THE fourth volume of Dr. Palfrey’s Compendious History of New England completes the series which places the result of his long and profound study of the subject within the reach of such as could not, for want of time or any other reason, acquaint themselves with it in his larger work. The first volume treats of the earliest explorations in this region, the geography, natural history, and native inhabitants ; of the settlement of the different New England Colonies, and of their organization, their first union, and their political, social, and religious progress up to the middle of the seventeenth century. The second volume carries us forward to the year 1689, when William and Mary were proclaimed in Boston, and Governor An-
dros was arrested and shipped to England. It deals with such events and facts as the Quaker troubles, the granting of the charters by Charles II., and the whole relation of the Colonies to the Stuarts; King Philip’s war ; the disputes with England, and the final vacation of the charter of Massachusetts; the coming of Andros, and his proceedings here up to the time of his expulsion. We noticed the third volume in the Atlantic for November last, when we endeavored to do justice to its interesting presentation of such unpicturesque and undramatic, but very characteristic matters as the attempts of Massachusetts to regain her earlier independence ; her disappointment and continued humiliation by those liberal princes from whom she had hoped so much ; and her long disputes with royal governors about salary and other things, as well as the incidents of the ceaseless strife with the French and Indians ; the disastrous failure of costly expeditions against the French colonies, and the terrible tragedies of the Salem witchcraft excitement. It brings the history of New England to the second quarter of the eighteenth century, at which period the fourth volume resumes the tale, and continues it until New England history is merged in American history by the revolutionary union of all the Colonies against Great Britain.
The three governors following Shute, namely, Burnet, Shirley, and Bernard, sustained with ardor the old controversy with the Legislature of Massachusetts. They demanded a fixed salary, as due to the representative of royalty in the Colony; and the Legislature steadily refused it, though ready and willing to make handsome occasional grants; and finally the executive gave up the hopeless contest. The Legislature never relaxed the hold on a refractory governor which the power to refuse him money gave them. It is curious to follow this controversy, and to observe how it never lost, in any recurrence, its original character; how it came to no decision, but simply expired by limitation, as it were. They were all Englishmen, New or Old, in that day, and it was maintained with true English doggedness, and at last simply shirked, by the losing side, in true English content with expediency.
But a far more interesting phase of colonial history was the Great Awakening of religious feeling in New England, to which Dr. Palfrey devotes one of his chapters. No doubt we degenerate people should not have found the religious temper or observances of the time lax, but there had no doubt been an abatement of the Puritanic zeal of earlier days. It is possible that the fierce theological abandon of the witchcraft excitement had something to do with this reaction ; but however it was, the NewEnglanders of 1734 were but an ungodly generation, comparatively speaking. The awakening began in the congregation of Jonathan Edwards, whose powerful sermons on justification by faith, and God’s absolute sovereignty mightily stirred up the people of Northampton. “The noise among the dry bones,” says the eminent
preacher, “ waxed louder and louder, . . . .
till there was scarcely a single person in the town, either old or young, that was left unconcerned.” The good work spread throughout the neighboring towns, and into Connecticut; and an account of it was sent to England and there published by Dr. Watts. George Whitefield was invited to New England, and came, remaining ten days in Boston, where he preached at one time to fifteen thousand people, — almost the whole population. He made a furore wherever he went, throughout the Province ; he delivered his farewell sermon on the Common to an audience of thirty thousand ; and under his exhortations and those of his colleagues, the entire people seemed to revert to its best Puritanical estate. “ Persons not converted were sobered, so that the whole social aspect was changed. ‘ Even the negroes and boys in the streets surprisingly left off their rudeness. . . . . Taverns, dancing-schools, and
such meetings as had been called assemblies .... were much less frequented. Many reduced their dress and apparel.’ And it was ‘ both surprising and pleasant to see how some younger people, and of that sex too which is most fond of such vanities, put off the bravery of their ornaments.” It is a sad story how the whole work was brought into discredit by the illadvised zeal of one man, James Davenport, a minister of Long Island, who once preached a sermon twenty-four hours long, attempted miracles, ran about the country converting other ministers’ congregations, and publicly crying out upon such ministers as he deemed not to have had a genuine religious experience, and who ended, poor man, by confessing that he had been wrong in all this, “ being much influenced in the affair by a false spirit.... and withal very offensive to that God, before whom I would lie in the dust, prostrate in deep humility and repentance on this account ; imploring pardon for the Mediator’s sake, and thankfully accepting the tokens thereof.”
Hard upon this religious excitement came a period of military activity, during which the capture of Louisburg, the most brilliant exploit of our colonial history, took place.
