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ries which inspire that literature, and kind, because there was something in pass judgment upon the present, and themselves to communicate-our nation prophesy for the future, according has not been so abundantly prolific. to the results of that examination. From the settlement of the colonies,
The hopes of a literature bide in the down to the epoch of our independence, measure of individual life which its only two men detach themselves from makers possess.
Those ages are rich the multitude of cisatlantic scribes, as in which a great many men appear, emphatic individualities, expressing writing books because they aro men and themselves through the written_word. have something to say, not because Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Frankbooks are to be written. In the latter lin are, as it seems to us, the two per• half of the eighteenth century, English manent realities contributed by cololiterature was barren of individuality nial America to the literary history of to a degree which seems now almost the English race. incredible, and, therefore, although it The colonial position of our ancestors was enormously prolific of books, it oc- does not suffice to account for this fact; cupies less space in the history of letters for the colonial Greeks enriched the litthan ten years of the Regency or of erature of their language, in the course of the reign of Victoria. You can swear a single century, with larger and more to the age of almost any English book splendid contributions than have been that was produced between 1750 and made to the wealth of English letters by 1800, from glancing over three sen- Anglo-American authorship in twice that tences; for everybody wrote like every period of time. A plausible explanation body else, and an author no more of the comparative poverty of American dreamed of individuality in the style literature, through so many years, is to of his sentences, than of individuality be found, we think, in the fact, that in the cut of his coat. To pass, on the literature is an art, and can only flourish contrary, from Lamb to Coleridge, from where it is cultivated as an art. The Byron to Scott, from Wordsworth to idea of beauty in form is coincident, in Keats; or to go from an essay of the mind of a genuine author, with the Macaulay's to a review of Sydney idea of truth in substance. He must Smith's, from a dramatic lyric of Brown- not only have a purpose worth fulfilling, ing to an idyl of Tennyson, is like but he must take pleasure in the fulfilltraveling from the moorlands to the ment of that purpose, and he must so meadows, from the hills to the downs, fulfill it that the manner of its achieveor from the smiling uplands to tho sad ment shall give pleasure to others. Now, sca-shore. Every writer of all these our forefathers in English America were has his own charm, because overy man extremely hostile to all the arts. Their of them had his own value. Not less ideas of education were analogous with remarkable is the contrast between the those of the Spartans, who held, as literature of France under the empire, Plato tells us, that a “knowledge of and under the restoration and the letters for practical purposes should be monarchy of July. In the one caso common to all; but that no specific enyou have writers writing; in the other, couragement should be given to the men thinking, creating, protesting : in cultivation of elegant or speculative the one case you have dilettantism and literature." Even Jonathan Edwards, virtuosism, uniformity of style, and who was a great metaphysical author, triviality of substance; in the other, an was not of purpose an author, but infinite diversity of development, ardor, simply by the necessity of his genius, reality, and the thousand-fold beauty which dictated, even to him, a Puritan, of reality.
an artistic perfection of logical forms How does our own literature bear the with which no Greek or Frenchman test of such criticism?
could have quarreled. Writers we have always had, because Franklin was more deliberately an artwe have been always in some degree, at ist. He had not made himself familiar least, an educated people, and education, with the French literature of this ago if it cannot guarantee inspiration, at least without imbibing something of the litcontinues the traditions of literary am- erary temper, and he is fairly entitled, bition, and the phantoms of an interest we think, to be considered the first of in literature. But of authors-of men American authors. who communicated themselves to man- His autobiography, is as charming in
form as it is entertaining and suggestive began to assume more respectable proin matter, and it shines out, among the portions; and, within the last ten or commonplace compositions of the time twelve years, it has developed with a on both sides of the Atlantic, with the rapidity and a reality which certainly lustre of a positive and individual value. afforded us no reasons for despondent With the establishment of our national views of the future. A generation of independence came the desire for a na- writers is giving way to a generation of tional literature. We were beginning to authors, and though it is, of course, a emancipate ourselves from the spirits of very distressing thing that we have not Puritanism and Quakerism. With the yet produced an authentic and unquesincrease of wealth, the cultivation of the tionable Shakespeare, nor even an adarts of refinement and beauty had com- mitted Pope, we may yet take some menced among us, and the first thrills of small comfort, surely, from the fact, artistic inspiration were felt in the na- that we havo given birth to a certain tional genius. Then, every nation has number of artists in words, whose touch its literature, and we, having become the world has recognized as betraying a nation, necessarily must have ours ! the individuality of genius, and the realiThe sentiment of amour propre was ty of manhood. enlisted in the question; and, as that The perfume of a page of Hawthorne sentiment is not apt to bear very rich is as positive and as peculiar as the aroand racy fruit, it was not surprising ma of a line of Tennyson or a chapter that the first deliberately literary pro- of Dickens. The man, who could conductions of the new republic should not found the sheen of one of Emerson's have been of a nature either to appall glittering phrases with the clouded glow or to enchant mankind. Moreover, the of a sentence of Carlyle, would be capafirst epoch of our national life was con- ble of buying a sapphire for an amethyst. temporaneous with a period singularly The subtle analysis and morbid intensity prolific of great works and of gifted au- of Poe define his creations as sharply thors in the mother country, and the as if each were a living human face of cisatlantic muse was abashed, in her wrath, or woe, or crime; and if you do first timid essays, by the sudden and not recognize the music of a special splendid sallies of her elder sister be- soul in every chime that Longfellow yond the seas.
