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THE QUADROONE: OR ST. MICHAEL'S DAY. By the Author of 'Lafitte,' 'Captain KYD,' etc. In two volumes. pp. 462. New-York: HARPER AND BROTHERS.
In the September number of this Magazine, we recorded, as an item of literary intelligence from abroad, the fate of the 'Quadroone,' then just published in London by the cheap and adventurous BENTLEY. We quoted also the verdict pronounced by the 'Atheneum,' a journal of authority, upon this 'violent story of fine clothes and fierce passions; and we transferred to our pages a clear synopsis of its character from that periodical. We have now had an opportunity to peruse the volumes for ourselves; and assuredly, we find no reason to disagree with the sentence of our foreign contemporary and that small portion of the London public before which the work was enabled to find its way. Aside from the staple heretofore adverted to, viz., the readiness of a mother to sell her child to the sensualist who could bid the highest for her possession - a readiness which, it was well said, 'imparts the moral taint of a corrupt society to the book, and makes it repulsive' - aside we say from this essential error, there are objections on the score of execution, which it would ill behoove a candid critic to pass unnoticed. The incidents of the work are so utterly improbable, that we defy the most inveterate devourer of native romances to create from their perusal an illusion of reality. The small ambuscades which are laid for the reader have all transparent trails to them; despite the intervening objects and transactions, which are described with as literal minuteness as if given in evidence, and taken down by an eye-witness. We had intended to cite a few passages, to show the incongruous machinery of the tale; to indicate the English of much of the language, and the regions of absurdity into which the writer has pushed a crude fancy; and to set forth the 'grand blue-fire and bloody-dagger stage effects,' which so startled the editor of the 'Atheneum' in the winding up of the novel. But our space obliges us to reserve these matters for some future occasion, when we may resume a consideration of the 'Quadroone,' in connection with one or two of the later works of its author.
We have borne, as our readers are aware, cordial testimony to the cleverness of Mr. INGRAHAM, as displayed in that entertaining work, "The South-West by a Yankee;' but an equal candor obliges us to say, that as a novelist, every succeeding work from our author's hand convinces us that he has mistaken his forte, and that he is cudgelling his brains for that which will not come at the beating,' thwack he never so soundly. We shall not hesitate to employ what influence this Magazine can command, in protesting against a species of novel-writing by contract, which cannot fail ultimately to bring deserved contempt upon a portion of our current literature. We tremble at the announcements which one sees so often now-a-days in the journals, to the effect that 'that ' talented' and highly prolific author, Mr. FLIPKINS, has nearly ready for the press another novel, in two volumes.' Straightway we know that some interesting historical episode, or stirring tradition, affectionately extant in the national mind, is to be mixed up with the tumid and tumultuary conceptions of some 'novelist by trade;' one who
is ever on a cold scent after a nucleus, around which to weave a succession of improbable stories, such as might separately, perhaps, attract attention to the miscellaneous columns of a newspaper. These are slightly tacked together, and made to converge in the most 'thrilling' manner toward the last chapter, where six personages are probably compelled to stab themselves in as many minutes, to rid the author of his dramatis persone, and enable him to reach the welcome 'finis.' Nor are novelists of this school altogether indigenous. The native subject is perhaps but a copy. Kindred quacks of the pen actually swarm upon the reading public in England; and we are glad to perceive that BLACKWOOD has opened his batteries upon all and singular of the class. The admirable satire and caustic severity of the 'Hints to Authors' has laid open the modus operandi of their trade. A recent American correspondent, writing from London, confirms the truth of these 'Hints,' in one prominent example. He states that on a Friday morning he called upon Mr. HARRISON AINSWORTH, (a pen-and-ink author, who in endeavoring to imitate the gifted DICKENS, plays some such a part as that intense biatherskite, 'Mr. GEORGE JONES, of Stratford-on-Avon and the Virginia Theatres,' would enact in personating the characters made immortal by TYRONE POWER;) that he found him about to sit down to write two thrilling' chapters of one of his several continuous novels, 'furnished to order,' which were to be placed in type the next day! It is by such 'novelists' (Heaven save the mark!) that the face of nature and human character is bedaubed with paint and varnish; it is thus they overlay their disjointed narratives with haphazard didactics and overdone sentiment; and it is through the efforts of such authors, that Time is enabled to put so vast an amount of literary rubbish into his wallet for oblivion.
SELECTIONS FROM THE POETICAL LITERATURE OF THE WEST. In one volume, pp. 264. Cincinnati: U. P. JAMES.