It was effected almost wholly by the colonies and forces ; but England, with supreme indifference to their glory and safety, restored the fortress to France at the peace of Aixla-Chapelle in 1748. Some ten years later, the English again took the place, after a siege of seven weeks ; and in 1759 Quebec fell, and New France became part of the British Empire. This event did not give in London the unmixed joy that it gave in Boston; and it does not increase our hereditary love of England to know that there was not wanting an able English pamphleteer to deplore the downfall of the French colonies because the English Provinces, liberated from the incursions of the French and Indians, would now be more independent of the mother country, and more prosperous than ever. She had done what she could to keep them helpless by restricting their commerce and forbidding their manufactures ; but this had not been effectual, and patriotic Englishmen felt with alarm that since the eighty years’ war with New France was ended, since the people of the frontier villages were no longer in danger of the savage firebrand and tomahawk, and the great towns were released from the long waste of life and money, there were no lengths to which the undutiful colonists might not prosper. In fact, such Englishmen were not so far wrong. The fall of Quebec may be considered one of the preliminary events of the American Revolution ; and Dr. Palfrey traces with that admirable clearness of his the successive steps which led to that struggle from the time of the last French war. There is no heat nor haste in his judgment of England; but as one follows his cool and accurate statement of the facts, one feels with almost a novel satisfaction how richly that power deserved to lose the colonies which she governed with such mean jealousy, such greedy stupidity. We hope no reader will pass carelessly over these chapters of the history, because they deal with events and names as familiar as household words ; the new light on them makes them newly significant ; and we cannot too often refresh the sense that our national being was founded in wisdom and justice, — the feeling may help us over some doubts and fears for the present, and may touch us with a wholesome shame that we should in any wise have suffered such an inheritance to sink into disgrace and corruption.
The period which this volume covers has little of the charm which attracts us to the earlier times. The poetry of the first Puritan invasion of the wilderness has long since faded out of the story; the Quakers and witches are no longer persecuted to death; the terrible wars with the French and Indians have come to a final and prosperous close. The men who chiefly figure have not the austere picturesqueness of the first magistrates and ministers; they are statesmen, with already more of the politician than the pilgrim in them. Yet on this grave neutral ground of colonial annals there is one bit of personal history which burns like a vivid touch of red in some gray-toned landscape. About the middle of the last century, Governor Shirley visited Europe, and “ at Paris, when past the age of threescore, he had been attracted by the beauty of a young girl, the daughter of his landlord, and, having married her, he brought her to Boston, — child and Catholic as she was, — to take precedence in the society of the Puritan matrons of Massachusetts.” We recommend this fact to some poet or romancer, looking about for a subject, as one of almost unlimited capabilities : only imagine the governor’s happiness, the joy of the young French wife, and the satisfaction of the Massachusetts matrons in the situation ! The historian leaves the fact with the simple statement we have given ; but human nature demands something more : what beneficent genius will invent us something concerning it ?
Another event of Governor Shirley’s administration has already afforded us the finest English poem of our time; we mean the transportation of the French Neutrals from Acadia, which suggested to Mr. Longfellow the unsurpassable story of Evangeline. If the reader likes to read the history of that melancholy affair, here it is narrated in Dr. Palfrey’s fourth volume with all the soberness, conciseness, and fidelity which characterizes his whole work.
We are struck, indeed, in glancing over the ground he has so faithfully occupied, with the singular fitness of the writer for his theme. It is not a history out of which the merely imaginative admirer of the past could make very much. Its dramatic incidents are few and meagre. It is sad-colored, austere, simple in character. It hides its poetry, and its high significance for the future of mankind, under an array of facts as little showy and romantic as the garb and visage under which each Puritan hid the tenderness and strength of his nature. It is the record of a Godfearing community abandoning home and country for the freedom of the wilderness, but carrying, like malicious kobolds, among their household gear the errors of superstition, intolerance, and persecution from which they fled. Yet they were a people who could learn mercy as well as righteousness. Their sins in the witchcraft excitement were acknowledged and deplored with grave publicity by magistrate and minister and citizen, and all the forms of religious severity were relaxed as soon as New England ceased to be a company and became a nation. But what they felt to be right that they held fast. A charter might be granted or vacated ; still they clung to the substance of liberty ; and when this was threatened, after patient submission to many wrongs, they were first among the colonists to rebel against unjust authority, and to enter upon the contest that destroyed it.
Such a history needed for its narrator just those qualities of patient investigation, self-denying strictness, conscientious accuracy, judicial impartiality, and literary neatness which Dr. Palfrey so eminently possesses. A more colored or ambitious style would have ludicrously discorded with the grave and simple stuff of the annals ; a greater tendency to hero-worship would have given us more striking figures and faces, but would not have given the unity and balance of an action in which the led were as important as the leaders; the spirit of the advocate could have made a more brilliant and effective case at many points, but justice and truth would have suffered. Dr. Palfrey relegates to the poets and the romancers their pilgrims, their heroes, their martyrs, and produces a close and careful study of the past with faithful portraits of such men and women as figured prominently in it. His work is not one that will take the idler from his “novels and tales of chivalry in prose or rhyme,” or from what Coleridge considers the analogous diversions of “ gaming, swinging, or swaying on a chair or gate; spitting over a bridge, smoking, snuff-taking ” ; nay, we doubt if he had it ever in his mind to allure the lover of these amusements. His history is wanting in all the effects that the mere time-killing reader enjoys ; no fine costumes in picturesque groups ; drums and trumpets few and of business-like note; no banners for the fights of the pathless woods and tangled morasses of the bitter and rocky coasts, the hard and hostile interior. It is the story of a serious people, told, as it was lived, with unostentatious dignity and with an unremitted endeavor for verity and justice.
