, moreover, by every individual and class, thus necessitating as many preparatory and determinate operations of tillage as there were followers of the pursuit— so trammelled the capacity of labor that it eventuated in little or no reward,” in short, it did not pay.
This ludicrous fault in rhetoric ought not to condemn the book, however. It is worst in the early chapters, and diminishes as the author fairly grapples with the subjects he undertakes to treat. Mr. Skinner’s is in the main a wise and useful book. It contains four parts, devoted respectively to Monetary and Financial Topics, Existing and Proposed Changes in our Organic and Municipal Law, Industrial and Revenue Legislation, and Representative Government. These contain chapters on money and currency, banks and the national banking system, the public debt, the constitutional amendments, reconstruction, amnesty, force legislation, civil-service reform, protection and free-trade, taxation, suffrage, minority representation, and the centralization of power ; and all these topics, including many subordinate and kindred ones, are treated with ability and independence of thought. There are, naturally, errors of reasoning and mistakes of fact in so wide a range by a young writer not specially trained to a work of this sort; and there is the general fault already mentioned of attempting too much. But we have read wittier books and books by men of much greater name and culture than Mr. Skinner which did not grasp with so much good judgment the chief principles and most suggestive details of these discussions. He is not a follower of any one school, and rather prides himself on making distinctions that others have overlooked ; but he may be described as a believer in sound currency, in moderate and experimental protection, in the national banking system, modified, in the reduction of the public debt, and the immediate and vital importance of reforming our civil service. On the other hand, he opposes unrestricted suffrage and the suffrage of women, looks upon the force legislation applied to the reconstructed States with great aversion, criticises the administration of General Grant for its disregard of law and its tendency to centralization, and disapproves of Mr. David A. Wells’s new scheme of taxation. There is no great novelty in most of his arguments, or in the array of facts by which he supports them ; but they are often forcibly presented, and, even with the defect of style to which we have alluded, and with a frequent misuse of terms, he still makes the impression of a careful and able thinker. No man living will probably accept all his conclusions; we certainly should dissent from a great many of them ; but in the majority of instances he seems to be sound, and everywhere well-intentioned.


Those who are familiar with the writings of Théophile Gautier will be glad to hear of the appearance of a volume containing a few plays of his, and the descriptive part, so to speak, of several ballets which he composed some years ago. It is not a volume that throws any new, or, indeed, any strong light upon this interesting man, who stood alone as a writer, as if every one else who wrote did hack-work, while he wrote from sheer love of writing. But those who know Gautier well enough not to be shocked by his unconsciousness of the existence of the ordinary shackles which are useful for the bracing of society, will find this volume readable. He was always a charming writer, and, if this were not a world of responsibilities, he might be more generally praised.
— A book of greater importance is SainteBeuve’s Proudhon, a little volume containing three essays which had appeared about six or seven years ago in the Revue Contemporaine. In the discussion of such a character as Sainte-Beuve has here chosen for his subject, one might very well have doubts beforehand as to his probable success. Never were two men more unlike : the one relentless, truculent; the other by nature and habit gentle and conservative : but here the great critic is as patient, as far-seeing, as apologetic as ever ; he looks into the man, not at him ; and, without any exhaustive discussion of Proudhon’s theories, he gives us an admirable representation of the originality and nobility of the great socialist’s character. Some of the pages are full of interest. For instance, we find on p. 342, “The fault, or, rather, the excess, of conformation in Proudhon’s brain lay in collecting and grouping together artificially before his eyes a quantity of facts, and in joining them too closely together ; then he would draw a result which he obtained by a sort of optical illusion, regarding it as near and imminent. Victor Hugo has a fault of very much the same kind, and also with respect to the color of the objects ; he sees everything too large, too glowing, and too prominent. Proudhon carried this exaggeration into his ideas. He saw everything too large, too near.” There is an anecdote of Proudhon which illustrates his intensity. Talking one day with Prince Napoleon, and exposing his social theories, the Prince asked him what was the form of society which he dreamed of. Proudhon replied, “ One in which I shall be guillotined as a conservative.”
