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Accordingly, as might have been expected from the combined stimulus of gain and of glory, some of the more airy and Elysian walks of literature are crowded almost to suffocation. Every broken lyre is brought out and hastily repaired—every minstrel that can find a string, or raise a note, is a candidate for the laurel. Never, I believe, were the lofty-dwelling Nine so hardly beset, both by the witty and the brainless; never, I am sure, was there a more breathless scrambling after the few wildflowers that still bloom in lonely sweetness far up
the sacred mount.' In a word, the broad surface of literature, every where presents a most imposing aspect of life, and buoyancy, and magnificence; as if the world had never been half so rich in taste, or ethereal in fancy, or lovely in elegance, or blest with talent before. Much of this, however, is mere pageantry and moonshine-a tremulous gilding, which will not endure the breath of near inspection. I am afraid, that notwithstanding all the clappings and gratulations of the day, the stream of Helicon is losing faster in depth, than it is gaining in breadth : for wbile the number of adventurers is rapidly increasing, and every
third or fourth man we meet has some favorite keel of his own on the stocks or afloat, it is chiefly small craft, that can never venture far from shore, though the painting and lettering may excite more admiration for a time, than the barnacled copper, and weather-beaten bulwarks of other centuries.
I do not mean to aver, that there is none of the good old English and Saxon stamina in the current literature of our times--that there is notbing issuing from the teeming presses of the nineteenth century, which will live and be admired in the twentieth. This would be carrying the matter too far. It is readily admitted, that some of
the sciences have been greatly advanced within the last thirty years—that useful inventions have been prodigiously multiplied; and that something has been done for the furtherance of enduring literature. But while in this department, there is more than enough of polishing and tricking out-of love, and hate, and piracy-of frowning castles, and border conflicts, and sleeping moonbeams, and star-reflecting waters--of sketching, rhyrning, stately poetical marching, and graceful limping on every leg—of break, and guise, and conceit:-it must be acknowledged that of deep, and patient, and productive thinking, this is not the age. The race of literary giants, who in the olden time' used to bring up such masses of shining ore from the many-fathomed mine, and to melt it down in their own furnaces, seems to be nearly extinct; or if a goodly number, approaching to the same stature and might, still remain, how few of them are willing to go down and labor in the depths, so long as they can find full and more lucrative employment in the sunshine? It is not because those rich veins are exhausted, which were once wrought by Milton, and Shakspeare, and Spenser; by Johnson, Addison, and Goldsmith, that the writers of our times so generally content themselves with what they can beg, and borrow, and pilfer at second or third hand, from the mighty dead; but because they will not take the trouble of carrying down the lamp, and using the drill and pick-axe with their own hands. It is truly humiliating to think, that while acres and leagues of the richest virgin ore might so easily be procured, by the present race of literary adventurers, they should so generally rest satisfied with the few shining particles they can pick up on the surface, and so laboriously keep their little kaleidoscopes in nrotion, to excite and prolong the marvelling
of the multitude! But such in point of fact, is the daily and nightly vocation, not only of a host of shallow pretenders, but of much real talent, which might, if industriously and skilfully directed, leave its own bright image upon the enduring monuments of taste and genius.
The unhappy influence of this superficial and fictitious literature, is beginning to be seriously felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of the ancient and venerable. landmarks, between regions which ought ever to be kept separate, have within these few years been thrown down and swept away by the highland torrents of Scotland, and the swelling surges on the south of the Tweed. Among certain classes of readers, novels, and romances, and amorous poetry, have long been in high and quick demand; but happily, the more sober and thinking of every class, have in time past, discouraged their circulation ; while the religious of all denominations, have affixed to them the seal of a determined prohibition. Till lately, it was well settled, in most pious families, what books were, and what books were not admissible. Fiction, in nearly all its forms, was prohibited, not merely on account of its moral blemishes, and unreal pictures of human life, but as tending in its very nature to enervate the youthful mind, and give it a disrelish for substantial and profitable reading.
Such were the barriers against licentiousness and frivolity, which the wisdom and piety of former times set up, and which turned off a thousand cart-loads of deleterious trash into other channels.
But how many of these barriers have, alas! been undermined and melted away, since the Bard of the North first struck his lyre, and the Noble Exile' laid open the heavings and throbbings of his own dark bosom, to the public gaze, The general
effect, which these writers have been so eminently instrumental in producing upon the public opinion and taste is prodigious. The rage for novelty, the demand for excitement, the call for historical fiction, and I may add, for the wildest extravagance, is truly astonishing. All the eyes and ears of the most wakeful curiosity are now on the alert, for some fresh intelligence from the masters of song, and the retailers of fiction. "Give, give, is now the never-ceasing cry from a thousand tongues.
Verily, this is, in Europe and America, the true Athenian age ; not the age of her arts and literature, but the age of her frivolous and insatiable curiosity. The grand object of most wlio pride themselves in the extent of their reading, and in their taste for elegant literature, is to tell or hear some new thing; or as it is in my motto, something newer, that is, something a little newer than the newest that has come to the knowledge of any body else. The following will, I trust, be recognised by the intelligent reader, as a fair representation of what daily passes in book-stores, circulating libraries and other resorts of idleness and fashion.-_- Have you seen Lord Byron's last tragedy? What a prodigious genius! I ordered the copy from London, and believe that it was the first that reached America. W—, however, is printing it, and his edition will be out on Friday. Shall we hear from him again, think you, while he stays in Italy ?'-'0 yes, such a mind can never slumber. The Noble Bard will not disappoint the thousands who he knows are listening for some newer and deeper tone from his lyre.' Scene changes. How do you like the last of the Waverly novels ?
For my part I think it superlative. So true to nature, so bewitching from beginning to end !
When you have once taken it up, you will find it impossible to lay it down, till the whole is finished. How delightful! It is said that this mighty magician has another series in great forwardness.'-Well, the more the better. But I have something still newer from Edinburgh. Walter Scott is writing a new poem, and it will soon be out.' • Is it possible? This is news indeed. I shall not rest till I can get hold of it. Such an author can never court the muses in vain. But while he writes poetry with one hand, let him keep dashing off prose with the other.' Scene shists again. Southey !--What has become of the Laureate ? He used to sing such wild and sweet airs. So highly gifted a poet ought to know, that the world can't afford to let him slumber. But the horizon of literature is brightening every day. New adventurers are rising into notice along all the walks of fancy and elegance. The voice of rumor from afar, already speaks enthusiastically of many new impressions which are forth-coming from the Scottish mint.' True, and no doubt they will be exquisite in their way; but why exhaust all praise upon foreign writers ? There is Bracebridge Hall, by our countryman Irving, which we have good reason to be proud of. Even the pensioned dissecters of London and Edinburgh, with all their prejudices and hatred against every thing American, can't help praising it.' Indeed we have a vast deal of native talent, which only needs encouragement, to rival the most gifted writers of fiction beyond the water. O how delightful it will be, when America shall furnish her thousand popular tales in a year! Such bright anticipations, are enough to make us all regret, that we were not born in an age or two later.'
Now this craving, this—what shall I call it—this lit