— Manuals and text-books of zoölogy, as well as those works commonly ranked as “popular ” treatises on natural history, have, as is well known, been usually prepared by mere compilers, possessing few qualifications for the task. That worthless works, perpetuating antiquated theories and opinions long abandoned by investigators, should alone be accessible to persons seeking to know something of the special subjects of which they treat, is the fault more of investigators themselves, perhaps, than of the ignorant compilers of such works, or of their still more ignorant purchasers. The original workers in zoölogy are commonly too much engrossed with their special lines of study to care to devote their limited time to popularizing the latest views and discoveries in their respective fields of inquiry.
Packard’s Guide to the Study of Insects, and Agassiz’s Seaside Studies, have hitherto been the only works written in this country with the design of placing within the reach of the general reader any adequate guide to the study of any particular department of zoölogy. We have, until now, had no work, treating especially of any class of vertebrates, adapted to the needs of common students, nor anything in zoölogical literature comparable in point of completeness and detail with Gray’s excellent Manual of our flora. Dr. Coues, in his Key to North American Birds, is hence the first to provide a manual of the character in question. Though moulded essentially on the plan that has for many years been so successfully adopted in the preparation of botanical manuals, Dr. Coues’s work, as a zoölogical handbook, is thus far unique in its conception and execution. Its author has been long known to the ornithological world as an investigator of very high ability, and the conscientious care and accuracy that have marked his monographs and other special papers is sufficient assurance to his fellow-workers of fidelity and thoroughness in a work of the character and importance of the one forming the subject of the present notice. A critical examination of Dr. Coues’s book reveals, it is true, here and there slight faults of execution, but they in no way detract essentially from its value as a reliable hand-book, and one well suited to meet the wants of beginners in ornithology, while it affords at the same time a standard and convenient work of reference for advanced students and even specialists.
The work is divided into three parts. The first consists of a general Introduction, occupying about sixty pages, and is devoted to an elementary exposition of the leading principles of ornithology. It also contains very full descriptions of the external parts and organs of birds, and defines and explains the technical terms in ordinary use in ornithological literature ; these descriptions and explanations being accompanied by suitable illustrations. The second part, or Key to the Genera and Subgenera, consists of a continuous analytical table, forming an artificial analysis of the genera, similar to the analytical tables employed in botany as a guide to the natural orders. The Introduction fully prepares the student for the use of the Key to the Genera. Having mastered the former, he is guided by means of the latter to the identification of any species of North American bird he may chance to have.
The remaining three hundred pages of the work are devoted to a Systematic Synopsis of North American Birds. In this synopsis are included all the birds of North America found north of Mexico, arranged after a generally approved system of classification. The higher groups are characterized with considerable detail, and the extra-limital forms being also included, the reader is made acquainted, in a general way, with the exotic as well as the North American families of the avian class. In the descriptions of the species, Dr. Coues has shown a happy skill in seizing upon such distinctions as are alone significant, the student thus escaping the confusion that results from the introduction of irrelevant matter, such as one too often finds in our best descriptive ornithological writings. The geographical distribution of each species is generally fully indicated, and occasionally are added terse characterizations of their habits. The size of the work necessarily precludes the introduction of extended biographical notices of the species, the lack of which is, in a measure, supplied by references to the works of Wilson, Nuttall, Audubon, and other standard authorities on the subject. By the use of abbreviations and a few arbitrary signs, a large amount of information is compressed into the few lines that constitute the specific diagnosis.
One of the most important features of this portion of the work, and one almost for the first time introduced into general works on ornithology, is the critical discriminations made between species and varieties or geographical races. Recent advances in the science have rendered these discriminations indispensable, and throughout the work they have been rigidly and judiciously introduced. The number of forms recognized as specific has thereby been greatly reduced from the number current only a few years ago ; but the reduction is one now sanctioned, it may be safely said, by the majority of American ornithologists. In respect to the genera, the author has adopted a less uniform practice, having correspondingly reduced these groups only among the waders and swimmers. In respect to the large number of genera admitted, the author says in his Preface that he was “ led into this — unnecessarily, perhaps, and certainly against [his] judgment — partly by a desire to disturb current nomenclature as little as possible, and partly because it is still uncertain what value should be attached to a generic name.” He intimates, however, that, on another occasion, he should probably extend the reduction of the generic names to the remaining groups.
Upward of two hundred of the woodcuts occur in the third part, or Synopsis, and are devoted mainly to the illustration of the generic and family characters, as the structure of the feet, the form of the bill, wings, etc. About one half represent the head, generally of the natural size, while each family has one or more full-length figures. A few of the figures give merely outlines of the parts illustrated, but the greater number are carefully executed drawings made by the author from nature.
The volume closes with a synopsis of all the fossil birds as yet discovered in North America. This forms an extremely valuable feature of the work, it having been prepared by the highest authority on the subject (Professor O. C. Marsh of New Haven), and being the only general exposition of this department of American ornithology that has been made.
