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IT is too late in the day for a satire such as that of Ulrich von Hutten to make much stir in the theological world. The new set of the "Letters of the Obscure Men," which an unknown publisher of Berlin has ventured to issue, will hardly draw the ridicule of the German people upon the Lutheran priesthood. The Latin is bad enough; the style is sufficiently grotesque; the situations are as absurd as any that the Reformer described; there is no lack of profanity, or vulgarity, or obscenity; but, after all, these thirty-eight Epistles will be found stupid and tiresome, even by the rationalists whom they are meant to please. That they are just in their portraits of the manners and morals of the Lutheran clergy, no candid reader can allow. The motto from Horace, "Quamquam ridentem dicere verum quid vetat?" is quite out of place where the falsehood is so patent, and the laughter only a jeer and a scoff. That the "reactionaries" of Germany are bigoted, narrow, dogmatic, arrogant, haters of free science, is unquestionable. But that they are such dull fools and lustful sensualists as these letters show them, is a preposterous fancy. The letters are amusing only from their absurdity, and from the reminiscence which they give of the pranks and fooleries of college days and college societies. It would seem incredible, nevertheless, that a German student, with his exact classical training, could by any effort so pervert the grammar of the Latin tongue. The worst diction of college exercises is grace and accuracy compared with this twisting of syntax and inflections. The mixture of sacred and profane images is too disgusting to be laughable. If such a production as this can be issued in Berlin without bringing an action for libel or for blasphemy against the publisher, New York is certainly outdone by the Prussian capital in its practical freedom of the press. Compared with these letters, the suppressed poem of the "Rebelliad, or Terrible transactions at the Seat of the Muses," well known to Harvard students of the last generation, was chaste and decent. American ecclesiastical satire and abuse have not sunk so low as this.
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OF Mr. James's "Secret of Swedenborg"† we hope to present hereafter a more adequate review than can be given hastily, in the month
*Novissimæ Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum. Berolini: F. Berggold. 1869. 16mo, pp. 88.
†The Secret of Swedenborg; being an Elucidation of his "Doctrine of the Divine Natural Humanity." By HENRY JAMES. Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co. 8vo, pp. 243.
of its publication. Its author's qualities of thought and style, and especially his animosity at sciolism and "moralism," are well known to the studious public, both those which fascinate and those which exasperate the reader. It is a refreshment to have an intelligence so large and strange as Swedenborg's dealt with by one who has so healthy a contempt for conventionalities of sect and form, along with so reverent and genial an admiration of the mind he seeks to interpret. That he makes that mind more intelligible to the uninitiated, or that scheme of thought more attractive to the profane, we do not yet venture to declare. What is plain to see, is the scorn wreaked on those who undertake to turn the visions or intuitions of the Swedish Seer, into a religious creed, or to claim his name as the founder of a sect. "None of the older sects," he says, "parades a pretension at once so senseless and so blasphemous." And we are assured, in this handsome and attractive volume, of this satisfaction at least, that we have an earnest, intelligent, enthusiastic exposition of Swedenborg's great intellectual service to mankind, from one who is, himself, any thing but a "Swedenborgian."
THE Rev. Stopford A. Brooke is honorably known as the friend and biographer of Rev. Frederic Robertson, the recent issue of whose sermons, compactly printed in two volumes, is a remarkable testimony to the vitality and popular power of a true man's thought. Mr. Brooke possesses, with a strong sympathy in what was best and noblest in his friend, a quality of religious thought very nearly akin. His sermons, just published,* have the advantage of being printed as finished compositions, and under their author's eye. The qualities by which they impress the reader, are their great seriousness and devoutness of tone; their breadth of topics and freedom of handling; the constant, reverential, intelligent exposition of Scripture in its spiritual or moral sense; and the directness with which they apply the religious thought to the actual experiences of the life, or the actual condition of the nation. Their homiletic tone is more marked than that of Robertson's, with which they will be most readily compared; the proportion of topics directly scriptural is quite striking; while such titles as "The Naturalness of God's Judgments," "The Religion of Home," "Individuality," "Devotion to the Convention
* Sermons preached in St. James's Chapel, York Street, London. By the Rev. STOPFORD A. BROOKE. Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co.
al," "Devotion to the Outward," suggest trains of reflection in the best sense practical.
Or those who have made the Lecture System popular, there is no one, unless it be Mr. Emerson, who has succeeded by purely intellectual merit of so fine an order as Mr. Whipple; and no one whose spoken essays bear so well the stern test of print. He has steadily maintained his place, in public esteem, on the slippery and difficult standing-ground of the lecturer's platform, for considerably more than twenty years; and his published volumes have secured him a high rank, as the author of some of our best critical writings. Neither series that he has printed has given him a more congenial topic, or exhibits his special ability to better advantage, than the volume lately published. No single volume will do full justice to the wealth of his reading and accuracy of his memory, in the wide field of literary history; but the keen penetration, the quick clear judgment, the careful study, the point and vigor of style, the fine discrimination, the wide sympathy, which give such a work its best value, have full play in the series of views in which he exhibits what was rarest and best in the intelligence of the Elizabethan age. The volume consists of a course of lectures delivered before the Lowell Institute, ten years ago, and printed since in the "Atlantic Monthly." In their present compact and handsome form, they will prove a valuable and welcome addition to the library-shelf.
