Page images
PDF
EPUB

and we are permitted to be such now of a large portion of it, in order that, when that so anxiously desired period of our lives comes, we may be the better prepared to enter upon it. For this reason no more is exacted, though much more is expected, from us, and if we would succeed in life we must see to it that that expectation be not disappointed. The mere study of text-books, unaccompanied by the examination of collateral authors, will be of comparatively little benefit. True, if we accomplish even this much, the world will be flattering enough to call us educated' men, but " what's in a name ?" In the end we shall find that we are like the man who, on seeing the doors, windows, and bare walls, thought he had seen a palace, when all the richness and beauty, all, in fine, that made the structure a palace, was in the inside, where he had never set foot.

With regard to the importance of general reading, we need say nothing, since every student feels this, and, to a greater or less extent, makes it a part of his daily occupation. But a word as to the manner of reading. There are two great classes of readers, viz: those who read for amusement, to employ and pass away time, and those who read for improvement. With the first class we have nothing to do. The other may be subdivided into those who in reading merely exercise their retentive powers, and those who, in addition to this, bring into play their judgment. The latter of these classes alone pursues the right course, for no one can be made eloquent, either as a writer or speaker, mechanically, and such is the only tendency of the course pursued by the former. When one is indebted for his ideas to memory alone, or, in other words, when one has not in his own mind remodeled, elaborated, and made accessions to, the ideas of others derived from their works, he cannot, in the very nature of things, be eloquent. His efforts at being so will meet with equal ridicule with those of the man who undertook to make the corpse stand erect unsupported, and he may deem himself the object of " a special interposition,” if he do not hear, as that man did, the biting sneer, “ absit aliquid intus." Perhaps we conflict here with some of our readers' notions of originality, but we merely give our humble opinion as to what is best under the circumstances, and it is based on an impression under which we labor, viz: that there are very few who possess true genius, or, what is in our vocabulary synonymous, originality, both meaning, as we conceive, a quick observation of nature and a ready power of depicting it. This is not Webster's definition, but, with all due deference to the distinguished lexicographer, we reckon it's about as good, for man cannot originate, because original thought must be natural, and every thing in nature had its origin in the Creator of nature. Hence the keenest observers of nature, in all her phases and aspects, and her best depictors, are, in all time, the greatest originals. For instance, if it be not to this, to his accurate delineation of nature, that Shakspeare owes all his fame for power and originality, to what is it?

In selecting the works for a course of reading, there is opportunity for the exercise of all one's discriminating powers. Each of course must be his own judge as to the kind of reading best adapted to meet his own wants and circumstances, and it would be useless to offer any remarks on this point, since what might be best for one, might be the reverse for another. There is one class of books, though, which we consider productive not merely of no benefit, but of positive injury, and which we should be willing to see excluded from every young student's table. We refer to reviews. Your would-be-thought-genius considers these a sine qua non, and hence in condemning them we shall doubtless call forth from him an exclamation of pious horror at our audacity. But we shall not retract, nevertheless. Nay, we shall even go farther, and assert that it is to his very taste for review-reading we may ascribe, in a great measure, the predicament in which this same "genius” is himself-not that of a literary nondescript, for Burke's description of his kind is true as pithy, “winged but legless.” One who strives to build a permanent literary reputation on such a basis, unless he is disappointment-proof, will, sooner or later, have to become a follower of that school whose creed is “ De apparentibus et non existentibus eadem est ratio.We do not intend to condemn reviews entirely, but merely to oppose their use by those who are commencing their education. What they may be to a finished scholar, whether advantageous or the contrary, we of course do not pretend to say; but could we do so without incurring the risk of being thought presumptuous, we would express our hearty concurrence with the following opinion of Mr. Hazlitt on the practical utility of them :

