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"True heart! upon the current of whose love
Take these-unworthy symbols of my soul,
It was well for Fitz-James O'Brien, one of the cleverest of all the Bohemians, that he died a brave death in the second year of our civil war. A rebel shot ended an unhappy and ill-ordered life; and the world was willing to look generously on the brilliant promise of his early career as a writer-a promise which his riper years might not have been able to redeem with adequate performance. This is the impression left after a careful study of "The Life, Poems, and Stories of Fitz-James O'Brien, edited by William Winter." The startling cleverness of his work at its best, taken in connection with its commonplace feebleness at its worst, at first bewilders the reader, and then invites him to critical analysis. And when O'Brien's literary art is reduced to its primary elements, we cannot but be convinced of its unsoundness and-in a fair sense of the word-of its insincerity. Here is a man who, at times, has written so well that his achievements seem, at first sight, to surpass the models of their
class; and who, on other occasions, has shown absolute shallowness of thought and poverty of expression. This cannot be called simply " unequal ” work-that is, work of one kind, varying in degree of excellence. It is not homogeneous; it is of two kinds; and by the utmost stretch of courtesy or amiability in criticism, we cannot accept the inferior kind as the false product, because a man with a mind fine enough to appreciate a higher type of literature would never seek to do less worthy work. If he did it, it must have been because he could not
help himself. Therefore, we suspect O'Brien's strong literary effects, and when we get behind their dazzle and brilliancy, we soon find the secret-which was once another man's.
It is not that O'Brien was in any way a plagiarist. He was not. But he had a strange power of absorption, or rather of assimilation, to express an elusive idea in a slovenly manner. He saw what some earlier author had done; saw it was good; and at once set about doing better in the same line. When the moment of factitious inspiration was over, he dropped to the level of an honest mediocrity. This peculiarity is to be seen in all his charming yet disappointing short stories. He probably begins a tale as well as any master of the art; but the tale always ends, like a burnt-out Catharine-wheel, in a weak whirl and sputter that destroy the illusion and make us forget the fire. "The Diamond Lens" is his only story where the strength is sustained throughout, and this is largely because the construction is dramatic-in that the movement is steadily toward the final climax. When we read the opening pages of "The Lost Room," we say: Poe never had a weirder dream, nor told one in language so rich and graceful. "Tommatoo" and "The Wondersmith" commence with descriptive passages that suggest a new Dickens, with a chastened English style. The first part of "My Wife's Tempter" is scarcely unworthy of Hawthorne. Yet before the end of any one of these stories we come to the real author, Fitz-James O'Brien, a good writer, who gives us fair weight of fiction for our money; but upon whom we look with some ill-will because we thought him a great genius, and he was not.
This faculty of making whatever he admired a part of himself, or of making himself a part of it, seems also to have been a characteristic of O'Brien
the man. It is shown in the way he caught the spirit of American life and scenery, and in his genuine love for his adopted country.
In his poems we see most of O'Brien himself. "The Sewing-Bird" and The Finishing School" are, perhaps, echoes of William Allen Butler's now almost forgotten success, "Nothing to Wear," or of some earlier prototype; but in his shorter lyrics we recognize the Celtic poet, simple, enthusiastic, healthily sentimental, writing verse of real singing quality, with odd Irish rhymes, technically false, true in assonance. The three stanzas of "The Wharf-Rat" make a wildly colored picture, hint at a story, and the one line that rings in the memory
"And a girl in the Gallipagos isles is the burden of his song"
has something of the sea-swing in it that vibrates through Longfellow's poem of which the refrain is :
"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."
The whole poem is worth quoting, and no other in the book gives a fairer idea of what O'Brien could do at times.
Whittier's "King's Missive."
