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and terrible passions.” Strong, his passions undoubtedly were; but he early gained the mastery over them, and held them firmly under control; or if he did occasionally give way to them, still it. is false that they were ever intemperate, utterly false that they were ever so exhibited as to merit the epithet “terrible.” It is impossible to point to a single circumstance in his whole life that will warrant the term. It stands, a miserable slander against the canonized fame of our Washington. But then, in both these instances, a point is made,-the darling main-chance duly cared for, the sacred “ad captandum” principle enforced,—even though Washington's character be sacrilegiously befouled. We use no mincing terms; we say sacrilege ' And it is no mitigation of the evil to plead the haste, or the recklessness, or the ignorance, of its author. For if a noble temple is to be defaced, let it be by civilized and refined men who will bear away its treasures, its stately columns, its works of art, and set them up for separate admiration in distant lands; but Heaven avert the blind inroads of Goths and Wandals! But if, in the delineation of Washington's youth and early manhood, he has shorn him of his characteristic and peculiar greatness, and appareled him in the garb of a mere hero, he has visited no less injury upon his maturer years. Those rare virtues and rarer qualities of mind whose just harmony distinguish him from all others, and have invested his memory with a sanctity which years do not impair, are all passed heedlessly over. And if this great man were to be adjudged upon the traits and incidents that are here recorded of him, he would dwindle away to the populous level of those brave soldiers and good generals who have graced every clime and country, and every period of time. The whiteness of Washington's fame is sullied, and his symmetrical character defaced, by qualities that find their rise in the mind of his pseudo . historian. Assaying to paint a character which he understood not, and with which he had scarcely a sympathy in common, he has aspersed and blackened it—supplanting Washington's massive principles and statuesque passions by his own flippant and petty emotions. With the qualifications of a bricklayer he would dare to reform the faults of a Venus de Medici; and, while he mars its beauty and deforms its symmetry, would chuckle complacently over his success.
We have casually remarked upon the hot haste with which Mr. Headley passes over the period of Washington's youth, and his failure or neglect to illustrate it. With the exception of his sketch of Putnam, and perhaps of Greene, this complaint stands against every character he has ventured to describe. To have dwelt upon
the youth of the noble founders of our country; to have witnessed the gradual unfolding of their characteristics, their tempers, and their affections; to have marked the incidents which swayed or directed their tastes and principles; to have shown in what manner
“The child was father to the man;”
would have been delightful and instructive, and would have gone far to redeem the bustling, animal tendencies of his writings. But this would have required skill and care, and a studious investigation of human nature; above all, it would have cost time—and so it was left undone. Beyond the history of some ordinary adventure or idle prank, which had no bearing upon future character; aside from a mere mention of the phrase, “early youth,” that most important season of life is entirely forgotten or disregarded. Moultrie first appears upon the stage at the age of thirty; Knox's eighteenth year and Lincoln's twenty-second, Lee's twenty-fourth and Stark's twenty-seventh, are the starting-points of their history. Nor is this course pursued with these only; it is the same with Marion and Morgan, with Sterling, Sullivan, Clinton, and several others. And so the sympathies of our youth are permitted to slumber; neither their virtues nor their exertions are stimulated by the detail of worthy examples. Thus, then, we are unable to commend Mr. Headley's writings to our countrymen as models upon which to form either their style or their sentiments. As to the former, we must pronounce them crude, gaudy, and flaunting—averring that they bear the same relation to any acknowledged standard of literary excellence, that the flaming red and yellow prints of the toyshops do to the productions of high art. Hasty, sketchy, and superficial, they require no outlay of thought on the part of the reader, as they certainly did not from the writer; are unfavorable to those habits of study and application which we are used to bestow upon the grave matters they discuss; and are, at the same time, clogged with errors of judgment, perversions of fact, unfounded opinions, and inconsiderate assertions. Copious, fluent, and florid, they intoxicate the youthful mind and relax it, superinducing depraved tastes, and ministering to that unsubstantiality which is so large an ingredient of our na tional character, and of which such writings are themselves the spumy offspring and true type. Flippant and loquacious, they cause the cultivated reader to exclaim, with the perplexed and teased character in Ben Jonson's Poetaster,<
“She told me I should surely never perish
The hectic fever, cough, nor pleurisie,
Such is our judgment upon this writer's style, while we consider his productions even more faulty in sentiment. Inculcating a blind worship of the war-god, they advance the warrior before all others, bidding statesmen, poets, and philosophers, succumb before him; and they hail war as the grand medicamentum that is to cure all ills, alleviate all burdens, procure all reforms, remedy all distress. And so the veil is removed from before the hideous demon whose throne is built upon human skulls. Meantime, lest our manhood should come to be affrighted at its hellish hue, we are to be accustomed in our youth to gaze familiarly upon its glaring eyes and haggard countenance; and even “smooth-faced, glorious boyhood,” is encouraged to toy with its ensanguined blade, and to contemplate with curious eyes its direful ravages. We believe this teaching to be heretical. We affirm that it effaces God's image from the soul of man, and that its prevalence among a people will render them tumultuous and blood-thirsty, will drain