— We omitted to notice Behind the Bars when it appeared ; but it has proved the occasion of so acrimonious a controversy in the newspapers lately that we have been led to read it. Written by a lady, once a patient, it professes to expose certain evils incident to our asylum system. The purpose is legitimate and the tone (as distinguished from the matter, for we fear the book is not free from misrepresentation of facts) is unexceptionable. Indeed, the style, though somewhat rambling and at times deficient in superficial elegance, has a depth and fulness not often met with. The grievances against which she inveighs are not of the Charles Reade-ian rib-breaking character, though it is true she describes an amount of strait - jacketing, stomachpump feeding, night patrolling, and suppression of correspondence with friends, that certainly would fall under the head of “abuse ” of power. But the testimony of a patient is always presumably untrustworthy, and we prefer to consider these accounts as grossly exaggerated, to say no more. The anecdote on page 331 of a girl so vivacious that she was put into a ward of demented patients and became demented herself in consequence, is told, we are sure, from an inadequate knowledge of the facts ; and we are equally sure that the author is mistaken in what she says about the systematic separation of patients who have become “ too intimate.” But abstracting these matters, there remains a mass of complaint from what we may call the purely sentimental point of view, that is, perhaps, well founded in the asylum system ; and to this she has given touching and forcible expression. Persons of sensibility and refinement like herself — and there are always some such in an asylum, not to speak of those whose sensibility is morbid and excessive, — must be vexed every hour in the day by the rigid discipline of an immense institution whose rules are made for the average convenience of all its inmates, wounded by the tactless authority of uncultivated attendants, and distressed by the deficient sympathy and discrimination which the overtasked medical officers are able to bestow upon them. To the judicious reader, then, the book may be commended as a plea for one special interest, taking no account of the many others involved. It is feminine in its one-sidedness, perhaps in its inaccuracy, but also in its sympathetic insight. To the sane and practical world lunacy is a bed in which one cannot by any artifice lie straight, and in which an inch more or less of discomfort does not much matter. The patient is out of joint with the world of things, and at the best the world of things must thwart him. But there are degrees ; and to the particular madman who feels that with a little more trouble on some one’s part, the thwarting would bear less hard on him, your reference to general laws will always seem a mockery.
We know that the medical profession, as a whole, frowns on any attempt to invoke the public ear in these matters. But the fact is that reform here, as in other places, is mainly or even wholly a question of money. To be faultlessly cared for when one is acutely insane requires a greater outlay than any but the very richest can meet. But, as no citizen is exempt from danger of the disease, every one is directly interested that the public provision of which he may some day be forced to become a beneficiary should be as faultless as possible. The public generosity must be called upon. But how, unless you let the public realize to some extent in imagination the evils incident to the present order of enormous, over-crowded establishments without any system of occupations or diversions for their inmates, can you get it into a liberal enough mood to pay for the new salaries, buildings, and apparatus which a better order of things would require ? Of course the particular sort of jealous anxiety with which the public mind is filled by the “ revelations” that are often made — revelations of abuses, properly so called, to which this book in a mild way adds its quantum — is, on the whole, quite groundless, and does the greatest injustice to the individual superintendents and others who fall under the ban of its suspicion. But even with this injustice included, we are not sure of its being on the whole pernicious. Public feeling has no power of direct interference ; and so long as it remains an influence urging those who have authority to spare no exertion to disarm its cavils of whatever shadow of truth may lurk in them, it must bear wholesome fruit to the community as a whole. Specialists, indeed, claim to be able to give each other all the improvement they need. The kind of criticism an ignorant laity passes on their proceedings is apt to be wide enough of the mark ; and to have to submit to this sort of prejudice, in addition to the ingratitude and slander they are sure to receive from a large portion of their patients, may well make the position of asylum physician seem unenviable. Nevertheless, we suppose there may be a certain amount of the partisan esprit de corps and routine even in a profession which for a hundred years past has had one of the brightest records humanity can show. And if there is only a grain of it, it is well to bear hard upon it from the outside. If individuals incur wrongful blame in the process, they can sternly console themselves with the thought that the honor of their calling is proportioned to its exposure.
Dr. Ray, the title of whose work follows next upon our list, stands as a writer easily at the head of this honorable profession in our country. This volume is only a culling from the essays which, for a quarter of a century, have proceeded from his fertile pen. In all of them is to be noticed the same fluent and varied style, tending perhaps a little to diffuseness, and the same lucidity of thought and expression. Since he commends the book to the “ general reader” as containing “nothing unworthy the attention of any thoughtful mind,” we may assume that he approves of the public interest being awakened to the general subject of lunacy. A large proportion of the essays in the book are of a polemic, or at least an argumentative character. Although there is no express discussion of asylum “abuses,” yet it would be easy to gather a string of extracts which would make a formidable looking reply to many of the current accusations. We give a few examples : —
“ Hardness of feeling towards the hospital, the friends, or any others who have promoted or favored the patient s restraint, must always throw doubt on the genuineness of any apparent recovery. One who is fully restored will harbor no other than feelings of complacency and gratitude towards those who have cared for him when unable to care for himself, and shielded him from a mortifying and dangerous exposure of his infirmity. He will never cease to entertain the most friendly feeling towards those who, under every provocation calculated to try their temper and patience, pursued the mild and even tenor of their way, returned his abuse with silence or with gentle words, and exhausted all the arts of kindness in soothing his troubled spirit and restoring it to peace and happiness.”
Dr. Ray speaks of “ that advance in Christian sentiment which in these our days would bring within the benign influences of the hospital all the unfortunate victims of mental infirmity.” And in another place, writing of the tests of a spurious recovery, he says : “ Among the most prominent are a certain impatience, restlessness, and constant dwelling on the one idea of going home. The last is always a suspicious circumstance, and always a sufficient warrant for delay. Some manifestation of the feeling in persons who have long been separated from their homes, and are looking forward to the day which shall witness a renewal of their happiest relations, would not be strange. But this very natural trait can generally be distinguished from the kind of restlessness in question, .... which is far more persistent and out of all proportion to the occasions that are used in justification of it. It is beyond the reach of argument and all the arts of persuasion. The most patient and elaborate exposition of the reasons for further detention is followed by a renewal of the same restlessness and the same importunities. . . . . After fully recovering, the patients admit that their restlessness was unreasonable and uncontrollable, and wonder that they should have been so completely under its control.”
