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and we like them none the worse for the discussion of this volume with a new that - but in nearly every instance sense of the sublime in nature with a their interest is concentrated on a long more enlarged conception of the vastchase (the reader's attention being ness of the grey and melancholy riveted on one or two ships), and the wastes’ of ocean which spread around incidents naturally arise out of this sin. earth's isles and continents, upon which gle leading feature, which may be the early dawn breaks and daylight termed Cooper's forte, and which he fades alike ; where the almost living exhibits also in most of his Indian vessel, swift-sailing, drops in the disstories. In one work, however, “The tant wave the Southern Cross, the Two Admirals,” Cooper attenipts to Magellan Clouds, the wild and stormy « deal with the profession on a large Cape ; where, unlike the travel of the scale,” to use his own words, by de- land, which at most conquers a narrow tailing the manœuvres of fleets. Able horizon after horizon, each succeeding as are some of the scenes, we think the night the homeward ship sinks some experiment a decided failure on the celestial constellation in the backward whole, and do not marvel at this, for distance, raising another landmark of obvious reasons. Cooper himself seems the heavens' in the onward waste of to have been aware of the dubious na mingled sea and sky." We call that ture of his undertaking, and to have a bit of fine appreciatory criticism. had misgivings as to his probable suc D ana's book is truly sui generiscess. He remarks in his preface that no “ Voice from the Forecastle," no « among all the sea-tales that the last « Sailor's Life at Sea," worthy of the twenty years have produced, we know theme, had previously appeared, and of none in which the evolutions of fleets none has been published subsequently. have formed any material feature. The work is, therefore, literally unique. . . . . Every writer of romance It were hard to say whether landsmen appears to have carefully abstained or seamen read this extraordinary profrom dealing with the profession on a duction with greater avidity. We relarge scale."
member that in Liverpool alone, wben And rightly abstained, say wel as, the first English reprint - Moxon's according to our private theory, nauti. edition, we believe appeared, two cal fiction ought to be legitimately thousand copies were sold in a single confined to one or two vessels; for today, nearly all of which, as we underbring whole fleets into action is to stood, were purchased by seamen. Of trespass unwarrantably on the domain course these men bought and read the of history, if real events are described, book with a view to learn what was in which case facts are ever preferable said of their calling by one of themto fiction; and it is rather absurd to selves, and capital critics they would expect that any reader of proper taste undoubtedly be! As for landsmen, can enjoy an account of the manœuvres the work was to them a species of reveand battles of hostile fleets, if wholly lation-it opened up a novel and bi. imaginary.
therto unknown (or, at best, but parThe second of our Trio is Dana, the tially known) profession, and the inteauthor of “ Two Years before the rest it excited was naturally proporMast”*_a book which alone has made tionate. The book is really what its bim renowned throughout the world. title indicates; and from the sensible, Well can we recal the intense, the modest, manly preface, to the grave absorbing interest with which we read and highly suggestive concluding chap. this work on its first appearance. Our ter (a general and exceedingly valu. copy is prefaced by extracts from the able essay on the condition of scamen, criticism of the New York “ Knicker- and the mode in which their hard lot bocker." One passage we shall intro. may be ameliorated) there is not a duce here, on account of its poetic single page which does not contain extruthfulness. "We have ourselves," cellent matter. The style of writing says old Knickerbocker, “risen from is very good in a mere literary sense,
* We believe that the only other work of which he is the author is the “ Seaman's Manual" (as it is called in the English edition, but in America it is entitled the “ Seaman's Friend "), à practical handbook for seamen, and, of course, in a great measure a compilation. We possess a copy of it, and consider it an excellent and valuable work of the kind.'
and well adapted to the subject. No one can read half-a-dozen pages with out feeling that the narrative is perfectly trustworthy and matter-of-fact. The author, indeed, occasionally dwells rather tediously and verbosely on some details of sea-life-that is, he does so in the estimation of practical seamen, as we can personally vouch—but perhaps these very passages are read with as much or even greater interest than any others by landsmen; for we cordially and entirely agree with Dana's own remark in his preface, that “ plain matters-of-fact in relation to customs and babits of life new to us, and descriptions of life under new aspects, act upon the inexperienced through the imagination, so that we are hardly aware of our want of technical knowledge. Thousands read the escape of the American frigate through the British channel, and the chase and wreck of the Bristol trader in the Red Rover, and follow the minute nautical manæuvres with breathless interest, who do not know the name of a rope in the ship, and, perhaps, with none the less admiration and enthusiasm for their want of acquaintance with the professional detail." Our experience amply bears out this opinion of Dana.
