« PreviousContinue »
Fec? May 17, 1850. Gift of Sof: Semen Greenleaf, L4.9.
TIIE SOUTHERN AND WESTERN
LITERARY MESSENGER AND REVIEW.
THE EDITOR TO HIS PATRONS.
The present number of the Messenger comes to and thrones. Accordingly all history goes to es. you under the guidance of a new Editor. On the tablish that those nations who have most cultivar cover you will read a stranger's name, where you ted polite letters, have exercised the largest sway have been wont to see one endeared to you by a over human affairs and left us the worthiest examlong and pleasant intercourse. In the Editor's ples of national renown. Why do we venerate corner, you will miss the familiar teachings of a Athens above all the cities of antiquity? Bepen, which has held excellent converse with you, cause she has bequeathed to us the rich legacy of during a period of four years. The person, on an imperishable literature and upon her models we whom has fallen his Editorial mantle, now ad- are taught to form our style. What throws a halo dresses you, and as the public ear is ever open to around the pontificate of Leo X? Assoredly, its the cadences of an unaccustomed voice
literary lustre. If we look back to the age of
Elizabeth or Louis, we shall find their most per"As when a well-graced actor leaves the stage The eyes of men
manent glory, not in Turenne leading vast armies Are idly bent on him who enters next,"
in the field, or Ralegh giving chase to the galleons
of Spain, but in their mental wealth-in Shakshe supposes you will grant a patient hearing while peare, Massinger, Jonson and Marlowe, in Corhe ventures a few words hy way of salutation. neille, Racine, Bossuet and Massillon.
In this place, however, he has something to say Humiliating to our pride as may be the confes. beyond a mere friendly greeting. It is proper that sion, it must be admitied that America has added the Messenger should be discussed in connection little as yet to the garners of intellect. In the with its history, its prospects and its aims. The physical sciences and the mechanic arts, we have occasion invites too some serious reflections on the accomplished great results. The finest merchantliterature of the country and the causes, which navy in the world wafts to our shores the products have hitherto operated to retard ils progress. These of the Orient and carries back the fabrics of a are kindred topics and deserve at our hands an at- thousand looms. The prophetic rhapsody of Dartentive consideration.
win has been more than fulfilled in our facilities of We presume that none will dispute the proposi- locomotion and it has been reserved for an AmeriLion, that an exalted literature is the noblest trait in can, in the wondrous invention of the Telegraph, a national character. The Chinese have a proverb, to reduce to practical utility what an old writer that letters and husbandry are the two principal foreshadowed as a figment of fancy. *
But we are professions. Certainly there can be nothing better still dependent on our transatlantic brethren for the calculated to humanize a people, to raise them in more important and considerable portion of our the standard of true greatness, than an expansive literature. We can point as yet to no poem of intellectual development. It gives them an influence surpassing the prestige of military fame and See No. 241 of the Spectator. a power that shall survive the wreck of dynasties “Strada in his Prolusions," &,
American composition which is likely to become a result of equality. The argument is, therefore, classic. The sketches of Irving and the histories that the prevalence of free institutions over the of Prescott, have indeed reflected credit on our world would necessarily extinguish the rays of literary pretensions, and pleasant Sidney Smith, science and learning and cause the human family were he now among the living, could ask no longer, to fall back into the darkness and ignorance of the “Who reads an American book ?" But as a great past. To expose this fallacy would betray os into Continent, we cannot deny that we are still in lit- a discussion at once trite and unprofitable. It is erary leading-strings.
