Recent Literature

IN re-reading Mr. James’s novel,1 we have been curiously impressed with the after-wave of strongly agreeable sensation which must inevitably follow the study of such a story, when it has suffered the delays of serial issue and attained its normal identity as a volume. We think that even those who most admired the work while it was appearing in The Atlantic will be surprised to find how much still remains in its pages to impress, attract, and satisfy them ; how much also which deserves renewed and careful consideration. It is of course precisely this quality of endurance in a book, this possibility of often-recurring pleasure in it, which determines the position of an author; and in classing Mr. James — as we must now naturally begin to do — this alone allows us to accord him a high place among the keenest literary artists in English and American fields ; indeed, it is difficult to see how so excellent a piece of writing should fail to attract the attention of the better reading public for many years to come. The texture of Mr. James’s language has a certain indestructibleness about it, a clear sparkle which betokens crystalline organization. He gives us the large outlines and broad surfaces of a fresco, along with a finish which we discover to be that of a mosaic: there is no mere illusion of style, but a given space is filled with a given number of polished and colored words that have their full effect. Yet there is one reason, as it seems to us, why Roderick Hudson will not keep so firm a hold on the memory of readers as we could wish for it; and this is its manifest and at times even offensive want of compression.

The plot of the book is one which would easily have admitted of greater conciseness ; and this, by the way, is one of the reasons why the novel gains so much by being read in book form. But grant Mr. James his chosen area, and it must be admitted that he conducts the movement of his narrative with great discretion and skill There is no obvious mystery, no ostentatious covering up of tracks, yet the suspense excited is extremely acute and continues up to the catastrophe, which after all comes upon us with no strain, and appears the most natural thing in the world. At first the reader is led to suspect that Rowland’s sentiment for Cecilia is to prove an important element; but this is thrown aside as soon as it has served its purpose of masking the affair of Roderick with Mary Garland. The next important supposition is that Christina is to unseat Miss Garland from her place in the young sculptor’s heart, and that Roderick and she are somehow to come out of the mêlêe hand in hand ; but this in turn is lightly abandoned just as we have seen our way most clearly to the outcome, and the theme of Rowland’s bravely subdued attachment to Mary, which has up to this point been carried along in the bass, rises to a controlling position, and forms the closing strain of the whole. All this is very simple but excellent art. And we must also give unqualified praise to the boldly broken ending of the story, which so completely lends it the air of a detached piece of life, without injuring its individual completeness.

Undoubtedly the main triumph of the book, so far as the representation of persons is concerned, is in the picture of Christina Light - whose name, it should be said in passing, is an inspiration of aptness in its application to the character, and of curious suggestiveness in general. Her total avoidance of conventional demeanor is carried out with remarkable grace, and she is everywhere the prism from which the other persons get their most brilliant refraction. Very fine is the indication of those internal struggles of her singular nature, throughout, and to our mind nothing in the book is more moving than her scene with Rowland, in the tenth chapter. Rowland, although in his passive position an equal interest would be out of place, has struck us as on the whole needlessly monotonous. But on the other hand Roderick is perhaps the most abundantly vigorous creature Mr. James has yet introduced to us We have before spoken 2 of the sometimes undue violence of his characters, and it would seem that in the case of Roderick the author had chosen to wreak his utmost impulse toward this sort of thing. Roderick is an epitome of emotional extravagance in certain directions. But the result is very picturesque, and frequently highly entertaining. Nothing more appropriately eccentric could have been devised, either, than his conduct on hearing that Christina has broken her engagement with Prince Casamassima, when in the extremity of his delight he writes to his mother and his fiancée that they are not to see him for a week, and then arranges himself in a white dressing-gown on his divan, with roses and violets scattered about the floor of his studio and a white rose in his hand, to give himself up to his rapture. The final circumstance of Roderick’s death, too, is managed with much fitness. “ He had fallen from a great height, but he was singularly little disfigured. The ruin had spent its torrents upon him, and his clothes and hair were as wet as if the billows of the ocean had flung him upon the strand. An attempt to move him would show some hideous fracture, some horrible physical dishonor ; but what Rowland saw on first looking at him was only a strangely serene expression of life. The eyes were dead, but in a short time, when Rowland had closed them, the whole face seemed to awake. The rain had washed away all blood ; it was as if Violence, having done her work, had stolen away in shame. Roderick’s face might have shamed her; it looked admirably handsome.” Yet it is noticeable how little this result plays upon one’s sympathies. There is a certain chilliness in the æsthetic perfection of the event which represses any grief the reader might feel at its sombreness. Possibly it is desirable to have it so in such a case ; but to us it seems not desirable, and we may here suggest that this coldness is probably connected with the excessive activity alluded to above, which is a thing in some danger of becoming a substitute for deeper imaginings, more truly effective by reason of their repose. There is the same want of pathos about Mary Garland, however, who is the acme of quietude, and for the rest an admirable study upon which Mr. James is to be congratulated.

One great, merit remains always prominent in reading this novel, and that is its singularly perfect evenness of execution. There are no bare spots. All the details are treated with an equal dignity and completeness. Some of the portraits of persons in a few words are exceptionally good, as this of the Cavaliere : “ He was a grotesquelooking personage and might have passed for a gentleman of the old school, reduced by adversity to playing cicerone to foreigners of distinction. . . . He had a little black eye, which glittered like a diamond and rolled about like a ball of quicksilver, and a white mustache cut short and stiff, like a worn-out brush.” Furthermore, the book is noteworthy as a success in giving general interest to a theme which at first seems to require too much detail, namely, the history of a developing genius. Though it is largely by virtue of his affinity with the French school of fiction that Mr. James has been able to do this, the circumstance is so much in his favor; for he still amply justifies his position as a unique and versatile writer of acute power and great brilliancy in performance.

