페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

The scene of this new “American novel” is laid in Madame de Rémusat have rendered familiar to all Washington, and the author has evidently enjoyed the world. exceptional opportunities for getting behind the Such books may afford amusement of an acrid scenes as well as before the footlights. Its hero is a sort and “ Democracy” is extremely amusing—but Senator, compounded of the worst characteristics of it is doubtful if their reformatory value is any greater several well-known Senators living and dead; and, than that of other methods which are mercilessly while intensely disgusted with the entire “ dance of ridiculed in it. Democracy” as exhibited at the seat of government, it is against the Senate that the author appears to feel the bitterest animosity. Here is a characteristic

PREPARED as an introduction to the new subpassage : “A certain secret jealousy of the British scription edition of Irving's works, Mr. Charles Minister is always lurking in the breast of every Dudley Warner's essay on Washington Irving has American Senator, if he is truly democratic; for been combined with Mr. Bryant's well-known orademocracy, rightly understood, is the government of tion, and with a chapter of reminiscences by the the people, by the people, for the benefit of Sena- late Mr. G. P. Putnam, and issued in a separate tors, and there is always a danger that the British volume for the benefit of those who are already proMinister may not understand this political principle vided with satisfactory editions of Irving.* Regardas he should.” This comes early in the story ; at a ed as a general introduction to the Irving literature, later stage the author is too angry to be epigram- Mr. Warner's essay appears to better advantage than matic, and vents her contempt in this style: “Every when regarded as an independent essay or study. It one remarked how much he [Ratcliffe, the hero of brings together in convenient form the well-known the story] was improved since entering the Cabinet. facts of Irving's career; it arranges them in an aniHe had dropped his senatorial manner. His clothes mated and pleasing narrative ; and it comments upon were no longer congressional, but those of a re

the successive productions of Irving's genius in a spectable man, neat and decent. His shirts no

manner which will prove helpful to the reader who longer protruded in the wrong places, nor were his

comes to them unprepared by previous reading ; but shirt-collars frayed or soiled. His hair did not stray it contributes nothing fresh to our knowledge of over his eyes, ears, and coat like that of a Scotch Irving, in the way either of biographical fact or of terrier, but had got itself cut. Having overheard critical interpretation. A fair summary of its qualiMrs. Lee express on one occasion her opinion of ties will be given when we say that as biography it people who did not take a cold bath every morning, is very good indeed; and that as criticism it is rohe had thought it best to adopt this reform, although bustly sensible and appreciative, but not to our sense he would not have had it generally known, for it delicately discriminating. Mr. Bryant's “ Discourse savored of caste. He made an eftort not to be dic

on the Life, Character, and Genius of Washington tatorial, and to forget that he had been the Prairie Irving," delivered before the New York Historical Giant, the bully of the Senate. In short, what with Society in 1860, a few months after Irving's lamentMrs. Lee's influence and what with his emancipation ed death, is a well-known performance, and ranks from the Senate-chamber with its code of bad man

among the happiest efforts of its author. It is ad. ners and worse morals, Mr. Ratcliffe was fast be- mirable both as oratory and as criticism, and concoming a respectable member of society whom a

tains the germs of much that Mr. Warner has worked man who had never been in prison or in politics out with more elaboration. Mr. Putnam's “ Recolmight safely acknowledge as a friend."

lections of Irving" are somewhat meager and tenuThis passage, whose malice is so great as to de

ous, but are interesting as far as they go, and add feat its own object, will serve to explain if not to

some intimate domestic touches to the portrait of the justify our estimate of the book. Its cleverness can

gentle author. The book, as a whole, is one which not be denied-is very remarkable, in fact ; but more than cleverness will hardly be conceded to it. The

readers of Irving's works will be glad to have at

hand. satire is pungent, at times poignant, but after all the

It is in no small degree creditable to result is vituperation rather than delineation-it is as if little Miss Mowcher had set herself to portray

“Gath" and to journalism that, in the midst of his the " nobility and gentry” with whose superficial exacting labors as a “Washington correspondent,” foibles she was so volubly familiar

. Moreover, in he has found the time and the inclination to produce spite of its aristocratic air of cosmopolitan ease and

a series of sketches so imaginative, so romantic, so man-of-the-world experience, there is more than a

genial in sentiment, and so picturesque in descripsuspicion of callowness about it—of that state of tion as the “ Tales of the Chesapeake.” + Most of mind which it has become fashionable to characterize these tales, as we gather from the brief prefatory as “provincial.” The author evidently supposes note, have previously appeared in different forms ; that the “Court" at Washington is the only Court where dullness, and vapid routine, and vulgar dis- William Cullen Bryant, and George Palmer Putnam.