Referring to the alleged evil influence upon the reason of being shut up in an asylum in company with large numbers of lunatics, he says : “ Of the hundreds of sane people within our cognizance who have been closely associated with the insane in large establishments for years together, we cannot call to mind one who became insane or was likely to be so. No doubt, where there is a strong disposition to the disease, such association tends to develop it ; and this effect is especially obvious where the parties brought together are nearly related, and the offices of care and attention naturally incident to such relation draw largely on the bodily strength and the moral emotions. The danger arising from this cause is often a sufficient reason for removing the patient from home and the customary surroundings. . . . . But it does not follow that the
insane would be likely to lose the little sanity that remains by associating with persons more insane than themselves. Such is not the experience of men who have had charge of thousands of patients and observed them under every variety of influence. For the most part the insane are too much occupied with their own condition to be troubled by the conduct or discourse of others. . . . . In modern hospitals the means of classification are so ample that the mischief that might result from improper association is reduced to almost nothing.” We are not sure that the last subject is exhausted by Dr. Ray’s remarks. And the reader will have noticed the rather startling facility with which he admits the principle in dispute when it works in favor of his doctrine that all patients should be sent to asylums, while denying it when it would work against their being kept there. The fact is, that a perusal of the book has strengthened the opinion in us that its author’s mind is of the legal rather than the scientific order, greater in arguing points according to a given scheme of thought than in making fresh discoveries and classifying things for himself. This is particularly striking in the exclusively technical point of view he takes in those essays in which he treats of the subject of insanity as an excuse for criminal acts. He is none the less an able writer, and no one can take up his book without being instructed and entertained. The concluding essays on the madmen of Shakespeare, Scott, and Dr. Johnson will, we suppose, find the largest number of admirers, though we confess, for our own part, to no great sympathy with the type of mind that delights in ingenious arguments as to whether Hamlet was or was not “ really ” and lawfully insane.
— We hope that any one who mav be induced by the lavish praise of the English journals to read the novel, Never Again, will have the forethought to begin with the dedication, which gives the reader a verygood example — except that it is not excessively long-winded—of what he will meet in the body of the book if he is tempted to go on. We need not quote it, the novel is by no means hard to be found, and every one may judge for himself whether or not the writer has a delicate sense of humor or a fair comprehension of the objects of his heavy satire. The plot of the story is so lamentably weak that it thereby forbids harsh criticism ; it is but an humble outline, which the author has seen fit to use as a means of expressing his views of Society, and to decorate with sketches of more or less lifelike human beings, and with a series of anecdotes, as connected and naturally brought in as pastings in a scrap-book. There are two stories, which are closely connected, running through the novel; one about Mr. Ledgeral and his mercantile transactions, the other about the loves of his daughter Helen and Luther Lansdale, a lad from the country near Peekskill, New York, with lofty yearnings for New York. At the age of eighteen a disappointment in love and vanity at the hands of a woman of thirty-five, who corrects his spelling, causes him to groan “ O stupid fool! dolt! idiot! But I have one resource, — Never shall she see me again ! I will go — if I have to go penniless, friendless, and without my mother’s blessing—far from this scene of my disgrace ! ” His mother, who, from the few words devoted to her description, we should judge to have been a woman of uncommon good sense, “ was at length compelled to give her consent, and she did so with less reluctance when he finally confessed the blunder of the album, and admitted the peculiar state of his affections.” On his way to the city in Captain Combing’s old sloop, he meets with what is called in the head-lines of the chapter A Terrible Catastrophe; that is to say, the sloop is run down by a North River steamboat. All on board are saved, and Luther makes the acquaintance of the girl, Helen Ledgeral, who is to be the guiding star of his life. At first the young hero has to struggle with his morbid sensitiveness, and when she asks him to call on her and to get aid, should it be needed, from her father, he mutters, “ I apply to her father for assistance of any kind ! I put myself in her way again, after she has seen me in this plight, without hat or coat, and laughed at me! Never!—never! I hope I may die if I do ! What do I care for her? Nothing ! not the snap of my finger, not the flip of a copper. No, I won’t think of her again. I have something better than that to do, I guess.” But hunger and despair tame his proud spirit and bring him to the door of the Ledgerals. In their hall he faints, but Helen pleads for him so warmly that Mr. Ledgeral consents to give him a place in his office. Of course at the end he marries Helen, but only after a combination of melodramatic incidents which would make the fortune of a writer of one of those stories of which we occasionally see the beginning in a daily paper where it is inserted as an advertisement. This novel shares with those less highly praised stories that peculiar absence of any resemblance to life which goes far towards lessening the pleasure of reading. Incidents are brought in, characters are introduced, which bear few traces of invention on the part of the author; one might as well put a shovelful of sand into a pail of salt-water and expect to give the spectator a definite notion of the sea-shore. There is no reason why people in books should be unlike people in life. Stating disconnected facts about them is but a poor way of giving the reader a definite impression of their existence. If they are to be made to talk, let them talk, as human beings do, from the fulness of their hearts, not as if they were reciting phrases put into their mouths by a man who has collected a certain number of not too lively mots, which he wants to see in print. The whole novel is written in this way, from the outside, and the result is that the reader lays down the book with the feeling that he has been spending his time over a story which is almost as unreal as a modern society play. In short, it is a novel which we cannot in any way commend either as a study of human nature or of that especial variety of it which is to be met with in New York. It seems to us a false and vulgar libel on American society, which may account for the favorable reception the book met with from foreign critics who, with English insularity, mistook strangeness for a flavor of the soil, as if there were no human nature on this side of the Atlantic.
