Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

LITERARY NOTICES.

THE MAGNOLIA for 1837. Edited by Henry William HBRBERT. Pp. 352. New

York : BANCROFT AND HOLLEY.

We have already spoken in terms of deserved praise of this last and yet first of the American annuals for 1837. As our encomiums, however, were expressed in general terms, we may be pardoned for offering a few running comments upon the merits of the volume, both in a pictorial and literary point of view. There are eleven plates, from the hands of native painters and engravers of acknowledged skill; and they present an aggregate of excellence not before reached in this country. We proceed to glance briefly at a few of them. “Esperanza,' the first picture, is not misplaced. It is a face of a serene and heavenly beauty, from the pencil and graver of CUMMINGS and CHENEY. Its execution could not be improved; but to our eye there is manifested a sin against taste in the extra profusion of side-curls. The vignette, designed and engraved by CASILEAR, is neat, well drawn, and tasteful. "The Rover's Triumph,' painted by Chapman, and engraved by OSBORNE, has but one fault - it is too light, or indistinct. 'Castella,' a portrait, engraved by PARKER, is from a painting by Inman. It needs no farther laud. Exquisitely soft, and admirable in all respects, is 'Sunset on the Hudson’ heretofore noticed in these pages – painted by Weir, and engraved by Rolph. This last-named artist is winning for himself deserved repute. 'Storm Coming On,' is a vivid picture of the scene indicated by the title, and exhibits the artist (H. Inman) in a very favorable light, as a landscape painter. It is a near and palpable communion with nature. To the Wrath of Peter Stuyvesant,' by DURAND, we have before referred. The burly trumpeter is to the life; and in the two remaining portraits, the artist has been true to the expression as well as the want of it. Mr. Casilear has done good justice to the engraving. The Freshet,' by CHAPMAN, is worthy his reputation. It is well conceived and well executed; nor has the engraver, Mr HINSHELWOOD, failed in his portion of the performance. “The Lake of the Dismal Swamp,' by CHAPMAN, required just such an engraver as Mr. SMILLIE to transfer its beauties to the steel. Of all the productions of both artists, we do not remember any thing more highly creditable to either.

The literary contents of the 'Magnolia' are of a superior character. "Three Days from the Life of Cavendish the Rover' is marked by those graphic touches and stirring incident, which distinguish nearly all the productions of the writer's pen. His language is always nervous and well chosen, and his conception of dramatic effect correct and forcible. But for the intimate connexion between the several parts of the extended narrative, we should be tempted to justify our opinions by liberal extracts. 'A Winter's Tale' is the title of a story by GRENVILLE MELLEN, wherein is woven much of exciting and romantic adventure, together with the reflections of a poetical and sensitive mind, unweaned from that childhood of the soul which is the true elixir vitæ. 'An Unsolved Riddle,' by Miss SEDGWICK, who touches nothing that she does not ornament, will remind the reader of Irving's 'Stout Gentleman,' though written in a somewhat different vein. 'Maria Jeanne' by THEODORE S. Fay, is a charming sketch, the incidents of which we remember to havo seen in the original Freneh. It

is replete with startling scenes and strong contrasts. 'Courade Weickhoff,' by Simms, is a tale of diablerie, after the German models. It is constructed with ingenuity, and has neither lack of power nor want of invention. It is altogether a very felicitous coinage of the fancy. There is not a more interesting tale, nor one better calculated to awaken and fix the attention of the reader, in the volume, than' Daniel Prime,' by the author of Redwood.' An extract is annexed. It follows a point in the story wherein is affectingly described the banishing of a daughter by a stern, inexorable father, because she had married contrary to his wishes:

"We pass over the rage of the wronged father. We have no space to record his reiterated vows -- too faithfully kept – that he would never again speak to his child, and that never a penny of his should pass into Daniel Prime's hands. He made a will at once, and published it, formally disinheriting his daughter, and devising his property to various public institutions. Dorset tried to appear as cheerful as was his wont, for he was a proud man, and loth, even tacitly, to confess his dependence on any human being; but nature was too strong for him, and when he was alone, walking over those finc, fruitful fields whose tansmission to his posterity he had so often contemplated as a sort of self-perpetuation, his disappointment would break forth in audible groans. And when he returned to his home, and missed his gentle, patient child, who bad always anticipated his wants, and endured his impatience without a murmur, his parental tenderness would find its way in tears. But after the first ebullition of passion, never a word of complaint or regret escaped him. He went on, as if nothing had happened, enriching his farm, and dispensing liberally from storehouses always full. “In the mean time, Submit