“ We contrive even to read by proxy. We skim the cream of prose without any trouble ; we get at the quintessence of poetry without loss of time. The staple commodity, the coarse, heavy, dirty, unwieldly bullion of books, is driven out of the market of learning, and the intercourse of the literary world is carried on, and the credit of great capitalists sustained, by the flimsy circulating medium of magazines and ieviews. Those who are chiefly concerned in catering for the taste of others, and serving up critical opinions in a compendious, elegant, and portable form, are not forgetful of themselves : they are not scrupulously solicitous, idly inquisitous, about the real merits, the bona fide contents of the works they are deputed to appraise and value, any more than the reading public who employ them. They look no farther for the contents of the work than the title-page, and pronounce a peremptory decision on its merits or defects by a glance at the name and party of the writer. This state of polite letters seems to admit of improvement in only one respect, which is, to go a step farther, and write for the amusement and edification of the world, accounts of works that were never either written or read at all, and to cry up or abuse the authors by name, though they have no existence but in the critic's invention. This would save a great deal of labor in vain ; anonymous critics might pounce upon the defenceless heads of fictitious candidates for fame and bread; reviews, from being novels founded on facts, would aspire to be pure romances; and we should arrive at the beau ideal of a commonwealth of letters, at the euthanasia of thought, and millenium of criticism !"*

Books not worth reading carefully, are, like reviews, to a young stu

* Hazlitt's Lectures on the Age of Elizabeth-Lecture 6th.

snares.

dent, not worth reading at all; for, though to a man whose mind contains a settled principle of order, to run over them rapidly might be beneficial, to hiin such a course would only produce dissipation of thought, and thus could not but be in a high degree injurious. Books which are worth reading carefully, should be read so. If, for instance, the object of our labor be historical investigation, we should employ not merely the eye in glancing over the records of the past, but the mind in reflecting on those records. Of what use is it to us to know that such and such acts were done ages agone, if we know nothing furthernothing of the motives of the actors, nothing of the combination of causes which led to a result, nothing of the influence which those acts or that result exerted on succeeding ages ? Unless history be so studied, the "lamp of experience” will prove a farthing rush-light, a will-o'-thewisp, leading him who undertakes to guide his feet by it into continual

So if the object be the formation of a correct taste and style, how can we accomplish this by tripping lightly over the harmonious and elegantly-turned periods of our author? We must pause when he produces an effect on our minds, analyze the style of the passage, note carefully the manner in which it is produced, and then apply the lesson we have learned. In this way only, can we hope to attain the desired result.

There is something called method for every thing, and there is a right and wrong method too; but when a wrong method is applied, naught save error can result, and the greater the genius of the applicant, the greater will be the error. To what did scientific investigation amount to, before Bacon applied the right method and brought order and beauty out of chaos ? What was the science of Astronomy before Newton? What Botany before Linnæus ? And what knew we of electricity before him who played with the thunderbolts, calling down the lightning from heaven and carrying it harmless in his botile ? There is something grand in watching the discovery and successful application of the great guiding ideas in science, something which inspires an exultation akin to that which the mortal feels in contemplating his immortality ; but how sad it is to see a genius like Des Cartes, so well fitted to soar, like the caged eagle, beating against the bars of a false method! So, to compare small things with great, there is a right and

wrong method for us to choose between in acquiring the education for which we come here, and on our choice depends, in a great measure, our success or failure. We know (and our present essay evinces it) that it is easier to prescribe than take advice-easier to assert than observe. The learned doctor of the schools had rather profound theories as his own, than, with a docile spirit of a child, listen to and report the teachings of Nature, and his disease is contagious, for the (in his own conceit) equally learned youngster in letters acts on the same principle. Far better would it be for both, as the record of many a life spent in dissipating talent shows, to list to the warnings of those who have split on the same rock, and pursue an apparently humbler, but really more glorious career, in the sedulous application of “ the right method."

We have offered these remarks on a subject possessing interest for us all, not in a spirit of dictation, but with the hope that they may be of service to some one. If our hope be gratified it is well; if not, we shall console ourselves with the reflection, that it is for lack of force in the expression of our ideas: for we know that there are some whose these

pages will meet, yet entangled in the meshes of a false method, and a bitter experience has taught us that the ideas themselves are true.

JACK F.

eye

AN PERCIVAL.

