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1. The New and the Old; or California and India in Romantic Aspects. By J. W. PALMER, M. D. New York: Rudd & Carleton. 1859.
2. Up and Down the Irawaddi; being Passages of Adventure in the Burman Empire. By the Same.
Ir has passed into a scornful proverb, that it needs good optics to see what is not to be seen; and yet we should be inclined to say that the first essential of a good traveller was to be gifted with eyesight of precisely that kind. All his senses should be as delicate as eyes; and, above all, he should be able to see with the fine eye of imagination, compared with which all the other organs with which the mind grasps and the memory holds are as clumsy as thumbs. The demand for this kind of traveller and the opportunity for him increase as we learn more and more minutely the dry facts and figures of the most inaccessible corners of the earth's surface. There is no hope of another Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, with his statistics of Dreamland, who makes no difficulty of impressing "fourscore thousand rhinocerots to draw the wagons of the King of Tartary's army, or of killing eight hundred and fifty thousand men with a flourish of his quill, -for what were a few ciphers to him, when his inkhorn was full and all Christendom to be astonished? - but there is all the more need of voyagers who give us something better than a census of population, and who know of other exports from strange countries than can be expressed by $.
Give us the traveller who makes
us feel the mystery of the Figure at Saïs, whose veil has a new meaning for every beholder, rather than him who brings back a photograph of the uncovered countenance, with its one unvarying granite story for all. There is one glory of the Gazetteer with his fixed facts, and another of the Poet with his variable quantities of fancy. The fixed fact may be unfixed next year, like an almanac, but the hasty sketch of the true artist is good for
Critics have a good-natured way of stigmatizing, for the initiated, all poetry that is not poetry, by saying that it is "elegant," ," "harmonious," or, worse than all, "descriptive." This last commonly means that the author has done for his readers
precisely what they could do for themselves, that he has made a catalogue of the natural objects to be found in a certain number of acres, which differs from the literary efforts of an auctioneer only in this, that each line begins with a capital and contains the same number of syllables. He counts the number of cabbages in a field, of cows in a pasture, and tells us how many times a squirrel ran up (or down) a given tree in a given time. He informs us that the bark of the shagbark is shaggy, that the sleep-at-noon slumbers at mid-day, that moss is apt to grow on fallen treetrunks in damp places, — treats us as the old alchemists do, who give us a list of the materials out of which gold (if it had any moral sense) would at once consent to be made, but somehow won't, and leaves us impressed with that very dead certainty, that things are so-and-so, which is the result of verses that are only so-so.
Readers of the "Atlantic" need not be told that Dr. Palmer is not a descriptive poet of this fashion. They have known how to appreciate his sketches of East InIdian life, so vivid, picturesque, and imaginative that they could make "Griffins" feel twinges of liver-complaint, and so true that we have heard them pronounced "incomparable" by men familiar with India. Dr. Palmer is no mere describer; he sees with the eye of a poet, touches only what is characteristic, and, while he seems to surrender himself wholly to the Circe Imagination, retains the polished coolness of the man of the world, and the brownness of the man of the nineteenth century. He not only knows how to observe, but how to write, - both of them accomplishments rare enough in an age when everybody is ready to contract for their display by the column. His style is nervous and original, not harassingly pointed like a chestnut-burr, but full of esprit or wit diffused, that Gallic leaven which pervades whole sentences and paragraphs with an indefinable lightness and palatableness. It is a thoroughly American style, too, a little over-indifferent to tradition and convention, but quite free of the sic-semper-tyrannis swagger. Uncle Bull, who is just like his nephew in thinking that he has a divine right to the world's oyster, cannot swallow it properly till he has donned a white choker, and refuses to be comforted when Jonathan disposes of
it in his rapid way with the shell for a platter. We confess that we prefer the free-and-easy manner in its proper place to the diplomatic way of always treating the reader with sentiments of the highest consideration, and like a book all the more for having an Occidental flavor.