THIS volume does not differ from the average of Mr. Whittier's verse except that it contains no conspicuous example of either of the two styles of poetic composition in which his reputation is likely to be most enduring. There is no ringing, heroic ballad or narrative, such as "The Angels of Buena Vista," "Barbara Frietchie," or "John Brown of Ossawatomie," and no fervid blast of moral exhortation, such as the lament over Webster, entitled "Ichabod," or "John Randolph of Roanoke," in which his usual mood of poetic eloquence is melted into a longcooling, white-hot glow of imagination. Mr. Whittier is above all a poet of moral occasion, and any falling off in the quality of his occasional poems-of which this volume presents several-must be attributed, not to the aging of the muse or the man, but to the lesser inspiration of events in the "piping times of peace." The nearest approach to such a theme is in "The Lost Occasion," a poem which we have seen mentioned most unwarrantably as in some sort a retraction of the lines on Webster. However unjust may have been Mr. Whittier's polemical view of Webster's course on the question of slavery, there has been since "Ichabod" nothing to compare with it in scorching pity and tender lament; it was at once an elegy and an indictment. The later poem does not match it for strong emotion tersely expressed, though few can read "The Lost Occasion" without sharing its motive, viz., the regret that Webster could not have lived to see the terrible sequences of the Compromise Measures, upon which he staked so much. There is, however, another side to the question, and one less prosaic-that Webster were better dead while his confidence was high in the security of the Union. Very likely Mr. Whittier himself might have urged this view as poetically as the other had it come to him with as sincere an inspiration; at all events, the suspicion that this may be true operates here, as in much else of Mr. Whittier's argumentative verse, as an impeachment, so far, of its poetic character.
It is a good proof of the power that is acquired by continuing to do one thing over and over that, while Mr. Whittier is not an original poet and never gives us the lightning flash of revelation which makes the reading of any one of Mr. Emerson's best poems an epoch in the mental life of a not unsympathetic mind, he is still able to clothe with his gentle mood the most commonplace and hackneyed thoughts, until we have to put aside their first effect of moral radiance before we are ready to affirm that they are neither great nor new.
The titular poem, "The King's Missive," though
thin in substance, is told with the usual quiet force and broad religious bent. Mr. Whittier strikes a deep, a rare, and for him a new chord in "The Dead Feast of the Kol-Folk." We quote one stanza :
"We have opened the door For the feast of souls, We have kindled the coals
We may kindle no more! Snakes, fever, and famine, The curse of the Brahmin,
The sun and the dew, They burn us, they bite us, They waste us and smite us;
Our days are but few!
The condensed force of this poem is what is most needed in Mr. Whittier's sonnets, which lack not thought so much as essence and the appropriate mood. Evidently the sonnet is not a natural means of expression to him: more than any other verse it should possess technical beauty, and especially a certain dramatic interplay of parts, and both seem to be
foreign to his nature. As a whole, the volume shows no falling off in the gentle expression of the homely sentiment and natural piety which have hallowed the Quaker poet in many homes. In fact, it may be said in general that while the chief attraction of the most inevitable poets-such as Shakspere, Shelley, Emerson, and Keats-is their poetry, the chief attraction of Mr. Whittier's poetry is still Mr. Whittier.
The Metternich Memoirs.*
OWING to their regularity and method, the memoirs of a prince of bureaucrats like Metternich form an excellent book of reference for diplomates or for the historian. To the general reader they are more interesting as exhibits of the character of the man. The additional volumes offer little or no further light upon Metternich's character that could not have been caught from the first volume. He himself speaks of the unchangeableness of his nature, and represents his own character at the age of forty-seven as identical with that of his youth. He remains between the years 1815 and 1829 the same preternaturally wise person, engaged in foretelling the dangers into which Europe would plunge unless the baleful effects of the French Revolution and of Bonapartism-such, for instance, as the weak vaporizing of doctrinaires, the perilous agitation of secret societies, the ambitious schemes of half-educated men who do not see whither their plans lead, the crack-brained reformers of the English type, the unlicensed freedom of the press-be sternly reproved in all the nations of the civilized world. He shows
* Memoirs of Prince Metternich. 1815-1829. Edited by Prince Richard Metternich. Translated by Mrs. Alexander Napier. Vols. III. and IV. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1881.
his old fondness for the word "moral," chiefly in connection with the policy of Austria and Metternich, as opposed to the naughty plots of Russia, France, and England, and at the same time evinces much of that sagacity which made him and kept him the first counselor of the Austrian throne for a length of time which falls to the lot of very few of his tribe. But along with much that recalls his traditionary reputation for hypocrisy, there are traces of real feeling and kindliness in the man that tend to soften one's verdict against him and to qualify that ugly word as hypocrisy of the unconscious type.
