Page images
PDF
EPUB

AMERICAN WRITERS:

No. IV.

FARCES.-About a dozen or twenty element the true elixir vito-which, sober, childish, or disagreeable "en- in its rectified state, becomes the elixir tertainments have been produced, in of immortality~" that is to say"the United States of America-by the poetry.—We would advise him to try natives--within the memory of man, once more ; give the public another we believe-under this title; but, in dose ; and, if they won't have it with almost every case, with such a serious, out-pinch their noses for them, till reasonable, or cautious, untimely air, they are glad enough to swallow itthat, when they came to be perform- critics or not. ed, people who were not in the sea The poetical ore, by the way, in Dr cret--nor concerned in any way, with, F. may be estimated-safely--thus or for, the piece,-knew not whether 6 parts fire : 2 earth : 1 lead : 1 pure to laugh or cry.

gold. The truth is, that our Transatlans Yes-let him try again. Let him tic brethren-fruitful, as they cer- sink a shaft—not himself-in some tainly are, in a sort of stubborn oddity other place-not in Philadelphia--that ma kind of unmalleable humour; Quaker“ ATHENS.” It is too low and abounding, as they certainly do, in flat for him, there: he will find little what may be called respectable absur- or nothing but cold water-dirty wadities have nothing outrageous in ter, perhaps-go as deep as he may, their nature; little or no raw mate into that land of accretion; where there rial, of their own, for generous, broad, is nothing primitive, but a few Quarich caricature ; no humour, worth kers-nothing solid, or heavy, but a working up; no delicious drollery ; few purses, and a few heads--nothing little or nothing, in themselves, or rich or valuable, under the surface; their habits, for good-natured misre- that alluvial district, where everything presentation. The farces, in America, but wreck and rubbish, driftwood, therefore, without one exception, are or animal remains-like those of the made, by English workmen, of Eng- Port-Folio-and some other antedilulish-or British material and per- vian shell-fish-are secondary. Let formed, in almost every case, by Eng- him do this, in some other place lishmen. Our friends, over the wa- among the mountains; work hard, in ter, in this part of their practice, there the granite region ; build a better furfore, not only steal our brooms ready nace; begin altogether anew ; sweat, made-but people to use them—which like a good fellow, over the anvil we take to be a great“ improvement,” shut his eyes to everything else-neias they would call it, of Joe Millar. ther sleep nor doze, while the fire is in The French pieces, which appear in blast. If he follow our advice, we will America, are always

in our translations, answer for his “ turning out a piece after they have been adopted here.-- of workmanship, after all, of which See Drama, Vol. XVI. p. 567. his country may be proud.

FARMER-DR :-A young physi. FESSENDEN-DR:(we believe.)-A cian, who wrote-some five or six years

“ has been" of "American literature" ago-some five or six-(we mean to --so called : author of a poem or two be very bitter, now, of course-very) - so called: and, among others, which -some five or six downright, Phi- had a prodigious run, for a time, of ladelphia poems. Nevertheless-in Terrible Tractoration;" a parcel of mercy—that we may not break his stuff, in poor doggrel, about Perkins, heart, altogether-drive him stark, the man, who, some twenty-five years staring mad-we must allow him a ago, more or less, cured people of al. word or two of comfort, after this-a most everything-head-ache-lamespoonful of syrup-a lump of sugar-ness,-cash,-rheumatism, - fever,to quiet him.

common sense-on both sides of the He has, really, some good stuff, in water, with two small pieces of metal, his nature : some ore, worth coining: which went by the name of “ metal-a little (the stronger, perhaps, for lic points,” or “ tractors.” The wise being so little)--of that fiery, strange men of America, by the way, were

[ocr errors]

quite as foolish, credulous, and absurd, hundred others might have done ; each as ours. They made up their full with more genius ; more fervour ; quota of believers : like the French, more eloquence; and more brilliancy. while the wonders of animal magnet- He was born of English parents, in ism were the “ go:" like ourselves, Boston, Massachusetts, New England, now that craniology, etc. etc. are the about 1706, we believe. When a lad, creed of the orthodox.

