« PreviousContinue »
steersman swept round the boat's stern : instantly it was caught by an eddy to the right, which, snapping an oar, twirled her irresistibly broad side on; so that for a moment it seemed uncertain whether the boat and all in her were to be hurled into the hollow of the fall, or dashed stern foremost on the sunken rocks. Something perhaps wiser than chance ordained it otherwise ; for how it happened, no account can be given, but so it was that her head swung in shore towards the beach, and thereby gave Sinclair and others an opportunity of springing into the water, and thus, by their united strength, rescuing her from her perilous situation. Now had the man to whom the first order was given, understood and acted upon it, no human power could have saved the crew from being buried in the frightful abyss. Nor yet could any blame be justly attached to the steersman: he had never been so situated before ; and even in this inminent peril, his coolness and self-possession never forsook him. At the awful moment of suspense, when one of the crew with less nerve than his companions began to cry aloud to Heaven for aid, M'Kay, in a still louder voice, exclaimed, 'Is this a time for praying? Pull your starboard oar.'. 'Heaven helps those who help themselves,' seems to have been the creed of the stout-hearted highlander.
On the eastern side we noticed some marks, as well as the remains of an Esquimaux encampment; but nothing which denoted when they had been there. Having made another caché of pemmican, at the foot of Escape Rapid, in order to lighten the boat as much as possible, we pursued our course; but had not got more than two miles farther, when a thick fog and pelting rain obscured the view, and obliged us to land for shelter. As soon as it cleared, which was not before the evening, we renewed the attempt; and were urged by a strong current considerably to the eastward, the river now taking that direction through a range of cliffy sand-hills, in which, on some occasions of more than common obstruction, its eddies had scooped out extensive basins. The current, always swift, now rushed on still faster, and soon became a line of heavy rapids, which more than once made me tremble for our poor boat; for in many parts, not being able to land, we were compelled to pull hard to keep her under command, and thus flew past rocks and other dangers with a velocity that seemed to forbode some desperate termination : happily, however, we escaped though only to begin another series. Along the banks of these last lay several dead deer, which had doubtless been drowned in attempting to swim to the opposite side.”
The volume is well printed, but upon dingy and somewhat coarse paper, and is illustrated by a good map of the route adopted, and discoveries made.
LAFITTE: THE PIRATE OF THE Gulf. By the author of 'The South-West.' In two
volumes, 12mo. New-York : HARPER AND BROTHERS.
The marked talent which characterized . The South-west, by a Yankee,' particularly the graphic descriptive portions of that work, caused us to look with some anxiety for the volumes under notice. Considering that the present is the first attempt of the author, in this class of composition, we are not disappointed in the effort. It has many merits, and some serious faults. In the first place, it is not a novel, proper. There is no regular tendency of incident to a single point; the events are not made to conduce to a general end. Scenes are introduced that do not, in our judgment, seem necessary to the progress or interest of the story - and the whole is rather a collection of sketches – many of them replete with exciting adventure, and drawn with skill — than a regularly-conceived fiction. The characters of the principal personages, especially of Lafitte, the heroine, and her lover, are well sustained — and the scenes of warfare, both on land and sea, are spirited and interesting. We must be permitted to object to the style, which is somewhat too labored and florid, even for this popular species of composition. The following announcement of a mere lapse in the story, will furnish an example of the objection to which we allude: ‘About one-fifth of the brief term of years to which divine wisdom has limited the life of man, we have suffered to roll unrecorded down the tide of time,' etc. Our author's similes and comparisons are not always the most felicitous. He tells us of waves overlaid with golden mail, and of rocky avalanches rising one above another, and gives us many like similitudes. But we would not dwell upon these defects; they are the
natural result of a first attempt, and need only be pointed out, we are sure, to be avoided in future. As we have already presented copious passages from these volumes, and are limited in present space, we must content ourselves with this general reference to them, and close by commending them to our readers, as well calculated to reward perusal.
LITERARY REMAINS OF THE LATE William HAZLITT. With a Notice of his Life, by his Son: and Thoughts on his Genius and Writings, by E. L. BULWER, Esq., M. P., and Mr. SERGEANT TALFOURD, M. P. In one volume, pp. 315. New-York : SAUNDERS AND OTLEY.
