Page images

zine." These announcements were announcements and no more; the lady had nothing to do with the editorial control of either of the three last-named works.

The portrait of Mrs. Stephens which appeared in “ Graham's Magazine" for November, 1844, cannot fairly be considered a likeness at all. She is tall and slightly inclined to embon pointan English figure. Her forehead is somewhat low, but broad; the features generally massive, but full of life and intellectuality. The eyes are blue and brilliant; the hair blonde and very luxuriant.


MR. DUYCKINCK is one of the most influential of the New York littérateurs, and has done a great deal for the interests of American letters. Not the least important service rendered by him was the projection and editorship of Wiley and Putnam's “ Library of Choice Reading," a series which brought to public notice many valuable foreign works which had been suffering under neglect in this country, and at the same time afforded unwonted encouragement to native authors by publishing their books, in good style and in good company, without trouble or risk to the authors themselves, and in the very teeth of the disadvantages arising from the want of an international copyright law. At one period it seemed that this happy scheme was to be overwhelmed by the competition of rival publishers--taken, in fact, quite out of the hands of those who, by “right of discovery,” were entitled at least to its first fruits. A great variety of “ Libraries,” in imitation, were set on foot, but whatever may have been the temporary success of any of these latter, the original one had already too well established itself in the public favor to be overthrown, and thus has not been prevented from proving of great benefit to our literature at large.

Mr. Duyckinck has slyly acquired much fame and numerous admirers under the nom de plume of “ Felix Merry.” The various essays thus signed have attracted attention everywhere from the judicious. The style is remarkable for its very unusual blending of purity and ease with a seemingly inconsistent origióality, force and independence.

“Felix Merry," in connexion with Mr. Cornelius Matthews, was one of the editors and originators of " Arcturus," decidedly the very best magazine in many respects ever published in the United States. A large number of its most interesting papers were the work of Mr. D. The magazine was, upon the whole, a little too good to enjoy extensive popularity-although I am here using an equivocal phrase, for a better journal might have been far more acceptable to the public. I must be understood, then, as employing the epithet "good" in the sense of the literary quietists. The general taste of “ Arcturus” was, I think, excessively tasteful; but this character applies rather more to its external or mechanical appearance than to its essential qualities. Unhappily, magazines and other similar publications, are, in the beginning, judged chiefly by externals. People saw "Arcturus" looking very much like other works which had failed through notorious dullness, although admitted as arbitri elegantiarum in all points of what is termed taste or decorum; and they, the people, had no patience to examine any farther. Cæsar's wife was required not only to be virtuous but to seem so, and in letters it is demanded not only that we be not stupid, but that we do not array ourselves in the habiliments of stupidity.

It cannot be said of " Arcturus” exactly that it wanted force. It was deficient in power of impression, and this deficiency is to be attributed mainly to the exceeding brevity of its articles—a brevity that degenerated into mere paragraphism, precluding dissertation or argument, and thus all permanent effect. The magazine, in fact, had some of the worst or most inconvenient features without any of the compensating advantages of a weekly literary newspaper. The mannerism to which I refer seemed to have its source in undue admiration and consequent imitation of “ The Spectator."

In addition to his more obvious literary engagements, Mr. Duyckinck writes a great deal, editorially and otherwise, for “The Democratic Review," " The Morning News," and other periodicals.

In character he is remarkable, distinguished for the bonhommie of his manner, his simplicity and single-mindedness, his active beneficence, his hatred of wrong done even to any enemy, and especially for an almost Quixotic fidelity to his friends. He seems in perpetual good humor with all things, and I have no doubt that in his secret heart he is an optimist.

In person he is equally simple as in character--the one is a pendent of the other. He is about five feet eight inches high, somewhat slender. The forehead, phrenologically, is a good one; eyes and hair light; the whole expression of the face that of serenity and benevolence, contributing to give an idea of youthfulness. He is probably thirty, but does not seem to be twenty-five. His dress, also, is in full keeping with his character, scrupulously neat but plain, and conveying an instantaneous conviction of the gentleman. He is a descendant of one of the oldest and best Dutch families in the state. Married.