Such are the natural outbursts of grief over the loss of a young daughter, and of his second wife, Antoinette, who died within a few days of giving birth to Richard Metternich, and, still more, the quieter but even more touching sorrow of the father at the death of his son, Victor. In many passages, moreover, there is testimony to the fact that he was beloved by his dependents as well as by the immediate family circle. One can reconstruct him as a man whose eminent services to Austria and Europe had invested with an outward air of importance that made strangers overlook the fact of a warmer nature underneath, which nevertheless continued to exist and occasionally made itself felt through the bonds of red tape by which most of his correspondence was hampered. His horror of secret societies leads him into odd vagaries. The progress of Methodism in Europe alarms him strangely, and he notes that "the maladie biblique extends through both hemispheres." The Bibles on board an American frigate lying at Naples (July 17, 1817) and distributed to the sailors by the Bible Society of Boston, move him to this sage remark; but elsewhere, also, he goes more thoroughly into the matter, siding with the Catholics in their objections to putting the unexpurgated Bible into the hands of young people, and plainly considering the Methodists as little better than the Anabaptists of the Münster variety, who, if not checked in time, would put Europe to sack and institute community of wealth and wives. Of this same frigate he wrote:
"The flag-ship has eighty-four guns and is one of the most beautiful vessels I have ever seen. The Americans, who have a great rivalry with the English, owed their success in the last war to a new construction of their ships of the line, some of which carry as many as ninety guns. They are constructed like frigates, but without quarter-decks, and are fast sailors like frigates, and can, consequently, overtake these vessels, which in England never carry more than eighty guns. They can also avoid with the same facility vessels of the line of greater tonnage. The commodore received us with much distinction; he immediately placed the whole crew under arms, and showed me over every part of his ship. Its whole appearance and neatness are admirable. I do not know if, in those respects, it does not even surpass the English ships; on the other hand, the style of the crew does not equal that of the latter. The commodore is a great amateur of the fine arts and fine animals."
Metternich expresses in one letter the deepest love and sentiment for water; but cannon-smoke was not to his taste, or possibly the noise of guns.
For he deferred his visit till nightfall, to escape the salute of cannon. The maladie biblique, according to him, is one phase of a greater disease which in 1817 infested Europe, for he wrote in the same year to Nesselrode: "The world just now is sick of a peculiar malady which will pass away like all other epidemics; this malady is called mysticism." A reference is given to a long article to Lebzeltern at Petersburg on the existence of sects in Central Europe. In this he ventilates his ideas of Methodism, notes the ascetic movements in Swabia, and the sects of self-torturers in Upper Austria. Probably no one piece of writing is quite so self-sufficient and autocratic in tone as this; singular and amusing is its perusal at the present day. In another letter he notes the tendency of France, even at that day, to pick a quarrel in the East with ultimate designs upon Italy. A state paper has a summary of the position of the Jews in Austria, in which he notes that Jews are staff-officers in the army and have gained distinctions of every kind, excepting where a Christian oath was demanded of them. But he adds:
"Nevertheless, in many places it has been necessary to take measures of precaution in carrying out the edict of the Emperor Joseph, even after it has been in force many years, because of the abuse by Jews of the concessions granted them. Devoted to business, from father to son, assisting each other with large capitals, they prefer to gain by either lawful or unlawful trade what would cost both care and trouble to attain by other means.
Nor is Metternich destitute of humor. He tells a story of a magistrate of Judenburg who, like all of his class, must have a grievance, and could find nothing better to complain of than the field-mice, stating that they had ravaged the district ever since the French were there.
"What! did the French bring mice in their train?'
"No, but those devils of men encamped near the town; they ate so much bread that they filled the fields with crumbs, and we have had all the mice of Styria since.""
In 1820, he writes an amusing account of the Fürstenburg Palace at Prague, which had been decorated and furnished throughout by its steward in the absence of the owner, as a surprise to that prince. Shell-work, rock-work, gilt animals in wood, lamps in the shape of owls, curious contrivances that set bells a-chiming, or flutes playing, had The been prepared by this "horrible steward." night table of the princess had a musical box and that of the prince a trumpet. The next day Metternich forms one of the imposing marriage ceremony of an Archduke, and on the following he pens this notable passage:
"May 31, 1820. PRAGUE. "The memorable epochs at which I visited this town followed quickly upon one another. In the year 1812 I spent two months here with the Empress of the French, and in 1813 gave her husband his death-blow. Yet, what to me is all that has rushed through my head and flowed from my pen during my public life? My life may be unpleasant
for me to experience, but my biography will certainly not be tedious. Especially interesting must be the years which I have passed with Napoleon as if we were playing a game of chess, and during which the object of both was-I to checkmate him, and he to surround me with all his pieces. These fifteen years seem to me to have passed like a moment of time."
The fable of the dead lion comes to mind with unreasonable quickness on reading such passages. And yet the achievements of Napoleon ought not to belittle the honest overcoming of difficulties in the way of Metternich. If any opponent of Napoleon deserves credit, it is he. Still, are we to take for strictly true the following, written in 1821, as he was reading O'Meara's account of the life on St. Helena ?
