Page images
PDF
EPUB

we come to a tale charmingly told. We have seldom met with a romance so Arcadian as that of Cora Mansfeld. As the young ladies would say : “ It is a love of a tale."

Nor is Mrs. Kirkland behind in a knowledge of what constitutes a patriot. Her description is so graphic that we cannot resist the temptation to enrich our pages with it.

“ From this auspicious commencement may be dated Mr. Jenkins's glowing desire to serve the public. Each successive election-day saw him at his post. From eggs he advanced to pies, from pies to almanacs, whiskey, powder and shot, foot-balls, playing-cards, and at length, for ambition ever did grow with what it fed on,' he brought into the field a large turkey, which was tied to a post and stoned to death at twenty-five cents a throw. By this time the still youthful aspirant had become quite the man of the world; could smoke twenty-four cigars per diem, if anybody else would pay for them; play cards in old Hurler's shop from noon till day-break, and rise winner; and all this with suitable trimmings of gin and hard words. But he never lost sight of the mainchance. He had made up his mind to serve his country, and he was all this time convincing his fellow-citizens of the disinterested purity of his sentiments.”

We strongly incline to the belief that Mrs. Kirkland would excel in a romance of real life, laying the scene in the present times. Her eye is keen and retentive ; her style infinitely superior to Thackeray or Dickens; and if she be somewhat deficient in imagination, let her reflect how wonderfully the latter has managed without that rare faculty. That she has invention we feel assured, although she has not yet given her attention to works which favor its development. She has admirable good sense ; a true womanly taste, without any sickly, “ finelady sentimentalism ;” and that instinctalmost as rare a gift as genius—which counsels how far she can proceed in the coloring of a fact without trenching on the realm of caricature. What bombast is in poetry-distortion in sculpture and painting-ranting in elocution—buffoonery in acting-quackery in medicine--charlatanism in politics—even so caricature is in writing. It resembles genius just as the monkey resembles man !—not a likeness, but a living caricature.

Our limits will not allow us a further examination of her other writings. They display the same merits and defects. Her “ Forest Life” has some beautiful pieces of description, both of men and nature. There is a health about her productions which gives promise of a long life.

JARED SPA RK S.

It is a peculiar fact in the literature of America that while deficient in poetical genius, she boasts three historians not unworthy to be matched with the greatest of their contemporaries. This is no new opinion, for it has been remarked by an eminent authority in England that Bancroft, Prescott, and Jared Sparks, are among the first writers of the age. We have endeavored to justify this assertion in our review of Prescott's works. We now proceed to a consideration of the historical claims of the author of “The Life of Washington," and in our next shall devote part of our space to Mr. Bancroft's writings. We must not forget that the latter has had advantages not extended to his brother historians.

As we have in a previous part of this volume explained somewhat our theory of the manner in which History should be written, we shall at once proceed to the consideration of Mr. Sparks's labors. Biography and history differ materially in one respect, viz. the spirit in which they should be written. The biographer should have a certain love for his hero, a kind of household feeling ; but the historian should sit like Jove on

Olympus, out of the turmoil of the conflict, and above the disturbing influence of those clouds which distort and interrupt " the vision, and the faculty divine” of truly judging of events. It is of course understood, that while we expect the biographer to take a personal interest in the subject of his memoir, we do not wish him to become either the apologist of his errors or the propagator of his opinions; we only require a generous sympathy with the great objects of his life, and a forbearing judgment when he goes astray. There are certain grand elements in our nature which are far removed from the sphere of political and religious bigotries, and these are so broadly marked as to render an offence against them palpable to all. This is the only basis on which one man can condemn another. The elements we mean are those comprehended in the pure humanity of man. A man bas a perfect right to be a republican or a monarchist; to be of any religion his conscience dictates. He is lord and master of his creed and opinion. If he acts consistently with these rules of faith, none dare blame him; but when he violates truth, honor, humanity, purity, then he comes under the just condemnation of his fellow man ; he puts himself out of the human family when he becomes cruel, unjust, false, or even ungenerous.

In history the narrator should regard the great law of progress. This should be the compass by which he steers his course. He should look at an erent not so much by itself as in conjunction with others. In the most successful campaign all is not victory; many a step backward, apparently, may be the forerunner of a permanent advance ; the sum total must be regarded, and not isolated items “in the great account." Now

Mr. Sparks has, in his writings, combined the excellences of both systems, and while he has written of his hero with a deep feeling of appreciation, he has likewise taken into consideration his historical value. In his life of the great founder of this republic, he has avoided the common error of considering George Washington as a Fourth of July Orator, and treated him as a lover of human freedom, not an actor surrounded with drums, trumpets, and penny crackers, but a lofty-minded man, armed with the noblest attributes of the patriot hero. Sparks is one of the few writers who have presented Washington in that pure simplicity of character which renders him one of the greatest men that have ever been known to their fellow creatures. We always apply involuntarily to him these lines of Wordsworth on Milton :

“ His soul was like a star, and dwelt apart !
He had a voice whose sound was like the sea,
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free;
So did he travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness, and yet his heart

The lowliest duties on itself did lay !” It is somewhat out of time here, but we have thought that the picture presented by Washington retiring from the arduous struggle of having achieved his country's freedom, and then returning to his farm, resuming all his old labors, is one of the finest in the human gallery, infinitely distancing the hacknied example of Cincinnatus to which it has been so often compared. When the difference of times and manners is taken into account, there is little comparison between them.

There is also another light in which Mr. Sparks may claim

« PreviousContinue »