—It is an unpleasant problem which Mr. De Forest has undertaken to deal with, in his latest novel,3 —that of an adventurous and captivating widow who goes to Washington to engineer a disreputable claim for a barn burned in 1812, and already paid for. But he grapples with it bravely, and compensates the critic, at least, by the thorough work which he has put into his pages. The way in which Mrs. Josephine Murray “ plays” her different congressmen is very distinctly and adroitly shown, and some of her repartee is exceedingly bright. Her adventures with the Hon. Mr. Hollowbread, in a lost hack during a rain-storm, in the opening chapters, are laughable in the last degree, and It is really an uncommon piece of exaggerative imagination which we find in the description of this old beau’s elaborate costume, with its pads, straps, strings, and pulleys, and of his appearance when encased in it; “It seemed horribly possible that, if he should cough or sneeze violently, or swell his molecules by going too near a hot fire, he might suddenly split open and quadruple in size, like a popped grain of Indian corn.” There is another singularly good touch of the author’s grotesquerie in this, of General Bangs : “ He beamed and strutted ; one might say that his face was on the top of his head.” And the broad comedy of that scene between Senator Pickens Rigdon and Hollowbread at the country tavern is very amusing. There is much in the book, however, that is downright disagreeable, and we have some doubts as to the ultimate truth of a picture taking in so much of Washington society and yet showing so little of such refinement or real attraction as it may possess. Perhaps Mr. De Forest will answer us that this was the only course consistent with his aim ; and in that case we can only say that we suspect him to have exposed himself to what must long remain a serious danger for the American novelist, when dealing with the vulgar phases of society in this country. These phases cover such a wide area, and there is something so shameless, defiant, and unpictnresque about them, that they must be treated cautiously, — in glimpses only; or, if broadly exhibited, they should be accompanied by redress in the form of pictures of something better. Tins is certainly essential to an artistic result, and probably it is so to the moral effect as well. But Mr. De Forest’s intention in entering the field of social and political satire, with Honest John Vane and Playing the Mischief, is thoroughly good; and his bold rebukes are sustained, moreover, by acute and various insight into character, as well as by his habitual literary skill.

— Madame Craven’s novel 4 is told in the form of an autobiography of a young Sicilian girl of rare and radiant beauty, who marries a graceful and elegant duke, Lorenzo by name. This Lorenzo is wealthy, a wonderful artist, brilliant and accomplished, but with a moral nature less lofty than that of his wife. Indeed, he is so sinful as to gamble away all his money and hers, and to conduct himself indecorously with other women. His wife, who “ had not, however, the least inclination to attend ” masked balls, because “ the very thought of wearing a mask was repugnant to " her, and because she “ never could understand what pleasure was to be found in a mystery of this kind, which always seemed childish and trivial, if not culpable and dangerous,” finally let herself be persuaded to go to one ; her husband, mistaking her for another woman, “ spoke —yes, at once, and with vehemence, with passion ! . . . But . . . it was not to me! . . . No, it was to her he expected to meet.” At this time Gilbert de Kerzy, the man of intelligence whom she had already met in Paris in her husband’s gambling days, comes to Naples, the scene of these darker doings, and takes the occasion of a visit to Mount Vesuvius in eruption, to declare his love to the injured wife. She rebuffs him, and he marries her most intimate friend. When Lorenzo has run through his property, he supports his wife by hard work, and becomes an exemplary husband. The Italian war breaks out, and he is killed in the first battle. His widow is happy, — “happier than I ever imagined I could be on earth; and if life sometimes seems long, I have never found it sad.” This is a rude synopsis of the incidents of the novel, which is in fact a tract with worldly scenes, in praise of the church of Rome. One chapter is devoted to an ardent description of confession and the receiving of absolution, which must make certain cooler heads of the church regret the fervor of this literary preacher of the faith, and no chance is let go by without its being put to use in this fashion. The reader is more impressed by the writer’s fire than by any profound respect for her abilities as a writer. His feelings for the translator are likely to be even cooler ; a few extracts will illustrate this : “I am not using the language of a religious, but simply that of truth and common sense ; ” “ I had corresponded to this grace it is true ;” “ It is useless to say that I went to church alone, as on the preceding Sunday, but I was not as calm and recollected as I was then.” The attentive reader will find similar awkward translations “in their plenitude,” to borrow one of the phrases peculiar to the book.

— What especial need there was of raking up Mr. Henry Kingsley’s Stretton5 from its easily-won obscurity, it would be hard to say. A few years ago this novel appeared, was read, and then disappeared; and now that a new edition is sent into the world, there is but little chance of altering the verdict it received before. Mr, Kingsley’s heroes are a scuffling, ill-mannered, rowdy set of youths, with heads resembling those of different members of the brute creation, whose perpetual horse-play is lugged in by the author as if it were delightful wit. That they are a set of unlicked cubs, and grossly impolite, in spite of all the praise Mr. Kingsley gives them, and as unattractive as possible, is only too plain. “ Going Berserk ” is the author’s notion of what is gentlemanly on the part of the young, and these Berserkers stamp on one another’s feet, and kick, and pinch, and fall madly in love, and never get over their rude ways, in a fashion that would have made them famous among their ancestors. Besides their frivolities, we find space devoted to the account of the not unsimilar doings of their elders. A certain aunt Eleanor and her long since rejected lover are brought in for our admiration, but they are not very unlike the others. Perhaps the following extract will serve, as well as another to show the tone of the book. A colonel is talking to Roland, a leading Berserk, and says, “We have not got a single snob in the regiment, which is a great thing. . . . You see we have a way of getting rid of snobs; we all get so thundering polite and genteel (not gentlemanlike, we are always that) that they can’t stand us, and exchange.”

