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PUTNAM'S MONTHLY

MAGAZINE

^nuritan literature, ititntt, anb %xt

VOL. VI.

JULY TO DECEMBER, 1855.

NEW YORK:
DIX & EDWARDS, 10 PARK PLACE
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, SOX & CO.

MDCCCI.V.

Harvarxl College Library

Gift of
Miss Longfellow, Mrs. Dana*
and Mrs. Thorp,
0 Jan. 1896.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by

DIX & EDWARDS,

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.

HOLMAN & ORAY, . ■* A.

PRINTERS AND STEREOTYPERS, N. T. 'V

CONTENTS

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BIOGRAPHY may be said to bear to history somewhat the same relation that portraiture does to historical painting. Like other comparisons, there are some points in which this one fails; but it is exact enough for purposes of illustration. The great essential requisite for historical composition, as for historical painting, is the power of grouping. If thoro is a failure in this respect, skillfulncss and elaboration in details, so far from making up for it, may only render confusion worse confounded, and the failure more conspicuous. This power of grouping is, indeed, essential to every species of composition, whether pictorial or written; but a much less degree of it will answer for biography or portraiture than for compositions in history. Nor is this by any means the only advantago which the former possess. Though not ranked so high in the critic's scale, their merits and beauties and power of pleasing aro much moro level to the common apprehension, and moro likely to bo generally felt and appreciated.

History, as it becomes more comprehensive, more scientific and abstract, giving more and more of its attention to relations and causes not accidental, but natural and necessary, comes to deal less and less with men as individuals, and to confine itself to those motives and impulses shared by groups and, masses in common—motives and impulses to which, rather than to individual peculiarities, the course and order of events is every day more and more traced. It is said that in these

modern times wo have no heroes; but the reason, probably, is not so much that men or society are yet very different from what they havo been, as that we have a different way of viewing things—perceiving that to bo accomplished by the united weight of many persons acting under a common impulse, which, according to the old method of explanation, would have been regarded as the heroic work of some single individual.

History, considered as a science, and historical compositions, looked upon as demonstrations, have, no doubt, gained much by this change. But, tho great mass of the reading public aro hardly yet prepared for this journey into the wilderness of historical speculation, even though the promised land of a reorganized and regenerated society may be alleged to lie beyond it; while fed with this philosophical manna, they do still look back with great longings and some murmurings to the flesh- pots of Egypt, breaking out into occasional complaints that they have been led into the desert to starve.

Hence, the popularity of that semihistorical species of biography, of which Washington Irving, in the volume beforo us, has furnished the first installment of a very pleasing specimen. Biography, indeed, in this shape of it, may bo said to have picked up not merely the droppnd mantle, but, as it were, the cast-off body of the ascending muse of history; and, as yet, the great mass of readers seem much to prefer a

* Life of George Washington. By Washington Irving. New York: G. P. Putnam & Co. Three vols., Vol. I., pp. 504 VOL. VI 1

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