Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

in relation to any of the great subjects which affect the interests of our country and the world. On the contrary, we think it a duty to establish and support an opinion of our own, on every important question which relates to the general good. And, as we are convinced that we have a perfect right to think and speak as we choose, (paying proper regard always to decorum,) we cannot consistently deny the same privilege to others. On the whole, we do respect and shall respect all parties, so far as their conduct does and shall justify such deference; and therefore shall be willing to receive fair and well written articles on all controverted subjects of sufficient dignity and consequence to deserve the notice of the public.

In fine, having engaged the assistance of some of our best writers, with such matter as we propose the magazine shall contain, and without the aid of much fiction, or of mere fiction at all, we shall be disappointed if we cannot succeed both in interesting the imagination and improving the mind, without perverting the one or corrupting the other.

LIVING AMERICAN LITERATURE.

IN subsequent numbers of the Essayist, we propose to furnish, from one of the best sources, a series of essays upon the American Literature of the present day. They will be written chiefly in the form of philosophical and critical notices of the genius and productions of particular authors; and may of course be made to comprise, in this way, nearly everything which is valuable enough for distinct comment. Nor will our remarks be necessarily limited, in their application, to the individual concerned in each instance. We shall indeed endeavor to make them illustrative of his peculiar excellencies and his peculiar faults, as also to establish every position laid down by citations, sufficiently just and ample, without being superfluous and tedious. But it will inevitably be the case that the majority both of an author's good and bad qualities, will be found to be generic rather than anomalous; or, in other words, will be qualities belonging commonly and perhaps universally, in some degree, to the literature of the country. Thus we shall be able to ascertain the characteristics of the national mind, by analyzing the minds of individuals-merely adding to universal criticism the interest of personal portraiture.

Among the living American poets, we shall probably begin with those of the best-settled reputation, who are understood to have committed nearly all which they can do as to quality, and enough in quantity to be fair subjects of trial and verdict. Bryant is one of these. Percival, Pierpont, Halleck, Hillhouse, Neal, Sprague, Willis and Mrs. Sigourney are others. We might mention several more, but have hardly the assurance yet, to depend, with the certainty that greater definiteness would imply, upon one circumstance which is quite necessary to the success of the plan-our own existence. There will be time enough, however, for embracing many other names within our design, when we have done something like justice to those we have mentioned already.

We shall not, however, confine our attention to writers of poetry, the department in which the authors just named are almost exclusively distinguished. Large and respectable portions of our literature of the present day, even of the merely ornamental or elegant, are in prosc. Such, for instance, are several of the first and favorite works of Irving. Paulding and Flint are writers of the same class; and though the character of each of these, as an author, is peculiar in some degree to himself, we know of few minds in American literature which are worthy of a more critical examination, or will repay it with more interest.

We are not the less disposed, in the prosecution of this plan, to hope for success in the only point which we aim atusefulness from the circumstance, that although the writers and the works we propose to notice have been long known and widely read, they have been in many cases the subject only of general and vague comment. They are liked or disliked; they are said to succeed or to fail; to have written too much or too little; and a thousand other various opinions are pronounced in the same loose terms. But how seldom have the reasons been given, as they always should be, in these cases; how much has been and is decided by mere impression; and how much more satisfactory would it be for us who read, and how much more profitable for those who write, if the sources of success and failure were traced out, and the principles of style and genius peculiar to each case dissected and laid bare for the benefit of the student. Such will be the chief object of the following essays, and this we shall endeavor to keep always in sight, however far we may be from attaining it.

THE STAR OF THE SOUL.

FAINT as the glow-worm's fire,
Beam forth upon the night,
The pilot's certain changeless star,
And the seaman's silver light.

Yet are they dearer, far,

Than the buried wealth untold,
That strews the rills of Araby,

Or the Orman vales, with gold.

They point, through shade and storm,
From Heaven and from earth,
To many a weary wanderer,

His country-and the hearth,

Where young bright eyes shall greet him
With the joy of bursting tears;
And faded cheeks shall bloom again,
Paled with the grief of years.

And so, Hope's lofty light,

From the unseen stormy beach,
Over wind and wave, far out,

Its trembling gleam doth reach.

Yet, built on earth's low strand,
That light may only show
Where the fields of time are greenest,
And its flowers the fairest blow.

Oh! that to me one beam

Of the STAR, unveiled, were given;
The hope that hangs its flame divine
O'er the far high cliffs of heaven!

B. B. T.

PICTURE OF THE GAY WORLD.