But it is not merely or chiefly as being among the cleverest and liveliest of modern light literature that we value Dr. Palmer's books. They have a true poetic value, and instruct as much as they entertain. While he is telling us a San Francisco story, the truth of the accessories and the skill with which they are grouped bring the California of 1849 before us with unmatched vividness. We have been getting knowledge and learning a deep moral without suspecting it, as if by our own observation and experience. In the same way "Asirvadam the Brahmin " is a prose poem that lets us into the secret of the Indian revolt. It is seldom that we meet with volumes of more real power than these, or whose force is so artistically masked under ease and playfulness. We prefer the "Old" part of the book to the "New." It seems to us to show a better style of handling. There is something of melodrama in the style of the California stories, -a flavor of blue lights and burnt cork. At the same time, we must admit that there is a melodramatic taint in our American life:- witness the Sickles vulgarity. Young America is b'hoyish rather than boyish, and perhaps the "New" may be all the truer to Nature for what we dislike in it.
"The New and the Old" is fittingly dedicated to the Autocrat of all the Breakfast-Tables, than whom no man has done more to demonstrate that wit and mirth are not incompatible with seriousness of purpose and incisiveness of thought.
Napoleonic Ideas. By Prince NAPOLEON LOUIS BONAPARTE. Translated by JAMES A. DORR. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 1859.
THIS publication has at least that merit which is one of the first in literature,-it is timely. Though we look upon the Emperor of the French as a kind of imperial Jonathan Wild, it does not the less concern us to make a true estimate of his in
tellectual capacity. Nothing is more unwise than to assume that a man's brain must be limited because his moral sense is small; yet no mistake is more common. Napoleon the Third may play an important part in History, though by no possibility an heroic one. In reading this little volume, one cannot fail to be struck with the presence of mind and the absence of heart of which it gives evidence. It is the advertisement of a charlatan, whose sole inheritance is the right to manufacture the Napoleonic pill, and we read with unavoidable distrust the vouchers of its wonderful efficacy. We do not fancy the Bonapartist grape-cure, nor believe in it.
In an article on "Farming Life in New England," published in a former volume of the Atlantic," a valued contributor drew attention to the painful lack of beauty in the lives and homes of our rural population. Some attempts were made to show that his statements were exaggerated; but we are satisfied that they were true in all essential particulars. The abolition of entails, (however wise in itself,) and the consequent subdivision of estates, will always put country life, in the English sense of the words, out of the question here. Our houses will continue to be tents; trees, without ancestral associations, will be valued by the cord; and that cumulative charm, the slow result of associations, of the hereditary taste of many generations, must always be wanting. Age is one of the prime elements of natural beauty; but among us the love of what is new so predominates, that we have known the largest oak in a county to be cut down by the selectmen to make room for a shanty schoolhouse, simply because the tree was of " no account," being hollow and gnarled, and otherwise delight
fully picturesque. Our people are singularly dead also to the value of beauty in public architecture; and while they clear away a tree which the seasons have been two centuries in building, they will put up with as little remorse a stone or brick abomination that shall be a waking nightmare for a couple of centuries to come. But selectmen are not chosen with ref erence to their knowledge of Price or Ruskin.
Mr. Copeland's book is specially adapted to the conditions of a community like ours. Its title might have been "Rural Esthetics for Men of Limited Means, or the Laws of Beauty considered in their Application to Small Estates." It is a volume happily conceived and happily executed, and meets a palpable and increasing want of our civilization. Whatever adds grace to the daily lives of a people, and awakens in them a perception of the beauty of outward Nature and its healthful reaction on the nature of man,-whatever tends to make toil unsordid, and to put it in relations of intelligent sympathy with the beautiful progression of the seasons,· adds incalculably to the wealth of a country, though the increase may not appear in the Report of the Secretary of the Interior.
Mr. Copeland's volume is calculated to do this, and his own qualifications for the task he has undertaken are manifold. Chief among them we should reckon a true enthusiasm for the cause he advocates, and a hearty delight in out-of-doorslife. He writes with the zeal and warmth of a reformer; but these are tempered by practical knowledge, and such a respect for the useful as will not sacrifice it to the merely pretty. His volume contains not only suggestions in landscape-gardening, guided always by the true principle of making Nature our ally rather than attempting to subdue her, but minute directions for the greenhouse, grapery, conservatory, farm, and kitchen-garden. One may learn from it how to plant whatever grows, and to care for it afterwards. Engravings and plans make clear whatever needs illustration. The book has also the special merit of not being adapted to the meridian of Greenwich.
