« PreviousContinue »
excite or disturb the mind. If the com actual head of navigation, beyond which forts and virtues of society and social no steamer or other craft could possibly life were ahsent, so were their follies and pass. This imparted a peculiar value to their crimes. It was a relief, for once to each point. Another fact quite as singufeel what the idealists so fondly describe, lar I discovered. Every village, taken
by the seclusion and the solemnity of the itself was uncommonly healthy; no one wilderness. But even here the specula- ever died there—that was certain ; but the tors soon came, and with curious peering next village was sickly, and always eyes looked for water-power and sites would be at least so I was informed again for towns, and calculated how many dol- and again by many a poor fellow, upon lars they could make in the purchase of whom the “ fever and ague” had plainly land by the acre, and selling it by the foot exerted their utmost ingenuity. I also to some short-sighted victims.
found that village and city property grew Nor was there a lack of interest in no more valuable the further it was removed ting the conduct and condition of the emi- from the business and population of the grants who were establishing new homes East. This satisfied me that the city of in the west. In all directions small set Franklin, being far in the interior, was of tlements were opening, and filling up with very great value. a robust, hardy, and courageous people, I passed through Michigan City, then inured to labor. Picturesque cottages, of in its infancy, but possessing a mayorand rough unhewn logs, sent up their smoke city council —through Chicago, where in spiral wreaths above the forests, at land was valued at about as high a price intervals; among the smoking brands and per foot as it was in Broadway or Wall the fallen trees brown-faced healthy child street, “water lots” especially—through ren played, the future sovereigns of the Romeo and Juliette, and countless lesser land; the reverberations of the axe, or cities, and began to approach the county above all the tinkle of the cow-bell, beto of
The ignorance of the good kened the presence of the Pioneer and people on the route as to the existence of the advent of civilization. They found my city puzzled me at first, and then a new and rich soil, productive beyond all
alarmed me. Some thought they had that they had dreamed of in their wildest heard of it, others were not sure. One moments, and most earnestly did they ad old « sucker ” informed me that there dress themselves to the labor of giving to was a town of that name in Missouri; their new homes an air of comfort. The he had been there, and had on the spot actual settlers generally kept aloof from an “almighty skrimmage” with a Mississpeculations, but occasionally one, who sippi boatman, in which he lost an eye, carwas unfortunately located in the immedi rying off instead his opponent's ear and ate neighborhood of a city in embryo, a part of his nose; but he was oblivious found himself ruined ere he was aware of as to any other town by that designation. it. As a general thing they were con All this show of ignorance I concluded tented with their situations, and I found must be affected, and must arise from the but few who expressed a desire to return local jealousy that everywhere prevailed. to the older settlements. The degree of At last I reached
county and interest they manifested in the progress
in “ hot haste” for the aforesaid city. I of their labors, in watching the forests very naturally looked forward to my arrecede, and in the transformation of the rival with no small degree of interest. prairies into cultivated fields, exceeded In the first place I was in need of rest everything that I had witnessed in simi and repose; my “ accommodations” had lar pursuits in the older States. They been none of the best, on the route, and seemed to feel a just pride in making one there I imagined I should find a good little spot of this great globe the greener hotel and an obliging host, and, in virtue by their exertions. Peace and plenty be of my proprietorship, thought it very with them!