"God in heaven! how the poor devil [O'Meara] has been imposed upon. The account of the agreement between Napoleon and the Emperor Francis about the flight from Elba is good. It is to me as if I, too, were listening to Napoleon; he has often tried to make me believe the same. I let him talk till he had done, and then I only said to him, 'That is false.' Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, as he turned away, 'Sono bugie per i Parigini.'
So we find Metternich to the end fighting over again the battles of his youth and perhaps improving his own undeniable merits in the process. have again a pretty thorough summary of the character of Napoleon, according to his judgment, and again that summary corroborates the Rémusat account only in its most general outlines. We find none of that scandalous excess charged to Napoleon which in the other memoirs places him on the level of the moral monsters of the world. On the other hand, his papers have been edited by several hands, and it is always possible that the most injurious accusations have been weeded out. Metternich in 1822 considered him a small man 66 of imposing character." He was as ignorant as most sub-lieutenants, but a remarkable instinct supplied the place of knowledge. Having the meanest opinion of men, he never had any anxiety lest he should go wrong. He made himself master of the world, "while others cannot even get so far as being masters of their own hearth." As a legitimate ruler of a small state he would never have been heard of except as an arbitrary monarch. He would always have made a mark as a military commander in any country whatever, or as an administrator wherever the storm of revolution raged.
Guizot in Private Life.*
IN all probability this book would never have been written, had it not been for a certain tendency among French writers and orators to exaggerate qualities in the persons of whom they treat. Guizot was something of a precisian; he was something of a Puritan; belonged by character, descent on both sides, and by tradition to that Protestantism which showed its least amiable phase in Calvin. That is not saying, however, that Guizot was hard
Monsieur Guizot in Private Life. 1787-1874. By his daughter, Madame de Witt. Authorized Edition. Translated by M. C. M. Simpson. Boston: Estes & Lauriat. 1881.
and formal in his daily life,—a rigid and methodical person, who, in his family, substituted decorum for love. Yet many of his fellow-countrymen have chosen so to describe him, or, by brilliant antithesis, to give people that impression of him without stating it in so many words. His children are naturally unwilling that their father and father-in-law should remain before the world and posterity a figure so forbidding, and this volume is the result.
To see how, with all his learning and love of exactness, he was not only a devoted but a fond father, all that one needs is the letters to his children, which one of them, Pauline de Witt, has incorporated in the well-written private biography of her illustrious parent. When he is embassador to England, he sends them descriptions of scenes and persons which would be apt to amuse them. He writes from London: 4
My dear little Pauline, your picture has come, and I write to you to tell you what pleasure it gave me. I shall not write to Henriette till to-morrow; I am sure that she will not mind. The picture is excellent and the likeness perfect. It gives me a double pleasure. It is very like you, and it fore, very quickly. Here is a kiss for you, my looks in good health. You have recovered, theredear child. I am sure that when we meet I shall find you all very much grown. Keep well in the meantime. Your portrait is in my room, close to my writing-table. I wish you had all been hidden in some corner to see my dinner at the Lord Mayor's. You would have been greatly amused for at least a quarter of an hour. It was in a very large and beautiful room, called, I know not why, the Egyptian Hall, supported by enormous pillars, and ornamented with all sorts of banners and symbols belonging to the city. When I entered, accompanied by the Lord Mayor, and with the Lady Mayoress on my arm, there were already three hundred and fifty people at the table. It was very dimly lighted. The moment we sat down, the gas was turned on and the hall was flooded with light. The Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress were seated on two raised chairs of state, under a red canopy. I was next to the Lady Mayoress. A magnificent service of plate, belonging to the city, was distributed over all the tables. The dinner was long, and music, which was not bad, went on all the time. Toward the end, two enormous goblets, filled with wine, were brought in; the trumpet sounded, and the City Herald proclaimed that the Lord and Lady Mayoress drank to the health of the French embas. sador, the Bishop of London, and all the present company. The Lady Mayoress rose, took one of the cups, and turned toward me; I rose at the same time. She drank, bowed, and passed the cup I bowed in return, turned to my left. hand neighbor, drank and bowed, and presented her with the cup. The Lord Mayor was perform. ing the same ceremony on his side, and the two cups, in this way, went all round the three hundred and fifty guests. This is called the Loving-Cup. The Lord Mayor's name is Sir Chapman Marshall, and he looks a very good sort of man.”
on to me.
