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From Fraser's Magazine. | Her sister, now three or four years dead, was a MISS JANE PORTER.
woman of talent; and her brother, Sir Robert
Ker Porter, will be remembered as a man of Miss Jáne Porter is depicted in the quiet and intellect and acquirements, and an artist of no ladylike occupation of taking a cup of coffee at a mean powers. soiree, given, we suppose, by Mrs. Skinner in If we say that she is the daughter of a cavalry Portland Place. The graceful and delicaté hand, officer-that she was born in the metropolis of to which we are indebted for Thaddeus, is stirring Mustard, viz. Durham, no matter in what yearup, not Poles to the bitterness of strife, but sugar that her first book was (we believe the Spirit of to the sweetening of Mocha.
the Elbe, published in 1900: that it was followed, Nun-like is she drawn in the picture given of in 1803, by Thaddeus of Warsaw, which went her in Fisher's Drawing-Room Scrap-Book; through several editions, and in due course of and here we find that she chooses to exhibit with years by the Scotish Chiefs, the Pastor's Fireso much of monastic costume as the graceful side, and some other novels that we do not just hood, or something like it, cast over her head: happen to recollect—that as a philosophical or Do not let the protestant apprehensions of our ethical writer she is known as the collector of the readers be aroused, for Miss Porter is as high a aphorisms of Sir Philip Sydney, and a contributor protestant even as ourselyes; but in compliment to the pages of Fraser's Magazine,--we shall to her Polish novel (which was a great favourite have exhausted all the events of her placid and on the continent), she was appointed a lady of a useful life which are known to the public. In chivalric order by one of the German; and for private she is a quiet and good-humoured lady, that reason she appears as a religieuse. We rather pious and fond of going to evening parties, shall not say any thing about the suitableness of where she generally contrives to be seen patronsuch a headgear to a long and handsome face. ising some sucking lion or. lioness. In which
Handsome the face is still. We hope that occupation may she long continue, devoting her Miss Porter has sufficient philosophy to pardon mornings to the prayer-book, and her evenings to us for that fatal adverb. Time and tide wait for the conversazione no man-nor woman neither; and there is the
And may no ill event cut shorter fact extant, that she published the Spirit of the
The easy course of Miss Jane Porter.
From the Edingurgh Review. some seven-and-fifty, or, by 'r Lady! inclining to Selections from the American Poets. 8vo. Dubthree score. She wears the years well; but, these
lin: 1834. publications are sad tell-tales. Many a lady of
We have the misfortune, we fear, in common Miss Porter's standing, if she had kepi Miss Por- with most of our critical brethren in this country, ter's good looks, could well smuggle off ten or a to stand in a somewhat unpleasing position in redozen years from the account, if she had not dab- gard to our transatlantic neighbours. We have bled in printer's work. Joe Miller informs us that more than once adverted to the literature of a coal porter having enquired what the crime was America, in terms, as it appeared to us, of warm for which he saw a man hanging at Tyburn-tree, praise; we have most cordially acknowledged and being told that it was for forgery, exclaimed, its present excellence in some departments, and “Ay, that comes of knowing how to read and anticipated with satisfaction its high destinies write, my good fellow!" We are tempted to for the future ;-but simply, it would seem, bemake a similar exclamation when we find a lady cause the praise was not unqualified-because rendering the foot-steps of time traceable, by we could not exactly admit that America had manifesting her powers of penmanship.
yet conquered for herself that place in the It is a matter of no great importance. Of her republic of letters which is now on all hands novels, we do not think that any won enduring conceded to her in the political world, because fame but Thaddeus of Warsaw, published in we professed our ignorance of the literary pre1803. In her Scotish Chiefs, Wallace wight is tensions of some names which had attained an drawn as a sort of sentimental dandy, who, if we American celebrity; the compliment is thrown mistake not, faints upon occasion, is revived by back upon our hands with much indignation :lavender water, and throughout the book we are accused of damning with faint praise,' tenderly in love. There are some good passages of being actuated by feelings of national jealousy, in the Pastor's Fireside, though it was not very and the spirit of detraction. Conscious it seems successful. Thaddeus, however, which in our of the rapid strides which America is making in youth beguiled us of our tears," is the favourite. literature, and fearful of the coming eclipse It is to her fame that she began the system of which is to darken the glories of Great Britain, historical novel-writing, which attained the we are all engaged in a comprehensive conspiracy climax of its renown in the hands of Sir Walter to deny all merit to the literature of the United Scott; and no light praise it is that she has thus States; or where that is impracticable, to reduce pioneered the way for the greatest exhibition of its claims to the lowest possible amount. ihe greatest genius of our time. She may parody
If we had not seen these opinions gravely anBishop Hall, and tell Sir Walter
nounced and reiterated in American publications
of acknowledged ability and influence, we should " I first adventured-follow me who list,
have had the greatest difficully in believing that And be the second Scotish novelist."