, born to be a thrall to whatever power mighi be over her, faithfully kept her vow of allegiance to her new lord, though her heart in secret pined for the ease, abundance, and cheerfulness of her old home. Her father's temper was gusty, but the storms were short, and succeeded by sunshine and a healthy atmosphere. Her husband's disposition was of the brooding, forecasting sort, that hangs like a leaden sky and pestilential fog over the domestic scene. He was not severe or unkind to her; as the means of attaining the great end of his life, she was inestimable to him. But he was anxious and restless till that was secured. He never, for a moment, believed that her fitful, impulsive father would persevere in his disinheritance of his only child; but there is no passion keener than avarice, and he was continually forcing her on active measures to recover her father's favor. This embittered her life. She could endure and suffer to the end of the chapter; there was no limit to her passive virtue : but to execute what her husband planned - confront her storming father — to attempt to subdue his resentment, was an enterprise for Submit equal to that of a nervous person, who should attempt to pass under ike sheet of water at Niagara.

" In obedience to her husband, she repeatedly wrote to her father. The letters were returned unopened. She even, like a trembling victim, went to his house again and again. The good-natured servants - they were slaves, for our story dates before the revolution - gathered about her with their honest, hearty welcomes; but her father passed by her without one glance of recognition, and if she ventured, in a half stifled voice, to address him, he gave no sign of hearing her. Thus matters went on for three years. Aunt Marah, whose whole life was devoted to that most teasing domestic alchymy, by which one man's shilling can be made to go as far as another man's dollar, was a continual thorn in Submit's side.

"At the end of three years, the light broke in upon her dreary existence. She had a child -- that best of heaven's blessings — that ray of celestial light which penetrates the intensest darkness that can encompass a mother's soul. A child! who could be miserable with such a treasure ! - a gift that enriches every other possession — that is riches 10 poverty; meat and drink to the hungry and thirsty; rest to the wearied; health to the sick; an immeasurable present joy, and an infinite promise!

“Our poor mother's soul was kindled with new life ; her home was no longer a waste and desolate place. She turned her eye from the dark spirit brooding in her husband's face, and felt the smiles of her child warming her heart.” She listened to the first, sweet sounds from its lips, and was deaf to aunt Marah's eternal stories.

"You say your father likes babies,' said her husband. 'Sybil begins to take notice the child had boen warily named Sybil Dorset, after its maternal grand-parents - dress her up in her best, and take her to your father's; don't be scared away by the first frown - stay a while -- he'll come to at last — an old dog don't turn for the first whistle.'

"Submit obeyed with alacrity, because with hope. She believed her child irresistible, and longed to see it in her father's arms. The little girl had arrived at the prettiest stage of infancy; she was fat and fair, and bright, and dressed in her prettiest. No wonder her mother walked with a light step up the narrow lane that led to the only place her heart called home. She was humbly making her way toward the kitchen door, when the old house dog sprang upon and licked the baby's hands. Dorset stood, unseen, at a window, stealthily watching the approach. The baby, instead of crying, clapped her little hands in reply to the dog's caress. An exclamation of pleasure

escaped from Dorset. Submit, unconscious of the auspicious omen, proceeded. The door was opened by Juno, an old negro matron. She summoned her daughters, Minerva and Venus; and the three goddesses exhausted on the child every epithet of endearinent and admiration in their vocabulary. The doors communicating with the dwelling room were open, and there was the grandfather, all ear.

My!' cried Juno, 'what pretty black eyes; for all the world like master's.' "That's well! thought Dorset; ‘no black eyes among the Primes - gray, squint, or wall-eyed, every d-1 of them.'

Dear! what a cunning litile cherry mouth!' said Venus. "Dan Prime's mouth is like a wolf's!' murmured Dorset.