likely I should receive some extra attenI pass over all the incidents of the tions. Then again I was anxious to see journey, many of which were amusing to the character of the town, the mode of me, but might not be so to the reader. I building, and to become acquainted with must not forget, however, to mention one my future neighbors. I had made up my Temarkable fact : every river on the route, mind to assume an air of dignity, as belarge enough to bear up a canoe, had a came a freeholder. I made due inquiries village on either bank, every six or seven as I entered the limits of the county, caumiles. Moreover, at each one was the tiously and modestly at first, but at last
with agitation and vehemence. I was I, “ let me catch him again!"But in. informed that there was no such city, stead of my catching him he had evidently town or village in the county! My caught me—something of a difference as hair fairly rose on end, like “ quills upon I found. One thing I did catch-the the fretful porcupine." I perused my fever-and-ague. I took it at a log-house, deed of conveyance again and again. in the vicinity of a “ slight swamp”-as There it was, plainly, in black and white, the owner of the shantee called å three “the city of Franklin”—“ lots 500 and mile morass—and had it a trifle over nine 501 on National Avenue." I traversed weeks. The ghost of my father wouldn't the county in all directions, wearied have known me! every traveler with my inquiries, dis This was my first speculation, It may turbed the inmates of every log hut, and be imagined in what mood 1 traveled got myself kicked out of one or two for after this adventure, but it cannot well my impetuosity of manner. It was labor be imagined why, after this lesson, I conlost. In the language of that region, 1 tinued the pleasing game of getting rich
“ done for " _“ diddled.” Civic without labor. The result of my gains honors !- rent roll !-blocks of buildings! as a speculator may be expressed by a Alas! My dreams had fled—so had cipher, or any number of them together, my money. My obliging friend of the as $0,000, etc. I returned “a sadder, steamboat was a man of imagination, as but a wiser man,” the owner of eighty well as of profound morality; the city ex acres of wild land, and in debt eleven isted on his map.
“ The scoundrel !” said thousand dollars !
Fast by the River's trickling source I sit
And view the new-born offspring of the skies;
Fed by his mother-cloud's soft breast, he lies.
Dreaming e'en now of fame, the woods adown;
His wavelets rock the mirrored sun and moon.
Or hemmed by narrow mountain-walls to flow,
And foams along the pebbly dell below.
“ Here sands absorb, and suns exhaust, your force;
I lead you down to our primeval source.”
Applause, as they the young adventurer meet;
And woods and rocks fall prostrate at his feet.
With dark blue train and state that homage claim;
His course, baptizing nations with his name.
Tall ships are on his bosom borne away,
Around his knees, and sue him to delay.
Fair fields and gilded towers he hurries by,
He on his father's bosom falls—to die !
There is a something in the composi- and singleness, which made the older tions of a good writer, that affects us Greeks the unapproachable models of more sensibly than either his manner or style. A generous emulation of antiquity his style; and which, in absence of a has kept alive the spirit of our literature; better word, may be named his character: not to the exclusion of that free manner signifying, that as the taste of the writer and indulgence of fancy, which is proper appears in the style, and his genius in the to the moderns, nor to the extinction or manner, so his natural disposition, as a neglect of our proper idiom; but by drawman, is discovered in the character of his ing attention continually to the better writings. Since there is a character of parts of humanity, and favoring the indulnations, as well as of individuals, this gence of manly and generous sentiments. will appear in the prevalency of a certain No better example can be chosen of this spirit among a number of contemporary kind of imitation, than appears in the phiwriters of the same nation.
losophical writings of Lord Bacon; whereIt may be advanced without danger of in he emulates the design of Socrates and contradiction, that the value of an author his pupils, who bent their efforts to increase to the world, is chiefly in the “ character” human happiness, not only by a present of what he says,-using that word in the entertainment, but by turning all speculasense just now adopted for it;—and this tion into the channels of economy and iş evident, upon the reflection that a great morals. The prose style of English being writer loses nothing essential by transla- at its formation when the Lord Chancellor tion; and that style and manner are al- composed his treatises, a great deal of most inappreciable by another age and another kind of imitation was prevalent. nation. However much our taste and Not only the sentiments, but the idiom fancy may be gratified by a perfect under- and manner of the Greek writers was often standing of our own writers, what is roughly adopted, and mingled in a blind truly valuable in them may be as perfectly confusion with the Gothic prejudice and expressed in a coarser dialect. If we may imagery of that age. In a history, comjudge by the kind of works that have posed by him, of Henry Seventh, Lord come down to us from antiquity, the du- Bacon reproduces the manner, but not the ration of a work, and the fame of an au- spirit of Thucydides, rolling trains of thor, depend almost exclusively upon the polity and eulogy through periods of elevation of his sentiments, and those perilous weight and involution : but the elegances for which he is admired, are spirit of the work is altogether English either such as flow directly from this and monarchic. source, or they are artificial advantages Perhaps there are no writings in the proper to his language and age, and of world, if we except Homer's, where charIittle moment to posterity.