Another person who appears in the story a great deal more than is required by the exigencies of the task he has set himself, is Mr, Henry Kingsley, whose innocent pride in the creation of his brain is one of the most melancholy things in the book.

— Mr. Miller’s new volume,6 with its publishers’ collection of critical plums at the end of the pudding, calls up anew the curious reflection that the English notice - writers have found nothing more searching to say of Mr. Miller’s previous poetry than that, with all his faults, the writer has uudeniaable poetic power, or is a true poet. A French critic is now also quoted as saying much the same thing. It seems not to have occurred to these persons that being truly possessed of poetic faculty is not the same as being “a true poet.” They use the phrases as synonymous. It will perhaps sound harsh, but we are much inclined to distinguish Mr. Miller as in some ways a very untrue poet, though truly gifted. We mean to say that he is constantly and most discouragingly untrue to the higher possibilities of his genius. What may be the reason of this we cannot here attempt to determine. It would appear that he has devoted himself with some assiduity to the study of certain models, in the hope of acquiring a better art; but this has too often resulted in reflections of Swinburne, Morris, and Byron. He has not absorbed principles and then reproduced them in an art of his own, but has caught mainly the mannerisms of others. Still Mr. Miller has a rude, instinctive effectiveness of his own, which, when he is thoroughly possessed by his theme, is very powerful; as for example, in the opening of his poem, where he makes several beginnings and breaks off abruptly after each with “ Away, the tale is not of these,” or “ Nay, nay, the tale is not of that; ” thus, by a sort of poetical aporia, nearing his theme with a fine air of mystery. His pictures in this introductory portion are extraordinarily vivid. At last, an Indian hunter brings to camp a plate of gold from the lost ship in the desert,

“ And walls of warriors sat that night
In black, nor Streak of battle red,
Around against the red camp light,
And told such wondrous tales as these
Of wealth within their dried-up seas.
“ And one, girt well in tiger’s skin,
Who stood, like Saul, above the rest,
With dangling claws about his breast,
A belt without, a blade within,
A warrior with a painted face
And lines that shadowed stern and grim,
Stood pointing east from his high place,
And hurling thought like cannon shot.
Stood high with visage flushed and hot.”

Then comes a passage abou t some miners “ by Arizona’s sea of sand,” who, delving

“ the level salt-white sands
For gold, with bold and hornèd hands,”

come upon fragments of the ship ; and so, finally, we are ushered into the story proper. All this, with the exception of some characteristic affectations, is really done with power; that image, “walls of warriors,” is admirable ; and there is much also that is large and effective about the romance which follows. But it is on the score of the carrying out of the plot that we find fault with Mr. Miller. The tale is weird and sad, though simple. An old man, Morgan, carries off the lady Ina from her Spanish lover, who pursues. Then there is a flight across country which takes in about a third of the continent; pursued and pursuers arrive at the desert. The description of the desert, and the ruin and wreck of “ sea things ” long since left there by returning oceans, is extremely strong; though how much of this is memory and observation and how much real imagination we do not know. There, near the ship, at night occurs the final encounter, when all who have not previously died of heat perish in fight, except the lonely old man and Ina. These two find an oasis, where they remain ; and the sadness of Ina’s solitary life there, bereft of love, is very feelingly described. Yet we doubt whether many readers would be able to make out, from a first reading, what the poem is about. Mr. Miller affects indistinctness, and his persons have no individuality ; we are left to solace ourselves with the simple poetry which we find by the way. There is a startling want of directness and of proportion in the narrative, and a very irritating interlude about Venice is inopportunely thrown in, at one point. All this is quite destructive of good poetical design. “We have also to complain that Mr. Miller frequently mars his best passages with foolish repetition of some favorite line, a device adding greatly to the reigning confusion, and that there are a vast number of verses in the poem which neither bear directly or indirectly on the story nor have any merit in themselves.

On some accounts, The Ship in the Desert is perhaps the best of Mr. Millers works, thus far, and there is a great deal of enjoyment to be got out of it. The author, in his preface, seems to think that he has been badly treated by his countrymen ; his ground for this is probably that American critics are less easily astounded by American products than the English critics are. But even at the risk of increasing this misunderstanding, we must urge that Mr. Miller’s merits are no excuse for his shortcomings, which are often grievous ; and that, although without his poetry we should lack one of the most curious literary results of the period, there can be no danger, if Mr. Miller desires the immortality that has been somewhat lavishly promised him, in his giving his work a more perfect and enduring structure.