chooses to ring, it must be a purely unNot a few of those courageous Ameri- selfish benevolence and public spirit cans, nevertheless, who adventured into which induce you to pay your subscripprint during the earlier part of the pres- tion to the Philharmonic Society! When ent century, amply vindicated their con- you tako your Diogenes' lantern and duct, by the evidence they gave of per- go through the libraries in search of a sonal value and of personal force. Bry- man, where can you be more sure of ant had certainly as good reason for finding one than within the covers of the singing as Beattie, and the stories, which- “ Biglow Papers,” or the “Fable for Cooper had to tell, were better worth Critics;" or, if you aro looking for a the telling than those which fermented woman, is there no womanhood—warm, in the inind of Mr. James; and if it was at least, and earnest, if not perfectly worth while that Addison and Steele wiso, and queenly, and gracious—in the should come back to console an Eng- sorrows of “Uncle Tom's Cabin," and land thirsting for their pure, pellucid the wrath of “Dred?". prose, Mr. Irving's right to rob the gray We have authors, indeed, among usgoose of bis quill shall never be ques- men who mean something, hopo sometioned.
thing, fear something, love something, Sparks of true fire flashed for a mo- and who can work, with all their hearts, ment from the words of other men who to set their meaning plainly before their yet drew back from the path of glory, fellow-men-to communicate their hopes because uncheered by cordial criticism, and fears, and love to the world, for the and unwelcomed by a public which had world's delight and use, and not merely not yet accommodated itself to all to discharge their own overcharged the necessities, nor accustomed itself minds, or to fill their own unfilled pockto all the privileges, of its new national ets. position. As time went on, and the This being so, it is time, we think, American nationality gathered vigor and that we should have serious critics as consistency, the literature of America well as authors' judges to deal with these
men manwise, to try these artists by 80 smartly to task for his early follies, the laws of art, and to take upon them- and commended, with such a fond and selves the troublesome office of suiting generous warmth, his immortal giftspraise to judgment.
his works of real beauty already We are notoriously an appreciative achieved ? Heaven send you such a
Nowhere will you hear the critic of that first book which you now merit of good books more genially dis- profoundly meditate, dear and aspiring cussed, or more warmly recognized, than young friend! You will bless his memin the most cultivated circles of Ameri. ory when your laurels are greenest. can society. The delicious criticism of If there ever was an author who desympathy is exquisitely dealt out, in served such a critic, and needed such an many an American home, to the most one, alike for praise and blame, it is our passionate, profound, and earnest art- old acquaintance and esteemed proseists of the world of letters; and if the poet, Herman Melville. number of editions and of copies put It is long, now, since we first sailed into circulation be a fair criterion of with Melville to Typee, but we shall the estimation in which an author is never forget the new sensations of that held by the public, our British cousins delectable voyage. Over silent stretches must own that they lag behind ourselves of the sleeping sea it led us, and left us in their appreciation of, and admiration on a miraculous shore, to live there a for, not a few of the greatest among miraculous life. those whom the voice of their own best The tropic island, into whose delicious criticism has pronounced the great of glades we wandered, was not, indeed, English literature.
wholly new to us; for we had been there But it must be confessed that our before, partly in the way of business, public criticism is not wholly worthy of and partly on a pleasure trip, with Bouour actual rank in the world of letters. gainville and La Perouse, with Foster Its defects are not sure to be of a mean and Cook. But the manner of our or malicious kind. We are, liappily, being there was intensely new.
