Page images
PDF
EPUB

Every now and then it forms some suitable bed, or basins, which afford very commodious baths to the inhabitants. In the grateful luxury which these baths furnish, they freely indulge; and they are both braced and refreshed, as the water which descends from above is of a temperature much infeferior to that of the surrounding heated atmosphere. There are some situations, along the ascent, which command the most imposing prospects, and are singular, wild and picturesque.

At the base of some jutting eminence, from which umbrageous trees throw abroad their ample branches and overarch the stream that gurgles beneath, you enjoy on the one side, through the foliage, a vista, in which the sea is seen to stretch its dark blue waters far beneath, with occasionally a white sail specking its monotonous surface ; while turning your view upward, you behold the mountain's sides meeting far above, enveloped in the fleecy mantle of light clouds, which constantly surround their summits. Here to retire, from the din of business and the crowds of interested votaries at fortune's shrine, of whom there are so many in these sea-port towns, is a grateful recreation and an invaluable relief, to the general dreariness inspired by the gloomy aspect of the town.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR.

Swamp Place, Titus Andronicus Township, (N. Y.)

April 12th, 1824.

DEAR

I was, as you may suppose, as much pleased as surprised, on receiving your letter. I was obliged to look at the subscription, to ascertain from whom it came. Your hand has been very much improved, for the better or the worse, (the lands here are improved both ways,) since I last saw your autography. It is now two years since your existence has been problematical to me. I have not, indeed, heard from or of you, since that memorable day, when I packed up my alls, and marched off at short order, without beat of drum, or asking what was to pay; and went into retiracy among the Aborindiginous,' as a member of the Ohio legislature expressed him. self.* Touching my crawling off, in that style, however, I

* Fact, meo periculo, as Mr. Maturin would say. Another member ob-. served, that he found no such words in his vocaboolary.'

assure you, that the affair in the police office was got up by a most iniquitous conspiracy. I never saw the creature before, but once ; unless, indeed, you may call it seeing twice, when one sees double, which I believe was then my predicament. I had a hazy recollection of her, and that was all. *** N'importe ; I am glad I came away, for I wanted white washing. On the whole, being married and settled in the country,' is not so bad a thing, by way of a change. The latter I am, and the former I want to be; but her daddy says she is not aged enough; being only sixteen this grass ; and running away is not practized in this part of the country. I have made some charming verses on her, which you shall have.

By the by, your protestations of regard, and preachment about old times are all my eye. You want to get something out of me; but if you put any of my articles in your magazine, I flatter myself your readers will open their eyes, in rather a portentous manner. What in the world made you call it the Atlantic Magazine ? Has it any allusion to the Indian, who said he was born at Nantucket, Cape Cod, and all along shore ? It is the most ridiculous name lever heard in my

life. You ask me, why I chose this place for my location, in preference to any other baptized out of Lempriere's dictionary. I heard there were a hundred ejectment suits waiting to be brought; but not one have I got under way, since I first nailed up my tin in the village, with Attorney at Law, neatly gilt upon it, as large as life. The best job I have had, is a slander suit, which has been going on for eighteen months; but I am afraid it will not turn out very profitable, as I hear the defendant has failed, and the plaintiff was burst before I began. I think, however, without other resources, I could make out by the profession, to keep body and soul together. Living is dog-cheap, and the feed is good. My adorable never criticises my toggery, while I am not ragged. I am happy to find that she is not captivated by the vanities of dress. The other day a young man dashed through our settlement, accoutred, I suppose, in the newest fashion ; his frock-coat and pantaloons being plaited all over in front, in innumerable folds, and united by some invisible ligaments. Some of the neighbours, who had heard of the corps of horse marines, took him for one of their squad; others supposed he was come to tumble and dance on the tight rope; my fiancée agreed with the rest, that he looked like a fool.

And so, all my acquaintances who are not gone dead, or to Florida, are reformed, and behave like sensible Christians, I am truly rejoiced to hear it. Poor * * * *. But I must not talk about the dead, or I shall never get to the business of

my letter.

I receive new books here pretty regularly from U. I have just finished running through some half dozen, about which you are welcome to my sentiments; and if you approve of them, you may do them into reviews, and pass them off

, as your own. * The deformed transformed, to begin with that which is entitled to the most consideration, is said, I perceive, by Mr. Walsh, to be beneath criticism. This is being fastidious, with a vengeance. It appears that this drama, of which we have, as yet, only two parts, is partly founded on the Faust of Goëthe. I am not at all powerful in German, though I have had great longings to exercise my throat and lungs in that horses' dialect. An ancient pedagogue, hard by, undertook to teach me ; but I found out, after several lessons, that he was coming over me with the Communipaw Dutch ; upon which discovery, I absented myself from his lectures. I cannot, therefore, tell how much of the spirit of this drama is borrowed. The leading incident, of a deformed and melancholy individual, entering into a compact with one of Beelzebub's emissaries, by which he acquires beauty, wealth and pleasure, has suggested itself to many, who never heard of Goëthe, or Faustus either, for aught I know. Similarsuperstitions prevailed, long before the Dutch type founder's cpoch; and I have seen two or three crazy productions, in the shape of poems, born on this side of the Atlantic, founded on some such notion, so far as I was able to discover what they meant. I doubt, however, if the particulars of such a league and covenant have been ever more powerfully conceived, than by Lord Byron, though his execution is hurried and unequal.

