图书图片
PDF
ePub

THE RETURN OF THE INDIANS TO NIAGARA.

My faithful love, we'll onward roam,
And seek together our forest home,
No more the stranger's roof to see,
In our woods, on our rivers, we are free!
He cannot lure the Indian to stay
From his woods and his rivers long away.
The stranger's halls may yield him bliss,
But can they compare to a sky like this?
The stranger may feast in his gaudy bowers,
But his banquet is not so sweet as ours;
And gold and jewels may round him shine,
But can they compare with riches like mine?
My wide domains of mountain and grove,
My joys with thee of freedom and love!
Lake Erie is near, and the Rapids * clear

Will guide us on our way,
Until they rush with sparkling gush

Where wild Ontario's waters play.
The ravens are hovering for their food,
For fatal to the finny brood

Is the dash of the Rapids' spray;
They lie on the shore, and their colours bright
Flash for awhile in the sunny light,

Then fade in death away.
The evening sun its parting glance

Is shedding on plain and tree,
And lo! the shadowy mists advance,

And they move-how rapidly!
What murmur rises on my ear
Now louder, deeper, and more near ?
Ha! tis not evening's misty dew

That spreads in clouds on high.
Those wreaths of snowy foam defy
The might of time, of earth and sky,
The stately Falls burst on my view

In all their majesty!
Now down the dizzy steep we go
Where the stunning waters flow,
Over rocks, whose heads are seen
The overwhelming waves between.
Scarcely the eye may mark the height
From whence they pour with reinless might. +

* We crossed the Rapids about three miles below Lake Erie. These Rapids form a very considerable river, being at this place nearly one mile over, and conveying a vast body of water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. I observed a number of large fish that were thrown on shore, round which many ravens were hovering or devouring them. Clouds of mist are seen rising from the Falls, and the concussion occasioned by the descent of so large a body of water is such that in a still summer's evening a constant tremor of the earth is perceptible.

+ Immediately below the cataract the river is confined between two steep rocks that form a deep winding valley, through which the waters flow in their course towards Lake Ontario. This valley is terminated by a perpendicular rock of fiftythree yards in height, over which this vast body of water precipitates itself with astonishing rapidity, and with a noise so tremendous that it cannot be described.

Travels in North America.

Let us fly from the deafening sound-
Its thunder shakes the trembling ground:
Midst the terror of the ceaseless din,
Is there no spot to shelter in ?
Methinks through the roar so wild and high,
Silver voices in whispers sigh ;
And across the foam of that rushing tide
Shadowless forms appear to glide,
There, where the rainbow loves to play
In vanishing hues along the spray,
Their glittering wings the spirits wave,
And beckon us to their watery cave:
They know from the Stranger's land we come,
And they hasten to welcome the Indians home!

M.E.

CHARACTERISTIC EPISTLES.—NO. 1.

From the Collection of an Amateur. Or all the different species of literary composition with which the press of the present day teems, commend us to Letters in which there should be no such thing as composition at all! And of all letters, give us those alone which never would have been written if the possibility of our perusing them had been contemplated! And of all letterwriters, keep us from any but such as do not know how a letter should be written!

One of the greatest merits of letters, as an invention, is that there is nobody so ignorant or uninformed but he

may
indite one,

and nobody so forlorn or forsaken in condition that he may not hope some day or other to receive one, or remember the day when he did. To“ waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole,” is far from being the most difficult feat that letters are able to perform. It is said, proverbially, of any attempt to effect an impossible thing, "you might as well try to extract milk from a male tiger!" But letters can do more than this: they can squeeze " the milk of human kindness" from the indurated heart of a miser or & misanthrope-they can "call spirits from the vasty deep" of a metaphysician's brain ;-nay more-they can extract amusement from men of business, pleasantry from peers and plenipotentiaries, liveliness from lovers and fine ladies, instruction from fools, humanity from philosophers, and—the greatest miracle of all-a willingly-paid poll-tax from every body!