It was not cursed with much of that petty the dream of the passionate and despairspirit of clique and starveling ill-will, ing lover of “Locksley Hall,” fulfilled which degrade and make worthless in the spirit of Robinson Crusoe, and with the minor criticism of the London press. all the modern improvements." We But our criticism too commonly wants had, indeed, burst all links of habit, and dignity and sincerity. We deal our had wandered to a happy world of most praise out very lightly, with a kind of unconventional bliss—to islets favored good-natured nonchalance, as if it didn't of heaven. matter much after all, and it was better for all parties, on the whole, to “ laugh
* Larger constellations burning, mellow moods than look sad.” If life were only one
and happy skics,
Breadths of tropic shade, and palms in cluslong alternation of dinings and diges- ter, knots of paradise ; tions, the philosophy of this jovial old Never comes the trader, never floats an Euadage would be as sound as it is cheery;
Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, but we must not be vexed if a man, who
droops the trailer from the crag; bas a serious and intense interest in his Droops the heavy-blossomed bower, hangs art, grows rather sad than merry when the heavy fruited tree, all his efforts are rewarded with an un
Summer isles of Eden, lying in dark purple
spheros of sea." discriminating salvo of applause, or a patronizing nod of encouragement. Love and balls, the opera and angling, Welcome to the true author's soul is boating and swimming, and the piquant the strong, cordial voice which recog. delights of a highly original cuisine nizes his honesty and his manliness, and were none of them denied to us. Remingles, with sincere praise of that freshing converse with our fellow-men which is beautiful in his work, sturdy alternated with the most bracing solireprobation of that which is not beautiful, tude and the deepest communion with and a distinct intimation of that which the soul of nature. In fact, we tasted is less than beautiful.
all the most refined pleasures of civiliWho can tell how much good Alfred zation, in a new and sublimated form, Tennyson gained from that stout, while we exhausted the primæval poetry straightforward, large-hearted paper in of savage life. But for the slight and which old Christopher North took him single drawback of cannibalism, making
its ugly mouth at our own precious per- has years ?) in or about the year 1847; suns, we should never have wished to that is just ten years ago, and Mr. leave so enchanting a place.
Melville has suffered hardly one of How Mr. Melville contrived to get us these ten years to pass without remindthither, we never stopped to think. We ing us agreeably of his existenco. accepted his maoris, bis palm-trees, his Omoo," Mardi," “ Redburn, " Moby amazing gymnastics, his irresistible Dick," " “Israel Potter," the “Piazza Fayaway, and his faithful Toby, as we Tales," and the “Confidence Man," had accepted the graundees of Peter make up a catalogue which would prove, Wilkins, or the Uncases of Cooper. if it proved nothing more, our author's
The book fascinated us with the fas- sincere devotion to his art, and would cination of genius. We recognized in entitle him, therefore, to the interest this new writer a man's large nature, and and the respect of all who love American quick sympathy with all things beauti- literature, and hope noble things for it. ful and strong
5-an eye to see, nerves to Has that devotion been as wise as it foel, muscle to achieve, and a heart to has been fervent? is a question which, dare. Was the charming romance, after however, continually recurs to us, in ull, intended to be a satire upon the perusing Mr. Melville's books, and we world in which we habitually live? Were closed the “Confidence Man" with the these strange and beautiful pictures conviction that it was time this question painted to strike us into thought, and should be resolutely and clearly andevelop in us that vague universal con- swered. viction of needed and impending change, Everybody who read “Typee” thoughtwhich now pervades all Christendom, fully (and, it was Mr. Melville's fault and mingles with the fancies and colors that so few people could read thoughtthe speech of all who think and feel? fully a book so full of fascination), was This might or might not have been struck with a tendency to vague and
We felt that the writer bad pur- whimsical speculation which constantpose enough in him, at all ovents, and that ly betrays itself in the turn of the hero's whatever the origin of this first book reflections, and in the character of his might have been, it was but the pre- Yankee Sancho Panza, and seafaring lude of a career which could not fail to man Friday—“ Toby.” be, at least, remarkable.