he ran away to Philadelphia. After a Dr F. is a good prose writer ; but long course of self-denial, hardship, about as much of a poet, as-as-now and wearying disappointment, which for it!-as the multiplication table, or nothing but his frugal, temperate, cou Jeremy Bentham's own self.” He rageous good sense carried him through, is the editor of some village newspa- he came to be successively—a jourper, now; the prose part of which, is neyman printer, (or pressman, rather, really worth reading ; but his poetry on account of his great bodily strength,) -God forgive us for calling any dog- —in a London printing-office;* -edigrel, poetry-although “ five lines tor and publisher, at home, in Philawere a day's work with him”_is- delphia, of many papers, which had a d

prodigious influence on the temper of FRANKLIN-Dr BENJAMIN. Of his countrymen ;-agent, for certain of this extraordinary man, we could say the colonies, to this government; -an much, that would be new to his coun- author of celebrity ;-a philosopher, trymen ; but, our limits will not per- whose reputation has gone over the mit of our doing it, worthily, now. whole of the learned world-continuWe shall confine ourselves, therefore, ally increasing, as it went ;-a very to a few remarks; one or two short able negotiator ;-a statesman ;-a anecdotes ; and a faithful account, of minister plenipotentiary to France, of his philosophical pretensions. His whose king he obtained, while the Life, partly written by himself, is, os Bourbons were in their glory—by his should be in the hands of every young great moderation, wisdom, and repubperson. It is a plain, homely narra- lican address, a treaty, which enabled tive ; remarkable for candour, since- our thirteen colonies of North Ameririty, and good common sense. The ca to laugh all the power of Great Bristyle is clear, strong, and simple.

tain, year

after year, to scorn ;-yes. His Philosophical, Moral, Political, and all these things, did Benjamin and Humorous Essays, are pretty well Franklin, by virtue alone, of his good known. A word or two, however, concerning each class--by way of correct- He died, in 1790, “ full of years, ing certain errors, which are continue and full of honours;" the pride and ally repeated.

glory of that empire, the very foundaThe leading property of Dr Frank- tions of which, he had assisted in laylin's mind-great as it was—the fa- ing ;-the very corner-stone of which, culty, which made him remarkable, he had helped in to the appointed and set him apart from other men ;- place, with his own powerful hands. the generator, in truth, of all his He was one of the few—the priesthood power-was good sense-only plain, of liberty—that stood up, undismayed, good sense-nothing more.

He was

unmoved, while the ark of their salvanot a man of genius ; there was no tion thundered, and shook, and lightbrilliancy about him ; little or no fer- ened in their faces ;-putting all of vour; nothing like poetry, or elo- them, their venerable hands upon it, quence: and yet-by the sole, unti- nevertheless ; and abiding the issue, ring, continual operation of this hum- while the “ DECLARATION OF INDEble, unpretending quality of the mind; PENDENCE” went forth, like the noise he came to do more, in the world of of trumpets, to the four corners of the science ; more, in council ; more, in earth. He lived, until he heard a warthe cabinets of Europe, more, in the like flourish echoing through all the revolution of empires, (uneducated great solitudes of America—the roar or self-educated, as he was,) than five of battle, on every side of him-all

common sense.

The very press, at which he worked, is now in the possession of Messrs Cox and Baylis_GREAT QUEEN'S STREET, Lincoln's-Inn-FIELDS-ncar the place where Dr F. worked. Vol. XVII.

G

now.

Europe in commotion--her over-peo- The troubles had already begun, there. pled empires riotous with a new spirit One day, he went before the Privy -his country quietly taking her place Council, as agent, with a petition from among the nations. What more could the assembly of Massachusetts; or, he wish ?-Nothing. It was time to more carefully speaking-one day, give up the ghost.

when a petition from the provincial asHe was a great-and, of course-a sembly of Massachusetts-Bay, already good man. We have but few things to presented by him, was taken up. He lay, seriously, to his charge-very was treated with great indignity-infew: and, after all, when we look about sulted-grossly abused, by the Solicius; recollecting, as we do, the great tor General, Wedderbourne. He bore good which he has done, everywhere; it, without any sign of emotion. All the little mischief that he has done eyes were upon him. No change, or the less than little, that he ever media shadow of change, went over his face. tated, anywhere-in all his life-to the His friends were amazed at his forcause of humanity—we have no heart bearance. They wondered at his equa-We confess it-again to speak un- nimity—they were almost ready to rekindly of him. The evil that Benja- proach him for it. Such untimely selfmin Franklin did, in the whole of his command could only proceed from infourscore years—and upward of life difference to the great cause-or-so -was, in comparison with his good they thought--from a strange moral works, but as dust in the balance. insensibility. On his way from the

In his personal appearance, a few place of humiliation, they gathered years before his death, he was very about him. He stopped-he stood much like Jeremy Bentham, as he is, still—his manner-look-voice-were

those of a man, who has quietly conIn his moral temperament, he was centrated every thought, every hope, altogether one of the old-fashioned under heaven-all his energies upon Yankees-or New Englanders--for a single point.-"HIS MASTER SHALL they only are Yankees: one of that pe- PAY FOR IT,” said he, and passed on. culiar people, who are somewhat over The other circumstance grew out of zealous of good works. Like his the same affair. As a mark of especial countrymen, he was cool, keen, firm, consideration, for the Privy Council, cautious, and benevolent: a man of few the Doctor appeared before them, in a words; yet able, nevertheless, with a superb dress, after the court fashion part of those few—hardly more than a of the time. He wore it bravely-he dozen, or twenty, at one time to over- looked uncommonly well in it. Findthrow all opposition---quiet a long de- ing, however, that his courtly garb, bate-shame the talkative, and silence thus chosen, thus worn, had been of the powerful-in the state assembly, no avail, as a refuge or shelter, to of which he was a member.