In a letter to Madame Guizot he enters into details about the children, warning her against forcing them in their studies, urging plenty of outdoor exercise, and that they should be left a good deal to themselves when at play, or superintended at a dis
tance only. "There is no freedom for children if they are not sometimes alone, left entirely to themselves." Americans may not appreciate how much wisdom that remark contained, because children here, if anything, are left too much to themselves; but in France the surveillance exercised over the young is carried to an absurd and hurtful length.
"Do not let Henriette read Michelet's History of the Roman Republic.' It is not fit for her. Not one of M. Michelet's works is fit for children-not even for very advanced children-either as regards instruction or morality. The fact is, these works are very inaccurate, and the deductions they draw are those of an ill-regulated, though honest mind."
Here is a very interesting letter of the year 1840, which gives details of the family of his deceased wife, the brilliant writer who was no longer young when, as Mademoiselle de Meulan, she had married the sober young Protestant who was to play such an important rôle in France as historian and maker of history:
"I went yesterday evening to the House of Commons and came back at one in the morning. There was a very interesting debate on the Irish election. You must always take an interest in Ireland, my child. Your mother always did; it was the cradle of her family. I met a great many relations of yours here. One hundred and fifty years ago, your grandfather's family quitted England in the suite of James II., and took refuge in France, Spain, and Italy. They ran away from England because they were Catholics. Almost at the same time, the Protestants were running away from France. A Protestant now represents France at the Court of St. James, and he finds a great many Catholics in the very House of Commons which turned them out one hundred and fifty years ago. All this, my child, is the result of intellectual progress and a better appreciation of religious truth. If we were suddenly taken back to the state in which Europe was two centuries ago, we could not even endure the sight of so much misery and injustice. This is a reason for deep gratitude to God."
In another letter of about the same period, from Paris, he speaks of a secretary of legation who has just arrived from Texas. He asks his children :
"Do you know what Texas is, and where it is? It is a new nation which is rising up in America, between Mexico and the United States. Its capital is a town which, as yet, has no existence, on the borders of Colorado, and its president, who is like a king, set off with his ministers a few weeks ago, carrying his tent and provisions, to live on the banks of the river and build his own house. many years and many events must pass before he will be as well lodged as the king of France at Fontainebleau."
ogous to those of Gladstone and Disraeli; when one was in, the other was out. He believed in constitutional monarchy for France, and events justified his belief. The daughter who now shows him equally great on the side of the affections does a good deed, not only for the family, but for France and the world. We see a man who lived while Napoleon and Talleyrand were strong, who could be powerful in his action upon the outer world and lovable in his home circle. He had a mother who was great in her own restricted sphere. His second wife writes to him:
When one reflects upon the variety of ways by which Guizot made an impression on his fellowmen, it is doubly interesting to see him in his private life. We study his works at college, read his "History of France," and other volumes in the historical field; our girls still often read his first wife's books, produced under his immediate influence. He and Thiers occupied in France positions somewhat anal
"Your mother and I went yesterday to the Tuileries Gardens, and we talked a great deal about her sorrow, of the effect it produced on her, of her fidelity to your father's opinions, of your education. Your poor mother burst into tears. She said: My grief is only a matter of history to my children; they were too young to feel it. For twenty years I spent every night sitting on my bed, bathed in tears. I controlled myself in order not to sadden them. Your husband had an extraordinary instinctive tenderness. He saw my sorrow and the struggle it cost me to live. Without my children I could not have existed, but I had the conviction of a double task laid upon me. My poor darling had trusted me, and I may say that I fulfilled all his wishes. I brought up my children entirely myself. I spared myself neither in mind nor in body. The only thing I cannot correct in myself is my tendency to exact too much from them, but I think God will forgive me this fault.' Dearest, my eyes filled with
tears while I listened to her. She told me she had lived three lives: a somewhat careless youth, eight She years of happiness, and all the rest sorrow. has passed thirty-five years in tears, and she has never found a heart that sympathized entirely with her own."
Boyesen's "Ilka on the Hill-top."*
THESE short stories, with which our readers are already familiar, have much the same characteristics as the author's first collection, "Tales from Two Hemispheres." To match "The Man who Lost his Name" in that volume, we have "Ilka on the Hill-top" in this-these two romances being, in our opinion, Mr. Boyesen's nearest approaches to the bracing quality of his first success, "Gunnar." In individuality he has made considerable advance upon that delightful book, but his literary excellences and faults remain the same. The buoyancy of the romantic themes he deals with is not the less that he is writing at a time when much of English fiction has taken on a false-realistic tone of reportorial
*Ilka on the Hill-top, and Other Stories. By Hjalmar H. Boyesen. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.