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They have a pastoral simplicity, gentleness, and repose, to which we turn with pleasure and refreshment, after our souls have been harrowed up by the appalling scenes of bis tragic representations. There is less of crime depicted in this than the other works, less of that awful machinery of Hell, which this artist has the power of blending so skilfully with his scenes of life, that we become superstitious as we gaze at them, and are ready to start like those who have heard ghoststories, fearing that the Great Enemy himself may be at the moment scowling upon us, or some ugly imp leering with eyes of malice upon our motions, or reading our thoughts.
Not less remarkable is the talent with which Retzsch portrays incidents of the deepest pathos ; scenes which combine the air of repose with sorrow so deep and heart-rending, that we feel as if we were gazing on Tragedy herself. Of this character are the representations of Ophelia, when she appears in her wild array of weeds and flowers, of Margaret and Faust, where the latter offers her the potion, of Margaret sitting alone before the spinning-wheel, of the wedding at the friar's cell in “Romeo and Juliet.”
A little change, and these smothered passions blaze out with a volcano's fury, and the deep moan of sorrow swells to the maddening cry of agony and despair. Such are the nightwalk of Lady Macbeth, the prayer of the king in “Hamlet," and of Margaret before the image of the Virgin, the prison scene of Margaret and Faust, and the parting of Romeo and Juliet in the morning.
With all these great and splendid powers, Retzsch combines a minuteness and fidelity in details, which are not less surprising. Nothing is omitted that can in any way contribute to the effect of a scene ; and, when we have received the general impression which any one of his representations produces, we may spend a long time in the study of the various parts of the picture, in which we shall not fail to discover many beautiful thoughts which greatly enhance the value of the work. There is a fertility and bountifulness in his conceptions, which remind us of the boundlessness of nature. For instance, in the Leipsic edition of the Illustrations of Hamlet, which lies before us, we find that, not content with the splendid array of scenery which he had created to adorn the thoughts of Shakspeare, he has added a picture for the title-page, or the outside cover, of such deep, calm, and solemn repose, that we look upon it after contemplating the heart-rending scenes of the tragedy, with the same emotion that a strain of soft and sad music would awaken. It represents a Gothic tomb or monument, on which is resting the form of Hamlet, composed in the sleep of death. Above, appears the dim visage of the royal Phantom. In Gothic niches, and beneath the overhanging canopies, are seen as supporters, on one side the effigies of the king and queen, their eyes closed in eternal sleep, and a hideous demon extending his claws above them as if to claim them for his own. On the other side, in the same position, and sleeping too in death, are the forms of Polonius and Ophelia. But a cherub is overshadowing them with his wings, and seems to invoke blessings on their heads. On the base of the tomb are seen two swords piercing a heart, and the picture of Hamlet absorbed in prayer. The whole piece breathes an air of solemnity and repose. The thrilling scenes of the drama are over; and the busy actors are sunk to rest. The diadem is now but worthless dross to him that wore it. Poor Ophelia's broken heart throbs no longer. The fiery spirit of Laertes is quenched. The night-walk on the castle platform, the grave-yard philosophy, and the fierce duel, are but a tale that is told ; and Hamlet's world-wearied soul, liberated from this mortal coil, has gone to seek that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns.*
We had much more to say upon the subject of engraving. A treatise on this subject is incomplete, which does not give the reader information with regard to the best artists both of the present day and of an earlier period in the various countries of Europe. We had intended also to speak of the state of the art in this country, which would have led to some re
* Since this article was prepared, we have obtained Relzsch's fourth work on Shakspeare, comprising illustrations of King Lear. The power of the artist does not flag in this most difficult task. The scenes are of a more stirring and high-wrought character than prevails in most of his previous works; and, while he has done justice to the energy with which they were conceived by the great master, he has very skilfully avoided the exaggeration and ranting into which the subject would tend to lead him. We have always thought that the painting of Lear by West, in the Boston Atheneum, is marked somewhat strongly with these faults, conveying the idea of stage effect. The scene of Lear recognising Cordelia is, perhaps, the most exquisite in this volume of illustrations. We are almost at a loss to describe the effect produced upon our feelings in contemplating these powerful delineations. Could the storm of agitated, sublime, and frightful dreams, with its occasional intervals of soothing vision, be embodied visibly, it seems as if such forms as these illustrations would be taken.
marks upon wood engraving. Upon this, we will, at present, only observe, that a very excellent essay upon wood engraving appeared in a late number of the London and Westminster Review"; particularly valuable by being illustrated by specimens. The American re-publishers have had the sagacity to print the essay without the illustrations, which is about as wise as representing the tragedy of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet left out by particular request.
Art. V. - North American Herpetology; or a Description
of the Reptiles inhabiting the United States. By John EDWARDS HOLBROOK, M.D., Professor of Anatomy in the Medical College of the State of South Carolina, Member of the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh, &c. &c. 4to. Philadelphia : J. Dobson. Vol. I. 1836. Vol. II. 1839. pp. 120 and 125.