— The Brook, by Mr. Wright, is an allegorized fancy of the progress of a streamlet from the mountain to the sea, with what matter of poetic meditation and description there should naturally be concerning the Brook in the valley, in the wood, over the cliff, at the mill, and elsewhere. The subject is a very pretty one ; but it is hard to figure the brook for so long a time as a sentient, conscious thing, and Mr. Wright has freely called upon Mr. Emerson to help him.
All the speed of Neptune’s shell,
All the stealth of Mercury’s heel,
All the fire of Phœbus’ wheel.
Languors dull or grosser slumber
Never stay his ramping limb ;
The gods gave all their gayety
When they modelled him,”
says Mr. Wright of his Brook; and of Love, —
Up and down by wood and wold,
The bow of fancy strives to tame,
And all things are his game :
Or the proud falcon of his song
Dismisses on his forage airy,
Where, circling on slow pinions strong,
Beauty sails, the perfect quarry.
Works anew the fiery leaven :
Now a warrior brave and liege.
The gods themselves ’scape not his siege,”
and so on to the great compassion and despair of his well-disposed critic. Yet, Mr. Wright can be natural and himself— when he does not take pains. Here, for example, is a bit of description which is quite his own, and very charming and fresh : —
A dull gray mist enfolds the hills,
The flowers are dead, the thickets pine,
In other lands the swallow trills;
For since they stole his summer flute,
The moping Pan sits stark and mute ;
The slow hooves of the feeding kine
And woods are yellow, woods are brown,
The vine about the elm is red,
Crow and hawk fly up and down,
But for the wood-thrush, he is dead ;
The ox forsakes the chilly shadow,
Only the cricket haunts the meadow.”
The keen feeling for words, and the sympathy with nature here shown, are noticeable throughout the poem.
The volume is made up for the rest of darkling allegories and meditative unrealities to which we could not turn again for enjoyment nor instruction; and yet they have good things in them, very beautiful things ; and we believe that Mr. Wright, who in his former volume wrote Tennyson, and in this writes Emerson, might write poetry, such as we should all be glad to have and remember, if he would only consent to write himself. We commend to his thoughtful attention the fact that the good passages of his poem, — the clearest, strongest, and sweetest — are those in which he has most entirely overcome his temptation to borrow a manner or an attitude.
— Schwegler’s History of Philosophy, appearing originally as early as 1847 in the Stuttgart Encyclopædia, and published in 1848 in a separate volume, is generally regarded, to this day, in the German universities, as the most valuable handbook of the subject of which it treats. Up to 1867, there were sold twenty thousand copies of the work, — a rare event in the ease of a similar compendium. The translation by Dr. Stirling of Edinburgh appeared in that city in 1867, and in five months the first edition was exhausted, two more editions being called for in the ensuing three years. We have it now in a neat duodecimo volume, issued in New York and Edinburgh ; the translation running to 345 pages, and the annotations by the translator to 130 more.
This succinct review of the philosophy of the world throughout fourteen centuries, from the time of Thales to that of Hegel, is the most valuable contribution of its kind that has appeared for many years. It is a little open to the criticism that, in some of its appreciations, it is German rather than cosmopolitan. More than one tenth of the book— some forty pages — are devoted to Kant ; while to the philosophy of Bacon scarcely three are allotted. It seems difficult for the German mind, even when actuated by strict candor, to do full justice to the chief of English philosophers. Hegel says of him : “ As Bacon has always had the praise of the man who directed knowledge to its true source, experience, so is he in effect the special leader and representative of what in England has been called philosophy, and beyond which Englishmen have not yet quite advanced ; for they seem to constitute the people in Europe which, limited to understanding of actuality, is destined, like the huckster and workman class in the state, to live always immersed in matter, with daily fact for their object and not reason.” And Schwegler evidently shares this disparaging conception of the inductive philosophy, saying : ” To have established the principle of empirical science, — of a thinking exploration of nature, — this is Bacon’s merit. But still only in the proposing of this principle does his import lie : of any contained matter of the Baconian philosophy we can, in rigor, not speak” (p. 152 ; the italics in original).
Indeed, if we would do justice to English philosophy, we must supplement Schwegler by referring to such writers as Lewes or Stanley. But aside from this shortcoming, it would be difficult to overrate the utility of Schwegler’s work, or to find fault with the translator when he says of it: “ It is at once the fullest and the shortest, the deepest and the easiest, the most trustworthy and the most elegant, compendium that exists in either language.” And as to the shortcoming referred to, it is in a measure made up by the annotations of the English translator.