VON LEOPOLD WATERMAN.

I.
Ein Herz das schweglt im Vollgenuss der Freuden,
Kennt nicht den Zauber der im Liede waltet ;-
Ihm wird vom Schmerz der Gluthschlag nicht erkaltet.
Im Glanz des Glück's—was sollen ihm die Saiten?

Des Sanges Macht tritt klar hervor im Leiden.
Erst wenn die Lust zur Sehnsucht sich gestaltet,
Wenn inn’res Weh die heit're Stirne faltet,
Ein Flor bedeckt der Jugend blum'ge Zeiten,-
Dann sucht die Seele Lindrung im Gesange.
In Klag-Accorden flüstert sie ihr Sehnen,
Ihr fehlet Trost-sio flüchtet zu der Leier.
Ein süsses Ahnen füllt beim ersten Klange'
Die öde Brust—dem Aug' entquellen Thränen,
Und wieder schlaegt das Herz mit Jugendfeuer.

II.
Noch lausche ich mit thränenfeuchtem Auge
Dem Nachhall deiner süssen Melodien
Die leis' und sanft an mir vorüberziehen ;-
Die Seele bebt, gerührt vom geist'gen Hauche.
Laut pocht mein Herz! mein tiefstes Fühlen taucho
Ich in den Strom geweihter Fantasieen ;-
Die trüben Wolken bitt'rer Wehmuth fliehen
Vor deinem Sang, aus dem ich Leben sauge.
Heil Dir! der sich so mächtig aufgeschwungen
Zu einer Höho wo nur Geister thronen ;-
Heil Sänger dir am Ziele deines Strebens!
Du hast den schönsten Lorbeer dir errungen.
Mög' dir ein Gott dein edles Streben lohnen
Durch süssen Frieden eines heitern Lebens.

A LEGEND OF THE CUMBERLAND.

In that chain of the Cumberland mountains which forms the boundary line between East and Middle Tennessee, a precipice, some eighty feet in height, is situated. Many a legend of patriotic daring is related to have taken place in the neighboring fastnesses during the period of our Revolution. When the southern States were overrun by the British army, and submission appeared inevitable, the hardy mountaineers sallied forth from these rocky retreats, checked our flying recruits, and by the victory of King's mountain once more inspired the drooping colonists with hope.

The scenery surrounding this precipice fills the mind of every traveler with enthusiastic admiration. From above, rise rugged and towering peaks. Below, lies a beautiful and undulating valley, decked with shrubs, vines, and wild flowers. Here, in former times, might be seen the proud antler grazing, and the dappled fawn performing its antic feats on the mossy covering. On either side extend ledges of rocks, the cavities of which afford a secure refuge for various kinds of the feathered tribe. During the winter months, a small rivulet takes its rise among the distant cliffs, at one time leaping with headlong fury over the rocky obstacles, now meandering through grassy meadows, and at length

“ cleaves the wave-worn precipice;
The fall of waters ! rapid as the light-
The flashing mass foams, shaking the abyss,"

and continues its winding course onward until emptied into the bosom of the Holston.

A few hundred yards distant, " through the leafy screen of trees," some years ago, might be seen a neat little cottage, with various improvements indicating a refinement rarely found in the rude inhabitants of the forest. At the time of which we are writing, four persons of very different appearance were seated in this little dwelling. The elder was a man upon whose brow cares and dangers had written their unmistakable marks. Near him sat one, whose copper complexion, high cheek-bones, stern and penetrating eye, at once indicated the son of the woods. The two remaining occupants were fairer and more interesting. One was a well-formed youth. His companion was a fair young girl of seventeen summers, with long glossy ringlets, mild and melting blue eyes, from which pure founts pearly drops were trickling down her blooming cheeks. It was easy to perceive that their young hearts were closely bound together by the silken cord of love. The youth clasps her lily hand while making some narration, which causes an expression of sorrow and alarm to overspread her beautiful seatures. Gossip-like we will give the substance of their conversation.

Will you then, Henry, she tenderly asks, madly expose yourself to

« PreviousContinue »