We do not always agree with Mr. Copeland; we dissent especially from his prejudice against the noble horsechestnut-tree,
with its grand thunder-cloud of foliage, its bee-haunted cones of bloom, and its polished fruit so uselessly useful to children,Bushy Park is answer enough on that score; but we cordially appreciate his taste and ability. His book will justify a warm commendation. It is laid out on true principles of landscape-farming. The stiff and square economical details are relieved by passages of great beauty and picturesqueness. The cockney who owns a snoring-privilege in the suburbs will be stimulated to a sense of latent beauty in clouds and fields; and the farmer who looks on the cosmic forces as mere motive-power for the wheels of his money-mill will find the truth of the proverb, that more water runs over the dam than the miller wots of, and learn that Nature is as lavish of Beauty as she is frugal in Use. Even to the editor, whose only fields are those of literature, and whose only leaves grow from a composing-stick, the advent of a book like this is refreshing. It enables him to lay out with a judicious economy the gardens attached to his Spanish manor houses, and to do his farming without risk of loss, in the most charming way of all, (especially in July weather,)—by proxy. Without leaving our study, we have already raised some astonishing prize-vegetables, and our fat cattle have been approvingly mentioned in the committee's report. We have found an afternoon's reading in Mr. Copeland's book almost as good as owning that "place in the country " which almost
all men dream of as an ideal to be realized whenever their visionary ship comes in.
High Life in New York. By JONATHAN SLICK. Philadelphia: Peterson & Broth
THE advantages of a favorable introduction are very obvious. A person who enters society fortified with eulogistic letters, giving assurance of his trustworthiness, so far as respectability and good behavior are concerned, is tolerably sure of a comfortable reception. But if, unable to sustain the character his credentials ascribe to him, he immediately begin to display bad manners, ignorance, and folly, he not only forfeits the position to which he has gained accidental access, but also
brings discredit upon his too hasty indorser.
In literature it is not different. The collection of printed matter which appears under the title of High Life in New York" is accompanied by a note, signed by the publishers, who are naturally supposed to know something of the real value of the works they issue, in which "editors are forewarned that it is a volume which, for downright drollery and hearty humor, has never had its equal in the productions of any American pen," and are otherwise admonished in various ways calculated to inspire lofty expectations, and to fill the mind with exalted visions of
coming joy. But when it appears, on examination, that the book is as utterly unworthy of these elaborate commendations as any book can possibly be,that it is from beginning to end nothing but a dead level of stagnant verbiage, a desolate waste of dreary platitude, - the reader cannot but regard the publishers' ardent expressions of approbation as going quite beyond the license allowable in preliminary puffs.
"High Life in New York represents a class of publications which has, of late, in many ways, been set before the public with too great liberality. The sole object seems to be to exhibit the Yankee " character in its traditional deformities of stupidity and meanness, otherwise denominated simplicity and shrewdness. Mr. Jonathan Slick is in no respect different from the ordinary fabulous Yankee. An illiterate clown he is, who, visiting New York, contrives by vice of impudence, to interfere very seriously with certain conventionalities of the metropolis. He overthrows, by his indomitable will, a great many social follies. He eats soup with a knife and fork; wears no more than one shirt a week; forces his way into ladies' chambers at unseemly hours, to cure them of timidity; and introduces sundry other reforms, all of which are recorded as evidences of glorious independence and a true nobility of spirit. Sometimes he goes farther, - farther than we care to follow him. It would be easy to show wherein he is offensive, not to say disgusting; but we are not so disposed. It is not considered necessary for the traveller who has dragged his way over a muddy road to prove the nastiness of his pil
grimage by imparting the stain to our carpets.
In this book, as in most of its class, the Yankee dialect is employed throughout, the author evidently believing that bad spelling and bad grammar are the legitimate sources of New England humor. This shows that he mistakes means for ends,-just as one who supposes that Mr. Merryman, in the circus, must, of neces sity, be funny, because he wears the mot ley and his nose is painted red. The Yankee dialect is Mr. Jonathan Slick's principal element of wit; his second is the onion. The book is redolent of onions. That odorous vegetable breathes from every page. A woman weeps, and onions are invoked to lend aromatic fragrance to a stale comparison. In one place, onions and education are woven together by some extraordinary rhetorical machinery ; in another, religion is glorified through the medium of the onion; until at last the narrative seems to resolve itself into a nauseating nightmare, such as might torture the brain of some unhappy dreamer in a bed of onions.