IN breadth of plan, Mr. Everett's "Science of Thought"† is the counterpart of Mill's "Logic;" that is, it deals not only or chiefly with forms, but with facts and things. It does the great service, to the English reader, of surveying the same wide field from a different point of view. It strongly attracts one, at the outset, by the grace of a style singularly clear, crisp, and direct, abounding in brief sentences, of which each delivers its one thought, clean-cut and forcible, straight to the reader's mind. It is the style of a practised speaker to an attentive audience he wishes to instruct, rather than that of an argumentative or speculative writer, simple, direct, disdaining ornament or "fine writing," the perfection of didactic style; yet flowering
* The Literature of the Age of Elizabeth. By EDWIN P. WHIPPLE. Boston: Fields, Osgood, & Co.
† Science of Thought; a System of Logic. By CHARLES CARROLL EVERETT. Boston: William V. Spencer.
easily into illustrations which tip each thought, as a pink-blossom tips its stalk. Covering, from the nature of its topic, the whole breadth of human thought, including all science and art, it is never at a loss for the material to give point and shape to its abstracter argument. And, what makes it more attractive to the thoughtful reader, it holds out the promise of giving some intelligible rendering of that system of Hegel, which to most of us has stood, unavoidably, for little more than the echo of a name. Mr. Everett is one of the few men who have qualified themselves, by personal study of the system, and personal hearing of its expounders, to serve as its interpreters to other minds. Besides Hegel, he acknowledges chief indebtedness to Schopenhauer, "the most brilliant of metaphysicians," most false, perhaps, in his main theory, but "clearest and most satisfactory in its details." We do not promise that the readers of this book will become, themselves, qualified to explain or pronounce upon these schemes of thought. But we can safely say, that they will receive a great deal of instruction and intellectual impulse; that they will find meaning and suggestion in phrases that had, perhaps, repelled them by what seemed hopeless vagueness or paradox; that they will be led to a better acquaintance with some of the highest forms of human thought, and some of the widest relations of human knowledge; and that they will have the further satisfaction of finding the harmonies of philosophical speculation set forth in the light of a large confidence in absolute truth and spiritual life.
It would be unjust to pass a hasty judgment on what is the ripe and slow growth of a cultivated mind, — what, in fact, asserts itself in dedicatory verse to be no gathered blossom, but "sheaves of ripened, dry, and heavy wheat." We hope hereafter to examine more at length its value, both as a criticism of others and as a contribution of original thought; meanwhile, commending it, in all confidence, to students of kindred taste.
We do not know how far the Essays, whose title we have given,* may be depended on for the general opinion of English scholars and teachers. It is evident that they contain the views of a wide and very intelligent class, and one which is rapidly extending. The fantastic and
* Essays on a Liberal Education. edition. London: Macmillan & Co.
Edited by Rev. F. W. FARRAR. Second 8vo, pp. 384.
cruel pedantry which has hedged the study of the classics with its frightful cheval-de-frise of nomenclature; which spends ten years on Greek and Latin rudiments; which compels the writing of verses, as an ordinary school exercise, in languages distant, dead, and half-known; which makes the "analysis" of a sentence ten times as hard as the understanding of it; which, by a grotesque whim, has transferred to our school grammars here, and insists on forcing as a task of memory, the rules and countless exceptions of "scanning," which are of no earthly use except in that manufacture of Latin verse which we have happily discarded, and which make a boy's reading the smooth text of Virgil or Ovid like a hard ride over a very stony road, this relic of scholastic times, we are glad to hope, is passing fast out of date. And, for our evidence, we take the striking testimony of this volume.
It consists of nine essays, by as many writers, differing here and there as to their views in detail, but agreeing in their main drift. The name of Mr. Farrar is widely known, as the author of some most vigorous and wholesome contributions on this subject, in recent reviews. His contribution to this series is one which has less practical value here than in England, in which he argues against the composition of Greek and Latin verse as a general branch of education. The introductory essay, too, may be described as more curious than important. But it is quite interesting in its sketch of the steps by which the ponderous system of modern instruction was built up. The average Englishman of the upper classes—the same who now believes with all his heart in the teachings of the great schools must have been a difficult subject, a few centuries ago, for the handling of pedants and pedagogues. "Rather," says a bluff Englishman of that time, " than my son should be bred a scholar, he should hang. To blow a neat blast on the horn, to understand hunting, to carry a hawk handsomely and train it, this is what becomes the son of a gentleman; but as for book-learning, he should leave that to louts." It is a great way from that day to a time when the prime minister of England amuses his vacation by writing out a most careful and scholarly dissertation on Homer, and the first nobleman of England appears as one of a score of rival translators of the Iliad. In an earlier time, "gentlemen took care that their sons should learn 'courtesy,' to ride, sing, play upon the lute and virginals, perform feats of arms, dance, carve, and wait at table, where they might hear the conversation (sometimes French or Latin), and study the manners of great men." Even Bacon, urging the advancement of learning," was not without a certain contempt for boys," considering them hardly fit