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quadrupled in thickness by inserted illustrations, portraits, autographs, etc., and famously bound; in another, science and art are specialities; in another, theology is conspicuous, containing all authorities of weight and value; in another, histories, voyages, manners and customs, the labors of naturalists; in another, the drama, Shakespearean collections. belles lettres; here surgery unfolds itself in myriads of beautifully-colored plates, and there philology is firmly entrenched behind two hundred dictionaries.
We have had an intimation, that it is the intention of the writer of these sketches of our private libraries to continue the subject, and finally collect and publish the papers in a volume. Such a book will be
of great value to the student, as it will at once indicate where rare authorities, not always attainable in the best public libraries, can be found. For, we trust the possessors of our private libraries are not like those collectors D'Israeli speaks of, who "place all their fame on the view of a splendid library, where volumes arrayed in all the pomp of lettering, silk linings, triple gold bands, and tinted leather, are locked up in wire cases, and secured from the vulgar hands of the mere reader, dazzling our eyes like eastern beauties peering through their jealousies!"
All communications intended for this department must be marked "Kaleidoscope," Putnam's Monthly.
THERE is an old adage, to the effect that "it takes all kinds of people to make up the world," which is constantly quoted in explanation or excuse of the existence of people for whose existence no sufficient excuse or rational explanation immediately offers itself to the inquiring mind.
Why it should take all kinds of people to make up the world; why the world might not very well have been made up of exemplary, decorative, and valuable people, whose individuality would have been, like "beauty, its own excuse for being," nobody has ever attempted to satisfy us.
Perhaps it is not probable that anybody, who should make the attempt, would succeed in it; and the adage, we suppose, must stand till the occasion for it passes away that is, till the golden year arrives,
"When wealth no more shall rest in mounded heaps,
But, smit with freer light, shall slowly melt
Till that extremely desirable, but, as yet, extremely distant, consummation shall have been reached, it will be difficult for us to dispense with the facile philosophy which accepts the mysteries it cannot solve, and reconciles itself with the universe by sub
stituting for that imperious note of interrogation, which is the symbol of youth, the complacent note of acquiescence, if not of admiration, which beseems the defeated temper of maturity, and so dismisses all problems as with a shrugging of the mental shoulders.
The love of art, which is an aspiration in youth, becomes a consolation in our riper years. The beautiful creations, which prophesied to us, when life was still a question and a hope, pacify and indemnify us when life has become a reality and a disappointment.
From a world full of people for whom we cannot account, and with whom we are always coming into collision, how gladly do we turn to a world of beings whose right to be vindicates itself to every sense, and with whom you cannot quarrel, if you would! Justinus Kerner, the German poet and psychologist (who wrote that remarkable story of the Seeress of Prevorst, which is so excessively improbable that we have always been inclined to believe it strictly true), had a habit of seeing familiarly, and dealing with, spirits, long before tables turned or wardrobes walked; and it is recorded of him, that he grew so fond of this sweet society, that often he would stop at the door of a ball-room, and, looking around with great sadness on the
human faces before him, would exclaim, with evident sincerity and longing: "Would to heaven these people were all pleasant spirits, instead of men and women, then would I go in and join them." As Kerner felt towards his disembodied friends and acquaintances, as contrasted with those who still wore the garments of the flesh, so have we often felt towards a company of our fellow-beings on coming from a gallery of pictures, or of statues, or a concert of fine music, or pages glorious with the great thoughts and regal fancies of some selected soul.
Not that we are in the least addicted to misanthropic moods. Far from it! We hold that there is no lunacy so deplorable as the madness which makes men solitary among their fellows, and drives them from their kind. But the "world is too much with us," and if we are forever elbowing one another, forever dealing with creatures imperfect as ourselves, and vexed as we are with passions, great and small, life cannot fail to lose its sacred inner glow, and the soul to abdicate, one by one, all its fine instinctive hopes, its splendid irrationalities the powers which buoy it up, and make it sublimely useful to itself and to others.