— Mr. William Morris’s version of the Æneid 7 has been looked for with great interest. The warm admirers of Jason and The Earthly Paradise have been apt to be also those who cherish peculiarly fond recollections of their Virgilian days, and to such it naturally seemed that the forthcoming translation of the Roman epic must be satisfying and ultimate. And there was reason in this faith. Nobody, it may be, supposes at present that the Æneid is a very great poem ; but the impatient modern critic who pronounces it a very bad one, with no merit whatever except the exceeding melody of its Latin verse, and therefore unfit for translation, is certainly at fault. The Æneid is a poem with a charm; a charm which in the first six books is almost continuous, and which reappears at intervals throughout the more tedious latter half of the work. It is not the charm of form alone, for it is felt by many who have never fully fathomed, and never will fully fathom, the structure of the original verse It is not the charm of. great deeds and fine character, for of these the poem contains but little. Dido indeed is original and tragically interesting,— the prototype, perhaps, of the modern heroine of romance; but we care not a straw for any of the rest of the dramatis personœ, unless it be old Evander and his son. It is a charm very rare, if not unique, in the works of antiquity, of sentiment, of pathos under polish, of an ever ready melancholy repressed beneath an ever vigilant and dignified urbanity ; the languor which, when a civilization has attained its height, always attacks sensitive spirits a little in advance of the beginnings of its decay, seu mollis violœ seu languentis hyacinthi. Virgil was a Roman courtier, and he knew perfectly well how to give a polite little turn at intervals to the long story of his nation’s tempestuous youth. He was a thorough artist and an experienced man of letters, and he knew when to use harsh words and when coarse words and when antiquated words, — and he used the former kinds with unfailing propriety and the latter very seldom, — but the heart of him, as Mr. Morris would say, was essentially refined and tender. The verses whose “ dying fall” seizes the memory in school-days and haunts it ever after, “ volucri simillima. somno,” “ripœ ulterioris amore,” “in ventos vita recessit,” and the like, are affecting not merely by the music of their syllables, but because this is allied with a true and keen pathos of meaning.

Now who might have been supposed so fit to render all this into an alien tongue as the “idle singer of an empty day,” who entreats that he may sing of “ days rememberèd,” and “ build a little isle of bliss midmost the beating of a stormy sea,” for the confessed reason that he feels unequal to coping with the “ravening monsters” of his own time ? It also seemed that he, if any one, might properly determine the form of such a translation. The beauties of the Virgilian hexameter are wonderful, but is it certain that they are absolutely inimitable in English verse ? May there not be found an equivalent for them, if not a parallel ? For what are those beauties ? Chiefly, a sweet and surging monotony, fluctuant and untiring to the reader as the monotony of the sea itself to the beholder; and especially a constant change in the position of the principal Pause of the verse; “ no consecutive fifths,” in short. The blank verse of the laureate answers this description, and the rhymed pentameter of Jason does not fall far short of it. An Æneid in rhymed pentameters might have been a trifle longer than the original; and it might not; for the late Professor Conington, whose accurate scholarship at least is indisputable, tells us, in the preface to his own Metrical Æneid, that he was surprised to find how often the whole of a hexameter could be put into one of his octosyllabic lines. And at all events, a few lines more or less in a long poem not divided into stanzas are of no real moment.

We therefore awaited Mr. Morris’s Æneid with enthusiasm, and undoubtedly it has many admirable qualities. It is resolutely and almost exclusively Saxon; a wonderful feat indeed, in this regard. There can hardly be so much as one word of Latin derivation to each of the three hundred and eighty pages. It is full of vigor. It is close and accurate for the most part, and the ingenuity shown in making it correspond, line for line, with the original is very great, and very convenient also, because it makes comparison so easy. You may open the book almost at random, provided you avoid the most famous passages of all, and you will be very likely to light on something fine. Take this, for example, concerning the landing at Delos, from Æneas’s narrative in the third book, Inde ubi prima fides pelago, etc., iii. 69.

“ But now when we may trust the sea, and winds the ocean keep
Unangered, and the South bids on, light-whispering o'er the deep,
Our fellows crowd the sea-beach o'er, and run the ships adown :
And from the haven we are borne, and fadeth field and town.
Amid the sea a land there lies, sweet over everything,
Loved of the Nereids' mother, loved by that Ægean king,
Great Neptune ; this, a-wandering once all coasts and shores around,
The Bow Lord good to Gyaros and high Myconos bound,
And bade it fixed to cherish folk, nor fear the winds again.
There come we; and that gentlest isle receives us weary men ”

Here also Mr. Morris comes as near as he ever comes — as near, surely, as may be — to overcoming the inherent vice of his measure, the fixed recurrence of the cæsura between the fourth and fifth feet of the verse. The meeting of Æneas and Anchises in Hades is also well rendered, though not without a touch of mannerism, At pater Anchises, etc., vi. 679.

But Sire Anchises deep adown in green-grown valley lay,
And on the spirits prisened there, but soon to wend to day,
Was gazing with a fond desire : of all his coming ones
There was he reckoning up the tale, and wellloved sons of sons ;
Their fate, their haps, their ways of life, their deeds to come to pass.
But when he saw Æneas now draw nigh, athwart the grass,
He stretched forth either palm to him, all eager, and the teal’s
Poured o'er his cheeks, and speech withal forth from his mouth there fares.
‘ O come at last, and hath the love thy father hoped for won
O'er the hard way, and may I now look on thy face, O son,
And give and take with thee in talk, and hear the words I know ?
So verily my mind forebode; I deemed 't was coming so,
And counted all the days thereto ; nor was my longing vain.
And now I have thee, son, borne o'er what lands, how many a main 1
How tossed about on every side by every peril still :
Ah, how I feared lest Libyan land should bring thee unto ill! ’
Then he: ‘ O father, thou it was, thine image sad it was,
That coming o'er and o'er again drove me these doors to pass:
My ships lie in the Tyrrhene salt—ah, give the hand I lack !
Give it, my father, neither thus from my embrace draw back ! ’
His face was wet with plenteous tears e'en as the word he spake,
And thrice the neck of him beloved he strove in arms to take ;
And thrice away from out his hands the gathered image streams,
E'en as the breathing of the wind or wingèd thing Of dreams.

The games in the fifth book, the picture of Camilla at the close of the seventh, the rich portrait of Ascanitis in his armor in the tenth, and the episode of Nisus and Euryalus in the ninth, are all passages which we can recall with pleasure in Mr. Morris’s version. And yet that version, as a whole, is disappointing, and much of it is positively displeasing. Let us look for the reasons.