THIS very neat volume, as we gather from the preface, is deemed necessary by the compiler and his western brethren to counteract the effects of an apparently studied determination on the part of their Atlantic neighbors to do nothing which will have a tendency to bring them into literary competition. These be very cruel words,' and we think unjust. For ourselves, we may surely say, we have found as much pleasure in welcoming works of merit from western pens, and in commending them to public favor, as those from any quarter of the country; and there is scarcely a piece of poetry in the volume before us, which is worthy to elicit praise, that we have not admired, or seen extolled, in the journals of our transatlantic towns and cities. Not to name THOMAS, and GALLAGHER, and SHREEVE, who have made themselves favorably known to our readers, who among us has not heard of Judge HALL, of 'AMELIA,' the sweet poetess of Kentucky; of the imaginative PRENTICE; of ALBERT PIKE, of Mrs. DINNIES, and many more, who are embraced in the volume before us, and whom we need not specify? There is much verse in the work, certainly, that cannot claim a very high order of merit; but the proportion is less than in that of kindred collections, prepared in this meridian. Of the productions generally,' says the compiler,' which make up the volume, this remark may be made: they look not, for their paternity, to men of either leisure, wealth, or devotion to letters; but find it, some amid the din of the workshop, others at the handle of the plough, a third class in the ledger-marked countingroom, and a fourth among the John-Doism and Richard-Roism of an attorney's office. For the most part, they have been the mere momentary out-gushings of irrepressible feeling, proceeding from the hearts of those who were daily and hourly subjected to the perplexities and toils of business, and the cares and anxieties inseparable from the procuring of one's daily bread by active occupation. As such, let them be judged.' 'As such,' let us add, many of them have already won, and will now renew, the hearty admiration of the public.
THE SEER: OR COMMON-PLACES REFRESHED. By LEIGH HUNT. Parts I. and II. pp. 166. London: Moxon, Dover-street. New-York: WILEY AND PUTNAM.
We are well pleased to find LEIGH HUNT alive and astir, in the ripeness of his years and genius. Somehow or other it has chanced, since the despotic reign of BYRON, and the subsequent attacks of his biographers upon his sometime friend, our author, (including the poetical pasquinade of MOORE,) that we have heard but little of the writer of the very delightful papers whose general title stands at the head of this article. Yet we will venture to assert, that there is scarcely a contemporary of LEIGH HUNT, excepting perhaps CHARLES LAMB, in whose pages one may find a truer conception of the beautiful, a more cultivated and refined taste, more true feeling, genuine benevolence, and pleasant humor, than in these same unpretending 'refreshed common places.' In commending them warmly to our readers, we must ask them, in justification of our encomium, to turn to the sensible and feeling chapter on 'Death and Burial;' to admire with us the tasteful criticisms on the works of the old masters of English pöesy; and the fine pictures of external and animal nature. Observe how perfect is this limning of a most humble object, in a passage from 'The Cat by the Fire :'
"Poor Pussy! she looks up at us again, as if she thanked us for those indications of dinner; and symbolically gives a twist of a yawn, and a lick to her whiskers. Now she proceeds to clean herself all over, having a just sense of the demands of her elegant person-beginning judiciously with her paws, and fetching amazing tongues at her hind-hips. Anon, she scratches her neck with a foot of rapid delight, leaning her head toward it, and shutting her eyes, half to accommodate the action of the skin, and half to enjoy the luxury. She then rewards her paws with a few more touches - look at the action of her head and neck; how pleasing it is, the ears pointed forward, and the neckgently arching to and fro. Finally, she gives a sneeze, and another twist of mouth and whiskers, and then, eurling her tail toward her front claws, settles herself on her hind quarters, in an attitude of bland meditation."