MRS. Mary Gove, under the pseudonym of “Mary Orme,” has written many excellent papers for the magazines. Her subjects are usually tinctured with the mysticism of the transcendentalists, but are truly imaginative. Her style is quite remarkable for its luminousness and precision--two qualities very rare with her sex. An article entitled “The Gift of Prophecy,” published originally in “ The Broadway Journal,” is a fine specimen of her manner.

Mrs. Gove, however, has acquired less notoriety by her literary compositions than by her lectures on physiology to classes of females. These lectures are said to have been instructive and useful; they certainly elicited much attention. Mrs. G. has also given public discourses on Mesmerism, I believe, and other similar themes---matters which put to the severest test the credulity, or, more properly, the faith of mankind. She is, I think, a Mesmerist, a Swedenborgian, a phrenologist, a homeopathist, and a disciple of Priessnitz—what more I am not prepared to say.

She is rather below the medium height, somewhat thin, with dark hair and keen, intelligent black eyes. She converses well and with enthusiasm. In many respects a very interesting woman.

VOL. III.-3.


MR. ALDRICH has written much for the magazines, &c., and at one time assisted Mr. Park Benjamin in the conduct of “ The New World.” He also originated, I believe, and edited a not very long-lived or successful weekly paper, called “ The Literary Gazette," an imitation in its external appearance of the London journal of the same name. I am not aware that he has made any collection of his writings. His poems abound in the true poetic spirit, but they are frequently chargeable with plagiarism, or something much like it. True, I have seen but three of Mr. Aldrich's compositions in verse--the three (or perhaps there are four of them,) included by Doctor Griswold in his “Poets and Poetry of America." Of these three, (or four,) however, there are two which I cannot help regarding as palpable plagiarisms. Of one of them, in especial, “ A Death-Bed,” it is impossible to say a plausible word in defence. Both in matter and manner it is nearly identical with a little piece entitled The Death-Bed," by Thomas Hood.

The charge of plagiarism, nevertheless, is a purely literary one; and a plagiarism even distinctly proved by no means necessarily involves any moral delinquency. This proposition applies very especially to what appear to be poetical thefts. The poetic sentiment presupposes a keen appreciation of the beautiful with a longing for its assimilation into the poetic identity. What the poet intensely admires becomes, thus, in very fact, although only partially, a portion of his own soul. Within this soul it has a secondary origination; and the poet, thus possessed by another's thought, cannot be said to take of it possession. But in either view he thoroughly feels it as his own; and the tendency to this feeling is counteracted only by the sensible presence of the true, palpable origin of the thought in the volume whence he has derived it-an origin which, in the long lapse of years, it is impossible not to forget, should the thought itself, as it often is, be forgotten. But the frailest association will regenerate it: it springs up with all the vigor of a new birth ; its absolute originality is not with the poet a matter even of suspicion; and when he has written it and printed it, and on its account is charged with plagiarism, there will be no one more entirely astounded than himself. Now, from what I have said, it appears that the liability to accidents of this character is in the direct ratio of the poetic sentiment, of the susceptibility to the poetic impression; and, in fact, all literary history demonstrates that, for the most frequent and palpable plagiarisms we must search the works of the most eminent poets.

Since penning the above I have found five quatrains by Mr. Aldrich, with the heading “ Molly Gray.” These verses are in the fullest exemplification of what I have just said of their author, evincing at once, in the most remarkable manner, both his merit as an imaginative poet and his unconquerable proneness to imitation. I quote the two concluding quatrains.

Pretty, fairy Molly Gray!

What may thy fit emblems be ?
Stream or star or bird or flower-

They are all too poor for thee.
No type to match thy beauty

My wandering fancy brings—
Not fairer than its chrysalis

Thy soul with its golden wings ! Here the “ Pretty, fairy Molly Gray !” will put every reader in mind of Tennyson's " Airy, fairy Lillian !" by which Mr. Aldrich's whole poem has been clearly suggested; but the thought in the finale is, as far as I know anything about it, original, and is not more happy than happily expressed.

Mr. Aldrich is about thirty-six years of age. In regard to his person there is nothing to be especially noted.

« PreviousContinue »