"This beats the Dutch - master's peaked ear!' exclaimed Minerva ; 'and on the left side, too.'

" " I saw, when I first looked at her, she favored father,' said Submit, tremulously; 'I suppose it was thinking of him so much!

Dorset longed 10 take mother and child to his heart; but the rememberance of his rash vow checked the impulse. A project by which he might, in part, evade its consequences dawned upon him. He went into the kitchen. Juno - experience made her the boldest – Juno held the baby up to him-'Is n't she a beauty, master?

“Put out your hands, Sybil Dorset,' said the trembling mother. The little girl, instinctively eloquent in her own cause, stretched out her hands, smiled, and jumped toward her grandfather. He caught her in his arms, looked steadily in her face for a moment, exclaimed, 'all Dorset, by Jupiter !' and then giving her to the servant, and his eyes blinded with tears, he made his way back to his apartment, slamming the doors after him, as a sort of expression or echo to his feelings. Poor Submit, after lingering in hope till the day closed, was obliged to return to her disappointed, sullen husband.

" 'Two years and a half after this first meeting, as Dorset was returning home, he saw a little girl tottling along the road-side, picking dandelions. His old dog Cesar sprang upon her, and threw her down. She patted him, calling him 'naughty Cesar.' They were familiar friends. It is she ! thought Dorsei, and he quickened his steps, and gave her his hand, to help her up. She grasped his, and retained it. The pressure of a child's soft, chubby hand, is an electric touch to the heart.

"A’n't you my danfather ?' said Sybil. 16"Yes.'

"Then do you come and live with us. Mother tells me every day I must love you, and how can I love you if I do n't see you?'

"I can't go to live with you, child – but would you like to come and live with me?' "With you and Cesar! -yes-- if mother will come too.' ". And your father?'

"The child started at his changed tone of voice. 'No, no- not father - let father and aunt Marah stay at home.'

“Dorset conducted the little runaway to her own premises, went home, passed a sleepless night, and the next morning sent the following note to Prime's : "To DANIEL PRIME AND WIFE:

" ' If you will send me your child, Sybil Dorset, and sign a quit-claim to her, and you, Daniel Prime, promise, under oath, never intentionally to see, and never to speak with her, during my life, I, in return, will take her as my own child; and will endeavor so to bring her up that, when come to woman's estate, she 'll not quit me for any rascal on earth. Signed,

JOHN DORSET.' "This proposition was rather more than Prime could at once submit to ; but, after a little reflection on the precariousness of Dorset's life -- how very uncertain other men's lives seem ! - his cupidity prevailed over his pride and every manly sentiment, as well as over his affections. We must look out for the future,' said auni Marah; and many a case did she recount of breaches healed by the intervention of grand-children. So little Sybil was to be sent to serve the purpose of patent cement, and make the broken parts adhere more firmly than ever.

"The weakest, most timid animal will turn to defend her young; and Submit, for the first time in her life, when she heard her husband's decision, resisted. To give up Sybil, was to resign all that made existence tolerable to her.

"I cannot consent to this,' she said, with unprecedented vehemence. All the land on the round earth would not tempı me; no, noi all my father's money, ten thousand times told.'

"You talk like a fool, wife.'

""Oh, Daniel Prime, I think there is no folly like that of craving for more and more; you are always toiling, and selling, and gaining, and it all does no good to any one, and least of all to you. Are you happy?'

“No: I am not; but I have been disappointed, balked. I shall be happy,' he stretched his hand toward Dorset's, 'when I get that farm."

""No, Prime; there is neither good nor happiness to those that forget the laws of God; and you are breaking his tenth commandment --- but,' she added, raising her voice, _?

you will never get it. I cannot part with Sybil. I was taught never to give away the least trifle given to me, and can I give away God's gift? No, never.'