THERE are some persons in society, who, like not a few sensitive authors of books, are startled by the thought of being subject to the scrutiny of one who will not flatter them; and think it uncharitable, if not impolite, for even a friend thoroughly to inspect their motives and conduct. That they are deceived as to their own interest and that of society in general, is sufficiently obvious; but to undeceive them is no easy task. They imagine that their views of the ends of life are more enlarged than those of any other portion of mankind; and you cannot convince them of the contrary, until that veil is torn from their

understanding, which is thrown over it by their predominent feeling, self-importance. Still, it is necessary that all orders of men should undergo a complete inspection; and I trust that the Essayist will maintain a bold as well as just stand in its criticisms on the manners and customs of society.

I have in my possession a valuable ancient book, which contains a picture of the gay world, worthy of being transferred to the pages of any periodical. Believing it to be unnecessary, in drawing pictures of life, to delineate traits which have been faithfully sketched by others, I do not hesitate to introduce this picture, taking the liberty to modify the language and sentiment so as to make them appropriate to the state of the world at the present time.

Among the fashionable part of mankind throughout christendom, there are in all countries persons, who, though they feel a just abhorrence to atheism and professed infidelity, yet have very little religion, and are found to be scarcely half believers in christianity, when their lives come to be looked into and their sentiments examined. What is chiefly aimed at in a refined education is, to procure as much ease and pleasure upon earth as that can afford. Therefore men are first instructed in all the various arts of rendering their behaviour agreeable to others, with the least disturbance to themselves. They are imbued with the knowledge of all the elegant comforts of life, as well as the lessons of human prudence, to avoid pain and trouble, in order to enjoy as much of the world, and with as little opposition, as it is possible. While thus men study their own private interest in assisting each other to promote and increase the pleasures of life in general, they find by experience, that to compass those ends, everything ought to be banished from conversation that can have the least tendency of making others uneasy; and to reproach men with their faults or imperfections, neglects or omissions, or to put them in mind of their duty, are offices that none are allowed to take upon themselves but parents or professed masters and tutors, nor even they before company. To reprove and pretend to teach others we have no authority over, is ill manners, even in a clergyman out of the pulpit; nor is he there to mention things that are melancholy or dismal, if he would pass for a polite preacher. But whatever we may vouchsafe to hear at church, the essentials of christianity are never to be talked of when we are out of it, among the most gay, upon any account whatever. The subject is not diverting. Besides, everybody is supposed to know those things, and to take care accordingly; nay, it is unmannerly to think otherwise. The

decency in fashion being the chief, if not the only rule most modish people walk by, not a few of them go to church and receive the sacrament, from the same principle that obliges them to pay visits to one another, and now and then to make an entertainment. But as the greatest care of the gay world is to be agreeable, and appear well bred, so most of them take particular care, and many against their consciences, not to seem burdened with more religion than it is fashionable to have; for fear of being thought to be either hypocrites or bigots.

Virtue, however, is a very fashionable word, and some of the most luxurious are extremely fond of the amiable sound, though they mean nothing by it but a great veneration for whatever is courtly or sublime, and an equal aversion to everything that is vulgar or unbecoming. They seem to imagine, that it chiefly consists in a strict compliance to the rules of politeness, and all the laws of honor that have any regard to the respect which is due to themselves. It is the existence of this virtue that is often maintained with so much pomp of words, and for the eternity of which so many champions are ready to take up arms: while the votaries of it deny themselves no pleasure they can enjoy, either fashionably or in secret; and, instead of sacrificing the heart to the love of real virtue, can only condescend to abandon the outward deformity of vice, for the satisfaction they receive from appearing to be well bred. It is counted ridiculous for men to commit violence upon themselves, or to maintain that virtue requires self-denial; many court philosophers are agreed, that nothing can be lovely or desirable, that is mortifying or uneasy. A civil behaviour among the fair in public, and a deportment inoffensive both in words and actions, is all the chastity the gay world requires in men. Whatsoever liberties a man gives himself in private, his reputation shall not suffer while he conceals his amours from all those who are not unmannerly inquisitive, and takes care that nothing criminal can ever be proved upon him. Si non caste saltem cautè is a precept that sufficiently shows what everybody expects; and though incontinence is owned to be a sin, yet never to have been guilty of it is a character which many single men under thirty would not be fond of, even among modest

women.

As the world everywhere, in compliment to itself, desires to be counted really virtuous, so barefaced vices, and all trespasses committed in sight of it, are heinous and unpardonable. To see a man drunk in the open street or any serious assem

« AnteriorContinua »