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cisms inaptly (if, for instance, he will quote Latin to ladies, as some Bostonians we wot of are apt to do), or if he pertinaciously neglects the proprieties of dress, or in any other way assumes a dispensing power of genius, and practically claims the right to do or omit things which ordinary mortals may not.
There is indeed one species of intellectual display for which there is as much room in fashionable society as in the most purely literary circles, and which is as congenial to the former as to the latter conversational talent. This is the kind of cleverness which we may most reasonably expect from, and are most likely to find in the man or woman of fashion. In its perfection it is seldom connected with any great ability on paper. The strongest cases which are popularly adduced of the union of both talents Theodore Hook for example - are in reality rather evidence the other way. Not one tenth of Hook’s extant writing comes up to his traditional renown for conversational wit. Every man, we believe, who has been much conversant with both writers and talkers, can supply instances from his own observation of persons who, having displayed very decided talent in conversation, and being tempted thereby to write, have very much disappointed their friends when they came to appear on paper. Indeed, when we consider the number of books written nowadays, so large that even a diligent reader does not get through with more than a thousandth part of them, it is to be wished on all accounts, that, when people can talk really well, they should confine their energies to talking.
It must be confessed that the popularity of brilliant conversationalists among us is somewhat diminished by a fear of their satirical powers and propensities. Nor is this fear altogether unfounded. We have been often pained to observe this abuse of wit give point to illnatured remarks, and have wondered why our best talkers were so apt to be bitter. This union of cleverness and ill-nature is one of the most deplorable consequences of that envious spirit to which we have had occasion to allude. It is a connection that ought to be broken off, and it is worth the attention of our goodnatured and sensible ladies (there are plenty such) to devise some means for the purpose. Perhaps as every
thing is done by societies and associations nowadays, a plan of this sort might be started, "for the encouragement of witty conversation without personal detraction." Small prizes might be assigned to the deserving neatly bound copies of Willis and de Trobriand; while incorrigible offenders against the penultimate commandment might be sentenced to read back numbers of the North American Review.
If, then, our boys were kept longer at college, if our girls were taught that the Polka-Redowa is not the chief end of life, if our married women went more into society, and that not merely for dancing purposes, if our literary men who have fashionable aspirations would not take ultra-literary airs, if our clever talkers would not pander to the unhealthy appetite for detraction, if our party-goers would be content with less champagne and oysters, in exchange for more "feast of reason" – if all these changes could be brought about, there is no doubt that our fashionable intercourse would be much more intellectual and soul-satisfying than it is at present. If! Alas, who shall pretend to count the possible gathering of small birds, were the sky to fall in some day! If these changes were brought about! when or how should they be? - and our melancholy echo, like the Irishman's, answers "Really I can't tell."
And now for the last question How far is it possible or desirable to originate or maintain a native standard of taste, propriety, and fashion? That our society should in its commencement borrow largely from Europe was in the nature of things unavoidable. At first it inclined to be a provincial and colonial imitation of the English. Most of Paulding's early satires were directed against Anglomania. Of late years this has been entirely altered, and we are becoming rapidly Gallicized. Many are disposed to measure our progress in civilization and refinement, by our progress in this imitation of the French. So are not we. While readily acknowledging the superiority of the Parisians in coffee, confectionery, and gloves – in dress and cookery generally - we are not prepared to accept their standard of decorum or morality, or indeed of taste, in all things. Of their inability to enjoy or understand domestic felicity we have already spoken. Nor is it to be wondered at,
when we consider that the whole French theory of matrimony is fundamentally wrong, being founded on the mariage de convenance, or union of so much to so much. Surely there is no fear of any such perversion of our customs here, it will be said; for our young people would never let their parents make such matches for them. True enough, but there is danger of something even worse that they may make such matches for themselves. An increasing sybaritism is a dangerous incentive to mercenary unions, and this sybaritism, be it remembered, we owe in a great measure to the French; it is much more a Parisian than an English or home growth. Are our morals generally improving under this new régime? Nay, for that matter, are the manners of our young men so much improved? Is there not observable among them a growing tendency to mistake impudence for selfpossession, and to talk to ladies at home as they would to actresses and dancing-girls abroad? But to return to the other point. Could Mr. Willis say now, as unhesitatingly as he did several years ago, that “morality is the best card for a young man to play, if he wishes to advance his position in society?” Is there not an attempt
we are glad to say an attempt merely as yet to make vice fashionable? We wish all these questions could be promptly answered in the negative; but some of our sad experience would prompt an answer the other way.