It is our purpose, at some future period, to allude more at large to this volume than our limits and leisure will now permit. Many of the fine essays in this work we remember to have seen heretofore; and the pleasure with which we once perused them, returns upon us with not the less force, now that we are enabled to devour them in a collected form. The just discrimination, the consistency and coherence of argument, that distinguish the author, are forcibly displayed in the 'Definition of Wit,' the dissertation on 'Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, the Feeling of Immortality in Youth,' and in. The Conduct of Life.' Of the lighter Essays, ' The Fight,' • The Want of Money,' and 'My first Acquaintance with Poets,' are admirable specimens. From an essay on the opera, we take the subjoined paragraph, and confess ourselves Goths enough to agree with the writer in every word he utters:
"The opera is the most artificial of all things. It is not only art, but ostentatious, unambiguous, exclusive art. It does not subsist as an imitation of nature, but in contempt of it; and instead of seconding, its object is to pervert and sophisticate all our natural impressions of things. When the opera first made its appearance in this country, there were strong prejudices entertained against it, and it was ridiculed as a species of the mock-heroic. The prejudices have worn out with time, and the ridicule has ceased; but the grounds for both remain the same in the nature of the thing itself. At the theatre, we see and hear what has been said, thought, and done by various people elsewhere : at the opera, we see and hear what was never said, thought, or done any where but at the opera. Not only is all communication with nature cut off, but every appeal to the imagination is sheathed and softened in the melting medium of siren sounds. The ear is cloyed and glutted with warbled ecstasies or agonies ; while every avenue to terror or pity is carefully stopped up and guarded by song and recitative. Music is not made the vehicle of poetry, but poetry of music; the very meaning of the words is lost or refined away in the effeminacy of a foreign language. A grand serious opera is a tragedy wrapped up in soothing airs, to suit the tender feelings of the nurslings of fortune – where tortured victims swoon on beds of roses, and the pangs of despair sink in tremulous accents into downy repose. Just so much of human misery is given us to lull those who are exempted from it into a deeper sense of their own security: just enough of the picture of human life is shown to relieve their languor, without disturbing their indifference; - not to excite their sympathy, but with some sweet oblivious antidote,' to pamper their sleek and sordid apathy. In a word, the whole business of the opera is to stifle emotion in its birth, and to intercept every feeling in its progress to the heart. Every impression that, left to itself, might sink deep into the mind, and wake it to real sympathy, is overtaken and baffled by means of some other impression, plays round the surface of the imagination, trembles into airy sound, or expires in an empty pageant. In the grand carnival of the senses, the pulse of life is suspended, the link which binds us to humanity is broken; the soul is fretted by the sense of excessive softness into a feverish hectic dream; truth becomes a fable; good and evil matters of perfect indifference, except as they can be made subservient to our selfish gratification; and there is hardly a vice for which the mind on coming out of the opera is not prepared, no virtue of which it is capable."
The comparison between an opera-singer and untutored performers in nature, which precedes the above passage, seems to us beautiful exceedingly:
"The thrush that awakes at daybreak with its song, does not sing because it is paid to sing, or to please others, or to be admired or criticized. It sings because it is happy: it pours the thrilling sounds from its throat, to relieve the overflowings of its own heart the liquid notes come from and go to the heart, dropping balm into it, as the gushing spring revives the traveler's parched and fainting lips. That stream of joy comes pure and fresh to the longing sense, free from art and affectation; the same that rises over vernal groves, mingled with the breath of morning, and the perfumes of the wild hyacinth; it waits for no audience, it wants no rehearsing, and still
‘Hymns its good God, and carols sweet of love.' This is the great difference between nature and art, that the one is what the other seems, and gives all the pleasure it expresses, because it feels it itself.”
We would hint a little advice to the publishers of this volume. So good a work is worthy of clean white paper and fair type — but it has neither. Our best bookpurveyors have found their account in a due attention to the externals of their publications. A word to the wise should be suffegance.'