him ; that, on the contrary, it had only By nature, perhaps, like George made him a better mark, and exaspeWashington, whose character, by the rated his adversary ; that, worse than way, is greatly misunderstood, he was all, his considerate loyalty had been a man of strong passions, which, after misunderstood, for a piece of dirty many years, by continual guardian- adulation ; or, worse yet,-for a piece ship, trial, and severe discipline, he of wretched foppery-he went, on leahad brought entirely under his con- ving the Council, straightway home; trol. This, we say positively, was the threw the dress aside ; and, from that character of Washington : this, we be- hour, never wore it again, till the day, lieve to have been the character of on which he went, with full power, Franklin.

into the court of the Bourbons, to sign We happen to know something of the treaty between France and America the Doctor's determination, however, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ! in two cases ; both growing out of the What must have been his feelings ! same event, where the natural temper That paper gave the death-blow to of the man broke out-blazed up, like British dorninion over the western a smothered fire became visible, as it world. It was done the threat was were, all at once, in spite of himself. accomplished : Franklin was at peace Some time in the year 1767, or 8, he with himself: the majesty of Great was in this country, acting as agent for Britain had paid-bitterly paid, for some of our Transatlantic possessions. the insolence of the Solicitor General. It was while preparing himself, on understood, made whatever he thought this very occasion, for his appearance as intelligible to other men, as if they at Versailles, among the pride and themselves had also thought it. flower of the French nobility, that a In electricity, his bold, adventurous little circumstance occurred, which the course of experiment, cannot be overDoctor was fond of relating, all his praised. It was unspeakably daring life, as finely characteristic of the sublime. It led, in every part of the French temper--full of resource—full globe, to fearless inquiry; a more inof apology, such as it is never to be trepid zeal; a more peremptory mode taken by surprise.

of interrogating the dangerous eleHe had ordered a fashionable court ment:--it led, in short, everywhere, wig to be made for the occasion ; desi- to noble adventures ; brave experiring Monsieur le Perruquier, whatever ments ; rational doctrines; useful diselse he did (for the Doctor had al- coveries :-and, after seventy years of ready heard something of these encum- jealous, continual examination, has brances)—whatever else-to make it obtained, except in a few particulars, large enough. The wig was brought for his theory—that of the self-educahome, at a very late hour : nothing ted American-a decided, open, almost could be more stately, “ superb,” or universal preference among the philos magnificent."-But when he came to sophers of Europe. try it on, the Doctor otherwise the To Franklin we owe the knowledge, patient-found it insupportably tight. that electricity and lightning are simiHe complained : Monsieur le Perru. lar. He proved it; shewed others how quier bowed. He remonstrated-grew to prove it; and formed, without asă red in the face-the Perruquier bowed sistance, thereupon a scientific the again." It is too small, sir—too small ory, which continues, of itself, to exentirely," said Franklin-"altogether plain the principal phenomena of thuntoo small, sir.”—Après tout,an- derstorms-lightning-and electricity. swered Monsieur le Perruquier, cut- It had been suspected, before, by the ting a light pigeon-wing before the Abbe Nolet; but, in throwing out his Doctor" Apres tout, Monsieur, ce conjecture, the Abbe, himself, attachn'est pas la perruque, qui est trop pe.

ed no value to it; and, without a questite ; c'est la tete, qui est trop grosse." tion, had no idea of any method, by -The Frenchman, with all his po- which the truth of it could be shewn. liteness, however, did not say, or think It was only one of those accidental of saying-c'est la tete, qui est trop vague thoughts, continually to be met grande. If he had, perhaps the Doc- with in the works of brilliant, flighty tor would have borne the head-ache men, for whom the world are claim more quietly.