With little, indeed, that merits cen. sure, or even objection, Dana's work can hardly be overpraised in many respects, for it is a superlatively good one, abounding with deeply interesting and highly instructive information, interspersed with remarks and reflections at once acute, original, suggestive, and intrinsically valuable. It is a book which any man living might, indeed, have been proud to have written. We would willingly say more concerning it, but so enormously has it been circu. lated, that we presume nearly all our readers must be thoroughly familiar with its animated pages. We would therefore merely make one remark, and that is, we do not think any writ. er excels Dana in graphic ability to describe nautical scenes with technical accuracy and surprising clearness of minute, yet spirited detail; and in Teading any of his vivid pictures of life before the mast, our interest is materially heightened by the know. ledge that all is real-all is truly descriptive of what actually happened. As Dana says in his preface, his design was " to present the life of a common
sailor at sea as it really is - the light and the dark together." We have already said that no work of the same kind of equal merit has yet appeared, and we can safely assert that none ever will appear until another young man, who has been as well educated, and possesses as much literary talent as Dana, serves before-the-mast, and favours the world with a vigorous, faithful, and modest narrative of his experience of forecastle life. We shall gladly hail the advent of Dana the Second !
Herman Melville completes our Trio. A friend has informed us that “ Herman Melville" is merely a nom de plume, and if so, it is only of a piece with the mystification which this remarkable author dearly loves to indulge in from the first page to the last of his works. We think it highly probable that the majority of our readers are only familiar with his earliest books; but as we have read them all carefully (excepting his last production, “Israel Potter, which is said to be medio. cre) we shall briefly refer to their subjects seriatim, ere we consider the general characteristics of his style. His first books were “Omoo” and “ Typee,” which quite startled and puzzled the reading world. The ablest critics were for some time unable to decide whether the first of these vivid pictures of life in the South Sea Islands was to be regarded as a mere dexterous fiction, or as a narrative of real adventures, described in glowing, picturesque, and romantic language ; but when the second work appeared, there could no longer exist any doubt, that although the author was intimately acquainted with the Marquesas and other islands, and might introduce real incidents and real characters, yet that fiction so largely entered into the composition of the books, that they could not be regarded as matter-of-fact narratives. Both these works contain a few opening chapters, descriptive of foremastlife in whaling-ships, which are exceedingly interesting and striking.
Melville's next work was entitled “Redburn," and professed to be the autobiographical description of a sai. lor-boy's first voyage across the Atlantic. It contains some clever chapters, but very much of the matter, especially that portion relative to the adventures of the young sailor in Liver
pool, London, &c., is outrageously rightly as to the date of publicationimprobable, and cannot be read either came “White Jacket; or the World with pleasure or profit. This abortive in a Man-of-war.” This is, in our opi. work which neither obtained nor de nion, his very best work. He states served much success was followed by in the preface that he served a year “ Mardi ; and a Voyage Thither.” before-the-mast in the United States Here we are once more introduced to frigate, Neversink, joining her at a the lovely and mysterious isles of the port in the Pacific, where he had been vast Pacific, and their half.civilised, left by-or deserted from, for we do not or, in some cases, yet heathen and clearly comprehend which a whalingbarbarous aborigines. The reader who ship, and that the work is the result takes up the book, and reads the first of his observations on board, &c. We half of volume one, will be delighted need hardly say that the name Never. and enthralled by the original and ex sink is fictitious, but from various inceedingly powerful pictures of sea-life, cidental statements we can easily learn of a novel and exciting nature, but that the real name of the frigate is the woful will be his disappointment as he United States—the very same ship that reads on. We hardly know how to captured our English frigate Macedocharacterise the rest of the book. It nian in the year 1812.* The Mace. consists of the wildest, the most impro donian, we believe, is yet retained bable, nay, impossible, series of adven in the American navy. "White Jacktures amongst the natives, which would et" is the best picture of life-beforebe little better than insane ravings, the mast in a ship of war ever yet were it not that we dimly feel con given to the world. The style is most scious that the writer intended to in excellent- occasionally very eccentric troduce a species of biting, political and startling, of course, or it would satire, under grotesque and incredibly not be Herman Melville's, but invaextravagant disguises. Moreover, the riably energetic, manly, and attraclanguage is throughout gorgeously tive, and not unfrequently noble, elopoetical, full of energy, replete with quent, and deeply impressive. We the most beautiful metaphors, and could point out a good many instances, crowded with the most brilliant fan, however, where the author has bor. cies, and majestic and melodiously so. rowed remarkable verbal expressions, norous sentences. But all the author's and even incidents, from nautical unrivalled powers of diction, all