There is evidence of great goodness of heart in the writer's generous praise of 'dear, dogmatic, diseased, thoughtful, surly, charitable JOHNSON,' for going out at night to buy oysters for his cat, a thing which his black servant was too proud to do. 'What must any body that saw him have thought, as he turned up Bolt-court?' Great is our essayist's pity for cats, abused or over-petted by children. 'How,' says he, 'should we like to be squeezed and pulled about in that manner, by some great patronizing giant?' Beautiful exceedingly is the reverence for the hand of God in Nature, contained in the subjoined paragraph from 'A Flower for Your Window:'
"A rough tree grows up, and at the tips of his rugged and dark fingers he puts forth — round, smooth, shining, and hauging delicately the golden apple, or the cheek-like beauty of the peach. The other day we were in a garden where Indian corn was growing, and some of the cobs were plucked to show us. First one leaf or sheath was picked off, then another, then another, then a fourth, and so on, as if a fruit-seller was unpacking fruit out of papers; and at last we came, inside, to the grains of the corn, packed up into cucumber-shapes of pale gold, and each of them pressed and flattened against each other, as if some human hand had been doing it in the caverns of the earth. BUT WHAT HAND! The same that made the poor yet rich hand (for is it not his workmanship also?) that is tracing these marvelling lines, and which if it does not tremble to write them, it is because Love sustains, and because the heart also is a flower which has a right to be tranquil in the garden of the Ail-Wise."
As something in a different vein, we beg the reader to note the following. Isn't it a dreadful bore? - and are not specimens of the class encountered every day in the streets, or in society?
"Every sentiment, or want of sentiment, pushed to excess, bears, from that excess, a character of romance; even dulness may be romantic. We remember our late dear friend Charles Lamb, many years ago, giving us, with his exquisite tact, an account of a deceased acquaintance of his who carried ommon-place' itself to a pitch of the romantic,' and who would way-lay you for half-an-hour with a history of his having cut his finger, or mislaid a pair of shoes. This gentleman did not draw infinite somethings out of nothing, like the wits of the Lutrin or the Rape of the Lock, or the Italian expatiators upon a Cough or a Christian-name. Ho got hold of nothing, and out of it, with a congeniality of emptiness, drew nothing whatever. But it was he that drew the nothing, and you that listened to him; and thus he got a sense of himself somehow. If you ran against him in the street, it was an event in his life, and enabled him to stand breathing, and smiling, and saying how much it did not signify, for the next intense five minutes. He once met a lady, an acquaintance of his, who was going to have a tooth drawn.
God bless me! I am very sorry to hear it-very sorry. How long, pray, may you have suffered this toothache?
I should think a week.
God bless me! A week! That is a long time! And by night as well as by day, I presume?
Dear me! That is very sad. God bless me! No sleep for these two nights! Want of sleep is a very sad thing-highly distressing. I could not do without my regular sleep. No, no; none of us can. It is highly undermining to the constitution. Produces such fatigue-such lassitude-such weariness. Hm! h'm! (Humming with a sort of sympathy and gentlemanly groan, as if his own face were bound up.) I see you are suffering now, madam?
It will be soon over now.
Hm! You are very bold, madam, very resolute; but that is extremely sensible. Hm! Dear me! And you have tried clove, I presume, and all that? Why, I am not young, and do not like to part with my teeth. Ah-oh-h'm just so-very natural-ah-yes-dear (The lady nods.)
me! h'm! A double tooth, I suppose?
Ah-afraid of the cold air-you are right not to open your mouth, madam. Cold gets in. Ah! h'm-yes-just so. (Nodding, bowing, and groaning.)
(Lady turns to go up a court, and makes a gesture of bidding him good morning.)
Obah-dear me! ay, this is the place so it is-I wish you a happy release, madam-I hope the process will be easy-h'm! ha-a-ah! (Takes farewell between a sort of breath and a groan. Lady goes into the dentist's, has her tooth drawn, and on returning down the court is astonished to find the gentleman waiting at the corner, to congratulate her!)
Well, madam (bowing and smiling), the tooth is drawn, I presume?
Dear me! ah! Hm! - very painful, I fear-a long while drawing?
Lady. 'Tis out, at last. (Aside. I wonder when the man will have done with his absurdity.) A skilful dentist, Mr. Parkinson, madam?
I have not been to a dentist myself these let me see-ah, yes, it must be-now-these twenty years. I had one bad tooth, and caught a cold sitting in the draught of a coach-very dangerous thing and chaises are worse-very dangerous things, chaises-h'm very. You are suffering still, I sce, madam? from the ghost of the tooth, I presume? (laughing)—but, dear me! I am keeping you in the draught of this court, and you go the other way. Good morning, madam; Good morning-I wish you a very GOOD morning: Don't speak, I beg; GOOD morning."
And so, thus heaping emphasis upon emphasis upon this very new valediction, and retaining a double smile amidst his good wishes, from his very new joke about the ghost of a tooth, our Hero of Common-place takes his leave.'