such impressions could seriously exist as to the VOL. XXVII. AUGUST, 1835-15
temper and tone of British criticism, or the gene-up, though some of them have already found ral feeling of literary men in this country. There worthy occupants, not likely to be “pushed from might possibly be some feeling of jealousy on their stools” by posterity. Jealousy in such cirour pari towards America in those matters where cumstances is out of the question; and it is really her rivalry is practically felt; in regard to her hard that those who have always been among the commercial enterprise, her growing naval strength, first to do justice to the claims of America, even her political importance—though even 'that's not in those points where they came most strongly much,'and the feeling, never very general, seems in collision with our own, should be accused of to us on the decline-but in literature !-we are being influenced by such motives in their estimate assured no jot or tittle of such an unworthy feel- of her literary pretensions ; simply because though ing exists. Could America rival England to- they “do most potently believe in the future exmorrow; were her rolls of fame as crowded with cellence of America in this as in other matters, bright names as our own; could she point to they cannot exactly confound the America that some masterpiece on which the stamp of elernity is, with the America that is to be; because they was as visibly impressed as on the dramas of hesitate a little when asked to discount, at sight, Shakspeare or the epic of Milton, we have the those transatlantic drafts upon posterity, and to most complete conviction that, instead of exciting hand the amount across the table to the holder, in a feeling of jealousy and disappointment, her the shape of ready praise." triumph would be hailed in Britain with delight Has America ever yet produced a work of -as that of a kindred nation, sprung from our-boriginal genius in literature, which has not inselves, clothing its freeborn thoughts in the same stantly found admirers on this side of the Atlantic, poble language, and still connected with us by a as enthusiastic, though perhaps a little more disthousand ties of common remembrances and criminating than at home? Was it in his own associations, which neither physical nor political country, or in this, that the graceful humour of separation-neither differences of government Washington Irving was most felt or most warmly nor of interests can altogether sever.
acknowledged? We shall be told that the popuSuch we venture to say would be the feeling larity of the author of the “Sketch Book” was with which Great Britain would regard the lite- lowing to his English tendencies, to his preference rary pre-eminence of America, even if the sun off of our institutions, to his flattering pictures of our the latter were in the ascendant, and ours, after society, to his sensibility to all those historical a long day of glory, "towards heaven's descent and romantic associations, on which we love to had sloped his westering wheel.” But (and let dwell. It is true there was something uncommon our American brethren believe we say this with- and unexpected in all this; but we will venture out the slightest wish to undervalue their literary to say that had Irving never written one word in progress) that day is yet distant, far too distant, praise of Old England; were all his flattering we think, to excite either fear or jealousy on our pictures of Christmas life in old ancestral halls, part, or to warp our judgment in regard to their of generous and noble landlords, honest yeomen, productions. America has already done much; contented peasants, and the other personages but a national literature, and particularly a poeti- whom he has arrayed in such holiday colours, cal literature, is the growth of centuries, the last to be at once swept away, his fame would at this product of leisure, with perhaps a touch of moment stand as high in Great Britain as it does : luxury: and the result of a long and picturesque we should still point to the exquisite quaintness train of old recollections and associations. For and subdued humour of his Rip Van Winkle, and America, that period has not yet arrived; and his Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and place him, in perhaps it is less likely to be of speedy occurrence these respects, a little, and but a little, lower than in that country than in many others. In all that Addison. is practical, all that leads to immediate and avail We doubt very much if the powerful concepable results; in the discoveries of science, in the tions of Brown were ever duly appreciated in improvement of legislation, in the study of go- America, till the public mind in this country had vernment, she will doubtless proceed as she has felt the fascination of his mysterious sources of begun, with vigour and success; but in the more interest, and acknowledged in the author of impalpable and immaterial-in philosophy, in Edgar Huntley, and Arthur Mervyn, and Wieland, classical literature, in poetry, the chance of her a spirit of kindred power and gloom with that rapid progress seems more questionable. It is which had portrayed the sufferings of St. Leon, but reasonable, no doubt, that the necessary and the struggles of Falkland. Where, we would should precede the agreeable; but the intensely ask, has all that is really excellent in Cooper's conımercial spirit of the nation, and the unceas- novels, been more warmly admired? The empire ing interference with the machinery of politics, of the sea has been conceded to him by acclamawhich results from the democratic constitution of tion; in the lonely desert, or untrodden prairie, the government, are unquestionably likely to be among the savage Indians, or scarcely less savage injurious to the meditative character, and retired settlers, we equally acknowledge his dominion. leisure, which a real devotion to literature, in its “Within that circle none dares walk but he." more exalted sense, requires. In America doubt- But surely all this was not to blind us to the unless, as in other countries, master minds in litera- deniable fact, that he who was a mighty magician *ure will arise in time; but not suddenly, we within his circle, was but a very common perine, even for her own sake, for nothing is per- son, nay, somewhat of the mountebank, beyond ent which is not gradual; ages must elapse it;' that when taken from the quarter-deck or