In the short scene with which the drama commences, the utter desolation and misery of the unfortunate hero, is exhibited in a dialogue between his mother and himself, to which, I conceive, nothing could be added, without weakening the effect.

Bertha. Out, hunchback ! Arnold. I was born so, mother. Ber. Out?
Thou incubus! thou night-mare! Of seven sons
The sole abortion! Arn. Would that I had been so,
And never seen the light! Ber. I would so too!
But as thou hast-hence, hence--and do thy best.
That back of thine may bear its burthen; 'tis
More high, if not so broad as that of others.
Arn. It bears its burthen ;--but, my heart! will it
Sustain that which you lay upon it, mother?

I love, or at the least, I lov'd you : nothing,
Save you, in nature, can love aught like me.
You nursed me-do not kill me! Ber. Yes- I nursed thee,
Because thou wert my first born, and I knew not,
If there would be another uplike thee,
Thou monstrous sport of nature ! But get hence,
And gather wood! Arn. I will: but when I bring it,
Speak to me kindly. Though my brothers are
So beautiful and lusty, and as free
As the free chase they follow, do not spurn me;
Our milk has been the same. Ber. As is the hedge-hog's
Which sucks at midnight from the wholesome dam
Of the young bull, until the milk-maid finds
The nipple, next day, sore, and udder dry-
Call not thy brothers brethren! Call me not
Mother; for if I brought thee forth, it was
As foolish hens at times hatch vipers, by
Sitting upon strange eggs. Out urchin, out!

In all the variety of possible human sufferance, the expression of maternal disgust and loathing, here conveyed with every circumstance of gratuitous aggravation, presents the unkindest cut of all.' It would be a fitting introduction for a tale of horror. How the deformed son feels it, is well exhibita ed subsequently, when, after having seen the ideal lineaments of the strong, the wise, the brave and beautiful of the elder time, and being free to elect among them a new form in which to commence his new career, he hesitates, and seems to intimate that he could be content in his unsightly shape, but for the usage of his unnatural parent.

Nay, I could have borne
It all, had not my mother spurned me from her.
The she-bear licks her cubs into a sort

Of shape;--my dam beheld my shape was hopeless. Under the influence of the emotions, excited by his mother's reproaches, Arnold is proceeding to fulfil his lonely and unrequited task, when he wounds himself with his axe, which terminates his labour for the day. In bitterness of spirit, he goes to a fountain to wash away the blood; and bending to the water, beholds his own image, loathsome even to himself. Wound up by this spectacle, to the sullen resolution of despair, he is about to fall on his wood-knife, when the waters of the fountain are moved-a cloud gathers from them; and as it is dispelled, a tall black man comes toward him, the Mephistopheles of the drama. This evil spirit, who is to be the future companion of his fortunes, is a taụnting, satirical demon; to whom all the passions that men hold noble, and all the objects for which

[ocr errors]

their best aspirations are breathed, afford only subjects for a demoniac sneer: and he is ever ready at hand, to anticipate the result to which experience might have led his pupil, to poison the overflowings of every generous instinct, to mock at glory, when heroes were dying in the excitement of battle ; at devotion, when the faithful were forming with their corses, a rampart for the Pontiff in St. Peter's; at pity, when a virgin clinging to the altar, is assailed by ruftian soldiers ; at love, when it bends in agonizing doubt and tenderness, above the beloved object, whose spirit is fluttering between life and death.

How much farther the character of this incarnation of Lucifer, in his attributes of malignancy and hatred of what is good, is to be developed, and to what his machinations are to conduct Arnold, who, at the commencement of the third part, seems to be happy in the possession of his first love, remains to be known, when the erratic genius of the author shall return to his unfinished drama. Without more analysis, I would mention the passages which have most delighted me, without reference to the sarcasms of the incognito devil, who is too detestable to be quoted.

The compact between him and Arnold is darkly and mysteriously unfolded. It might seem to resemble the vague idea of Maturin, in his last novel, as to what Sir Paladour was to perform.

Arn. Name your compact ;
Must it be signed in blood ? Stran. Not in your own.

Arn. Whose blood then? Stran. We will talk of that hereafter.
But I'll be moderate with you, for I see
Great things within you. You shall have no lord
But your own will, no contract save your deeds.
Are you content ? Arn. I take thee at thy word.

The stranger, as may be inferred from other passages, had some insight into futurity; and could discern the shadows, which coming events cast before them. It should seem, that he wanted no guarantee, for the perdition of a soul left to its uncontrolled volition, with the assistance of his promptings, however honourable, and high, and pure, might be its primitive longings. Arnold, though endued with a full share of good and generous feelings, is obviously prone to the sin, by which fell the angels— The glorious fault of angels, and of gods ;'-and mounted on a high-trotting, coal black steed, with such a diabolical attendant, for his .guide, philosopher, and friend, there can be little doubt, but that his ride must terminate like that of the beggars a-horseback, according to the proverb. If this be, .

« PreviousContinue »