Nor can it be said that the first place in philosophy virtually assigned to Kant by Schwegler is without a certain warrant. It may be doubted whether any one system exerts more influence over the cultivated mind of the present day than does the Kantian philosophy. The chasm between thought and existence (that despair of philosophy) has been better bridged by Kant than by any other. He fortifies the ground earlier occupied by Descartes, that the sufficient proof to us of our existence is that we perceive and think ; and that, for man, the external world is a reality in virtue of his own perceptions and thoughts. And no one has taken more pains than Kant to warn us off barren and unprofitable fields of research. No one has taken a more practical stand than he against the undue importance attached to the historical accessories of all religions. Schwegler sets forth this phase of the Kantian philosophy very lucidly thus : “ In every church there are two elements, the pure moral, rational belief, and the historico-statutory creed. On the relation of these two elements it depends whether a church shall possess worth or not. Whenever the statutory element becomes an independent object, claims an independent authority, the church links into corruption and unreason : whenever the church assumes the pure belief of reason, it is in the way to the kingdom ot God. This is the distinction between true worship and false worship, religion and priestcraft. The dogma has value only in so far as it has a moral core. The doctrine of the Trinity, for example, contains, in the letter, absolutely nothing for practice. Whether three or ten persons are to be worshipped in the Godhead, is indifferent, inasmuch as no difference of rule results thence for the conduct of life. Even the Bible and the interpretation of the Bible are to be placed under the moral point of view. Reason is, in matters of religion, the supreme interpreter of Scripture.”
“With Schelling and Hegel,” says Schwegler, “the history of philosophy ends.” He does not even name Comte, whose Positive Philosophy had been published several years before, — Comte of whom Lewes, surely under infatuation, says, “ In his Cours de Philosophie Positive we have the grandest, because on the whole the truest, system which philosophy has yet produced.”
We welcome this appearance in an English dress of Schwegler’s excellent handbook from an American publishing house. The translation is smooth, and, so far as we have compared it, faithful.
FRENCH AND GERMAN.2
AT no time have either Frenchmen or Germans been lavish in their praise of one another, and that since the war there should have been a great deal of wild writing on both sides is natural. To most Germans the French have seemed to be a frivolous race, destitute of any shadow of morality, ignorant and inordinately vain;
the Frenchman’s opinion of the German was of a cold-blooded, beer-guzzling pedant, crammed with useless facts, and inordinately proud and cruel. It has been the fashion to decry French ignorance of the Germans, and it has been justly done, but there is also room to find fault with German ignorance of France. A book, however, which is qualified to throw a good deal of light on that country, and which will be found of great service by Americans and English as well as Germans, is Mr. Karl Hillebrand’s Frankreich und die Franzosen in der zweiten Hälfte des XIX. Jahrhunderts. Mr. Hillebrand is admirably fitted for the task he has assumed. He has lived for many years in France as a Frenchman, yet without losing his nationality ; he has studied and written about questions which concerned French people, notably about the matter of education ; and he has sought to make the French more familiar with some of the past history of his own country in his exceedingly interesting papers on Rahel and her contemporaries in the Revue des Deux Mondes, and as well as with the later position of Prussia in his Prusse contemporaine. He will be remembered, moreover, as a contributor to the North American Review, in which are now appearing some valuable papers of his on Herder. These facts may serve to show how cultivated a man he is, and every one who recalls any of his writings can bear witness to his intelligence. It is the fashion to sneer at cosmopolitanism, but it can also bear good fruits. The author has divided his book into six sections, as follows : Manners and Society, The Educational System, The Provinces and Paris, Intellectual Life, Political Life, The Rulers. There, is besides, an additional chapter on French views about the future of Germany and France. He begins with a slight sketch of French family life, which tells us nothing especially new, except for those who have formed their ideas from the French novels of the time, and who may be surprised at the tribute he pays to the respect in which it is held by many who are not prepared to be the heroes and heroines of what he calls a “ certain literature.” The virtues of the French, he says, are of a utilitarian character, they tend to the conservation of social order. Those virtues which he says are virtues for their own sake, for the sake of satisfying the conscience of him who practises them, he says, distinguish the Germans ; while respect for property and the family as the corner-stone of society, honor and decorum which give a charm to society, moderation and thoughtfulness which insure the duration of comfort and pleasure, these, according to him are the qualities most valued by the Frenchman. Especially does he praise the honesty of the French in their personal relations, while at the same time he grants that they look with very different eyes on the possibility of despoiling the state. The Frenchman is moderate, unextravagant, as well as not lavish in generosity. He freely confesses the laxity of the French with regard to what are some of the most important points of morality. A few words about their religious sentiment we have not the space to quote. He speaks at some length of what may be more narrowly called their social life, mentioning their ease, grace, and desire and capacity for pleasing. With considerable acuteness he paints their sensitiveness with regard to the opinions of others, which produces a certain uniformity in their views on most matters of taste, a uniformity which the character of their education does its share in producing. How different this is from the rich and varied eccentricity of Americans, English, and Germans is easily seen. All these qualities, resting as they do on reflection, on utility, suffice as long as life moves on in accustomed ruts, but fail when a day comes bringing with it unusual disturbance. Then something higher is needed to direct the man who falls a prey to every passing emotion. In a word, Grattez le Français et vous tronverez I'lrlandais.