worthy of the absolutism from whence it sprang. To account for this acknowledged inferiority, But we can say with truth that it is only when gemany causes have been assigned. It would be nius has been left free and unirammelled, that she rank injustice to ourselves, in view of what we has poured forth her loftiest inspirations. The have done in other departments of science, to sup- poet, uttering the voice of song from his lonely pose that it springs from any lack of native talent. cottage, with no other immunity than The cause which is most received does not oblain
“the glorious privilege It is urged that speaking as we do, a
of being independent,” common language with England, and sharing with her the priceless treasures of her literature, we will live longer in the remembrance of posterity, are not conscious of the want of a separate store-than all the laureates who have ever embalmed the house, and have thus neglected to supply it. Now follies of royalty in stipulated panegyric and comthe possession of this common literature must ne- pulsory fervor. The literature which has flourishcessarily act upon the intelligence of England in ed in the hot-bed of royal patronage, has always like manner as upon ourselves, and if it has iin- been a sickly flower and has diffused but a passing peded our progress in letters, it must also have im- and partial fragrance. To exemplify these truths, peded hers. To admit this, would be to advance we have only to look at a gisted poet of our own the absurd opinion, that the enjoyment of a copious time and to contrast the beauty and grandeur of and elegant literature, prevents all further contri- the Excursion, with an Ode recently pronounced by butions to it and that the Anglo-Saxon mind has Wordsworth at the Installation of Prince Albert reached already its point of culmination and is des- as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. tined to rise no higher in its intellectual orbit. We While we cannot recognise the validity of the reject at once an argument which assumes that ad- reasons, to which we have adverted, we are still at vancement carries in itself a check 10 its onward no loss to account for our literary inferiority opon course. We rejoice to believe, on the contrary, other and more rational grounds. And among them, that under the ordinations of a wise Providence, we regard as most important, our peculiar social the human mind is continually progressive and that conditions, growing out of our position as a new each stride places it upon a vantage-ground, from country. In all infant communities, the attention which a farther point may be attained. Nulla vesti- of the people is, first of all, directed to the exigengia retrorsum. In the middle of the sixteenth cies of the State. To rear habitable seulements, century, it was thought that the English drama had to cultivate the soil, to establish commercial relaarrived at the highest point of excellence it was lions, to provide a system of national defence, these ever destined to reach. In the plays of that period are the occupations, which demand their earliest there was indeed much power and originality. But concern. In a meagre population, no one can be a few years and there was born a man, whose ge- spared from these urgent duties to foster letters, nius peopled the stage with the images of a nobler the want of which cannot yet be felt. From the creation, and uttered the lessons of a higher philos- very nature of things, there can be no literary class. ophy. And shall we say that another Shakspeare The temples of justice must precede the lyceum shall never appear to dignify humanity? It is no and the university, and there must be laid an agriunder-estimate of the exalted powers of the great cultural basis for all the branches of intellectual dramatist to suppose that, in the lapse of ages, research. While the energies of our infant Redramas may be composed more effective than Ham- public have been directed to these necessary oblet or Lear. It is rather to say, that the range of jects, letters and the arts have progressed in England the mind is boundless, and that no limits can be as- and on the Continent, under the encouraging aussigned to the improvement of man's diviner facul- pices of a class of men, whose whole time is deties.
voted to literary pursuits. De Tocqueville, pero Another cause of our literary inferiority is brought haps the most acute foreign observer who has forward in our form of government. The enemies ever visited America, says, that " at the very time, of free government have referred, with an air of when the Americans were naturally inclined to retriumph to the United States, as an instance of quire nothing of science but its special application the injurious effect of republican principles on let. to the useful arts and the means of rendering life ters and the arts, and they contend that a low stan- comfortable, learned and literary Europe was en. dard of excellence is the inevitable and legitimate gaged in exploring the common sources of truth
and in improving at the saine time all that can printing, have wonderfully multiplied the number minister to the pleasures or satisfy the wants of of books issued from the press. Every day brings man.
We have been engaged, 100, in a great forth some uncut volume, and we have works folpolitical experiment. The struggle for freedom in lowing each other in rapid succession on every conthis Western Hemisphere, an issue between the ceivable subject. The catalogues of publishers powers of light and the powers of darkness, broke now contain longer lists of authors than were to out just at that period of our history, when we be found some years ago in the largest libraries. were preparing to put forth some literary efforts, As the quantity increases, the quality is impaired, and those, who under other circumstances would and while there are many books to be “tasted," have added to the treasures of the language which there are few to be "swallowed," and still fewer, Chatham spoke, were absorbed in the shock and as my Lord Bacon hath il, "10 he chewed and distir of passing events. The people of these colo- gested.” Where so much more is to be read, nies turned from the peaceful avocations which reading becomes hasty and superficial, and as this had employed them and made an united opposition habit leads to a want of reflection as well among to the aggressions of the English Parliament and authors as readers, an ephemeral and frivolous litCrown.