In the first place, it is fanatically Saxon and unnecessarily grotesque. Look at the title-page : “ The Æneids of Virgil, done into English Verse.” Why Æneids ? Why not, indeed, except that the version is for English readers, who hardly recognize the poem by that name ? And surely “ done into ” is not only a less elegant but a less precise and therefore less expressive phrase than “ translated.” The use of words is to convey ideas. Their source really matters little, provided they fulfill their end. The Saxon expression " done into ” is rude and vague. It represents a wide, and, so to speak, unskilled aim at a meaning which came in the course of years to be much more finely conveyed by a word derived from a more literate tongue. And the same is true of a good many of those brief, blunt Saxon words in which Mr. Morris delight’s. They are rude and pointless instruments, compared with the Latin words of the first century or the largely Latinized English of the nineteenth. It is true that Virgil writes of a comparatively rude time, but the language in which he writes of it was urbane and modern to him and Ins hearers. He says faxero and aulaï upon occasion, but only upon occasion, and by way of variety; feeling, probably, what every author of a poem in twelve cantos, in whatever land or language, must have been forced to feel, the need of an extensive chronological range. But Mr. Morris dotes on archaic words, and will have none other where these can he by any means pressed into his service. Where he uses them with a constant significance, as burg ” for arx, “ bale ” for rogus, we come soon to understand his dialect and receive his idea ; but it is the simple truth that his language is in many passages so studiously quaint and inverted that we have to refer to the original to see what he means. And there is another class of antiquated words of which he seems to be extravagantly fond per se, and on these he lays multifarious duty. Take as an example the word “ dight.” There may be plausible reason for rendering by this once obsolete verb the words paro and apparo, although in many cases the obvious “ provide ” or “ prepare ” would doubtless be quite as exact and more generally intelligible. But he also uses it as follows : sic volvere Parcas, “ such web the Parcæ dight;” tu das epulis accumbere dirom, “ thou givest me to lie with gods when heavenly feast is dight; ” dapibusque futuris, ‘ feast that was to dight;” regali luxu instruitur, “ with kingly pomp is dight; ” instaurant epulas, “feast they dight;” prœfigere puppibus arma, “ dight ships with warlike gear.” And these are but specimens which might be almost indefinitely multiulied. Now this immoderate use of a single queer word indicates that the writer has a theory, not to say a hobby ; and a translator should beware of either. His duty is to deny himself and reflect his author.

Again, Mr. Morris is assuredly not happy in the metre which he has selected. Almost all that can be said in favor of this fourteen-syllabled verse is that it is the measure of Chapman’s Homer, and that it is a little more suitable for Homer than for Virgil. It seems to have been chosen as the supposed quantitative equivalent of the hexameter ; which indeed, at first sight and on a mere count of syllables, it appears to be. But it is longer to the ear, because it has seven accents whore the hexameter has six; and it is tiresome where the hexameter is restful, because of the fixed recurrence of a cæsura between the fourth and fifth feet, which Dr. Holmes, in his curious paper on the Physiology of Versification, has shown to be a physical necessity of the iambic heptameter. It is at best a jogging measure, and Mr. Morris’s passion for Saxon words of one syllable gives it an effect of a jogtrot over cobble-stones, which becomes quite maddening at times, and afflicts one with a vain longing for the “ multitudinous sea incarnadine,” and “ inextrieabilis error.”

But the long line full of short words works curiously in another way. We are forced to conclude that the English undefiled which Mr, Morris most admires and affects — whether it be Chaucer’s or no —is a more concise language than the Latin of Virgil, For, in order to preserve the exact number of his lines, the translator is obliged repeatedly, nay, continually, to fill them in with short words which are actually superfluous. Not only must he say “Troy-town” for Troja, “lamb-folk” for agni, “yore agone ” for quondam, and “ why thus wise ” for quianam (why not “ thusly ” at once ? The quantity is far better), but he translates fatur by “ such words to tell he spoke,” vita by “life and all,” effeta by “moldydull,” adsensu by “yea-saying,” tempora cingit by “ he did his brows about,” and totum cognovimus amnem, “ whereby we knew the river’s uplong brim.”

And finally, the combined effect of the curt phraseology and the sing-song movement of Mr. Morris’s verse is well-nigh to extinguish, in the passages which we all remember best, that pathos which is the most endearing characteristiz of the Augustan poet. Sobs and sighs chopped fine by the jolting of a cart lose something of their dignity. The great ghost of Hector arises in the second book in this alliterative fashion :

“ Most sorrowful to see he was, and weeping plenteous flood,
And e'en as torn, behind the car, black with the dust and blood,
His feet all swollen with the thoug that pierced them through and through.
Woe worth the while for what he was! How changed from him we knew! ”

But this is better than Creusa’s touching farewell to Æneas, which is rendered thus :

“ Sweet husband, wherefore needest thou with such mad sorrow play ?
Without the dealing of the gods doth none of this betide,
And they, they will not have thee bear Creusa by thy side,
Nor will Olympus' highest king such fellowship allow ;
Long exile is in store for thee, huge plain of sea to plow,” etc.

Over the sharp sigh of sympathy, also, with which the fourth book ends,—

“ Omnia et una
Dilapsus calor, atque in ventos vita recessit,”
the translator skips as follows : —
“ Then failed the life-heat spent,
And forth away into the winds the spirit of her went ! ”

Quantum mutatus ab illo who sang concerning the death of Paris that simple, poignant strain : —

“ Then, as a man who in a failing fight
For a last onset gathers suddenly
All soul and strength, he faced the summer light,
And from his lips broke forth a mighty cry
Of ' Helen, Helen, Helen ! ' yet the sky
Changed not above his cast-back golden head,
And merry was the world, though he was dead.”