Surely there are social features purely native, which manifest as much refinement and cultivation as any exotic ones.
That chivalrous treatment of women timent, so conspicuous and prevading, that the most bigoted and mendacious foreigners have been constrained to admit its power – a feeling that makes every gentleman the natural protector of every lady, and saves woman every day from molestations or anxiety in situations which, in other countries, would require for her the miraculous guard of Una a feeling which, carried to the verge of the absurd in some things, and beyond the verge of the prejudicial in others, as we admit that it is, still betokens a most advanced state of real civilization - is this sentiment of foreign origin? Is it not our indigenous growth? Take another trait, now we fear not so strongly marked as formerly, but still peculiarly
American, in contra-distinction to the habitual judgment of the fashionable world in other countries the idea that a gentleman is bound to pay, not only his debts of honor, but his tradesmen's bills also. Or, to descend to merely material considerations, have we not excellent tailors and hatters of our own? Is there a city in the world that can boast better Madeira than our own Gotham? Do we not build as good carriages and raise as good horses as the English do, and better than any of the Continental nations can? Your travelled exquisite thinks it low-toned and vulgar to boast of such matters, but we hold that it is as much more vulgar as it is less sensible to slight the good things we have, for an indiscriminate eulogy and imitation of what is foreign. Why should we turn our shirt collars up or down as the French happen to do, without any reference to the peculiarities of our climate? Why should we, who dine at four or five, go to balls at eleven, because the Europeans do so, their hour of dining being about seven, and the majority of their men not being expected at their offices by nine next morning? Far be it from us to run into the other extreme of depreciating all things and men foreign. “Clever men learn many things even from their enemies," said a clever man of old. * Every nation might learn or adopt some things with advantage from foreigners; we are surely no exception. But let our adoption be with discrimination. We may make the French our patterns in dress, without making them also our patterns in propriety. Above all, do let us remember that Paris is not the only city in the world besides New York, and that there are other places where something may be learned, and whence somewhat might, without disadvantage, be borrowed.
* Aristophanes, Aves, 376. all' an' èXI õv dira nolla μανθάνουσιν οι σοφοί. .
ARISTOPH A NE S.
Literary World, March 1850.
The Birds of Aristophanes, with Notes, and a Metrical Table,
bg C. C. Fellon, Eliot Professor of Greek Literature in Harvard College. Cambridge, Mass.: John Bartlett, 1849.
IF we have been somewhat behindhand in noticing this edition, it is simply because, not being afraid of the “prejudice” which Sydney Smith is said to have alleged as a dissuasive from the practice, we usually read a book before reviewing it. But inasmuch as one is peculiarly apt to get a prejudice for or against a classical editor by reading him, it is most fitting and proper to go over the original very carefully, and make up one's mind on all the pleasant little disputed passages before touching the editor's comments at all, and this we have done also, and it is not a work of one sitting. Truly a thankless and profitless vocation is that of the conscientious reviewer among us! He devotes more time to the composition of a short essay than many “popular” authors (of the yellowand-brown-paper school) require to turn out a volume, collates old note -books, grubs among musty quartos, corrects and re-corrects proofs that make him suspect the compositors of being in the pay of some secret society for the encouragement of profanity; and all this for no solid pudding, and a very small amount of empty praise. Indeed his reward is usually something not very dissimilar to the proverbial “monkey's allowance." Those who show their own ignorance most plentifully whenever they write, charge him with writing to show his knowledge; those with whom the number of pages in a book and the publisher's name on its title-page go a great way towards determining their opinion of its merit, think it a shame that an anonymous writer in one corner of a periodical should pronounce on the worth of an author who comes out under his own colors in a great calf or sheepbound octavo; and others again, who would probably be