The genus, Letters, has been divided, from time to time, into various species, according to the fancy or habits of the party concerning himself about them. But perhaps the best, because the least artificial classification of them, is one which has never yet been made, and which would arrange them according to the rank and station which their writers hold in society. In this view of them they will come under four principal heads ; namely, Letters of the poor

of the middle classes of persons of rank—and of men of genius : which latter must be considered as forming a class by themselves, without any reference to the particular station they may nominally hold. Perhaps, next to the letters of men of genius (of which so much has been already said and written that we must not trust ourselves to add any thing to it here) those of the poor

VOL. XI. NO. XLII.

F

are richest in a sort of homely and home-reaching interest. And yet it is strange enough that they have hitherto not been attended to at all -any more than if no such things existed. The passions, affections, characters, habits, and manners of the poor have not been thought less worthy of study than those of any other class, even by the greatest and best of our casuists; and various modes have been adopted for illustrating and setting them forth, by essays, tales, poems, dramas, pictures, &c. But the study and developement of them by means of the written letters to which they have given rise, seems to have been almost entirely overlooked or neglected. The observers of human nature do not object to study character, under whatever form it may present itself, or in connexion with whatever circumstances; and many a valuable lesson has been learned amid the clamour of a tap-room, or on the top of a stage-coach : and not the less valuable for coming in vulgar language and from a nameless source. But to look into a letter couched in culpable grammar, and signed John Atkins or Rebecca Jones, is what nobody has hitherto thought of doing, unless they have happened to be appended to some case of seduction," or crim. con. in low life. And yet the vicious eagerness with which such documents are sought after and devoured by the “ reading public" of the newspapers, on occasions of the above nature, might, one would think, have demonstrated the value of them as a general source of legitimate information, in regard to the constitution of the human mind, and the passions and affections of the heart, in however low a station they may be acting.

Neither have letters ever been collected-or at least no such collection has ever been given to the world with a view to illustrate character generally. They have always been devoted either to the developement of some particular portion of history,— literary, political, &c.; or to illustrate the character and general biography of some individual person who has been distinguished from the rest of his species in some way or other- either by his station, bis virtues, his genius, his crimes, or the remarkable acts and circumstances in which he may have taken a part. And the letters collected with any of these views have always, without exception, been considered to derive a great part of their value, of whatever kind it may have been, from the name which was found subscribed to them: we of course refer to such of them as have not been written by the person whose character and biography they professed to illustrate—the name affixed to those being undoubtedly one of the chief grounds of their value. Now, for our parts, we strenuously hold, with Juliet, that there is very little, if any thing, “in a name," especially as affixed to a letter-with the single exception we have just stated ; and that the flowers of the epistolary parterre “would smell as sweet," generally speaking, with any one name as with any other, or without any name whatever. And indeed we are greatly mistaken if they would not in many or in most cases smell sweeter.

In fact, Letters, as such, are good, bad, or indifferent in themselves, and no name can make them otherwise; and the only general distinction that need be made is between real and fictitious ones.

Undoubtedly, the collections of letters which we already possess, both in our own and in other languages, ancient as well as modern, are in the highest degree valuable and interesting, in each of the points of view in which we have looked at letters above :-namely, as develope