Speaking of one of Proudhon’s eloquent outbursts, in which he boasted of his humble origin, and of the zeal with which it fired him as an earnest defender of poverty from oppression, Sainte-Beuve says: “It is well, it is fine, honest, and generous, and he, who thus expressed himself in intimacy, with this fervor of an apostle, remained true till the end to the faith of his youth. But I must express my whole opinion : there is something nobler yet, and that is to be less conscious of one’s origin ; to know how to hold one’s self aloof from it, and not let it have so much weight. The property of the highest intelligence consists in a lofty equilibrium. You are the son of a workman ; that is very good, or rather it is neither good nor bad ; remember it always, do not blush for it; but don’t boast of it. Make use of it as an experience only to be had by means of poverty ; retain a warm and true sympathy for the miseries you have known. But in political or philosophical reflections, do not be seen always occupied and preoccupied with your origin, —with a single, exclusive interest, as if there were but one side to a question, your own, and all the rest were false..... According to my thinking, the social philosopher is really complete only when, in his interior evolution, he has detached himself from all the things of flesh and blood, from all the conditions of chance ; when he has freed himself from all the chains which rivet his intelligence to a sect, a country, a family, a caste, a party, a province ; and when, after much changing of his horizons, after having seen and compared the various manners of cities and peoples, after having made more than once the tour of ideas and the world, always learning without being corrupted, he is able to turn to those objects which are the belief or the execration of others with a clear-seeing, lofty impartiality, animated with a breath of universal sympathy.” This is true ; but meanwhile, since we cannot all be judges, the advocate has his place in the order of the universe. His very excesses arouse from their apathy those who do not care for abstract right, his exaggeration is compensated for by the indifference which he, often so fruitlessly, attacks. The world seldom moves on in a straight line.
— Dr. Strauss’s last book, Der alte and der neue Glaube, is one that is sure to make considerable stir. It is an investigation of some of the most important questions that a candid mind can ask of the world, and they are answered, — or, perhaps, with more accuracy, the answers are sought, — with the utmost simplicity, logical directness, and unaffected seriousness. They are as free from bravado as from obsequious deference to ordinary conservative thought. The questions he asks are four in number. The first is, “Are we still Christians?” — Christians, that is to say, with respect to dogma, — and this he answers in the negative. By “ we,” it should be said, he refers to himself and a larger or smaller group who have not accepted their faith on tradition, but who have attempted for themselves the examination of the authority on which the Christian religion rests. He takes the different articles of the Apostolic Creed, and states the objections which he and such as think with him find against them. He enumerates the incomprehensible nature of the Trinity ; the unsatisfactory account of the creation and of the fall of man ; the nature of the Devil as a myth probably introduced from the Persian division of the Indo-European group of nations the flaws in biblical history, alleged to have been discovered by critical examination -, the attempts of Schleiermacher and others to superimpose their interpretation of Holy Writ upon the former belief, as one suited to modern times; the light which recent investigations in biblical exegesis are claimed to have thrown upon the life of Christ; the relation of Christianity to humanity : upon all these points he touches, and though briefly, yet never obscurely nor irreverently, as all will acknowledge who do not consider the mere mention of the difficulties irreverent.
Having answered that we are not Christians, then the question arises, May we not still have some religion, even if we have abandoned Christianity ? This Dr. Strauss discusses in the second section. He finds the origin of the religious feeling in man’s awe of nature, in a fetish worship of its might, in an effort to conciliate its indifference, and he says that at first religion must have been polytheistic, but afterwards succeeded by monotheism. He discusses prayer in a section which we would gladly quote, if it were possible to do so, without overrunning the space allotted to us ; and then he gives a brief examination of the various philosophical interpretations of the idea of God in later times, — those of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, and Schleiermacher. The question of the immortality of the soul comes next, the belief in which he traces to the knowledge man has of the duration after death of the memory of the dead ; after that there arises the feeling which requires a compensation for suffering in this world, and reward or punishment for the deeds of this life. His own answer is, in a word, that virtue is its own reward, and that it does not need, if pure, to be encouraged by the promise of bliss hereafter. In conclusion, regarding the feeling of dependence which man must have in his brief stay upon this world, whether he feel dependent on a God or on some unknown power, he leaves the question of whether or not we have religion as one unsettled, to be answered by yes or no, as we understand religion.
