« PreviousContinue »
difficulty attained) there is nothing done which should not be. Every word tells, and there is not a word which does not tell.
In “Howe's Masquerade" we observe something which resembles a plagiarism-but which may be a very flattering coincidence of thought. We quote the passage in question.
With a dark flush of wrath upon his brow they saw the general draw his sword and advance to meet the figure in the cloak before the latter had stepped one pace upon the floor. Villian, unmuffle yourself,” cried he, "you pass no farther!" The figure, without blenching a hair's breadth from the sword which was pointed at his breast, made a solemn pause, and lowered the cape of the cloak from his face, yet not sufficiently for the spectators to catch a glimpse of it. But Sir William Howe had evidently seen enough The steroness of his countenance gave place to a look of wild amazement, if not horror, while he recoiled several steps from the figure, and let fall his sword upon the floor.--See vol. 2, p. 20.
The idea here is, that the figure in the cloak is the phantom or reduplication of Sir William Howe; but in an article called “ William Wilson," on of the “Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque,” we have not only the same idea, but the same idea similarly presented in several respects. We quote two paragraphs, which our readers may compare with what has been already given. We have italicized, above, the immediate particulars of resemblance.
The brief moment in which I averted my eyes had been sufficient to produce, apparently, a material change in the arrangement at the upper or farther end of the room. A large mirror, it appeared to me, now stood where none had been perceptible before : and as I stepped up to it in extremity of terror, mine own image, but with features all pale and dabbled in blood, advanced with a feeble and tottering gait to meet me. Thus it appeared I say, but was not. It was Wilson, who then stood before me in the agonies of dissolution. Not a line in all the marked and singular lineaments of that face which was not even identically mine own. His mask and cloak lay where he had thrown them, upon the floor. Vol. 2, p. 57.
Here, it will be observed that, not only are the two general conceptions identical, but there are various points of similarity. In each case the figure seen is the wraith or duplication of the beholder. In each case the scene is a masquerade. In each case the figure is cloaked. In each, there is a quarrel—that is to say, angry words pass between the parties. In each the beholder is enraged. In each the cloak and sword fall upon the floor. The “ villain, unmuffle yourself,” of Mr. H. is precisely paralleled by a passage at page 56, of “ William Wilson.”
I must hasten to conclude this paper with a summary of Mr. Hawthorne's merits and demerits.
He is peculiar and not original—unless in those detailed fancies and detached thoughts which his want of general originality will deprive of the appreciation due to them, in preventing them for ever reaching the public eye. He is infinitely too fond of allegory, and can never hope for popularity so long as he persists in it. This he will not do, for allegory is at war with the whole tone of his nature, which disports itself never so well as when escaping from the mysticism of his Goodman Browns and White Old Maids into the hearty, genial, but still Indian-summer sunshine of his Wakefields and Little Annie's Rambles. 'Indeed, his spirit of "metaphor run-mad” is clearly imbibed from the phalanx and phalanstery atmosphere in which he has been so long struggling for breath. He has not half the material for the exclusiveness of authorship that he possesses for its universality. He has the purest style, the finest taste, the most available scholarship, the most delicate humor, the most touching pathos, the most radiant imagination, the most consummate ingenuity; and with these varied good qualities he has done well as a mystic. But is there any one of these qualities which should prevent his doing doubly as well in a career of honest, upright, sensible, prehensible and comprehensible things ? Let him mend his pen, get a bottle of visible ink, come out from the Old Manse, cut Mr. Alcott, hang (if possible) the editor of “The Dial,” and throw out of the window to the pigs all his odd numbers of “ The North American Review."
ELIZABETH FRIEZE ELLETT.
MRS. ELLETT, or Eller, has been long before the public as an author. Having contributed largely to the newspapers and other periodicals in her youth, she first made her debât on a more comprehensive scale, as the writer of “ Teresa Contarini”, a five-act tragedy, which had considerable merit, but was withdrawn after its first night of representation at the Park. This occurred at some period previous to the year 1834 ; the precise date I am unable to remember. The ill success of the play had little effect in repressing the ardor of the poetess, who has since furnished numerous papers to the Magazines. Her articles are, for the most part, in the rifacimento way, and, although no doubt composed in good faith, have the disadvantage of looking as if hashed up for just so much money as they will bring. The charge of wholesale plagiarism which has been adduced against Mrs. Ellett, I confess that I have not felt sufficient interest in her works, to investigate-and am therefore bound to believe it unfounded. In person, short and much inclined to embonpoint.