the land of its best blood, and will lay desolate many a paternal heart. We believe, moreover, that this teaching is time-serving; that it was carefully calculated to chime in with the high-strung sensibilities of our nation; and that it panders to the appetites of a people who are but too ready to embrace this “monster with the deadly sting.” And while we deprecate the frantic eagerness with which they lap up news of battle and of bloodshed, we denounce as unwise, impolitic, and unchristian, all attempts to soften down the fiendish features of this demon, all efforts to blind men's eyes to his primitive ugliness, or to accustom, and thus reconcile, them to his detestable passions. For we call to mind the fabling wisdom of an old poet, and read that familiarity will rob the most frightful object of its terrors:– “For the fox, When he saw first the forest's king, the lion, Was almost dead with fear; the second view Only a little daunted him; the third, He durst salute him boldly.” We have dwelt with particular emphasis upon the moral tendency of Mr. Headley's writings, because they are intended for, and will be universally read by, the youth of our country. These are impulsive; their passions are yet in excess, and their reasoning Wol. VIII.-7
faculties dormant. They are prone to admire broad and startling masses of color, rather than a just harmony of parts; and are more powerfully attracted by dazzling, though evil, actions, than by such as are momentous or meritorious. They reverence the hand that executes more than the head that plans; the animal more than the man. Their appetites are yet chaotic, and they devour the evil and the good indiscriminately; careless or ignorant that the former, being more congenial to their nature than the latter, is correspondingly powerful also. Moreover, this is their “white paper age,” susceptible to every impression, whether of beauty or deformity. Now we are so old-fashioned as to believe that, as the neophyte in painting or sculpture diligently studies the best works of the greatest masters; as he lavishes his time in search of their perfections, and educates his tastes and elevates his nature by the contemplation of their masterpieces—thus molding himself in the love of beauty and grandeur, till they become fixed properties of his soul—so the plastic mind of youth should be also molded in the love and admiration of wisdom, honor, and virtue : so taught to recognize these steadfast principles from their counterfeits, and to elect them as their guides. For we would have the minds of the young cultivated in such wise that they will instinctively reject vice, however gilded, and as instinctively prefer virtue, however modest. We would instill a repugnance for the former similar to that which we feel for the bloated spider or venomous snake, and a love for the latter such as every child has for flowers.
We take leaye of Mr. Headley without touching upon the differences between Mr. Lippard and himself—being contented with the remark, that as the teaching of the one and its tendencies are justly liable to the severest censure, so is it with the other also. They both beat about for vicious excitements to taste, with the eager solicitude of professed romance writers: both exhaust their inventive powers in evoking taking titles, and torture their ingenuity in the effort after startling and vivid descriptions: and both belong to the throng of petty writers who obstruct the growth of a sound national literature, by taking forcible possession of the popular mind—preoccupying it, to the disparagement of more elevated authors. It may be urged, in the “cant” of the day, that the writings of these gentlemen are “purely American ;” American in their tendencies, style, and mode of thought. But are they more so than the works of Chief Justice Marshall, Professor Sparks, or Mr. Bancroft 2 We opine not. These eminent men have treated upon our revolutionary history with the severity and dignity appropriate to a topic so elevated; and while they maintain and exemplify American character, they are yet cosmopolitan—under stood and appreciated the world over. They have labored earnestly in the highest walk of art, eschewing all trickery and legerdemain. Like the noble paintings of our countrymen, West and Allston, their works will live “for aye;” when the showy canvass of feebler artists shall have passed away into decay and forgetfulneSS.
ART. W.-An American Dictionary of the English Language: eachibiting the Origin, Orthography, Pronunciation, and Deftnition of Words. By Noah WEBstER, LL.D. Abridged from the quarto edition of the author. To which are added, A Synopsis of Words differently pronounced by different Orthoepists; and Walker's Key to the Classical Pronunciation of Greek, Latin, and Scripture Proper Names. Revised and enlarged by CHAUNCEY A. GoodRich, Professor in Yale College. With the Addition of a Vocabulary of modern Geographical Names, with their Pronunciation. One volume, royal octavo. Pp. 1400. New-York: Harper & Brothers. 1847.
NINETEEN years have elapsed since Dr. Webster's great work was first completed and given to the world. It was, literally, the labor of a life, and of a life, too, extended beyond the ordinary limits, and industriously occupied beyond that of most other men. Soon after the author left college, when he had just published his Spelling Book—a work of which twenty-four millions of copies have now been printed—he was advised by a literary friend to undertake the preparation of an English dictionary, suited to the wants and institutions of our country. At that time he felt himself wholly inadequate to the task proposed. But the suggestion seems never afterward to have been absent from his mind; and from this period the study of the English language became the favorite, and, during much of his time, the absorbing pursuit of his life. Soon after this period he prepared an extensive course of lectures on this subject, which were delivered in the principal cities of the United States, and gave him a high reputation, as a philologist and scholar, among those devoted to similar studies, or who took an interest in them. During his subsequent employment as a member of the legal profession, and afterward, when, for a time, he was the conductor of a public journal, his philological studies were never relinquished. He was steadily accumulating materi