It is hardly possible to estimate, it is quite impossible to over-estimate, the importance to a community of the resources which art offers to the imagination and the intellect. It is very easy to talk sad nonsense about the "beautiful;" but there is no nonsense so sad as the nonsensical depreciation of the beautiful. If we men were but machines set to work for a brief time in the world, the sum of our utility being appreciable in the visible results of our labor-if we had no individual exist ence estimable and sacred in itself, and no individual destiny inevitable and solemn before us then it might be reasonable enough to question the value of activities which minister less to the eye than to that which uses the eye-less to the ear than to that which uses the ear-less to the external sense than to the intangible spirit within. But we cannot rid ourselves of our souls, do what we may; and, if we weary out, or waste, or never heed the sublimer self within us, we shall have to suffer for it, sooner or later, on earth or somewhere else.
It is good for us, therefore, to cultivate
such society, and to frequent such scenes as shall comfort and encourage our better natures, and restore, from time to time, the freshness of that finer sense, which the world's contact is forever rubbing away.
The Greeks-pagans as they wereknew this well; and they made their streets and public walks beautiful with images of divinity, heroism, and loveliness. You will find few splendid drawing-rooms, we fear, in the finest of our fine streets, so richly furnished with real wealth of beauty as were the squares of Athens; and, if it be true that a to be judged by the company he keeps," it becomes a question for abecedarian philosophers to solve, whether, of the two, should be styled the truest gentleman, your opulent modern, who dwells in the midst of vulgar vanities of gilding and glass. worth an earl's ransom, or the penniless Athenian of antiquity, who walked surrounded with the stateliest visions of dignity and grace that ever took shape before the eyes of men. All the modern world, indeed, is not so far behind the Athenians in respect for the higher necessities of man.
The great cities of Europe charm the western traveler, and seduce him from his home affections, by the society which they offer him for his better thoughts, and his subtler instincts. However patriotic a man may be, if he be not "fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils," he cannot help preferring a residence within reach of noble galleries of art, lovely public gardens, exquisite music, and rich libraries, to home which, though it may be in all other things richer, in these is utterly lacking.
It is very idle to declaim against the passion which leads so many cultivated Americans abroad to the Old World, and keeps so many of them there. It would be a disgrace to an educated man that he did not feel this passion stirring in his soul; for it is simply the desire of communion with whatever is most perfect in human achievement, and most ideal in human life.
When a man learns that certain artists have created works of beauty which have delighted, inspired, and enriched the minds of ten generations, what manner of man must he be, if no ardent wish arises in his mind to look upon these works and gauge their meaning for himself? Or,
when a man hears that there are cities so fairly built that their churches and their palaces, their fountains, their bridges, and their towers have taken a place in the admiration of mankind, with the great and lovely works of nature herself-cities where all that is grand or gay in the capacity of music, ministers magnificently to the mirth, or the sorrows, to the solemnities, or the sports of men-is it not most natural that he should believe a pilgrimage to these cities, and a residence in them, will make him a wiser and better, a more refined, more thoughtful, and happier man?
If we would wean our citizens from the love of foreign lands, we must make our own, at least, as attractive to the higher nature as it now is rich with all things that our mere necessities demand.
In the great nations of the older world, patriotism has been educated by appeals to every instinct that lives in the hearts of men. The arts of Europe are not confined to a single European country. The French, the English, the Germans, each, in their measure, have built up at home some image of that inward world of beauty whose external shape the American must cross the wide Atlantic to enjoy.
We must do likewise. Whatever may be thought of human immigrations, the veriest know-nothing of us all can hardly object to the largest introduction into our national life of the elements of inspiration and of beauty. Every citizen, who brings home to us, from the Old World, a fine statue or a noble picture, makes his country his debtor for so much new and refined wealth of thought and of enjoyment; and still more generously does he endow his nation, when he helps some native genius into the light, and gives form or color to some idea born in an American brain.
People are continually complaining of the dullness of American society; but whose fault is it that our society is dull? Is it not theirs who, having the means to multiply the resources of society, by adding to the number of the refining influences which may be brought to bear upon the members of society, neglect to employ these means?
There is no want of liberality in America. If money is nowhere more eagerly made than in the United States, nowhere is it more lavishly spent. It is with the
direction of the streams of wealth that pass out from the purses of the rich, not with the meagreness of these streams, that we quarrel. Our opulent friends, who are so anxious to do the public a service, we are sure need only be persuaded that there is one most important service as yet very poorly done, in order to secure its immediate and satisfactory performance.