his books almost unknown to the general wealth of fancy, all his exuberance of reading public (and this he does imagination, all his pathos, vigour, without a syllable of acknowledgand exquisite graces of style, cannot ment). Yet more, there are one or two prevent the judicious reader from lay instances where he describes the fri. ing down the book with a weary sigh, gate as being manœuvred in a way and an inward pang of regret that so that no practical seaman would commuch rare and lofty talent has been wil. mend- indeed, in one case of the kind fully wasted on a theme which not any. he writes in such a manner as to shake body can fully understand, and which our confidence in his own practical will inevitably repulse nine readers knowledge of seamanship. We strongout of ten, by its total want of human ly suspect that he can handle a pen interest and sympathy. It is, in our much better than a marlingspike-but estimation, one of the saddest, most we may be wrong in our conjecture, melancholy, most deplorable, and hu. and shall be glad if such is the case. miliating perversions of genius of a At any rate, Herman Melville himself high order in the English language. assures us that he has sailed before - Next in order - if we recollect the mast in whalers, and in a man-of
* It was no disgrace to the British flag. The United States rated as a 44-gun frigate, but mounted 28 on a broadside, carrying 864lbs. ; her tonnage was 1533 ; her crew 474 men. The Macedonian (a new ship) was of 38 guns, having a broadside weight of metal of only 528lbs, and a crew of 254 men, and 35 boys. The Macedonian fought most gallantly, and only struck when she had sustained the frightful loss of thirty-six killed and sixty-eight wounded. Her opponent, in fact, like other American frigates of the time, was just a line-of-battle-ship in disguise !
war, and it is certain that his informa- pitch" of Cape Horn, and is in a position on all nautical subjects is most tion of imminent danger. The boat. extensive and accurate. Take it all swain called all hands to take in sail :in all, “ White Jacket” is an astonishing production, and contains much "Springing from our hammocks," says writing of the highest order.
Melville, " we found the frigate leaning over The last work we have to notice is a to it so steeply, that it was with difficulty large one, entitled " The Whale,” and we could climb the ladders leading to the it is quite as eccentric and monstrous.
upper deck. Here the scene was awful. ly extravagant in many of its incidents
The vessel seemed to be sailing on her side, as even “ Mardi ;” but it is, neverthe
The maindeck guns had several days pre
viously been run in and housed, and the less, a very valuable book, on account
portholes closed; but the lee carronades on of the unparalleled mass of information the quarterdeck and forecastle were plungit contains on the subject of the history ing through the sea, which undulated over and capture of the great and terrible them in milkwhite billows of foam With cachalot, or sperm - whale. Melville every lurch to leeward, the yard-arm ends describes himself as having made more seemed to dip into the sea; while forward, than one cruise in a South-sea-whaler; the spray dashed over the bows in cataracts, and supposing this to have been the
and drenched the men who were on the forefact, he must nevertheless have labori.
yard. By this time, the deck was all alive ously consulted all the books treating
with the whole strength of the ship's com
pany-five hundred men, officers and all in the remotest degree on the habits,
mostly clinging to the weather bulwarks. natural history, and mode of capturing
The occasional phosphorescence of the yeasty this animal, which he could obtain, for
sea cast a glare upon their uplifted faces, as such an amazing mass of accurate and a night's fire in a populous city lights up the curious information on the subject of panic-stricken crowd. ... The ship's the sperm-whale as is comprised in his bows were now butting, battering, ramming, three volumes could be found in no and thundering over and upon the head seas, other single work-or perhaps in no
and, with a horrible wallowing sound, our half-dozen works-in existence. We
whole hull was rolling in the trough of the say this with the greater confidence,
foam. The gale came athwart the deck, because we have written on the sperm
and every sail seemed bursting with its wild
breath. All the quartermasters, and several whale ourselves, and have consequent
of the forecastlemen, were swarming round ly had occasion to consult the best
the double-wheel on the quarterdeck. Some works in which it is described. Yet
were jumping up and down with their hands the great and undeniable merits of on the spokes; for the whole helm and galMelville's book are obscured and al vanised keel were fiercely feverish with the most neutralised by the astounding life imparted to them by the tempest.” quantity of wild, mad passages and entire chapters with which it is inter The words we have italicised strike larded. Those who have not read the us as being intensely poetical, and work cannot have any conception of adapted to convey a vividly truthful the reckless, inconceivable extrava. idea of the state of a ship desperately gancies to which we allude. Never- battling with a powerful gale. We theless, the work is throughout splen- bave ourselves repeatedly noted, when didly written, in a literary sense; and at sea during a gale, how “the whole some of the early chapters contain helm " (by which is meant the rudder, what we know to be most truthful and tiller, wheel, steering-barrel, &c.) vi. superlatively-excellent sketches of out. brated in such a manner, that one of-the-way life and characters in con could judge from that alone of the ponexion with the American whaling sition of the vessel and the manner in trade.