As compared with the two other recent translations of the Æneid, that of the lamented Professor Conington in the ballad metre of Sir Walter Scott, and that of our countryman, Mr. Cranch, in blank verse, Mr. Morris’s version, if not less scholarly than Professor Conington’s, is less agreeable and intelligible reading; while it is both more spirited and more poetic than the conscientious work of Mr. Cranch.

— The last-named poet has lately given us a volume8 of robust proportions, suitable to the period of time covered by the contents, which in the prefatory sonnet are called —

The hoarded flasks of many a varying year.”

The ensemble of the book, so far as the literary impression goes, would probably have, been better had the selection been more exclusive; but it is not altogether fair to view it merely from that side. The collection represents a long term of artistic life, with its successes and half-successes and its various endeavor in search of the ideal. The motive of the first poem, The Bird and the Bell, is excellent, being a conflict between the fresh, inspiring voice of a bird heard singing in Florence, and the doleful thoughts called up by the ringing of the Romish church bells. On the whole, however, it seems to us somewhat diffuse, a fault to which others of the meditative poems of Mr. Cranch must plead guilty. But there is resource enough in the book for a variety of tastes, and ground for differing judgments. The Lay of Thrym, which was first, printed in The Atlantic, is perhaps the completes! success in the list, being consistent and concise in execution, and in every way excellent. We wish, indeed, that Mr. Cranch had rated it high enough to think it deserving of some companion-pieces. Still, we have here The Rose of Death, a spirited ballad of our civil war, which serves very well to support the Lay ; and The Bobolinks is a very lovely poem, full of an airy, musical fancy. The rest of the poems divide and subdivide themselves into various groups, of which the comic and grotesque group — Cornucopia, The Dispute of the Seven Days, and others similar to these — is more individual and distinctive than the others. Under this falls My Old Palette, in which the half-plaintive, half-jocular tone of reminiscence is admirably suited to the subject; it is a very happy reach of fancy which thus seizes the sense of that simple, Color-stained bit of board. We cannot help again wondering, as we read the poem entitled J. R. L. on his Fiftieth Birthday, whether Mr. Cranch knows how good his best is : —

“ At fifty, Time has picked our thickest locks ;
Polished the outer, dulled the inner head;
Filched golden dreams from many a knowledgebox,
And left dry facts instead.

Now in this stanza there is a neatness, an epigrammatic touch, which gives it a high place at once. Why has not the writer tried his tools at some of those dainty fretwork epigrams which in the tough hands of Ben Jenson, or under Goldsmith’s deft fingers, used to get a grace that reminds one of Cellini? It is dangerous for the poet nowadays to he too various. The singleminded singer is not only more apt to find a style and a set of subjects peculiar to himself, but also he receives a more wholesouled appreciation than the one who expresses himself in many moods and ways, and on many topics. So that Mr. Cranch might have won a fuller success, very likely, in confining himself to the line of epigram or the line of humor, or some one of the several that he moves upon in this volume. There are various poems that seem to us quite mistaken both in theme and in treatment; Dream Life, for example; and it would not be difficult to point out some rather exasperating instances of mixed metaphor and ludicrousness of image. But on the whole, Mr. Cranch’s poems will stand as good testimony to his attachment for the poetic art, and to his real capacity for it, though he sometimes falls short in achievement.

— In approaching the completion of his arduous task, Mr. Bancroft shows no sign of weariness; he has accumulated his facts with as discreet profusion, and added his few words of useful criticism with as much deliberation, as at the beginning. The preceding volumes have set high the standard by which he is to be judged, and he nowhere falls below it. Every volume gives only new proofs of his untiring energy. In this, the fourth,9 he gives a summary of all that is known about the antiquities of the lands whose early inhabitants he has already fully described, and by antiquities he means not merely the works of a people either extinct or known only by tradition, but, rather, all the works of aboriginal hands which it may be fair to suppose were executed before native intercourse with Europeans. For a long time reading the memorials of these vanished or vanishing races will be for the most part a matter of guess-work. Hitherto no real advance has been made in clearing away the obscurity which enshrouds so much of the past, but the archæologist, who sees how much has been done in other lands where all seemed dark, possesses his soul in patience and hopes for the best.

In his enumeration of antiquities Mr. Bancroft begins at the south and goes northward; this he does simply from motives of convenience. The first memorials mentioned are the Chiriqué rock-sculptures, a high-sounding name for the carvings which seem to have been modeled on boys’ earliest drawings on their slates. Pottery and small gold figures have also been found. Costa Rica has furnished but few things; berhaps the most important is an ax of green quartz. Coming to Nicaragua we find more relics, including carvings and paintings on cliffs, of a most rudimentary sort. On the adjacent island of Zapatero various interesting idols, of comparative artistic merit, have been found, and are represented in a series of wood-cuts, as well as several found elsewhere in Nicaragua. Of Honduras there is but little to be noted, with the exception of the famous ruins of Copan, with the huge temple and the pyramids and the great number of richly-carved statues. Next comes an account of the antiquities of Guatemala, and following this a long chapter on the rich treasures of Yucatan. Here are “ perhaps finer, and certainly more numerous specimens of ancient aboriginal architecture, sculpture, and painting, than have been discovered in any other section of America.” Mr. Bancroft gives a full account of the ruins of Uxmal, Labuá, Chichen, Tuloom, so far as known, Mérida, etc., condensed from the records of the Comte de Waldeck, — who, it will be remembered, died a few months ago at Paris, in his one hundred and tenth year, — and from Stephens, to whom he gives great praise, Norman, and Charuay. In stating the conclusions based on these observations, Mr. Bancroft says, “ It may then be accepted as a fact susceptible of no doubt, that the Yucatan structures were built by the Mayas, the direct ancestors of the people found in the peninsula at the conquest, and of the present native population. Respecting their age we only know the date of their abandonment, that is, the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. . . . The history of the Mayas indicates the building of some of the cities at various dates from the third to the tenth centuries. As I have said before, there is nothing in the buildings to indicate the date of their erection, that they were or were not standing at the commencement of the Christian era. We may see how, abandoned and uncared for, they have resisted the ravages of the elements for three or four centuries How many centuries they may have stood guarded and kept in repair by the builders and their descendants, we can only conjecture.” We next come to a full account of the interesting ruins of Palenque, of which the author says that their resemblance to the ruins in Yucatan shows that they must have been built by a people of the same race and language, “at widely different epochs, or by branches of the Maya race which had long been separated, or by branches which through the influence of foreign tribes lived under greatly modified institutions.”