MRS. AMELIA Welly has nearly all the imagination of Maria del Occidente, with a more refined taste; and nearly all the passion of Mrs. Norton, with a nicer ear, and (what is surprising) equal art. Very few American poets are at all comparable with her in the true poetic qualities. As for our poetesses (an absurd but necessary word), few of them approach her.
With some modifications, this little poem would do honor to any one living or dead :
The moon within our casement beams,
Our blue-eyed babe hath dropped to sleep,
Amid the shadows deep,
Where they have said thee down to rest;
Bloom sweetly on thy breast,
Light lovely shapes, on glossy plumes,
Amid the purpling glooms :
In happier hours thy footsteps made ;
Within the silent shade
'Twas here at eve we used to rove;
'Twas here I breathed my whispered vows,
Beneath the apple-boughs.
Had fill’d thy heart in youth's sweet hour;
As fleeting passion-flower
I seem to see thee still,
Thy whisper on the hill;
Yet still I start to meet thine eye,
That gives me no reply-
For the light feet that come no more. In a critical mood I would speak of these stanzas thus :The subject has nothing of originality :-A widower muses by the grave of his wife. Here then is a great demerit; for originality of theme, if not absolutely first sought, should be sought among the first. Nothing is more clear than this proposition--although denied by the chlorine critics (the grass-green). The desire of the new is an element of the soul. The most exquisite pleasures grow dull in repetition. A strain of music enchants. Heard a second time it pleases. Heard a tenth, it does not displease. We hear it a twentieth, and ask ourselves why we admired. At the fiftieth it induces ennui—at the hundredth, disgust.
Mrs. Welby's theme is, therefore, radically faulty so far as originality is concerned ;—but of common themes, it is one of the very best among the class passionate. True passion is prosaic-homely. Any strong mental emotion stimulates all the mental faculties ; thus grief the imagination::—but in proportion as the effect is strengthened, the cause surceases. The excited fancy triumphsthe grief is subdued—-chastened—is no longer grief. In this mood we are poetic, and it is clear that a poem now written will be poetic in the exact ratio of its dispassion. A passionate poem is a contradiction in terms. When I say, then, that Mrs. Welby's stanzas are good among the class passionate (using the term commonly and falsely applied), I mean that her tone is properly subdued, and is not so much the tone of passion, as of a gentle and melancholy regret, interwoven with a pleasant sense of the natural loveliness surrounding the lost in the tomb, and a memory of her human beauty while alive.—Elegiac poems should either assume this character, or dwell purely on the beauty (moral or physical) of the departed—or, better still, utter the notes of triumph. I have endeavored to carry out this latter idea in some verses which I have called “Lenore."
Those who object to the proposition—that poetry and passion are discordant-would cite Mrs. Welby's poem as an instance of a passionate one. It is precisely similar to the hundred others which have been cited for like purpose. . But it is not passionate; and for this reason with others having regard to her fine genius) it is poetical. The critics upon this topic display an amusing ignoratio elenchi.
Dismissing originality and tone, I pass to the general handling, than which nothing could be more pure, more natural, or more judicious. The perfect keeping of the various points is admirable —and the result is entire unity of impression, or effect. The time, a moonlight night; the locality of the grave; the passing thither from the cottage, and the conclusion of the theme with the return to the silent door ;” the babe left, meanwhile, "to its dreams;" the "white rose and forget-me-not” upon the breast of the entombed; the "birds and streams, with liquid lull, that make the stillness beautiful;" the birds whose songs
" thrill the light leaves with melody;"—all these are appropriate and lovely conceptions :only quite unoriginal ;-and (be it observed), the higher order of genius should, and will combine the original with that which is natural—not in the vulgar sense, (ordinary)—but in the artistic sense, which has reference to the general intention of Nature.—We have this combination well effected in the lines :
And softly through the forest bars
Light lovely shapes, on glossy plumes,
Amid the purpling glooms-