Page images
PDF
EPUB

a figure about eighteen feet in length, whereas the cheat measured only some eighteen inches. Before we write a word about this exhibition, we must let the future of the mermaid be told out by this virtuous Barnum :

* The mermaid was afterwards exhibited in various parts of the country, and finally returned to its owner, Mr. KIMBALL, who has ever since given it a prominent niche in his truly beautiful and at. tractive · Boston Museum. There it will remain until the 31st day of March, 1855. On fhe 1st of April next, (a most appropriate day,) it will again make its appearance in my American Museum, NEW YORK, where it will remain until January 1st, 1856, to the admiration and astonishment, no doubt, of many thousand patrons. On the 2nd day of January, 1856, the mysterious lady-fish will again take up her old quarters under the guardianship of her owner, the Hon. Moses Kimball, (he having recently been elected to the State Senate, and thus acquired the title,) and from that period the Fejee MERMAID will be installed as a prominent and interesting fixture in the Bostom MUSEUM.

That'her ladyship’ was an attractive feature, may be inferred from these facts and figures :

The receipts of the American Museum, for the four weeks immediately preceding the exhibition of the mermaid, amounted to 1,272 dollars. During the first four weeks of the mermaid's exhibi. bition, the receipts amounted to 3,341 D. 93 c."

Now, in the name of common sense, common honesty, and common decency, we ask, is this man to be allowed to publish his disgraceful trickery, and hope not alone to pass unscathed, but to be actually raised in public estimation thereby ? If a man comes with bare feet, and a blue shirt, "and a hole in his breeches too" to our house, asking charity, and produces a certificate purporting to be from the mayor of Waterford or Wexford, or some minor town, stating that the bearer is the mate of the vessel Jane of Liverpool, or elsewhere, and that the ship was lost on the coast in his neighbourhood, and that the bearer Thomas Jones, with two other of the crew, were the sole survivors, and that he recommends them to the consideration of the humane, to assist them in returning to their homes, (which by the bye are always a very considerable distance from the place where the charity is asked) we, in our abounding cunning, cross examine the ragged' individual, and the odds are, fifty to one, that he turns out to be an impostor. If we are actuated by proper feelings, if we possess a spark of public spirit, we communicate with the police, (unhappily but too often the bore and worry of attending a prosecution, not alone damps, but entirely extinguishes the

ardor of public spirit,) the impostor is conducted to his solitary retirement, enquiries are made, the mayor is brought up to prove that he never signed the document, that it is a forgery; great expense is gone to in the prosecution, (and properly so) and the result is, that the would-be mate of the Jane of Liverpool is sent at the public expense from amidst liis countrymen, who would prefer not being the objects on which the said mate should practise his ingenuity. Now, what is the difference between Mr. Barnum and the begging letter impostor-none. The analogy is perfect, for we have the dressing, the character, the false vame, the false pretence, in Dr. Griffin of Pernambuco, of gentlemanly, dignified and social manners, (i. e. Lyman) agent of the Lyceuin of Natural llistory in London, with a veritable mermaid, taken among the Fejee islands, bought at China, at a high figure, for the Lyceum of Natural History. It must be borne in mind, that in all this Lyman was merely the tool and servant of Barnum, and that Barnum is the responsible person. He cannot now hope to escape on any plea of this kind; and can it be believed that any man, in a sound state of society, and public mora. lity, could venture to make such disclosures as these, with a perfect complacency, as Barnum has done ? Is this man, because of his dollars, to be permitted to parade and glory in his dishonesty, without one word of rebuke or comment ? Are we to take for a veritable peacock, this wretched jay, strutting about, with a few draggled feathers in his tail? We can very well understand that people would allow themselves to be amused by the revelations of a rogue, as they would occasionally laugh at tricks upon the stage in a clever comedy, which their better sense would condemn. For this reason we wonld not speak harshly of those who now hurry to read Barnum's book and recommend it to their friends : but if, when attention is called to those discreditable revelations, which are dashed off in that ready way in which rogues can relate their adventures, public indignation is not aroused, and public disapproval expressed, we should not hesitate to pronounce such a society rotten to the core.*

The following most extraordinary passage referring to this “ appeared in the last number of “ The Church of England Quarterly Review":-“ We consider it the most amusing work that has appeared since the Personal Sketches of Şir Jonah Barrington. He will gain much in general estimation by his book, and all who read it will be well entertained."

a

Life,"

There are many other incidents in this man's life which we had intended to remark upon. The task, however, is an irksome one, and after convicting him of a transportable offence, we have not the patience to accumulate charges of petty larceny. We would wish, however, before parting with this subject, to deprecate any intention of identifying the American people generally with Barnum. Too often has injustice been done to that noble nation who, like all others, have their own imperfections. It is one of the weaknesses of hamanity to bow down before the man who has the command of great wealth ; society is often for a time led astray by this canse, but when once a well proved charge is brought against the millionaire, his ill-gotten money does not save him froin public contempt and execration. Society tramples upon the man whoin formerly it adored : .we would this were otherwise, and that these extremes could be avoided. Such reactious, however, show a healthy tone of public morality. We have no doubt this reaction will come upon Barnum, if it has not already commenced, and we should deemn it as unjust to stig. matize America. on account of Barnum, as to identify Eng. land with Hudson, her quondam Railway King.