acter appears with such a power and conLonginus, a critic of exalted genius, stancy as in Shakspeare; yet in bim, and who has himself taken rank among even, there is a great deal that is harsh the best writers, advises that an author and displeasing. Now if it could be who means to out-last his century, shall shown that his excellence is either charimagine what judgment Homer or Plato acteristic, or in emulation of the ancients, would give upon his work: but we can but that all his grossness and extravagancy hardly think of these heroes in author- is either imitated from others, or belonged ship, as curiously commenting on the to the conversation of his age, a perfect style or manner of a writer ; but rather argument would have been found for this fancy them weighing the substance of nobler kind of imitation, and as perfect a what he says, and sounding the depth of caution against the inferior sort. Who his sentiment--for these were the points can contemplate, without delight, the idea that seem most to have occupied them in of a writer who should unite classic purity the composition of their own works. with English spirit and variety ;-the
The English writer may place himself splendid and fortunate conjunction of the under as wise advisers, in the judgments two master spirits of genius, the English of the masters of his own tongue ; though and the Greek ? none of these arrived ever at that purity We are the most fortunate people in
the world in respect of examples ; for, must adhere closely to the commonest beside our own writers, from the age of notions and expressions; at the same Chaucer to that of Addison, and many time that an infinite variety of phrase lies great instances since, we have possession always within reach. of the oldest and wisest of all books; Those writers of modern times who and with a little diligence, can arrive at trusted solely to the excellence of their all that is excellent of the Greeks and sentiments, have preferred the popular Romans. At this banquet of knowledge phrase ; so that all the best parts of mod. there is so endless a profusion, and so ern literature are in a dialect that all exquisite a variety, an hundred lives could understand. But where the desire of not utterly exhaust it. It is a special popularity prevails over the pride of happiness that no man need jostle or rival learning, there may be a disposition to his neighbor; but each, selecting for debase a language, and fill it with barbahimself, may make a sweet of peculiar risms, which as certainly obscure the flavor.
sense as the most learned affectations ; The great variety of style and manner and with the greater disadvantage of being to be found in English writing, offering forgotten in the next generation. such a diversity of models, seems to make Simplicity of style, and naturalness of it impossible that the language should manner, leave the reader free to receive ever attain a classic purity, or the manner what is intrinsically good ; so that in of good writing be reduced to any parti. writing and speaking, as in manners, cular standard. The Greeks had an the chief excellence seems to lie in the advantage which no modern nation pos- avoidance of everything irrelevant or sesses, of employing few foreign phrases, superfluous, that every purer excellence, and of using no compounded words whose of thought or sentiment, may appear in meaning did not appear in the composi- its natural light. Ingenuity and order tion. But because our language is taken must indeed be everywhere present, in a partly from the Latin and Greek, its com work of entertainment; but flashes of pounds of those sources are loosely em character, at important moments, astonish ployed, without regard to their exact and take possession of the soul. In the meaning: so that none write or speak simple words, correctly but such as know the radical words of these, beside those of their own
“ Wisdom is justified of her children," tongue. Long and sounding words make we discover an exhaustless depth : all the strongest impression upon the ear, that is grand and imperishable in human and are
more easily employed than character appears in it. Such sayings phrases of several monosyllables. A feeble have the miraculous power to bring a writer may hide the weakness of his century of experience within the compass meaning under a crowd of sounding ter- of an instant. Since all that is sublime minations, huddled together without atten. is made so by its relation to character, tion to their proper use : and this accident and the sentiment of immortality, the is alone sufficient to account for the dif- grandeur of a composition increases, as it ference between good writing and good draws nearer to the heights of contemplaconversation in English. A Greek who tion. Works of character stand through knew the exact meaning of a word at all ages, not so much as monuments to first hearing, because of his familiarity their authors, (for they seem rather to be with its radicals, might speak as perfectly the product of an age than of a man,) as as he wrote ; and if he used long words, like mountains emulating the heavens, his audience entered easily into his mean and sending down fertilizing streams ing. But a writer of English must re And yet, even in inspiration, there is frain from any but the simplest expres- logic; and a reason is concealed in every sions, or his hearers are as little likely to mystery. What is so well done, must understand, as he is to speak, with exact- have been done deliberately. “Nothing," ness-a serious hindrance to the perfec- says Longinus,“ can be truly great, that tion of our tongue, and one which it is the result of accident.” The noblest seems unable ever to overcome.