which the seas struck her, and also the To give a fair idea of Herman Mel. manner in which she bore herself; and ville's powerful and striking style, when not only did the helm, but also the be condescends to restrain his exube whole fabric of the ship, feel “ fiercely rant imagination, and to write in what feverish with life,” and almost a senwe may call his natural mood, we re- tient thing, conscious of her jeopardy, quest the reader's attention to a short and of the necessity of bravely strugextract or two which we select from gling with the tempest. The lands" White Jacket.” We must premise man may possibly think we are indulg. that the frigate is overtaken by an aw. ing in wild, fanciful rhapsodies; but ful gale at midnight, when off the we appeal to every seaman who pos
sesses a spark of sensibility and of ima. gination, and he will tell you that what Melville has asserted, and what we as sert, is literally true, but must be felt to be understood.
We must give yet another and more characteristic • taste of the quality.” of our favourite - for, with all his faults, we can truly say, “ Melville, we love thee still !" We will select our final specimen from the last chapter of “ White Jacket." When the frigate draws nigh to port, at the expiry of her long three years' cruise, and strikes soundings "by the deep nine !” the seaman-author thus describes the feel. ings of himself and messmates :
“ It is night. The meagre moon is in her last quarter that betokens the end of a cruise that is passing. But the stars look forth in their everlasting brightness—and that is the everlasting, glorious Future, for ever beyond us. We maintopmen are all aloft in the top; and round our mast we circle, a brother-band, hand-in-hand, all spliced together. We have reefed the last topsail; trained the last gun; blown the last match; bowed to the last blast; been tranced in the last calm. We have mustered our last round the capstan ; been rolled to grog the last time; for the last time swung in our hammocks; for the last time turned out at the sea-gull call of the watch. . . Hand-in-hand we topmates stand, rocked in our Pisgah-top. And over the starry waves, and broad out into the blandly blue, boundless night, spiced with strange sweets from the long-sought land—the whole long cruise predestinated ours, though often in tempest time we almost refused to believe in that far distant shore But hcre Melville begins to hold forth in his favourite mystical form, and so we shall break off.
Perhaps we have so far indicated our opinion of the merits and demerits of Ilerman Melville in the course of the foregoing remarks, that it is hardly necessary to state it in a more general way. Yet, in conclusion, we may sum up our estimate of this singular author in a few short sentences. He is a man
of genius-and we intend this word to be understood in its fullest literal sense-one of rare qualifications too; and we do not think there is any living author who rivals him in his peculiar powers of describing scenes at sea and sea-life in a manner at once poetical, forcible, accurate, and, above all, ori. ginal. But it is his style that is ori. ginal rather than his matter. He has read prodigiously on all nautical subjects-naval history, narratives of voyages and shipwrecks, fictions, &c. and he never scruples to deftly avail himself of these stores of information. He undoubtedly is an original thinker, and boldly and unreservedly expresses his opinions, often in a way that irresistibly startles and encbains the interest of the reader. He possesses amazing powers of expression-he. can be terse, copious, eloquent, brilliant, imaginative, poetical, satirical, pathetic, at will. He is never stupid, never dull; but, alas ! he is often mystical and unintelligible—not from any ing. bility to express himself, for his writing is pure, manly English, and a child can always understand what he says, but the ablest critic cannot always tell what he really means ; for he at times seems to construct beautiful and melodious sentences only to conceal his thoughts, and irritates his warmest admirers by his provoking, deliberate, wilful indulgence in wild and half-insane conceits and rhapsodies. These observations apply mainly to his latter works, “ Mardi" and "The Whale," both of which he seems to have com. posed in an opium dream ; for in no other manner can we understand how they could have been written.
Such is Herman Melville! a man of whom America has reason to be proud, with all his faults; and if he does not eventually rank as one of her greatest giants in literature, it will be owing not to any lack of inpate genius, but solely to his own incorrigible perver. sion of his rare and lofty gifts.