MADRID IN 1835. Sketches of the Metropolis of Spain and its Inhabitants, and of
Society and Manners in the Peninsula. By a Resident Officer. Two volumes in one. pp. 237. New-York: SAUNDERS AND OTLEY.
This is a very agreeable work, full and clear in its details of the thousand objects and incidents, of interest or curiosity, witnessed by the author-traveler. The descriptions are involuntary and picturesque, and show the writer to possess an observant eye, and the rare but important faculty of recording his impressions in such wise as to impart to his readers the idea that they are in reality journeying with him. Hence there is a striking vraisemblance in his narratives, and a brightness and spirit in his pictures, which render them at times quite delightful. We would instance, as corroborative of these encomiums, the description of the approach to, and general view of, Madrid — the scenes in the Puerta del Sol and the Prado — the monasteries, convents, monks, bull-fights, etc. Nor should we forget to mention two or three charming stories which, amid the accumulation and detail of particulars, our author has managed to collect and present, without interrupting or interfering with his sketches of travel, as such. The writer understands the true art bablative' in composition, yet his slight, extempore, and natural digressions, show that he can use it without abusing it. A few passages from the description of Madrid — a city concerning which, as we obtain reason from this volume to believe, most people in the new world entertain very mistaken conceptions — must furnish forth all of extract that we are enabled to present :
“The streets of Madrid have not the least point of resemblance with those of any other European capital — just as little as the great majority of the people walking about them bear to the inhabitants of Paris, London, or Vienna. The Calle Alcala is, no doubt, a very fine street, possessing a splendid public monument; the custom house and many private houses are of an elevated order of architecture; this does not prevent its being the street of Madrid which presents most anomalies. There, as every body knows, there are no areas to the houses as in London; the lower part being entirely destined to lumber rooms, or wine vaults, or general receptacles for any thing and every thing. Nobody dreams of living under ground: as they say themselves, that will come in due time, and long before they could wish. The ground floors having windows toward the street,' are secured, like those of a prison, with thick iron bars pretty closely set together, an appearance that gives no very favorable idea of the watchfulness of the police or the honesty of the citizens. This precaution, which elsewhere would scare every body from taking such a well defended citadel, produces no such effect among the natives. They are quite as much sought after as any other story, and, indeed, preferred by many, on account of their coolness in summer. They possess, also, the advantage of giving fair play to the man of imagination and quaint fancies. For, when such quarters are inhabited by pretty girls, who are always at their windows, looking through
the bars like chickens out of a hen-coop, a poetic character might well transport bimself to those barbarous periods when beauty was restrained by bars and bolts, requiring and imploring the aid of chivalry to the rescue. Such ‘Peris,' be they ever so soft, and languishing, and beautiful, have often to do with fathers or mothers who do not understand nonsense, or husbands as jealous as tigers; in fact, are looked after with a solicitude which they could altogether dispense with. As for myself, they always put me in mind, poor things! of Yorick's starling 'I can't get out,' said the poor bird. The well fringed, speaking eyes of those dear Ninas, look at you, and through you, as you are passing, envying your powers of locomotion, and sighing all the while as plain as eyes black, or blue, or gray, and all with prodigious long eyelashes, can sigh - We can't get out! we can't get out! Caballero! we can't get out --- although dying to do 80! I don't know how it is, but I take so much to heart every thing relating to the sex of the above description, and not past five-and-twenty, that I have more than once formed the project of never going to ramble about the streets without a good file in my pocket, so as to let myself in, or them out, just as fate and circumstances should ordain it."