That practical system of association— by virtue of which our mountains have been tunneled, our rivers wedded to each other, and our lakes joined to the seathat wonderful system of combined efforts by which all the great marvels of this marvelous age have been achieved - has never yet been thoroughly and heartily applied to the establishment of the arts in America. Why should it not be so applied?
On every side we hear people lamenting the desultory and distracted way in which all artistic interests are cared for, even in this great and wealthy city of New York. Everybody wants the opera, for instance, to be established among us. Large sums of money are subscribed, a superb house is erected, and an admirable company is collected, after many failures and trials a company which, on the whole, we are all agreed to consider as sufficiently satisfactory, as capable, that is, of producing excellent old operas in a respectable way, and of introducing us agreeably to whatever novelty the musical genius, such as it is, of the day may be able to create.
The house is soon, however, found to be not all that we could have desired, the management and the proprietors get into hot water with each other, and the artists begin to quarrel with themselves and with everybody else, as is the manner of artists. If there were anything like a concert of action among a dozen people who were really in earnest in regard to the opera, as much in earnest on that subject as they are in the matter of a railway, or a bank, these difficulties would have turned out to be no difficulties at all.
"The house is defective," you say.
"Very well; then the house shall be remodeled, and at once; the defects shall be found out and removed."
"The artists cannot agree with the manager, nor with one another."
"Very well; as our object is to have an
opera, and not to keep a menagerie of riotous singers, we shall achieve that object at once, by bringing all reasonable members of the company to reason, and by politely dismissing all who cannot be so brought into the harmonious relations which the stage requires,"
Let it not be said that this cannot be donc.
Our universities are not languishing for the lack of professors; our factories do no not stop because skilled workmen cannot be brought here from abroad. We seduce the designers of France and the machinists of England, the refiners of Germany and the glassworkers of Bohemia, to come over and help us. Why should we find it so hard to make up a respectable opera corps, and to keep it in order?
Is it not simply for the reason that so fow people, among those who have the capacity for managing the business details of such an enterprise, and command of the means necessary to insure its success, feel a sufficient interest in the matter, or a sufficient confidence in the disposition of the public to support them, to take hold of the affair with that American energy of common sense which would secure a favorable result?
As we write, the enterprising Mr. Strakosch is acting out an impressive commentary upon our observations. He is achieving a success at the Academy, in the face of the most discouraging circumstances, simply by attending to the interests of his undertaking as he would if it were a great bakery or a blacking manufactory. When it was announced that he meant to open the door of the opera to us, everybody predicted that he would accomplish only grief and loss. We had just been robbed of our best operatic corps; the snow had just fallen, and the sleigh-bells were ringing out everywhere that merry tune, with which the sweetest music finds it hard to compete, in the ears of a merely excitable people; and "society" was spinning around upon its axis (or, rather, its many axes) with that accelerated velocity which always precedes the quiescence of Lent. Everything looked black in the prospects of the bold impresario, but he did not quail. He measured his resources, tried the experiment, and now what remains for us but to congratulate him on having proved to us that opera can be established in New York, if we
can only find one or two men who are really determined to establish it.
The public cannot provide itself with an opera any more than it can provide itself with any other positive institution. The democratic machinery of our social and political world is very apt to make us overlook the fact, that the sagacity which discerns, and the courage which meets, an instinctive, popular demand, as well as the wisdom which goes before and leads the popular will, must be the prerogative of small classes of the people, and must be exercised by them, if we are to see anything achieved. Did the people make for themselves even so eminently public an institution as the Erie Canal or the Columbia College?
One of two things let us do. Let us either admit that we hold the opera, in common with all other institutions, the end of which is to provide for the finer instincts of enjoyment in human nature, to be a superfluity not worth the trouble of a thought; or, let us urge it upon those whose position and whose opportunities combine to designate them for the performance of that function, to see that the opera and other kindred institutions are established and conducted among us on rational and effective principles, and in a rational effective way. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well, and whatever a people, so intelligent as the people of New York, are convinced is worth the doing, certainly will be done well.
If we reject the Spartan theory of republican life (which simply leads us back to the barbarities of Spartan or Puritan despotism), let us adopt the Athenian theory, and shame the antique city in reducing it to practice.