AET. VIII-MRS. JAMESON'S COMMONPLACE BOOK.

4 Common-place Book of Thoughts, Memories, and Fancies,

Original and Selected. Part I.--Ethics and Character. Part II.-Literature and Art. With Illustrations and Etchings. By Mrs. Jameson, Loudon: Longman and Co. 1951.

[ocr errors]

It was wisely observed by Doctor Johnson, that “ He who collects is laudably employed; for though he exerts no great talents in the work, he facilitates the progress of others; and by making that easy of attainment which is already written, may give some mind, more vigorous or more adventurous than his own, leisure for new thoughts and original designs ;” and traly, here, in this book, this book charming in all its thoughts, meinories, and fancies” selected, and exquisite in every " thought, memory, and fancy” original, the full force of the

[ocr errors]

great moralist's opinion is brought evidently before the reader. Mrs. Jameson has not, it is true, proclaimed herself “ a patient drudge;" this book is not a compilation of wise saws, or a spiritless but well designed “Beauties of Literature.” The authoress tells us at the outset, that she has never aspired to teach, being herself but a learner; yet, in our mind, she has done better than if she had written with this purpose of teaching, because in the working of her own intellectual and moral being, as evidenced in these “thoughts, memories, and fancies," she is teaching in that best of all forms, a womanly woman's counsels of example.

There is not one, in the whole noble band of English female writers, from the Duchess of Newcastle, of whose life of her husband Charles Lamb wrote, "no casket is rich enough, no casing sufficiently durable, to honour and keep safe such a jewel,” to Hannah More, of whom Sydney Smith said, ban. tering, that he spoke timidly of her, as of a mysterious and superior being ---more worthy of the great praise bestowed upon her works than Mrs. Jamesun. Twenty-two years have elapsed since she delighted, instructed, and taught, in her admirable Characteristics of Women. Who can read without feelings of delight and wonder her papers on Imogen, Desdemona, and Hermione, in her exposition of the Characters of the Affections ?” and how beautifully she observes-“ All that can render sorrow majestic is gathered around Hermione--all that can render misery heart-breaking is assembled round Desdemona! The wronged but self-sustained virtue of Hermione commands our veneration; the injured and defenceless innocence of Desdemona so wrings the soul, that all for pity we could die!"

Remembering these passages, recalling happy hours which owed their chiefest pleasure to these, and other books from Mrs. Jameson's pen, we opened her Commonplace Book hoping to find it worthy her reputation, and from chapter to chapter we read on, finding in each some thought of beauty or of goodness, and over all was that charm of womanliness which ever shines in Mrs. Jameson's works--till, closing the last page,we exclaimed, as did Cassio of Desdemona

“She's a most exquisite lady." The title of the work expresses its exact character: it is a Commonplace Book of thoughts, of memories, and of feelings

and of its composition and publication, Mrs. Jameson thus writes :

“For many years I have been accustomed to make a memorandum of any thought which might come across mem(if pen and paper were at hand), and to mark (apd remark) any passage in a book which excited either a sympathetic or an antagonistic feeling. This collection of notes accumulated insensibly from day to day. The volumes on Shakspeare's Women, on Sacred and Legendary Art, and Farious other productions, sprung from seed thus lightly and casually sown, which, I hardly know how, grew up and expanded into a regular, readable form, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But what was to be done with the fragments which remained-without beginning, and without end-links of a hidden or a broken chain ? Whether to preserve them or destroy them became a question, and one I could not answer for myself. In allowing a portion of them to go forth to the world in their original form, as unconnected fragments, I have been guided by the wishes of others, who deemed it not wholly uninteresting or profitless to trace the path, sometimes devious enough, of an inquiring spirit,' even by the little pebbles dropped as vestiges by the way side."

Of the Commonplace Book the first part is composed of original and extracted notes, on subjects of a nature ethical and characteristic, and it contains, also, some Poetical Fragments, an allegory entitled “ The Indian Hunter and the Fire," and best of all, "A Revelation of Childhood.” In this latter, Mrs. Jameson intends to show, through her own experiences, the mistakes in our present educational system. It is most admirable in design, but we prefer it as a beautiful tale, like the opening chapter of The Confessions of an English Opium Eater, rather than as a didactic, formal essay on a very grave subject ; and we therefore extract from it those passages indicating how Mrs. Jameson came to be the Mrs. Jameson all the world admires :

"Enough of the pains, and mistakes, and vagaries of childhood; let me tell of some of its pleasurés equally unguessed and unexpressed. A great, an exquisite source of enjoyment arose out of an early, instinctive, boundless delight in external beauty. How this went hand in hand with my terrors and reveries, how it could coexist with them, I cannot tell now-it was so; and if this sympathy with the external, living, beautiful world, had been properly, scientifically cultivated, and directed to useful definite purposes, it would have been the best remedy for much that was morbid: this was not the case, and we were, unhappily for me, too early removed from the country to a town residence. I can remember, however, that in very early years the appearances of nature did truly haunt me like a passion; the stars were to me as the gates of heaven; the rolling of the wave to the shore, the graceful weeds and grasses bending before the breeze as they grew by the wayside ; the minute and de

« PreviousContinue »