The French system of instruction has been a fertile theme for many writers who have sedulously shown its defects, while there has been a growing indifference of foreigners towards what once had attracted them, as was more especially to be seen by the few who of late years preferred studying medicine in Paris, when they were able to go to Germany. How inefficient was the system of primary instruction which left so much almost ignorance in the country is an old story. A good description is given of the methods of teaching in the higher schools, which seldom succeed in lighting the fire of a real love for learning, and in conclusion there is an account of the highest educational institutions. The failure of the French system is probably nowhere seen more distinctly than here, for in nothing is spontaneity more desirable than in education. Passing over the chapter on the provinces, we come to that on the intellectual life of the country. After a few words on the amusing light literature of the day, he speaks of what we, across the water, who care especially for the novels and plays, seldom see, namely, the solid, pompous books, written by some pedant who works up any given subject in order to make his name famous among his friends or to aid him in securing some position. Our author gives just praise to the living writers, whose excellence is of a sort which other countries have to go without. Among these he mentions Montégut, Renan, Taine, Larcey, Paul de Saint - Victor, and Scherer, and he compares their easy grace, their freedom from pomposity, with the heavy-handedness of so many German writers. He says that while in England and France the highest and most cultivated classes have devoted themselves to intellectual work, in Germany, for the last three hundred years, it has been ignored by all except professors and ministers. “ It may have gained depth and seriousness, but it has lost with regard to breadth of vision.” What should never be forgotten about French literature, its cleverness, he recalls to the Germans, who are apt to regard the possession of the quality as but little better than buffoonery. He says : “ In this respect no nation can be compared with it. In its best time France has never produced a Dante, a Shakespeare, a Goethe ; but in skilful work they have always been without a rival, and this, too, in art as well as in literature.” To be sure, this is not the highest praise in the world, but it is not to be forgotton on that account. It is easier to forgive a man for not being a genius than for offending us by his awkwardness.
The author is no sneerer at the merits of the Germans, no extravagant adulator of the qualities of the French ; he utters none of the boyish extravagance of the praise of Heine, for instance, which is so grateful to the ears of the Parisians, and so distasteful to every one else. But by choosing those passages which do justice to the merits of the French, we have wished simply to show his absence of prejudice against them, and not an undue affection for them.
Properly to discuss his account of the political life of France would require more pages than are left us, and we are unwillingly obliged to pass them over in order to make a brief mention of the final chapter on the opinions of the French about the future of the two countries.
The books which he especially discusses are Renan s La Réforme mtellectuelle et morale, together with the Questions contentporaines by the same author, and Monod’s Allemands el Français. Souvenirs de campagne. How far the reader will agree with Mr. Hillebrand’s views, or with those of the two French writers, will depend almost entirely on his already formed opinions ; for argument is hardly of any more service than is muisc to an army: it animates the weak-kneed, but does not bring over deserters from the other side. He goes over the discussion of the question as to which side deserves the blame for continuing the war, but he does it in a very cool, dispassionate way. He portrays the dangers to which France is now exposed, and he foresees no thornless path open before Germany. He warns his country against the growth of “ Americanisms,” by which he means an exclusively practical, realistic education, under which men devote themselves simply to material benefits. We hope every one will read this chapter; they will see in it some severe criticism of what are serious faults, without undue partiality for either country.
The work of M. Monod, referred to above, is one that can well be recommended. It first appeared in Macmillan’s Magazine, but in the French edition we fancy that we have found much additional matter. It is one of the most impartial books written near the time of the war.
- A Compendious History of New England, front the Discovery by Europeans to the first General Congress of the Anglo-A merican Colonies. By JOHN GORHAM PALFREY. In Four Volumes. Vol. IV. Boston : H. C. Shepard. 1873.↩
- Key to North American Birds, containing a Concise Account of every Species of living and fossil Bird at present known from the Continent north of the Mexican and United States Boundary. Illustrated by six Steel Plates, and upwards of two hundred and fifty Woodcuts. By ELLIOTT COUES, Assistant-Surgeon, United States Army. Salem : Naturalists' Agency. New York : Dodd and Mead. Boston : Estes and Lauriat. 1872.↩
- Behind the Bars. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 12mo. 1871.↩
- Contributions to Mental Pathology. By I. RAY, M. D. Boston: Little, Brown, & Co. 1873.↩
- Never Again, By W. S. MAYO, M. D. New York : G. P, Putnam and Sons. 1873.↩
- The Brook and other Poems. By WILLAM B. WRIGHT. New York : Scribner, Armstrong, & Co. 1873.↩
- handbook of the History of Philosophy. By DR. SCHWEGLER. Translated and annotated by JAMES HUTCHISON STIRLING, LL. D., Author of the Secret of HegelNew York : Putnam and Sons. Edinburgh; Edmonston and Douglas.↩
- Geschichte der Philosophie im Umriss. Von DR. ALBERT SCHWEGLER. Stuttgart: Franck. 1884.↩
- All books mentioned under this hend are to be had at Schönbof and Möller’s, 40 Winter Street, Boston, Mass.↩
- Frankreich und die Franzosen in der zweiten Hälfte des XIX. Jahrkunderts. Eindrücke und Erfahrungen. Von KARL HILLEBRAND. Berlin : 1873.↩
- Allemands et Français, souvenirs de campague. Par GABRIEL MONOD. Paris. 1872.↩