the niches in her temple of Fame are filled the desert, “Where wild in woods the noble
savage ran,” and placed on terra firma among If, however, we deal less in superlatives than may civilised society,-particularly where he ventured be agreeable to American nationality, and still rea descent on the shores of Great Britain, he gard these compositions as works of promise sank rather below the mark of a second rate more than performance, we can only say, that we novelist. Because he fetiered our imagination never were more anxious to form an unbiassed by his powers, when he guided his vessel ihrough judgment, or to award praise where we believed rocks and shallows amidst the howling of the it to be deserved. storm and the roaring of the sea, were we to be In the preface to this little volume, which is insensible to the childishness of the incidents on written with much moderation and considerable shore, the tediousness of some of the scenes, the ability, the editor, adverting to his selections, tells melo-dramatic bombast of others ? Let any one us, that “Such poems have been generally chosen take up his later romances, in which, leaving his (with due regard to their real merit) as were vantage ground, he has placed himself on a level thought most likely, by their descriptive power, with the writers of this country, and attempted to convey, through the medium of common assoto rest the interest of his tale on the associations ciations, forcible and faithful impressions of the of the past, and the delineation of stronger pas characteristics of the New World--the leading exsions—as in the Bravo, the Heiden Mauer, and ternal features, and the internal operations of habits the Abbot: and if he can venture to say that they and iastitutions on the moral character. In these rise in the least above the rank of second-rate selections will be felt and seen the living spirit, the novels, he must be less critical or more American moving realities, and the striking natural features of than we can pretend to be. Cooper, in short, is America, more vitally preserved, and perceptibly the master but of one element ; Scott moves with true and characteristic, than in all the Tours and grace and security in all. America has reason Sketches that have teemed from the press on this certainly to be proud of her son ; but if she per- topic.” Never was any statement less borne out sist in placing him
beside his great original, it by the fact. On the contrary, we will venture to will be long before Europe be disposed to ratify say, that the impression on the minds of most the judgment.
persons, on closing the volume, will be one of Irving, Brown, Cooper, are distinguished and surprise, that its contents differ so little from the original names—a worthy triumvirate, heralding, character of our own poetry—that its beauties we hope, in due time, an Augustan age. Are and defects are so much of the same kind-that there others? Possibly; but if there are, we can the moral operation of different governments, only say in all candour, with Roderigo" It hath scenery, and habits of life, have so little modified not appeared.” The Ames, Adams, Buckmin- and altered the current of sentiment and thought sters, Madisons, Jays, to whom we are referred, l-and that, in short, there is so little in the voare doubtless men of great ability—not one of lume which can be called exclusively national, them, so far as we can see, a man of genius. or American—with the exception of some forcible They deserve, we doubt not, their American and graphic descriptions of external nature. We popularity, but it will be long before their names do not very well see how it should be otherwise ; be familiar in our mouths as household words, but, assuredly, the editor labours under a grievous like those of the men of genius to whom we have mistake, if he thinks that this volume is likely to above alluded. We turn to the literary criticism exhibit, in any very intelligible form, “ the living of the continent, as well as our own, and ask, spirit, the moving realities, and the striking nawhere is the place which Fame has awarded to tural features of America." Great beauties it these worthies, and Echo answers, “Where ?" certainly displays; but, for any thing exclusively If we are wrong, it is at least a comfort to think national or iransatlantic it contains, it might as we err in company with all Europe ; and a still well have been written on the banks of the Humgreater consolation to know, that, far from judg- ber as on those of the Hudson. Many persons in ing of American literature in a spirit of unkind- this country seem to have expected rather un. ness, and with a wish to depreciate, we are con- reasonably, like our editor—that American poetry, scious of the most opposite feelings of a warm springing to life under popular influences, in a admiration of the genius which has already new country, where the city and the desert, the illustrated her literary career, and of the strongest crowded highway and the lonely prairie,“with hope and belief that every succeeding age of her its wild flock that never needs a fold,"—where annals will furnish its full complement of civilisation and savage life border on each other those names which “in Fame's eternal temple so closely, was to be something quite peculiar, shine for aye.”
and altogether unlike the poetry of old feudal We can hardly hope, after the misconceptions Europe, with its "thrones, dominations, princewhich have already taken place, and the strange doms, virtues, powers." And so it probably misconstruction which has been put upon our in- would, had the short, but glorious annals of tentions and motives, that, in recurring to the America been in a condition to afford native masubject of American literature, and expressing terials, and the moral world had assumed that our candid opinion of the poetical specimens picturesque character which nature has impressed before us, we shall not run the risk of galling a upon the landscape. Giant mountains, rivers little the kibes of our American brethren, how-rolling like seas into the ocean, "endless lakes," ever inclined we may be to tread with all caution ; on which the navies of the earth might struggle and, as old Isaac Walton advises in describing for dominion, are noble elements of picturesque the process of putting a worm on the hook, to effect; but alone, they are but inefficient. The "handle them tenderly as if we loved them.” | sublimity of external nature can never compete