When we learned, several years since, that Dr. Holbrook was preparing a complete work upon the Reptiles of this country, we were forcibly impressed with the magnitude of the undertaking, and the difficulties which would unavoidably accompany its prosecution. Aware, however, of his longcontinued investigations and indefatigable industry, we anxiously awaited the publication of the first volume, confident that it would be creditable to its author. It more than realized our sanguine expectations. In less than two years after its appearance, a second volume has issued from the press. Invaluable as the work is to the American herpetologist, we regret to find that it has as yet attracted little attention ; a circumstance, which makes it the more imperative upon us to express, in some detail, our sense of its great merit.
The first volume opens with a chapter upon the “organization of reptiles,” in which the organs of digestion, absorption, circulation, and respiration, together with their physiology, the structure of the nervous system, and of the organs of sense, are treated somewhat at length; and, while the accuracy of the observations will be observed with delight by the scientific naturalist, the clear and interesting manner in which the subject is elucidated cannot but afford to the general reader
VOL. XLIX. — No. 104.
equal pleasure and improvement. The portion relating to the senses, particularly, is highly instructive.
Under the head of “ Digestive Organs,” our author observes, when speaking of the esophagus,
“In some of the Chelonian animals, there are many horny points in the esophagus, directed backwards or towards the stomach, which may be useful in preventing the escape of food." -- Vol. 1. p. 16. He has probably never had opportunity to examine that curious and very rare tortoise, the Sphargis coriacea, or leather tortoise, a specimen of which, more than seven feet in length, was, in the year 1824, captured asleep upon the surface of the water in Massachusetts Bay. This is the only specimen we have ever known to have been taken on the coast of the United States. Upon dissection, its csophagus was found to be thickly studded not merely with “ horny points,” but with large, very strong, horny spines, some of which were two inches in length.
In the observations upon the organ of taste, we find the following sentence,
“ All reptiles have a tongue, varying, however, greatly in its shape, organization, and mode of attachment, but certainly having little claim to be considered as an organ of taste.”p. 38.
Had our author remarked, that all reptiles had organs of taste, we should not feel called upon to refer to this statement. But having recently had the good fortune to meet with a genus, the Pipa, one of whose characters, as pointed out by Laurenti, is, the "absence of a tongue,” we are bound to point out an exception to his remarks. In the specimens of the Pipa (Rana pipa, L.) sent to the Boston Society of Natural History, the last season, from Surinam, by Dr. Craigin of that place, not the slightest rudiment of a tongue can be perceived.
The first volume of the work before us contains descriptions of twenty-three species, all accompanied with figures drawn from living specimens, one third of which were previously unknown to the naturalist. Every species is very minutely described, its geographical limits pointed out, and its habits elucidated, oftentimes with great perspicuity, awakening uncommon interest in the mind of the reader. Much labor is likewise bestowed in settling the synonymes, than
which nothing could more facilitate the studies of the herpetologist. A similar plan is pursued, throughout the volume, with regard to the arrangement of the descriptions; and, although some of course extend to a considerably greater length than others, they are all so minute and comprehensive that they could not be mistaken, even were they not illustrated by the faithful and beautiful plates.
The first animal described is the Testudo polyphemus ; the only species of Testudo yet known in the United States. Having pointed out its specific characters, Dr. Holbrook thus portrays its habits.
“They select dry and sandy places, are generally found in troops, and are very abundant in pine barren countries. They are gentle in their habits, living entirely on vegetable substances ; they are fond of the sweet potato, (Convolvulus Batatas,) and at times do much injury to gardens, by destroying melons, as well as bulbous roots, &c. &c. In the wild state they are represented as nocturnal animals, or as seeking their food by night ; when domesticated, and I have kept many of them for years, they may be seen grazing at all hours of the day. When first placed in confinement, they chose the lowest part of the garden, where they could most easily burrow; this spot being once overflowed by salt water, in a high spring tide, they migrated to the upper part, nearly eighty yards distant, and prepared anew their habitations. They seldom wandered far from their holes, and generally spent part of the day in their burrows. They delighted in the sun in mild weather, but could not support the intense heat of our summer noons ; at those hours they retreated to their holes, or sought shelter from the scorcbing rays of the sun, under the shade of broad-leaved plants; a tanyer, (Arum esculentum,) that grew near their holes, was a favorite haunt. They could not endure rain, and retreated hastily to their burrows, or to other shelter, at the coming on of a shower. As winter approached, they confined themselves to the immediate neighbourhood of their holes, and basked in the sunshine ; as the cold increased, they retired to their burrows, where they became torpid ; a few warm days, however, even in winter, would again restore them to life and activity.” — pp. 44, 45.
The next three species are beautiful Emydæ, sent by Professor Troost to the author, from the western rivers, to which are given the appropriate names of hieroglyphica, megacephala, and Troostii. But little more than a simple