They appealed to the God of Baules to erature loads the tables of the bookseller. We decide a momentous question, and until that deci- have bad treatises and bad biographies, essays withsion was rendered, they abandoned all other pur- out thought, and verses fit only to line portmansuits. When Peace at last smiled on their victo.teaus. Nor is this all. We have been introduced rious eagles, a government was framed, which was latterly, through the medium of translation, to a to deinonstrate a problem in political science, and class of writers, who, gifted by nature with rare froin the day, which saw the signatures affixed 10 powers, have used them only for the basest of purthe immortal instrument which binds us together, poses and who, embroidering the dark tissue of 10 the present time, the first minds of the nation Socialism with the flowers of an exuberant fancy, have never ceased to regard the operation of ihat have woven a winding-sheet for all Law and Virgovernment with zealous and anxious interest. tue and Religion. In the fascinating serials of We cannot regret this, even while we deduce from Eugene Sue and Alexandre Dumas, we recognise it our literary poveriy, for if the price of liberty an insidious attempt to debase the understanding be eternal vigilance and the canse of free institu- and subvert the morals. In his hero, the author tions be threatened by open enemies from without becomes the advocate of every vice and the apoland treacherous friends within, the State cannot be ogist of every crime. He talks to us in the voguarded with too watchful a care. This untiring cabulary of a cold sensualism. He would at once devotion to politics, has not been without happy disorganize society, by removing every conserva. effects in exhibiting the most gratifying proofs of live restraint, and, like Comus with his rabble the capacity of our people in the highest efforts of crew, would lransform us, by the power of his enforensic eloquence, of statesmanship and diploma- chantments, into a brutish herd of satyrs and baccy. In the progressive changes of the country, then, chanals. If indeed we could discern the poison from a sparsely settled region 10 one swarming he administers, there would be liule danger to be with an opulent and enlightened population, have apprehended. But it is commended 10 our lips in we not abundant reason to hope for a noble litera- a jewelled chalice and the fatal ingredients are ture, adapted to our sensibilities and adequate to mixed with the skill of a Cagliostro. “ Save us," our wants ? When some future Waverley shall said Mr. Burke, on a memorable occasion in the depict the domestic charities and home-bred vir- House of Communs, " from French daggers and toes of America in the pages of fiction, or some French principles." Save us, say we, from this unborn minstrel shall “ wake to ecstasy the living modern school of French romance, as an evil more lyre," he will find millions 10 laugh and weep over 10 be dreaded than noyades or guillotines. It is his chapters, or to be roused by his strains from time to take a stand in this matter. We appeal to the chain of ihe Alleghanies to
our brethren of the periodical press throughout the
country-lo all who would preserve unsullied the " the continuous woods, Where rolls the Oregon. anr: hears no sound,
purity of the female character, who would defend Save his own dashings."
the shrines of our jurisprudence, our religion and
our domestic peace-lo raise a delermined remonBut before the golden age of American letters strance against these infamous publications. In can be ushered in, there is another depressing cause. vain shall we look for the pure streams of a perenwhich inusi cease to operate, or must, in a great nial literature, till we seal up this fountain of bitmeasure, be removed. It arises out of the enor. ter waters. mous increase of new books. The facilities af. In the cause of Southern letters, the Messenger furded by the recent improvements in the art of has labored earnestly, and we trust not without suc
cess, since the appearance of its first nuinber in * Democracy in America, vol. 2, p. 36.