The chapters devoted to the memorials of the Nahua nations follow. First among these are the ruins at and near Tehuantepec, while the most important are the palaces at Mitla, with their mosaic patterns. In the province of Vera Cruz a large variety of interesting relics has been discovered. In the central plateaux the most noteworthy antiquity is the pyramid of Cholula. In the valley aud in the city of Mexico, very little has been left by the Spaniard. Doubtless, Mr. Bancroft says, thousands of interesting monuments lie buried beneath the town. Some of the idols which have been exhumed are of the most ghastly sort. In the northern states there is not so much that is remarkable. The Casas Grandes of Chihuahua is the most celebrated. In Arizona and New Mexico many relics have been discovered, for many of which Aztec builders are claimed, a supposition which Mr. Bancroft earnestly denounces. Then follows a brief account of what has been found in the rest of his territory. Besides this, we have a chapter devoted to the mound-builders, condensing the information about them, and a final chapter devoted to the antiquities of Peru, which goes to show how very faint is the likelihood of any connection between the Maya and Peruvian peoples.


A book which concerns itself less with the fate of empires than Madame Geoffrin’s letters, which we spoke of last month, is the correspondence of the Countess of Sabran with the Chevalier de Boufflers.'11 These letters are truly delightful reading. The Countess of Sabran was, at the time the book opens, in 1778, a widow, twenty-seven years old. She had married the Marquis de Sabran, a naval officer fifty years her senior, and by him she had two children, a son, Elzéar, and a daughter who married the Count de Custinesin 1787. Of her own marriage she wrote as follows: “ I married a feeble old man, and was more truly his nurse than his wife. . . . I then did not foresee the consequences. . . . Loving nothing, everything seemed to me equally worthy of being loved, and I had for my good old husband the same feeling as for my father and grandfather, a very gentle sentiment which at the time quite satisfied my heart.” In 1777 she made the acquaintance of the Chevalier de Boufflers, a colonel, thirty-nine years old. His life had been singular one. He had been a student at the seminary of St. Sulpice, but he showed himself more suited for the gay world and for the camp than for the life of a priest, and hence it was that he entered the army, and “ M. 1’Abbé de Boufflers became M. le Chevalier de Boufflers,” as Grimm put it in one of his letters. He was renowned for wit and elegance. Though the chevalier and Madame de Sabran were in love with one another, they did not marry for many years. The reason was because the chevalier was unwilling to take a wife until he should he able to support her, and by his marriage he would lose all claim to the property given him when a child by Stanislas, King of Poland, out of regard for his mother. Hence the poor countess led a tolerably unhappy life ; she frequently met her lover, to be sure, who had the rights without the responsibilities of a husband, and she felt sure of his attachment for her even if she held him by no legal ties. But then, too, he was ambitious for wealth and an assured position, and it was in search of them that he accepted the office of governor of Senegal in 1785. In the course of the next year he returned for a visit of several months’ duration, during which he was admitted to the Academy. He then went back to Africa, returning only immediately before the Revolution, and was elected to the États généraux from Nancy. He soon, however, was obliged to leave France, as was also Madame de Sabran, and not until 1797, at Breslau, twenty years after they had first met, were they married. They returned to Pars in 1800. The marquis received a pension from the emperor and lived until 1815 ; his widow survived him twelve years, dying in 1827. Such are the bare facts of their lives. The letters, it should perhaps be said, were preserved through the perils of the Revolution, aud are now published in accordance with the formal request of the Count Elzéar, into whose hands they finally came.

Her letters are very charming reading. She had a fascinating, easy style, and whether she is telling the ordinary incidents of the last two or three days, or describing people or the events of her little journeys, or giving good advice to her lover, she has an arch, graceful manner of prattling that is very delightful. Here is part of one, taken almost at random : “ Haris is horribly dull; there is really no one here; it is impossible to walk or breathe, even in the Champs Élysées; the dust drives every one away. From all I hear there has never been such a drought. Still, for several days they have been bringing out the reliquary of Sainte Geneviève; but now the saints no longer bring rain and fine weather, their day has gone by; and if they are treated with no more consideration in the other world than in this, I pity them for having taken so much trouble. I went yesterday to Ermenonville, to see the tomb of Jean-Jacques. I must say that if the day of the saints has gone by, that of beaux esprits has not. You cannot imagine the enthusiasm he has inspired in every one : Roucher has just written some charming verses in praise of his life and death ; Robert has designed his tomb, and Claudion is making a statue of him. All the arts are rivals in paying him homage. I do not know whether you know Ermenonville; it is a charming place.” Then she describes the tomb, and says a word about burying the dead, speaking of it unfavorably in comparison with burning them, and adds, “ But then, I am lost among the graves and the dead, like poor Young. I am not as sad as he, but I am still sad ; there are some dark days when one sees everything en noir,” etc.