works discover as much skill as vigor. But from this apparent misfortune, a If nature has given genius, it is a proof very positive advantage may be gathered. of wisdom to use it with discretion. An author who is pedantically or techni Nor will any reader be satisfied with cally inclined, can make no popular dis- images or thoughts, be they never so play with subtleties or false learning, and admirable in themselves, unless they are
naturally combined, and make an impres- best works incongruities appear which sion as a whole. Many writers, of infe mar our pleasure. But the kind of conrior genius, have secured a great popu- sistency, whose want most effectually larity by the art of making a clear and prevents the reputation of a work,appears. strong impression of some trivial matter; not so much in disregard of probability having such a regard for the reader's es as in violation of the spirit. Could we, teem as to obtrude nothing upon him . for example, imagine Hamlet indulging that is inappropriate, or fanciful. Those in vivacious gaiety, or Tom Jones moralizlicenses, as they are called, of poetry, ing in the manner of Allworthy, we might seem not originally to have been the free. think the author either had some desiga doms of a drunken fancy, but strokes of on our penetration, or else had forgot him. judgment, that an idea or image may self. This kind of inconsistency appears reach us unimpeded by an unnecessary in those popular melo-dramas, where the formality. There is a pleasure in con- hero, a person designedly painted as the gruity alone, which reconciles us to an victim of every impulse,"is made the object that is unnatural in itself; and a mouthpiece of exalted and humane sencultivated taste endures the marvelous timents. Such pieces may be very agreeonly when it is consistent, or has a able in the representation, but bear no meaning. Homer and Shakspeare, though inspection as wholes, and are perishable full of extravagances when compared accordingly. A writer whose single design with nature, yet make one extravagance appears clearly in all he says, may vioarise so naturally out of another, they late every other rule, and yet commands satisfy the most exquisite propriety. entire respect: it seems to be enough
If then there be any universal principle that he discovers character and a purpose. of art, it must be, that every member of So essential is exaltation of sentiment a composition agree in its intent and figure in works of art, a landscape, even, gives with some other member, as well as with no pleasure to the taste, unless, in some the whole; just as, in architecture, the manner, this quality is discovered in it. parts and ornaments of the column repeat Skilful painters, perceiving this necessity, and illustrate those of the entablature, and avoid too close an imitation of nature, these again, those of the whole building; and by certain extraordinary combinations, or better still, as, to a practiced eye, each produce impressions of life-likeness in member of a human body seems to agree inanimate things, as though a spirit moved with and suggest the whole. And this them. Animals are represented exprescomparison will perfectly illustrate what sing qualities that appear only in human is intended by the character to be discov- beings, and images of men seem inspired ered in a composition ; for as the form with a divine soul. and proportion of the body harmonizes Such works leave no impression of their with the characteristics of the mind which detail, but are recollected as wholes, as inspires it, so will every least member of we remember a person. When, on the a well composed work agree with the other hand, this quality is absent, the idea that suggested and governs it. Hu- parts make a deep impression; as it hapman bodies discover an inexhaustible pens with fanciful authors who say variety of beauty, correspondent with as quotable things, full of point and sense, many shades of character ; works of but whose works are rather a magazine, artists and writers vary as remarkably than an armament, of wit. with the disposition of their authors. It is frequently observed that figures When the ornaments of a style are added in some excellent landscapes serve only to or affixed to the subject matter, instead of divert attention, though unworthy of nogrowing out of it by suggestion of fancy, tice in themselves; and contrariwise, an the effect is like that of ornaments fixed indifferent landscape is often so managed upon a wooden mansion, without regard as to obscure an admirable figure: the chato any real or apparent use.
But if there racter of the two discovering no congrube an art of adornment, it is at least as ity. The same may be observed in some critical as it is suggestive, and rejects far works of fiction, which their author inmore than it proposes. A poem or a pic- tended should have a moral use; and to ture is sometimes composed of exquisitely that end, has given his proverbs and finished parts, sa pleasing in themselves maxims in a dish by themselves; but a that nothing prevents their author's im- more ingenious writer so blends his moral mortality of fame, but a want of unity or with the story, it has the effect, like a singleness of effect. Even in the very thread of gold, of strengthening and enli