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(Sanskrit); the Shahnámeh (Persian); the Nibelunge (German); and the Kalewala (Wainamoinen, Finnish). From this last, as we recollect, a curious legend was given in this journal some years ago (March, 1853).
We wish we had time to do justice to all the treasures of thought and scholarship this book contains, but we must content ourselves with a passage about the word barbarian.
Now barbarian is one of those lazy expressions which seem to say everything, but in reality say nothing. It was applied as recklessly as the word heretic during the Middle Ages. If the Romans had not received this convenient name of barbarian ready made for them, they would have treated their neighbors, the Celts and Germans, with more respect and sympathy: they would at all events have looked at them with a more discriminating eye. And if they had done so, they would have discovered, in spite of outward differences, that these barbarians were, after all, not very distant cousins. There was as much similarity between the language of Cæsar and the barbarians against whom he fought in Gaul and Germany, as there was between his language and that of Homer. A man of Cæsar's sagacity would have seen this if he had not been blinded by traditional phraseology. I am not exaggerating; for let us look at one instance only. If we take a verb of such constant occurrence as to have, we shall find the paradigms almost identical in Latin and Gothic. . . . . . It surely required a certain amount of blindness, or rather of deafness, not to perceive such similarity, and that blindness or deafness arose, I believe, entirely from the single word barbarian. Not till that word barbarian was struck out of the dictionary of mankind, and replaced by brother, not till the right of all nations of the world to be classed as members of one genus or kind was recognized, can we look even for the first beginnings of our science. This change was effected by Christianity." p. 127.
Professor Müller takes some little pains, in his discussion of primitive roots, to set aside two favorite theories of etymologists, what he irreverently calls the "pooh-pooh theory" and the "bow-wow theory "; or, as we more elegantly phrase it, the interjectional and the onomatopoetic, - that which starts with inarticulate exclamations, and that which starts with imitative sounds. He shows, we think, successfully, that much the largest part of human speech can be traced to neither source; and that we must postulate, at the very outset, a great variety of monosyllables, of which no more account can be given than why an oak-leaf should differ from an elm. To all intents and purposes, their shape and significance are the immediate act of the CreaHow far human ingenuity can go, in tracing the paternity and cousinships of our familiar parts of speech, remains a curious problem. It is a problem, however, belonging not so much to the science of language as to its antiquarianism, - bearing about the same relation to it as "Notes and Queries" do to literature. A very few steps of it lead us into a perfect jungle of puzzles and curiosities, rather tiresome to one who does not share the patient enthusiasm of the captatores verborum.
We mean no disparagement to those who have leisure and taste to pursue these inquiries. One of these days, we doubt not, they will be seen to furnish an important share of the materials which science will
need for its completed work. And we have looked, with considerable interest, through the handsome volume which comes as a timely appendix to Professor Müller's work.* The introductory portion, which vindicates the latter of the two theories referred to, will be most interesting to the general scholar. Indeed, the subject lies just now in such a form that we should prefer to see it treated in an Essay, with illustrations, than in a Dictionary, which necessarily parades the weak points in too close proximity to the strong ones. Independent of any theory, however, the information gathered in these clear, handsome columns is often curious and entertaining. We have marked the articles Abash, Admiral, Abet, Artillery, Awkward, Bargain, Barter, Buoy, Canoe, Ceiling, Cheese, Drill, along with several others, as examples. Under the title Coal, we find the fear expressed, in the fifteenth century, that "Sea-cole would be good merchandize even in the citie of London," such destruction of the forests was going on even then.
Some of Mr. Marsh's additions are models of brief, curious, and scholarly dissertation on the points they treat. See, for example, under the titles Abet, Amber, At, Calibre. His intimate acquaintance with North-European languages was well known already. But some of his most interesting illustrations are drawn from the dialects of the South, from old feudal law-codes, and especially from Spanish sources. A list of about two hundred and forty words so illustrated testifies to the amount of labor and erudition bestowed by the American editor of the work.
We observe a trifling error, in giving the American use of “creek” as equivalent to "brook." In the East, a creek is a small tide-water stream, which may have suggested its Western application to the level streams of the prairie-land. We do not think that even there it means quite the same as brook.
WE have received the first number of a work † to consist of three close-printed octavo volumes of about 500 pages each, on that hopelessly vexed matter of philology, the spelling and pronunciation of our native tongue. From the brief review we have been able to give this preliminary portion, it seems to us a scholarly and exhaustive discussion of the topics it treats, the physiology of the voice, and the nature of syllabification. The promised second part will be most interesting to scholars, the history of the English language, with the investigation of its various elements, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Norman French, Latin and Greek. The laws of Accent are to follow; " and in the fourth part, finally, will be established the laws of English Orthography and Pronunciation."
* A Dictionary of English Etymology. By HENSLEIGH Wedgwood, M. A. Vol. I. (A – D.) With Notes and Additions, by George P. Marsh. New York:
Sheldon & Co.
+ Investigations into the Laws of English Orthography and Pronunciation. By Professor R. L. TAFEL. Vol. I. No. 1. New York: Westermann.
NOVELS AND TALES.