* Studies of Irving. By Charles Dudley Warner, play have been the rule ; thus revealing not only a New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 8vo, pp. 159. lack of opportunity for personal comparisons, but a + Tales of the Chesapeake. By George Alfred lack of acquaintance with historical facts which Townsend (“Gath"). With Portrait. New York: Saint-Simon, and De Tocqueville, and Taine, and American News Company. 16mo, pp. 285.

but for most readers probably, as for ourselves, they party of emigrants for that distant region.” This will possess the charm of novelty, in addition to that passage is a fairly accurate summary both of the aumore lasting charm which comes from their fine and thor's character and of the reminiscences of his long distinct literary flavor. Of the twenty-seven pieces and adventurous life. Born on the borders when which the little book contains, fourteen, including the “ border” was still east of the Mississippi, Mr. the highly poetic and graceful “Introduction," are Burnett led the advancing wave of population first in verse—the rest being in prose, which itself not to Missouri, then by ox-cart across the continent to seldom“

werges on the poetical,” as Mr. Wegg Oregon, where he was one of the earliest settlers, would say. Nearly all, both in prose and verse, are and then to California when the discovery of gold suffused with that local color which constitutes a summoned thither all such bold and adventurous principal charm of such writing, and some possess spirits; and the author is not mistaken in thinking the genuine legendary flavor. The Eastern Shore that the record of his own life throws valuable light of Maryland would soon become classic ground upon the history of the Western and Pacific States. under such treatment; and even Washington takes The “Recollections” are somewhat rambling and on a new and more winning aspect when contem- discursive in subject and style, but in general they plated from the view-point of “ Crutch, the Page.” are highly readable. The author is particularly To everything that he touches, Mr. Townsend im- goud at telling a story, and his narrative of the parts a certain imaginative heightening; and those Donner Lake tragedy contains details which we have who are not convinced by his “ Introduction " that not seen in any previous version. he is a genuine poet should turn to his closing verses ... The Napoleon “boom," to borrow a phrase on “Old St. Mary's." The charm of this latter from t'ie political vocabulary, is not likely to suggest piece is indescribably romantic, caressing, and ten. a more interesting revival than that of the “Memoirs der, as witness the following stanza :

of Napoleon, his Court and Family," * by the DuchA fruity smell is in the schoolhouse lane ;

ess d’Abrantes, which have been long out of print The clover bees are sick with evening heats; and are practically unknown to the present generaA few old houses from the window-pane

tion of readers. 'The Duchess enjoyed very excepFling back the flame of sunset, and there beats tional opportunities for such work as she undertook, The throb of oars from basking oyster fleets,

and though her “Memoirs " seldom rise above the And clangorous music of the oyster-tongs

level of chit-chat and gossip, yet they deal with such Plunged down in deep bivalvulous retreats,

a throng of illustrious personages, and with such And sound of seine drawn home with negro songs.

momentous events, that their interest and value are . . In the preface to his “Recollections and scarcely impaired by the lack of literary skill on the Opinions of an Old Pioneer," * Mr. Peter H. Bur- part of the author. It is particularly interesting to nett, the author, says: “I was born a pioneer, as compare them on certain points with the recently Nashville at the date of my birth was but a small published "Memoirs of Madame de Rémusat.” The village, and Tennessee a border-State, but thinly Duchess retained to the last those generous illusions populated. I have been a pioneer most of my life ; regarding Napoleon which were dissipated after a and whenever, since my arrival in California, I have time by Madame de Rémusat's more piercing vision; seen a party of immigrants with their ox-teams and and she presents the other side—the rose-color aswhite-sheeted wagons, I have been excited, have pect—of those traits and occurrences which Madame felt younger, and was for the moment anxious to de Rémusat criticises with such asperity. Read tomake another trip. If the theory of Symmes had gether, the two versions furnish the needful correcbeen proven by time to be true, and had a fine and tion to each other, and enhance each other's interest: accessible country been discovered at the north or the masculine vigor and conciseness of Madame de south pole before I attained the age of sixty, I Rémusat being aduirably complemented by Mashould have been strongly tempted to organize a dame Junot's copious and picturesque embroidery.

* Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer. By * Memoirs of Napoleon, his Court and Family. By Peter H. Burnett, First Governor of the State of Cali- the Duchess d'Abrantes (Madame Junot). In Two Vol. fornia. New York: D. Appleton & Company. 12mo, New York: D. Appleton & Co. 12mo, pp. 588, pp. 448.

548.

umes.

« 이전계속 »