The third question is, “ How do we comprehend the world ? ” He here briefly enumerates the discoveries of modern science, the results of astronomy, of botany, geology and Darwinism, and gives a few words to the materialism of the present day, concluding with a mention of the Weltzweck, with a portrayal of the world in its relations to the universe, as one member of a mighty band.
The fourth question, “ How do we regulate our lives ? ” discusses morality, its dependence on divine command ; war and peace ; the principle of nationality ; monarchy and republicanism — (of the latter he has no exalted idea) ; nobility ; universal suffrage, etc., etc. We need not enlarge the list of social questions ; they are such as occupy the attention of every thinking man.
In two appendices he writes about the great authors of Germany, and the great musicians. What he has to say is of interest, though it has by no means the importance of the earlier part of the book.
In making mention of this volume we have tried as dispassionately as possible to set before our readers, in a few words, a brief analysis of a book which, we feel sure, both from the nature of the subjects treated, the serious manner of their discussion, and the deservedly great reputation of the author, will make its mark upon the time, not so much as an attack upon what we venerate, as an apology for those who honestly differ from the majority of their brothers. An English translation is announced.
— M. d’ldeville’s journal, not originally intended for publication, records the impressions produced at the moment upon an intelligent and attentive observer by the memorable events which happened in Italy during the two years and a half that followed the Peace of Villafranca, and by the distinguished men concerned in them.
The point of view is that of a young French secretary of legation who sympathizes with the old nobility of his country, and is no admirer of the government he serves ; who hates revolutionists, and shares the opinion of those statesmen who regard the unity of Italy as a danger to France, but who is fascinated by Cavour’s personal magnetism, so that he exclaim;, “ This man whom my conscience reproaches me for loving so much appears to me greater every time I think of him.” Count d’ldeville is on his guard against his own prejudices, and sedulously strives to describe incidents and the actors in them with an impartial hand, but he cannot entirely conceal his satisfaction when he has a story to tell to the disadvantage of the ex-Emperor, of Benedetti, Rattazzi, or Garibaldi.
Its second title shows the raison d’être of the book, which is to throw light on the short-comings of the Imperial diplomacy rather than to illustrate Italian history, though much space is devoted to that country and its statesmen.
A story, which has been in print before, included in a part of this journal which appeared in some of the French newspapers, is told by M. d’Ideville upon the authority of Cavour’s private secretary, who had it from Cavour himself. One day Prince de la Tour d’Auvergne, French Minister at Turin, a man described as a grand seigneur who had unlimited confidence in himself and a great propensity to irony, called on Cavour, and expressed his regret that he had a painful task to fulfil, —to express his government’s strong disapproval of Cavour’s attitude, — and he then read a despatch from Count Walewski, declaring distinctly that any attempt on the part of the Sardinian government to annex Central Italy would be considered as a violation of treaty. “ Cavour, his head in his hands, listened without interrupting the reading of the despatch ; then, when the minister of France had finished, he replied with a confused air, ‘ Alas, you are right, my dear prince; what M. Walewski writes you is not calculated to encourage our hopes, I admit; we are sharply censured ; but what would you say if I, on my side, read you what comes to me directly from the Tuileries, this time, and from a certain personage you know?’ At the same time with a mocking air he drew from his pocket a letter bearing the same date as the despatch, in which M. Mocquard (Napoleon’s private secretary) assured him confidentially from the Emperor that the projects of annexation were regarded with a friendly eye, and that he need not trouble himself about the complications which might arise.”