“Prime would at once have enforced obedience, but he feared that his wife, driven to extremity, might fly to her father, and remonstrate; he therefore, let her exhaust her courage, and then urged compliance as a duty to her father. At this point she was vulnerable. From her child's birth, and the simultaneous burst of parental feeling in her own breast, she had - a very common case - - experienced a new sense of filial duty, had lamented her infidelity to her father, and ventured to express her remorse in Prime's presence. She had now, her husband urged, an opportunity to alone for her fault, and this foregone, would be lost forever. Her father was old ; more children she might have, never another father. And when she ceased to answer, but still wept, he suggested that her father's terms might be softened; he might consent to her seeing the child; and finally, and more than all, Sybil must prove a successful mediator between them.

“Submit at last yielded, so far as to write to her father. The letter was modified hy her husband, blotted with her tears, and sent. The following reply was immediately returned :

""The mother and child may meet as often as is reasonable ; but Daniel Prime must be to Sybil as though he were not. Let no more be written or said about it. Send her - on these conditions, mind ye !- to-morrow.'

“Sybil was sent, and her mother left to solitude and pining. She saw her child often. She found her always affectionate and kind, but there was little sympathy between them. Sybil was a healthy, bright, stout-hearted girl, living and laughing in sunshine, and unable to sympathize with her weak, drooping mother, who had no pleasure in life but her meetings with her child, and those embittered by Dorset's unrelaxing adherence to his vow."

The denouement involves details of even more stirring interest, and the whole is managed with fine dramatic effect.

'The Creole Village,' by WASHINGTON Irving, is so characteristic and admirable, that we cannot resist the temptation to transfer it entire :

[blocks in formation]

" In travelling about our motley country, I am often reminded of Ariosto's account of the moon, in which the good paladin Astolpho found every thing garnered up, that had been lost on earth. So I am apt to imagine, that many things lost in the old world, are treasured up and perpetuated in the new; having been continued from generation to generation, since the early days of the colonies. A European antiquary, therefore, curious in his researches after the ancient and almost obliterated customs and usages of his country, would do well to put himself upon the track of some early band of emigrants, follow them across the Atlantic, and rummage among their descendants on our shores.

"In the phraseology of New-England might be found many an old English provincial phrase, long since obsolete in the parent country; while Virginia cherishes peculiarities characteristic of the days of Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh,

"In the same way, the sturdy yeomanry of New-Jersey and Pennsylvania keep up many usages fading away in ancient Germany; while many an honest, broad-bottomed custom, nearly extinct in venerable Holland, may be found flourishing in pristine vigor and luxuriance in some of the orthodox Dutch villages, still lingering on the banks of the Mohawk and the Hudson.

" In no part of our country, however, are the customs and peculiarities, imported from the old world by the earlier settlers, kept up with more fidelity than in the little, poverty-stricken villages of Spanish and French origin, that border the rivers of ancient Louisiana. Their population is generally made up of ihe descendants of those nations, married and interwoven together, and occasionally crossed with a slight dash of the Indian. The French character, however, floats on top, as, from its buoyant qualities it is sure to do, whenever it fornis a particle, however small, of an intermixture.

"In these serene and dilapidated villages, art and nature seem to stand still, and the world forgets to turn round. The revolutions that distract other parts of this mutable planet, reach not here, or pass over without leaving any trace. The inhabitants are deficient in that public spirit which extends its cares beyond its horizon, and imparts trouble and perplexity from all quarters in newspapers. In fact, newspapers are almost unknown in these villages, and as French is the current language, the inhabitants have little community of opinion with their republican neighbors. They retain, therefore, their old habits of passive obedience to the decrees of government, as though they still lived under the absolute sway of colonial commandments, instead of being part and parcel of the sovereign people, and having a voice in the legislation.

"A few aged men, who have grown gray on their hereditary acres, and are of the good old colonial stock, exert a kind of patriarchal sway in all matters of public and private import; their opinions are considered oracular, and their word is law.

“ The inhabitants, moreover, have none of that eagerness for gain, and rage for improvement, which keep our people continually on the move, and our country towns incessantly in a state of transition. There the magic phrases, 'lown lots,'' water privileges,' rail-roads,' and other comprehensive and soul-stirring words, from the speculator's vocabulary, are never heard." The residents dwell in the same houses in which their forefathers dwelt, without thinking of enlarging or modernizing them, or pulling them down and turning them into granite stores. They suffer the trees, under which they have been born, and have played in infancy, to flourish undisturbed; though, by cutting them down, they might open new streets, and put money in their pockets. In a word, the almighty dollar, that great object of universal devotion throughout our land, seems to have no genuine devotees in these peculiar villages; and unless some of its missionaries penetrate there, and erect banking houses and other pious shrines, there is no knowing how long the inhabitants may remain in their present state of contented poverty.