1834. Month after month, it has reached you
freighted wiih rich and valuable stores of instruc-ing debt due the Messenger, which the Editor tion and amusement. It has not indeed sought to must respectfully ask his patrons to discharge. beguile an idle hour, without leaving some useful The expenses of publication are very considera: impression on the mind of the reader. The con- ble and to meet them he must make collections. tributors, who have filled its pages, have not writ. Money is now-a-days and has ever been the priten thouglıtlessly, nor have they endeavored by flip- mum mobile of every undertaking. The priestpant common-places to “catch, as she flies, the ess of Apollo would utter no Delphic revealings Cynthia of the minute.” Content to stand upon until an offering of gold was laid upon her altar and its own merits in the estimate of an impartial pub- from her time to the present, oracular wisdom has lic, it has left to others those adventitious aids and had ils marketable value. The Editor cannot fur(so-called) embellishments by which the eye of nish grattilous printing or paper free of cost. The the million is caught in this day of mezzotint en- laborer in literature, as in all other callings, is graving. It has put forth as original no bad copies worthy of his hire. But enough of this. A fess of tawdry pictures in the English annuals, nor has remarks with reference to the conduct and materiel it circulated a monthly fashion-plate, to show how of the work, and we close this address, which we the extravagant demoiselles of the Faubourg St. fear has already transgressed the ordinary limits of Germain dress themselves for a morning.call. It editorial talk. has ever had a higher aim and exercised a nobler
As far as possible, we shall adhere to the line of ministry. It has attempted to present some truths policy marked out by the former Editors of the in manifestations more lovely and imposing than work. As they have studiously avoided any inthey had before assumed and thus to fasten them troduction of party politics into its pages, so shall vpon the moral perception. It has enlisted in the we strive to preserve a strict neutrality, regarding prosecution of literary studies many minds, whose the excitement of faction as eminently pernicious light might otherwise have been long obscured. to the graces of literature. But as the prefis of In commending the lessons of History and by a Southern 10 the name of the Messenger has alsalutary recurrence to the recorded experience of ways had a peculiar significance in pointing it out our own country, it has wiped the dust from the as ihe guardian of Southern rights and interests, orns of the illustrious dead and held up their char- we shall ever be prompt to defend those rights and acters to the affectionate remembrance and imita- interests, when they are made the object of ruthless tion of the living. In an age of prosing realities asszolt
. To this extent it will be political and secand calculating utilitarianism, it has labored to gath- tional and no farther. We shall assuredly " coner np every fragment of intellect, to refine the taste. tract our powers" in no “ pent-np Ulica” of narrow 10 soften the asperities of party warfare and to in- and parochial feelings, but shall recognise the kind. vest with poetic beauty the daily walks of life.
lings of genius in whatever section of this “one Thus much has the Messenger accomplished. broad land” they may be seen and foster genuine How far its well-earned fame will be snstained in talent wherever it asserts its native dignity and the hands of a new and untried Editor, is an im
truth. portant question, which time alone can determine. He enters upon the responsible duties of his office
The Messenger shall continue to present ils usual with an unaffected sense of their grave and diffi- variety of contents. The criticisms that shall calı nature. He makes no fair promises to his guide-the tales that shall interest—the essays patrons, but relies upon their generous support in that shall instruct—the poerns that shall elevatethe path which stretches before him, with an abiding
such articles we hope to lay before our readers, confidence that if he proves worthy of his high infusing, at the same time, a proper degree of vocation, he will not fail to receive the rich reward the gay and lightsome, but following the Hora: of their encouragement and approval.
tian preceph, Dulce est desipere, and exhibiting It is proper, however, to remind the public, that the sportiveness of the comic muse only in its alihough the Messenger has hitherto been fixed proper place. In this design, we invoke the asupon the sure basis of successful experiment, il sistance of the old contributors of the Messenger is still entirely dependent on their patronage for and exhort them to be not weary of well-doing. its existence. If their liberal subscriplions are
Their labors, while of essential service to us indiwithdrawn, the magazine stops as surely as a taper vidually, will contribute to the stores of Southern is extinguished by being immersed in an exhausted science and learning and will be gratefully apprereceiver. The Editor appeals then to the old and ciated by a large circle of readers. We hope to tried friends of the work to stand by it under its hear from them. We intend, in addition to this new management, and he invites those who are fa- aid, to engage the best talent of the country, so vorably inclined to the cause of letters, but have far as the support of the public will enable us so never enrolled their names on the subscription list, to do. to come forward at this juncture and subscribe. A We cannot discern what lies enshrouded in the word too financially. There is a large outstand. 'mists of the future. What may be the destined