We had marked a pleasant passage in an essay written by our author 'On a Pebble,' (which Count TASISTRO also wrote for the 'New-York Mirror,' thus making the article original with two minds, which is a remarkable circumstance,) but we must content ourselves with the subjoined 'pinch' from a paper full of snuff, which will have the effect we hope to prevent modern lovers from becoming snuff-takers:
"Turtle-doves don't take snuff. A kiss is surely not a thing to be sneezed at.' Fancy two lovers in the time of Queen Anne, or Louis the Fifteenth, each with snuff-box in hand, who have just come to an explanation, and who in the hurry of their spirits have unthinkingly takea a pinch, just at the instant when the gentleman is going to salute the lips of his mistress. He does so, finds his honest love as frankly returned, and is in the act of bringing out the words, 'Charming creature,' when a sneeze overtakes him!
"Cha-Cha-Cha - Charming creature !'"
"What a situation! A sneeze! O Venus, where is such a thing in thy list!
"The lady, on her side, is under the hike malapropos influence, and is obliged to divide one of the sweetest of all bashful and loving speeches, with the shock of the sneeze respondent:
"Oh, Richard! Sho - Sho - Sho - Should you think ill of me for this !'"'
Talking of sneezing, reminds us of a new anecdote of the celebrated BRUMMELL, with which we may venture to close this notice. He was sitting at a table in a London club-house, reading the morning journal, when a stout Englishman standing near gave vent to a violent snceze. BRUMMELL lifted his eyes languidly from his paper, and surveyed the perpetrator with a look of cool contempt. A second report soon followed, with increased effect. The refined exquisite uttered a half-suppressed groan of horror, and began with a dignified leisure to change his position, when a third shock of sonorous and misty sternutation brought him to his feet. 'God bless me he exclained; 'hea! Waitäa!- we caän't endure this! Bring me an umbrella !'
'ARISTOCRACY IN AMERICA.' We have received a communication thus entitled, upon which we propose to offer a few observations. We took it up for perusal just after reading an article in the last number of Blackwood, wherein the writer soundly berates the Americans, because they have no aristocracy; no noblemen by birth and derivative independence; no dignified and noble sentiment of ancient descent. The want of an aristocracy, says our hereditary tory, is a deep evil in our system of society; an evil which lays waste all ancient, chivalrous feeling; all magnanimity, and sometimes even the decencies of truth. Our correspondent, we dare say, fancies he has found the true remedy for this very evil. He thinks we may have an aristocracy, and he contends, with an elaborate show of argument, and in a style of much simplicity and directness, that it will be, and should be, the Aristocracy of Money. Yes; he would have money the base and apex together of our social pyramid. We can sympathize with the writer in his condemnation of a foolish and sentimental abuse of wealth, which obtains in some quarters. We agree with him, that the necessity of an unremitting labor, which degrades the intellectual to a mere subsidiary of the material man, is to be deplored; and that the release of the mind from servitude to the body, which wealth affords, is congenial, and may be ennobling. What he says of wealth, as a means, in many regards, we hold to be true. But as a consequence, as an end, we cannot consider it in the light in which he views it. Surely, our correspondent does small justice to the Pilgrim fathers, and reflects little honor on their descendants, when he inquires, 'What peopled this continent, but the pursuit of wealth? What revolutionized it, but our jealousy of the control of our money? Is it an American who asks these questions? If so, we answer, that if he thinks liberty of conscience, 'freedom to worship God,' had nothing to do with all this, we have not read alike the history of the colonists. 'Wealth,' says our correspondent, 'constitutes the just foundation for the aristocratic society of this country. It is something to have a distinct criterion by which to measure a man's consequence;' and this, he says, wealth supplies, beyond family, political honors, or literary distinction and fame. 'I respect,' says he, 'a sentiment so universal among mankind, as a reverence for wealth. A rich man commands, and is entitled to, the respect of society, for possessing the object of such universal desire.'
This is a frank avowal. It establishes the 'American estimate of social worth,' mentioned by Captain BASIL HALL. 'Captain,' said a parvenu, in society, who carried his brains in his pocket, and his accomplishments on his person, 'do you see that gentleman over there in the corner, with a red face and a cock-eye? You should know him. That's Mr. McGOOSELY, one of our richest men. He made fifty thousand dollars last week in a speculation in tallow! Let me make you acquainted with him. And there's another of our Cræsuses- Mr. S. TUPID; he is a little dignified and dull, but one of our wealthiest putty merchants. He is looking at us - let me introduce you, Captain.' Does our correspondent imagine that such an aristocracy as this—of wealth without other qualities-can ever secure a general or permanent sway, as a