"In descending one of our great western rivers in a steam-boat, I met with two worthies from one of these villages, who had been on a distant excursion, the longest they had ever made, as they seldom ventured far from home. One was the great man, or Grand Signior of the village ; not that he enjoyed any legal privileges or power there, every thing of the kind having been done away when the province was ceded by France to the United States. His sway over his neighbors was merely one of custom and conviction, out of deference to his family. Beside, he was worth full fifty thousand dollars, an amount almost equal, in the imagination of the villagers, to the treasures of king Solomon.

“This very substantial old gentleman, though of the fourth or fifth generation in this country, retained' ihe true Gallic stamp of feature and peculiarity of deportment, and reminded me of one of those provincial potentates, the important man of a petty arrondisement, that are to be met with in the remote parts of France. He was of a large frame, a ginger-bread complexion, strong features, eyes that stood out like glass knobs, and a prominent nose, which he frequently regaled from a gold snuff-box, and occasionally blew with a colored handkerchief, until it sounded like a trumpet.

He was attended by an old negro, as black as ebony, with a huge mouth, in a con: tinual grin. This was evidently a privileged and favorite servant, and one that had grown up and grown old with him. He was dressed in creole style - with white jacket and trowsers, a stiff shirt collar, that threatened to cut off his ears, a bright madrass handkerchieftied round his head, and large gold-earings. He was the politest negro I met with in a wide western tour ; and that is saying a great deal, for, excepting the Indians, the negroes are the most gentlemanlike personages one meets with in those parts. It is true, they differ from the Indians in being a little extra polite and complimentary. He was also one of the merriest; and here, too, the negroes, however we may deplore their unhappy condition, have the advantage of their masters. The whites are, in general, 100 free and prosperous to be merry. The cares of maintaining their rights and liberties, and of adding to their wealth, engross all their thoughts, and dry up all the moisture of their souls. If you hear a broad, hearty, devil-may-care laugh, be assured it is a negro's.

“Beside this African domestic, the signior of the village had another no less cherished and privileged attendant. This was a huge dog, of the mastiff breed, with a deep, hanging mouth, that gave an air of surly gravity to his physiognomy. He walked about the cabin with the air of a dog perfectly at home, and who had paid for his passage. At dinner time he took his seat beside his master, giving him a glance now and then out of the corner of his eye, that bespoke perfect confidence that he would not be forgotten. Nor was he- every now and then a huge morsel would be thrown to him, peradventure the half-picked leg of a fowl, which he would receive with a snap that sounded like the springing of a steel trap - one gulp, and all was down; and a glance of the eye told his master that he was ready for another consignment.

The other village worthy, traveling in company with this signior, was of a totally different stamp. He was small, thin, and weazen-faced, such as Frenchmen are apt to be represented in caricature, with a bright, squirrel-like eye, and a gold ring in his ear. His dress was flimsy, and sat loosely on his frame, and he had altogether the look of one with but little coin in his pocket. Yet

, though one of the poorest, I was assured he was one of the merriest and most popular personages in his native village.

"Compere Martin, as he was commonly called, was the factotum of the place – sportsman, schoolmaster, and land surveyor. He could sing, dance, and, above all, play on the fiddle, an invaluable accomplishment in one of these old French creole villages, for the inhabitants have a hereditary love for balls and fetes; if they work but little, they dance a great deal, and a fiddle is the joy of their heart.

“What had sent Compere Martin traveling with the Grand Signior I could not learn ; he evidently looked up to him with great deference, and was assiduous in rendering him petty attentions; from which I concluded that he lived at home upon the crumbs which fell from his table. He was gayest when out of his sight; and had his song and his joke when forward, among the deck passengers; but altogether Compere Martin was out of his element on board of a steam-boat. He was quite another being, I am told, when at home, in his own village.

« AnteriorContinuar »