Subsequently, when Napoleon, under the influence of the Empress, attempted to retract his promises, Victor Emanuel, taking the French Minister aside at a ball, expressed to him his irritation in the most violent and bitter terms, concluding, “ Who is he, after all, this man, this — ? The last-comer of the sovereigns of Europe, an intruder among us. Let him remember then what he is and what I am, — I, the chief of the first and oldest race that reigns in Europe.” The minister quietly replied, “ Sire, with your Majesty’s permission, I have not heard a word that has just been said.” The king abruptly left him, but later in the evening tapped him on the shoulder and said with a smile, “ It is not indispensable, is it, my dear prince, to report at Paris our conversation this evening ? Besides, have you not yourself said that you heard nothing of it ? ”
Count Cavour remarked to the author, “ Your Emperor will never change; his fault is always to wish to conspire. God knows if he needs to to-day. Is he not absolute master ? With a country powerful as yours, a large army, Europe tranquil, what has he to fear ? Why does he continually disguise his intentions, go the right when he means to turn to the left, and vice versa ? .... It is the peculiarity of his genius, it is the way he prefers, he practises it as an artist, a dilettante, and in that rôle he will always be the first and greatest of us all.” This remark was made when complaining of the absence of the French Minister, who had been recalled at the time the Sardinian forces invaded the Romagna, and had not been allowed to return to his post, though a year had elapsed.
When a minister was sent it was M. Vincent Benedetti, since so well known as envoy to the Court of Berlin. The Marquis de la Valette, when representing France at Constantinople, discovered the ability of Benedetti, then a consular pupil, and attached him to the embassy as consul. Without powerful connections, he successively became secretary of legation, chargé d'affaires, and director of political affairs in the foreign office under Thouvenel. While holding the latter place he had been named second plenipotentiary to sign the treaty ceding to France Nice and Savoy. He has since, “ with the modesty habitual to him,” attributed to himself the honor of the negotiation, which, however, was substantially concluded before his arrival at Turin, where he remained but three days.
M. Benedetti and our diplomatist sympathized so little, that the latter soon obtained a leave of absence preparatory to a transfer. He thus describes his sometime chief: To suppleness and perseverance “ he unites an extreme finesse, a keen intelligence, and especially a remarkable facility for work. His physiognomy is, beyond contradiction, one of the most refined and intelligent that can be found. His features are regular, the forehead remarkably developed, the eyes keen, penetrating, but deceitful. His manners and gestures are awkward and embarrassed ; despite his efforts, he feels himself ill at ease in a world where he has not lived ; a feeling of restraint is concealed under a stiffness which sometimes unintentionally borders on impertinence. There is nothing which is at the same time more annoying and more comical than to see him attempt a sprightly tone and playful remarks ; he had no doubt learned from M. de la Valette that to excel in light talk was supreme bon ton. The poor pupil has made vain efforts to imitate the marquis, he has not passed mediocrity in that way; there is no reproach in that, though. M. Benedetti is a profound egotist; like his patron, he has not had the talent to make friends and the ability to surround himself with clients and creatures : more ambitious, more concentrated, more grave, the Corsican diplomatist has directed all his faculties, all his energies, to a single end.” M. d’ldeville adds in a note that “ it is impossible, nevertheless, not to recognize in M. Benedetti a lofty intelligence and, what is more precious and rare, character.”
The experience of the Chevalier Constantine Nigra, for many years Victor Emanuel’s influential envoy to France, strikingly illustrates the narrow exclusiveness of the aristocratic circles of Turin. Signor Nigra, the son of an obscure country phlebotomist, owes his elevation to his own energy and merit. While he was still a secretary in the foreign office, M. de la Tour d’Auvergne, who had often seen him there, proposed inviting him to dinner, and said so to Cavour. “ What are you thinking of, my dear prince, no one invites Nigra,” was the reply.” Afterwards, when Nigra returned from his post at Paris on leave of absence, he said to a friend, “ What a singular country ours is. In France they not only admit me everywhere, but I am invited to court and petted and appreciated there as few Frenchmen are ; while here in my own city it would not be possible for me to be received by the Marchioness Doria.” This lady’s house was much frequented by young officers of the army and foreigners, and no one could receive with greater kindness and ease, says M. d’ldeville, but he adds that Nigra was right; the highest civil functions cannot authorize a person not noble to enter the drawing-rooms of Turin, although military officers are admitted, whatever their nationality or birth.