In the midst of the dreamiest, the In the matters of style and form, Mr. most suggestively naïve and unconsciMelville's first book exbibited a rare ous passnges of picturesque description, degree of ripeness and perfection. It you stumble over quaint phrases of a was deformed with ungraceful locutions, vagrant philosophy, and find the most it is true, and the simple flow of the nar- modern metapbysics mingled with the rative was not unbroken in all its course. most primitive love-making, after a per. But what was not to be boped from å fectly amazing fashion. It is as if that young author who displayed so much philosophic polygamist, John Buncle, native intensity and vigor of speech- gentleman, suddenly came upon you, such a command of vivid coloring, and while you were lazily bappy under & such a felicitous touch in his designs. palm-tree, in the company of Bernardin
The promise of “Typee” has been de St. Pierre and Daniel Defoe. This kept, but rather to the ear than to the was annoying, certainly; but then we secret spirit. Mr. Melville has done a had only to remember that "Typeo" great deal since; but he has not yet was a first book, and that as no man done the precise things we hoped of him. suddonly becomes a thorough villain, He has pursued a distinct path with un- so po man suddenly becomes a complete faltering steps; he has shown capital author. qualities, and, above all, the indispens- An ardent and ingenious young writer able first qualities of pluck and perse- sits down to his first book, as if it were
But he has been going to be bis last also. There are a thouwrong, we fear, rather than right, and sand thoughts busy in his brain-a thouwe wish with all our heart that we could sand experiences fermenting in his bring bim over to our way of thinking. heart. How does be know whether be
“ Typee” was published, if our memo- shall ever have another opportunity of ry deceive us not (how oan one recall uttering them? So, fitly, or unfitly, gerthe date of a book, which has numbered, manely or extravagantly they come into at least, twice as many editions as it speech, hiots of them crop out every
where, in unexpected places ; in short, when he wrote the book ? Not a bit of the general idiosyncrasy of a writer is, it; for, dull of perception, and still at least, quite as apt to be betrayed in more dull of instinct must the critic be his first book as his special intention who does not recognize in every page is.
of Mr. Melville's writings, however Mr. Melville was not only a young vague, and obscure, and fantastic, the man, but a young American, and a breathing spirit of a man of genius, and young American educated according to of a passionate and earnest man of genius. the standard of our day and country. He It is precisely because we are always sure bud all the metaphysical tendencies that Mr. Melville does mean something; which belong so eminently to the Ameri- and something intrinsically manly and can mind—the love of antic and extrava- noble, too, that we quarrel with him for gant speculation, the fearlessness of in- biding bis light under such an impertellectual consequences, and the pas- vious bushel. sion for intellectual legislation, which Mr. Melville is not a dilettante in distinguish the cleverest of our people. metaphysics. If he is fantastically philoIt was inevitable that he should have sophical in his language, it is because stamped himself pretty clearly on his he wants to say something subtle and book, and his book was all the more in- penetrating which he has discerned, or teresting that he had so stamped him- Thinks he has discerned, and takes this self upon it. Still we waited anxiously to be the most effective way of saying for number two. It came, and with it it. And this is just the issue we have came more than we bad anticipated of the to make with him. We made it when metaphysics of " Typee," and less than we read “ Mardi ;" we have been obliged we had hoped of its poetry. Had not to make it, again and again, in readMr. Melville been impelled to a good deal ing his subsequent books. What, for of sharp, sensible writing in Omoo,” instance, did Mr. Melville mean when by his wrath against the missionaries, he wrote “ Moby Dick ?" We have a it is clear, we think, that he would have right to know; for he carried us flounplunged headlong into the vasty, void dering on with him after his great white of the obscure, the oracular, and the in- whale, through all manner of scenes, comprehensible. But a little wholesome and all kinds of company-now perfectindignation is a capital stimulus to good ly exhausted with fatigue and deafeded writing, and the beneficial effects of it with many words whereof we understood were never more clearly apparent than no syllable, and then suddenly refresh. in this very book. We trembled for its ed with a brisk sea breeze and a touch successor, and we trembled with reason; of nature kindling as the dawn. There for, when “ Mardi" came, or rather when was so much truth in the book that we we came to “Mardi," our voyage
thith- knew the author must have meant to er" affected us much as it would to give us more, and we were excessively be literally knocked into the middle of vexed with him for darkening his counnext week.
sel by words which we could not but esWe frankly own here, and now, and teem to be words without knowledge. once for all, that we have not, and Is it not a hard case, O sympathizing never expect to bave, the faintest notion reader? Here is a man of distinct and of why we took a voyage to “Mardi,” unquestionable . genius; a man who nor of what we found when we reached means righteously and thinks sensibly; “Mardi," if we ever did reach it, nor a man whose aims do honor to himself of bow we got away from “ Mardi” and to his country; a man who wishes again, if we ever did get away from to understand life himself, and to help that enchanted, mysterious place. We other people to understand it; a man, would just as soon undertake to give any- too, who has proved not once only body a connected and coherent account but fifty, yea, a hundred times, that he of the Mardi gras of Paris, on coming
can write good English-good, strong, out of the Bal de l'Opéra at three in sweet, clear English—a man who has the morning, as criticise, or describe, or music in his soul, and can ring fair analyze the “ Mardi" of our friend Mr. chimes upon the silver bells of styleMelville. Do we believe, then, that and this man will persist in distorting the Mr. Melville meant nothing by taking images of his mind, and in deodorizing us to " Mardi”--that he had no purpose the Howers of his fancy; a man born to at all in his mind, but was carnivalizing create, who resolves to anatomize; a