The domestic animals appear to occupy a prominent position in the Spanish community. Witness the following, taken from a description of the Calle de Montera, the ' Rue Vivienne' of Madrid:
" It is by no means uncommon for a lady, driving a hard bargain in a mercer's shop, refulgent with rich brocades, lovely silks, and delicate ribbons, to be interrupted and startled by a sound peck at her little foot from a sauntering turkey-cock just dropped in' from the stable, and posada of the Gallega opposite, which has mistaken the small rosetle upon her shoe for something good, or observing what is going on with the musical note and upcast inquisitive eye peculiar to this savory bird. I leave to an abler pen than mine, the description of the rows' constantly occurring between the numerous dogs, with and without masters, that are in the habit of giving each other a general rendezvous opposite the church of San Luis, after gleaning the refuse of the neighboring market-place of 'El Carmen. As they are very numerous, and of all casts and conditions, it is natural there should exist a considerable divergency of opinions among them on most subjects. This produces, at first, something between a growl and a whimper, improves into a display of fiëry eyes and rows of very sharp white teeth; and, at last, things proceed to such lengths, that no decent dog can put up with it. Hence a general meléc and running fight, the flagway being always selected by the old hands as affording most chance of a slip to an unwary adversary. When the pursuit becomes hot, and they are hard pushed, they bolt into the shops, on the old sailor principle of any port in a storm,' and there'fight it out,' shamefully regardless of the fright and screams of the ladies, the swearing of the shop-boys, and the cudgels of the beggars, fixtures at the door, who hope to pocket a few extra cuartos by so scasonable a display of vigor on
costillas agen as
(other people's ribs.”) "I say nothing of the 'Galeras,' (long, narrow carts,) arriving from the country or departing, or loading before the gateways of the posadas; it is a rus in urbe with a vengeance. Their maited awnings, inud-clodded wheels, and clumsy drags, wild-looking mules and drivers, the misanthropic dog posted between the wheels, and the iron pot lashed on behind, contrast strangely with the smart equipages of the fashionable, and tell loudly of bad roads, and plains, and uninhabited regions, requiring both food and kitchen to travel with, as in the caravan of Bussora, or that destined to transport the faithful to the shrine of the prophet.”
The work is well printed, in large pages, upon a bold, clear type, and is embellished by two superb mezzo-tints, representing the Convent of the Salesas Viejas,' and an Evening View of the Prado.'
Park THEATRE. — During the past season, opera has been the chief attraction, and most popular exhibition, at the Park. Miss PhilLIPS, ABBOTT, WALLACK, DOWTON, and a host of minor spirits, both in the legitimate as well as the illegitimate drama, have for a time been kept in the back ground, by the prominent influence of 'sweet sounds.' And yet we dare not ascribe that decline which seems to have taken place in the dramatic taste of the public to their increased appreciation of music alone. It would be well for us if such were indeed the true cause of the indifference which has been shown toward the forsaken drama. Nor has this falling off been caused by the absence of those essentials which enter into the composition of the intellectual repasts which it is the true object of the stage to furnish. We have in Miss Phillips an actress unsurpassed upon the English stage - one whose delineations of character are no less distinguished for their natural truth than their high classical perfection - a painter, in whose pictures nature and art are so exquisitely blended, that the most critical eye seeks in vain for that disproportion which would mark the prominence of the one, or the weaklydefined appearance of the other. Yet Miss Phillips must be content with the approbation of the few, and the indifference of the many. Dowton in comedy, too, may play to empty benches ; Dowion, the graceful painter of still life — the chaste delineator of times past – whose subdued yet highly-finished portraits carry us back into the very presence of the Sir Anthonys, the Sir Peters, the Sir Robert Brambles, and the long list of gentlemanly old baronets, and their worthy associates among the commoners, whose staunch English prejudices sit as gracefully as the virtues which embalm them Dowton, the most finished comedian of his day, has played the full term of an engagement among us to comparatively bare walls. What is the cause of this indifference? What do the public want? Novelty-excitement — dash — show - spectacle - parade! Like a spoiled school-boy, who, instead of studying his primer, smacks his lips over a stolen repast of sugar-plums and bons-bons, and afterward refuses the wholesome dinner that is placed before him — so this good public, having vitiated their healthy appetite by extravagant spectacle, melo-dramatic absurdities, and other grossly physical exhibitions, can no longer enjoy the strong intellectual food which nature and truth were wont to spread before them. Spectacle is the order of the day. Improbable circumstances, dressed up in big, windy words, or unmeaning pantomime – glaring scenery, pompous processions, discordant music, roaring lions that will outroar a tempest, and men and women who can outroar them - these, with novelty for the scene-shifter - these are the aliment for which the public appetite is set, and upon which they must and will gormandize, until they and the objects of their admiration sicken with mutual disgust :
See from afar,