His royal Majesty is no favorite of our author, who gives his full-length portrait, of which only a few touches can be repeated here. “ In the character and habits of the king one finds again the want of refinement seen in his appearance..... His immense popularity in the old provinces of Piedmont is due rather to the inherent monarchical feeling of the people than to the personal qualities of the king..... If name is ever great in history, his only merit will be that he let Italy take her own course.” He speaks of his amours with a freedom unbecoming a galantuomo; and, “ what is more strange, he sometimes confounds the successes he has had with those he would have liked to have.” On the other hand, Victor Emanuel is accorded the great finesse of the Italian race and no lack of natural wit. “ His dominant quality is courage pushed to rashness.” In letters written by him to a celebrated woman, M. d’Ideville was surprised to find tenderness and delicacy of feeling.
Much is told of Cavour. Especially interesting is the account of the scene when Garibaldi, from his place in Parliament, declared that it was “ impossible for him to press the hand of a man who had sold his country to the foreigner, and to ally himself to a government whose cold and mischievous hand had attempted to foment a fratricidal war ” ; and when the patriotic minister so resolutely curbed his fiery temper. “ If emotion could kill a man,” said he the next day to a friend, “ I should have died on my return from that session.”
This entertaining volume —these extracts have by no means exhausted its interest — is to be followed by others relating the author’s diplomatic experience at Rome (1862 -1866), Athens, and Dresden.
  1. Off the Skelligs. A Novel. By JEAN INGELOW. Boston : Roberts Brothers. 1872.
  2. Coupon Bonds, and other Stories. By J. T. TROWBRIDGE. Boston: J. R. Osgood & Co. 1873.
  3. Love is Enough ; or, the Freeing of Pharamond. A Morality. By WILLIAM MORRIS. Boston : Roberts Brothers. 1873.
  4. A Memorial of Alice and Phoebe Cary, with some of their later Poems. By MARY CLEMMER AMES. Illustrated by two Portraits on Steel. New York : Hurd and Houghton. 1873.
  5. Thorvaldsen : his Life and Works. By EUGENE PLON. Translated from the French by I. M. LUYSTER. Boston : Roberts Brothers. 1873.
  6. The Life and Times of Henry, Lord Brougham. Written by Himself. 3 vols. New York : Harper Brothers. 1872.
  7. Fables respecting the Popes in the Middle Ages. By DR. J. J. VON DÖLLINGER. Translated by ALFRED PLUMMER of Trinity College, Oxford ; American edition edited by HENRY B. SMITH, D. D. New York : Dodd and Mead.
  8. Lectures on the Reunion of the Churches. By DR. J. J. VON DÖLLINGER. Translated by H. N. OXENHAM of Balliol College, Oxford. New York : Dodd and Mead.
  9. Old Landmarks of Boston. By S. A. DRAKE. Boston : J. R. Osgood & Co. 1872.
  10. Concord Days. By A. BRONSON ALCOTT. Boston : Roberts Brothers. 1872.
  11. The Issues of American Politics. A Discussion of the Principal Questions incident to the Governmental Policy of the United States. By ORRIN SKINNER (of the New York Bar). Philadelphia : J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1873.
  12. All books mentioned in this section are to be had at Schönhof and Möller’s, 40 Winter Street, Boston.
  13. Théatre. Par THÉOPHILE GAUTIER. Paris, 1872,
  14. P.-J. Proudhon. Sa Vie et sa Correspondance, 1838-1848. Par C. A. SAINTE-BEUVE. Paris, 1872.
  15. Mémoire d’ un Journaliste. Par H. DE VILLEMESSANT. Paris, 1872.
  16. Der alte und der neue Glaube. Ein Bekenntniss von DAVID FRIEDRICH STRAUSS. Leipzig, 1872.
  17. Journal d’un Diplomate en Italie. Notes intimes pour servir à l’ Histoire du Second Empire. Turin, 1859-1862. Par HENRY D’IDEVILLE. Paris: Hachette et Cie. 1872. 12mo. pp. 326.