ments of individual character; and as depositories of general truth, and illustrations of our general nature. And many of them are valuable in both these points of view at the same time. Nothing, for example, can possibly be more amusing and delightful in themselves than the Letters of Horace Walpole; and at the same time nothing can possibly be more characteristic of their writer—who was a person about whom, for various reasons, we desire to know all that can be known. The same may be said of Cowper's Letters—of those in particular which have just been given to the world. On the other hand, the collection of Letters published under the names of Grimm and Diderot are valuable on their own account purely, and they would have been just as valuable had they appeared without any name at all, provided we could have been fully assured of their authenticity. It is nearly the same with the admirable letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and with the delicious ones of Madame de Sevigné. The first are the letters of a person of high breeding, of infinite wit, of easy pleasantry, and of acute observation ; but as for the name they bear—we care very little about the matter, and if we did not already know it, we should not feel much desire to know it. And Madame de Sevigné's are the letters of a doting mother to an affectionate child ; which is a character that no name could add any interest to. And though these delightful effusions are almost as rich as Lady Montague's in the various qualities we have assigned to the latter, yet it is chiefly as the letters of a devoted mother that we love them: for a deeply-rooted passion, of whatever kind, is a more interesting subject of contemplation to the human mind than any or than all other things.-Again-the Letters of Pope are most entertaining, clever, and instructive pieces of writing ; but then they are “pieces of writing,” and might have been intended for the New Monthly Magazine! As mere letters they are of ttle value. But as Letters of Pope they are of great value ; because, in addition to the entertainment they afford, they are highly illustrative of the artificial character of Pope's intellect,—which was for ever "on its good behaviour," as the phrase is, and was scarcely conscious of its own existence except with reference to the existence of some other person. The Letters of Gray, again, are models, in point of style—so far as any thing can be named as a model of that which should be a purely involuntary effusion. But it is as developements of a peculiarly formed character that we have chief cause to value them. Gray, as a poet, was the most artificial person in the world: this we gather from his verses. But as a man, nothing could be more_simple, natural, and unaffected : his letters prove this. It is as the Letters of Gray, therefore, that we most admire them : if they were without his, or any other great name, we should set but little store by them; because, though models of what may be called (if any thing must be so called) an epistolary style, they contain little that is either very amusing or very profound -little that would gain them any high distinction as mere pieces of writing,

But in fact a real Letter can scarcely fail to be in some degree in-' teresting, whatsoever it may contain, or from whomsoever it may proceed ; and that which would be perfectly fade, puerile, and commonplace, coming to us under any other circumstances, has a certain charaeter and value stamped upon it with the post-mark. Probably the reason of this is, that we cannot peruse a letter, supposing we know it

to be a genuine one, without in some degree partaking in the sentiments of three different parties at once-namely, the inditer, the person to whom it is addressed, and ourselves, the present readers of it ; we, at one and the same time, trace the feelings of the writer, imagine those of the receiver, and experience our own in regard to those of both the others. It will probably be found, on examination, that this complex process does not take place in regard to any other species of composition. And to prove that this process is in a great measure the cause of the interest we feel in the perusal of letters, let us enquire whether imaginary ones excite any interest at all, unless they include some special and adventitious merit not belonging to them as letters. In fact, the great charm of real letters is simply that of their being real letters ; and this is a quality the known absence of which nothing can entirely compensate.

To return to the consideration from which we have somewhat diverged. How is it that collections of Letters have not hitherto been made, which shall in no degree depend for their value on particular names, persons, events, and things, but which shall illustrate general nature and character alone, by means of individual instances, and shall derive their interest solely from their greater or less adaptation to this object? It will scarcely be doubted that not a day passes without a multiplicity of letters being written, received, read, and destroyed, which, if saved, and arranged with reference to the above-named object, would be in a high degree curious and valuable. The human heart—its passions, affections, habits, impulses, and instincts—are indicated and developed less in its conduct under the great and momentous circumstances in which it is placed, than in that which is called forth by the every day trifles that act and are acted upon by it; it is less true to itself in its strengths than its weaknesses, and the results of the former are less to be depended on as criterions of character than those of the latter.-And, above all, a general and efficient knowledge of our human nature is to be obtained, less by gazing upon it under the distant and at the same time dazzling forms of high genius and heroic virtue, than by becoming intimate with its frailties, its follies, and its errors, as these are inseparably linked and blended with its wants and wishes, its sorrows and joys, as well as its eager aspirations after future good, and its restless endeavours to escape from present evil. The truth of all this will perhaps readily be admitted; but possibly the inference we would draw from it, in regard to the value of a certain class of letters, is not so obvious, though we conceive it to be still more universally true. There is, in fact, nothing like a letter, for giving us glimpses into the secret heart of its writer at the moment he is employed in penning it ; provided the matter in question is either not of sufficient apparent importance to make an attempt at concealment seem needful, or of too much importance to render it available. A thousand things flow through the pen that the tongue could not have expressed if it would, and would not have dared to express, if it could ; and what is still more to the purpose, would not have had to express,-because, in the act of talking, and the correspondent act of listening that the talking necessarily engenders, the whole mental process becomes changed, and the feelings which put that process into action are divided and dissipated, or diverted into other courses, and

« 上一页继续 »