ing the honour of all our discoveries But enough. Turn we now to his-all our inventions all our improvePHILOSOPHICAL Essays. These are ments-one after the other, as fast as plain, downright, sensible papers, they appear: as if to imagine were wherein all the world may see, that the same as to invent, or make:nothing is done for display; nothing as if to dream were to demonstrate: for effect; nothing, without a serious -as if to talk, without knowing why, consideration. The Doctor lays down, of an idle, strange possibility, were to throughout, no proposition--strongly establish a great, useful truth :-as if --positively-unless where he is justi- a poet were a mathematician :-as if á fied by his own repeated, personal ex- writer, who may have said a century perience. He takes nothing for grant- ago, on seeing the top of a tea-kettle ed; he simply records the progress of forced off, or a coffee-pot nose explode his own experiments ; putting his que- in the fire-that, after a time, the ries modestly-never flying off into smoke of water might be turned, perhypothesis and reserving his conjec. haps, to account-were to have the cretures, for their proper place—a me- dit, now, of our great steam discovemorandum-book. It is gratifying to ries :-nay, as if we ourselves, who, follow such a man ; to observe his in our soothsaying capacity, now whisholy caution-his awful regard for per, that, perhaps, the time will come, truth, whatever may come of it-his when star-light will be for sale in the faculty of explanation, which, half a jewellery-shops ; put up, in lumps of century ago, when most of the sub- crystal, for the rich-in plebeian glass, jects, upon which he wrote, were little for the poor : when there will be turnpikes over the sea : when butterfly After this, followed a series of midust will be in common use among nor discoveries ; experiments; and exthe miniature painters: when the bet- planations of electrical phenomena ; ter half, in truth, of all mankind, will for most of which Dr Franklin has be for ever on the wing-each in her now full credit over Europe ; and if airs, literally, all the day long, in good he had not, here is no place this is weather-ostrich plumage at her back, no time-for doing justice to all parinstead of her head-more flighty than ties. ever-not merely coquetting, but an- Pass we on, therefore, to his Poligelicising with men-floating and fly- TICAL Essays; merely remarking, by ing literally; not figuratively :-when the way, that while he was ransacking

- but we pass over the elixir of life the skies; meddling with government; the philosopher-stone---perpetual mo- plucking down, literally, the thunders tion—the art of navigating the skies of both upon his head; he found lei. in soap or silk bubbles :--As if we, by sure, with a few hints, to get up a set reason of two or three audacious con- of musical glasses : to invent a stove, jectures, were to have the credit here- now in general use throughout Ameafter, of all the discoveries that may rica : to construct his lightning rods : be made in the matters or things, give laws for swimming, which are inwhereabout we have been gossipping. estimable ; establish a plan for libra

To Franklin we owe the first idea ries, which has been followed everyof the plus and minus ; or, in other where :-“ &c. &c. &c.” words, of the positive state of elec- The political papers of Dr Franklin tricity, and of the negative. M. Du are worthy of great praise. They are Faye had previously seen a type, or profound, comprehensive, statesmanshadow of the truth, in the two KINDS like. He saw, with a clear eye, the of electricity, which he called vitreous policy of nations ; foretold, with surand resinous: but, instead of pursuing prising accuracy, certain great political the inquiry, or urging others to pur- changes, which took, and are taking sue it, he threw by his original idea, as place. By his “ Canada pamphlet, erroneous. It fell into neglect. Frank- he mainly contributed, while the elder lin took it up anew, pursued it; ob- Pitt was minister, to provoke that tained a result, which enabled him to magnificent, bold enterprize, which solve a multitude of problems—that of ended in the complete, and perpethe Leyden jar, among others—which tual overthrow of the French power, had puzzled, for a long time, all the throughout all North America. schools of Europe.

This discovery, We have good reason to believe that by the way, is claimed for Dr Watson. he had a share in Paine's powerful -A single fact will shew, with what book,--" The Rights of Man.” He propriety. The paper of Doctor Frank- had, also, the hardihood, in 1785, when lin is dated July 11, 1747 : that of the whole coast of his country, from Dr Watson, Jan. 21, 1748.

Georgia to Maine, was ready to swarm To Franklin, moreover, do we owe out with privateers, at a day's notice, the consummation of proof respecting in case of war; when the United States the sameness of electricity and light- of America had no navy; and, of course, ning. He had previously discovered no means of annoyance but privateers (what has been claimed for T. Hop- to come out openly-denounce privakinson ;. but upon what grounds we teering ; and call it, in so many words, do not know) the power of points upon little better than piracy. A word of electric matter. The first experiment, this, while passing.-Mr Munroe, and on Dr Franklin's plan, was made, in other leading political men of the Uni1752, at Marley, near Paris, under the ted States, have begun to talk the same direction of M. D'Alibard. About a language-wherefore, a hint or two month after this, Franklin obtained a for them, before it is too late. Make like result, in Philadelphia, by using war upon private property anywhere,

at sea, or on shore; and private proSo, too, the discovery of ascending perty will immediately become a spethunder has been claimed for the Abbe cies of public property. It will belong Bertholon, whose paper was publish- no more to individuals—but, altogeed in 1776. Franklin's letter declaring ther, to communities. Every capture the fact, and accounting for it, is dated will be the loss of some insurance in September, 1753.

company. The loss, therefore, will

. a kite.

« PreviousContinue »