Soon afterwards she takes a little jaunt into Switzerland, and yearns to leave the gay world and live in a little châlet with her children, but she fears the place would be too lonely for her lover. Bâle she found even then full of English. She sends him bits of translation, the verses she has written, bouts rimés she has composed; in a word, her letters mirror her life with the utmost exactness. It cannot be denied that her earlier letters are the most cheerful ones. As time went on she felt the disadvantages of her position, and without wearying her lover with protestations she never forgets how dependent she is upon his generosity. But it is not often that she is depressed by this feeling. She is generally in good spirits, or, when sad, in such spirits that she is able by a jest to put herself into her normal state again. Here is another of her letters : —

“ I could not read without being touched by what you said on your future blindness. If anything could lessen the grief which I should feel as keenly as you, it would be the fact that then I should be everything to you. I should be until my death your support and your guide, that is to say, your dog and your cane; we should make a community of interest in the two eyes left in the family. I have seen only through yours since I have known you, and then yon would do the Same for me. I am far from having the slightest disquiet on this subject. . . . The only thing you need do, and which would surely cure you, would be to wear a bandage over your eyes, by night I mean, of course, for your malice might suspect some interest on my part in this wise advice, and fancy that I had some reason for dreading the effect of your little bright eyes. No, nty child, I have nothing to do with your illusion ; our love has not needed it; it arose without it, and it will endure without it; for certainly it was not the effect of my charms, which had disappeared when you first knew me, that attached you to me ; no more is it your manners of a Huron, your distracted air, your keen, true sallies of wit, your huge appetite, and your sound sleep when any one wants to talk to you, which have made me love you to madness. It is a certain indefinable something which unites our souls, a certain sympathy which makes me feel and think like you. For beneath your savage outside you hide the spirit of an angel and the heart of a woman. You combine all the contrasts, aud there is no being in heaven or on the earth who is more lovable or more loved than you. Therefore come to see me as soon as possible.”

For his part the Chevalier de Boufflers makes a creditable showing. He repined at the stern fate he had himself chosen, which kept him separated from the woman he loved, and yet at times with an air as if he was conscious of her unexpressed impatience at his determination. Unexpressed it may be called, for what she says about their enforced separation is very slight in comparison with what she felt. Here, for instance, is one of her few complaints ; she has been speaking of the perplexed condition of Europe, and especially of France, at the time, 1787 : “No one knows how It will all end. Some people see.m to think that bankruptcy is impending, and my fear at present is that they will take even the widow’s mite. I confess I should mind that, for now that I am growing old I begin to feel as if money were an excellent thing; in spite of that, I would gladly give all I possess to live, grow old, and die with you, sure that you would never leave me again, that I should never have to hear again those cruel farewells which torture both my mind and my body, and every one of which costs me ten years of my life. What are all the goods of this world in comparison with the intimate union of two souls formed for one another, which purify each other in the fire of love, like gold in the crucible ? How much strength and courage that gives to oppose to all the ills of life! How easy it is to do without everything when one possesses everything! . . . If you had only been willing to believe me, we should have possessed this treasure; but ” — In comparison with her the chevalier is a very simple character. Even when she is gloomiest, her liveliness bubbles out. He expresses his emotions much more frankly, and it is quite pathetic to read the record of his being becalmed on his way home from Senegal for the second time. His voyage was made double its usual length, and his wrath knew no bounds.

We may urge the reading of this entertaining volume on all persons who care for a very sincere record of the experience of two human beings, graced by the literary charm of a clever woman’s wit. These letters, as well as Madame de Geoffrin’s, bear testimony to the worldly elegance which was a characteristic of the time, and both books show the best side of it to the student, They may he said to have a sort of usefulness which not all text-books possess.

  1. Roderick Hudson. By HENRY JAMES, JR. Boston : James R. Osgood & Co. 1876.
  2. Atlantic Monthly, April, 1874, page 493.
  3. Playing the Mischief. A Novel. By J. W. DE FOREST, author of Miss Raveuel'a Conversion from Secession to Loyalty, etc. New York: Harper and Brothers. 1875.
  4. Jettatrice : or The Veil Withdrawn. By MADAME AUGUSTUS CRAVEN, author of A Sister’s Story, Fleurange, etc. Boston : Estes and Lauriat. 1875.
  5. Stretton. By HENRY KINGSLEY, author of Ravenshoe, Geoffrey Hamlyn, Hetty, etc. With II lustrations. Boston : Estes and Lauriat, 1875.
  6. The Ship in the Desert. By JOAQUIN MILLER, author of Songs of the Sierras, and Songs of the Sun-Lands. Boston: Robert Brothers. 1875.
  7. The Æneids of Virgil. Done into English. Verse. By WILLIAM MORRIS, author of The Earthly Paradise. Boston ; Robert Brothers.
  8. The Bird and the Bell, with other Poems. By CHRISTOPHER PEARSE CRANCH. Boston: James R. Osgood & Co. 1875.
  9. The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America. By HUBERT HOWE BANCROFT. Volume IV. Antiquities. New York : D. Appleton & Co. 1875.
  10. All books mentioned under this head are to be had at Schoenh of and Moeller’s, 40 Winter St., Boston, Mass.
  11. Correspondance inédite de la Comtesse de Sabranet de Chevalier de Boufflers. (1778-1788.) Recueillie et publiée par E. DE MAGNIEU et HENRI PRAT. Paris : E. Plon & Cie. 1875.