Why such works are ever written at all, it is difficult to imagine; but how it is, that, when written, they find publishers, is inconceivable.
Great Auction-Sale of Slaves, at Savannah, Georgia. New York: Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society.
THIS little pamphlet, reprinted from the columns of the "New York Tribune," possesses a double interest. It furnishes the best and most minute description of an auction-sale of slaves that has ever been published; and it admirably illustrates the enterprise and prompt energy which often distinguish the journalism of America above that of any other country.
The slave-sale of which it is a record took place on the second and third days of March last, in the city of Savannah. For many reasons, it had been looked forward to with more than usual interest. The position of the owner, Mr. Pierce M. Butler, of Philadelphia, and the large number (no less than four hundred and thirty-six) and superior quality of the human chattels offered for sale, added to the importance of the event. The "Tribune" had one
of its best descriptive writers, Mr. Mortimer Thomson, on the spot. The duty Mr. Thomson undertook was not without danger; for a somewhat extensive notoriety as an attache of the "Tribune" was not likely to insure him the most cordial reception at the South. Had his presence been discovered, the temper of the people of Savannah would speedily have betrayed itself; and had his purpose been suspected, their wrath would assuredly have culminated in wreakages of a nature unfavorable to his personal comfort. But with caution, and the aid of Masonic influences, he escaped detection, and accomplished his aim. The result of his observations was a report of considerable length, in which every striking incident of the sale was narrated with accurate fidelity. Although written mostly on the rail and against time, under circumstances which would be fatal to the labors of any man not inured by newspaper experience to all sorts of literary hardships, the style is clear, distinct, and often eloquent. The scene and the transaction are brought vividly to the reader's mind. The throng of eager speculators, the heavy-eyed and brutal drivers, the sprightlier representatives of Chivalry, the unhappy slaves, abandoning hope as they enter the mart, excepting in rare cases, where, grasping at straws, they pray in trembling tones that their ties of love may remain unsevered, -the operations of the sale,- the shrinking women, standing submissively under the vile jests of the reckless crowd, are portrayed with all the emphasis of truth. One little episode in particular, the love-story of Jeffrey and Dorcas, is a more affecting history than romance can show.
The effect of this publication in the "Tribune" was prodigious. It was widely circulated through all the journals of the North. The Anti-Slavery Society preserved it in a pamphlet. The ire of a good portion of the Southern journals was ludicrous to witness, and proved how keenly the blow was felt. The report was republished in Great Britain,-first in the London "Times," and subsequently, as a pamphlet, in Edinburgh, in Glasgow, and in Belfast. In one publisher's announcement, at least, it was advertised as "Greeley's Account of the Great SlaveSale."
THE tales of which this volume presents the first English translation - though, as regards some of them, hardly the first English version - appear to have been collected about twenty or twenty-five years ago. Two gentlemen, Messrs. Asbjörnsen and Moe, (the name of the first of whom begets much confidence in his ability for the task,) went out among the most unlettered and rudest of the common folk of Norway and Sweden, and there, from the lips of old women and little children, gathered these stories of the antique time. Of ́ what age the stories are, nobody knows,those who listened to them in their childhood, to relate them in turn in their declining years, least perhaps of all. For they are a part of the inheritance common to all the races that have sprung from the Asiatic ancestor, who, at periods the nearest of which is far beyond the ken of history, and at intervals of centuries, sent off descendants to find a resting-place in Europe; and it is one great object, if not the principal object, of the original collectors and the translator of these tales to exhibit in them a bond of union among all European peoples.
Indeed, the tales in their present form may be regarded as examples in point appended to the translator's Essay which opens the volume. For they will add little to our stock of available stories, for either youthful or adult reading. The best of them already are a part of our nursery lore, and are known to the English race under forms better adapted to English taste and sympathies than those under which they are here presented; and nearly all of those that are exceptions to this remark are unfitted for "home consumption," either by the objectionable nature of their subjects, by the still more objectionable tendency of their teaching, or by a yet more fatal demerit,- their lack of interest. They are in some respects notably tame and puerile,-with a puerility which is not childish simplicity, but a lack of inventive fancy, and which exhibits itself in bald repetition. The giant, for instance, always