And decidedly we do reject the Spartan theory; we like to be amused; we are only too happy to be entertained; and the worship of the beautiful, if not yet performed altogether "according to knowledge," is, nevertheless, fervent enough even in this great money-making Nishni-Fair of the New World. See how cordially we have received the great artists whom Europe has sent to us-how frantically we heap praises on those of our own people who contrive to get a hearing from us.
The début of Madame de Wilhorst, at the Academy of Music, was a comfortable sign of the times in this respect. In the first
place, it was very pleasant to witness the evident disposition of our people to hear fairly and to judge liberally a spirited young lady, who had resolved to attempt the most arduous heights of the musical art. In the simple announcement that a fair young New Yorker, bred in our boarding-schools, and habituated only to our own world and its society, had determined, without the preparation of an operatic training, to come forward on the lyric stage and risk a comparison with our memories of Bosio and of Sontag, there was something eminently audacious and American, which at once startled and fascinated us. The charming débutante impersonated, for the moment, the great American ideas of "go ahead!" and "never mind!" Her début was, therefore, in more senses than one, a kind of national fête. All of us, who had heard her sing in less ambitious scenes, were satisfied that she had at least voice enough and skill enough to save her from a positively shameful failure; but the most sanguine hardly hoped for her a positively brilliant success. With what a sense of relief and gratitude, therefore, did we draw our breath, after the first scene had amazed us into a recognition of so much more merit in her than we had ever suspected!
The locomotive had leaped the chasm— the clipper had rounded the point-the bold young bird had alighted safely among the branches of the bay-tree! Hereupon, we went off at once, with the national nervousness, into the most frantic enthusiasms of praise. If we do not spoil our promising prima donna, it will not be our fault, surely; and yet, such extravagance of laudation as we fall into upon these occasions, is a better extreme of error than indifference or timidity of appreciation would be. The song of birds is sweetest and the fragrance of flowers is finest in the wholesome airs of the temperate zone, it is true; yet one finds more and better of both in the tropics than at the poles.
We have, at last, secured the positive promise of a really admirable prima donna, in the person of Madame de Wilhorst. No Fuch début of an American vocalist has been witnessed here. She has a delicious soprano voice, edged a little, it is true, with the shrillness of extreme youth, but resonant and pure in quality—not entirely sympathetic, but certain to become con
stantly more sympathetic as her character develops and her lyric training is perfected. She is a good and thorough proficient in music, up to the point which she has now reached, and is so well advanced as to be able to go on fearlessly, and to profit rapidly by profounder instructions than she has yet received. She has vigor enough and fire enough of nature to be susceptible of dramatic culture, and we have a right to expect of her that a year or two of devotion to study, in the best school, will put her name among those which all lovers of music repeat with delight when the vision of the Opera and its enjoyments rises in the mind.
Contemporaneously with the rising of the star in Irving Place, a Star of the South rose upon our dramatic world at Wallack's theatre. Miss Matilda Heron came to us a mere notoriety, and remains with us a renown. Her, too, we have endangered with our adulations. We expected so little of her, that the much she gave us quite addled our wits. Seeing on the stage of one of our staid and steady theatres, a vehement, earnest, passionate, sincere actress, who acted as if acting were a serious reality, we put no bounds to our exultation. We prostrated the superlatives of the English language at her feet, and broke all the statues of the Dramatic Pantheon in her honor. It is the highest praise we can offer Miss Heron, to say that she does not seem to have been intoxicated with the very new wine of our panegyrics.
She seems to know, herself, how much she has still to achieve how much further she can yet go in that path of artistic simplicity, and truthful adherence to dramatic laws, upon which she has already gone so far. While her pathos, and intensity of emotion, the vibrating volume of her voice, and the passionate grace of her gestures, move the pit to tears, and touch even the stonier hearts in the boxes, the actress herself will, we are sure, remember that her own ideal must be continually rising, if she is not to educate her hearers beyond herself. A little true acting, frequently seen, will soon teach those who see it, to be impatient of whatever is untrue in the acting which instructs them. It is in this way that admiration grows into criticism; and Miss Heron, we hope, will remember that she can do us no