As a novelist Mrs. Stowe has many excellences. The local coloring is both vivid and truthful. Whether it relates to the most corrupt age of the Church, as in "Agnes of Sorrento," or to the simple fisherman life, as in the "Pearl of Orr's Island," it is equally rich and faithful.* Shades of religious opinion Mrs. Stowe is quick to detect, and skilful in embodying, while her sketches of negro life and character have never been surpassed. She is also very successful in her delineations of the uncultivated New-Englander. Her fishermen and seamstresses are always original, amusing, and characteristic. Captain Kittredge, in "The Pearl of Orr's Island," with his easy good-nature, genuine sensibility, and genius for story-telling, is inimitable, and is cleverly contrasted with his matter-of-fact, energetic wife. Miss Roxy, the factotum of the neighborhood, in the same volume, can only be excelled by the Miss Prissy of "The Minister's Wooing."
But it is a little singular that an author, who can so portray her minor characters that they are ever hereafter remembered and quoted as realities, should so lamentably fail in her heroines. Agnes of Sorrento, and Mara, the Pearl of Orr's Island, are cast in the same mould as their predecessors of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and "The Minister's Wooing." They have no faults, or even imperfections, but are entirely ethereal and colorless. They are as impalpable to the touch as the phantoms of a magic lantern, with about the same degree of perspective. Mara is less natural than Agnes. We can more readily imagine a peasant-girl of Italy, educated by nuns, as growing up childlike, refined, and spiritual, than we can a fisherman's daughter on the coast of Maine. Refinement of nature and delicacy of heart are possible, but refinement of manner, including a pure dialect, is almost, if not quite, impossible. Mara is never affected by her surroundings, though the constant associate of Captain Kittredge, who is notable for his perversions of the English tongue.
With regard to the respective merits of the two books we must decide in favor of "The Pearl of Orr's Island." With the exception of the heroine, the characters are of more marked individuality, the dialogues more racy and sparkling, and the interest of the story is better sustained. Agnes of Sorrento" displays more thought and culture, but thought and culture not always judiciously applied. The influence which the martyr Savonarola nobly exerted against the power of the Borgias, and the simple faith of the peasants, as contrasted with the scepticism of the nobles, are well and graphically described. But the conversations are often tame, and the story drags.
This last defect is partly owing to the descriptions. By their number and length they interrupt the flow and interest of the narrative. The setting of a gem should not dim its brilliancy by too elaborate
* Agnes of Sorrento. By MRS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1862.
The Pearl of Orr's Island. By MRS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1862.
VOL. LXXIII. - 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. I.
workmanship. What would be admirable and fitting in a book of travels, is tedious and out of place in a romance. It is a very rare faculty, that of so exquisitely blending narrative and description that they illustrate and adorn each other. In "The Marble Faun," for example, the effect produced may be likened to that of Nourmahal's enchanted lute;
"None knew whether
The voice or lute were most divine,
But while Mrs. Stowe has no such felicitous touch, the beauty of her descriptions in themselves must not be overlooked. Agnes's home is charmingly painted, while the city of Sorrento, the cathedral at Milan, seen by moonlight, and the pilgrims' first view of Rome, are all beautiful pictures. Her sketches would be more effective, were it not for the perpetual recurrence of the same images. In "The Minister's Wooing," the apple-trees are always blossoming. In "Agnes of Sorrento" we read a great deal about the "crimson cyclamen," and "waving tufts of gladiolus." In "The Pearl of Orr's Island," " the savins and mullein-stalks" are somewhat too conspicuous features of the landscape.
Among the characters in "Agnes of Sorrento," the monk Francisco is the most artistic. His struggles with his love for Agnes, his tumultuous and contradictory emotions, his fasts and penances, are powerfully depicted. Why a character so significant and prominent should be allowed to drop out so entirely from the plot, we cannot understand.
It is not probable that either of these novels will have the popularity or reputation of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"; still they are quite equal, and in some respects superior, to "The Minister's Wooing.
WE have a great liking for brave out-door stories, with vitality and movement in them, - of which" Ravenshoe" is one.* It is full of incident, has a good deal of a certain dramatic felicity, and a pleasant gossiping way of approach on the author's part, which puts the reader very much at his ease. Possibly these qualities are a little overdone, as the temptation was in the pernicious mode of magazine-publication by instalments. We doubt also whether the writer has attained a storyteller's highest success, that of making the reader feel and think with him about the people he tells of. We fully believe, on his assurance, that Charles Ravenshoe was a man who from infancy compelled every one near him to love him, who wholly deserved that his life and fortunes should make the centre of interest for so large a circle of such friends, all of whom are eager to make any sacrifice for him. But we cannot say that, on a week's acquaintance, we see it with our own eyes. That he was irresistibly lovable and provokingly foolish in his conduct, the author keeps assuring us; and the latter he makes a good deal more evident than the first. However, if it had not been for that, and for the most wanton and aggravating game of cross-purposes that grew out of it, we should have missed a capital story. We have a large amount of the old stock material of story-books, turned to ex
*Ravenshoe. By HENRY KINGSLEY. Boston: Ticknor and Fields.
cellent account; - a Jesuit confessor, a secret marriage, a changing at nurse, and a tangle of mystery to the very verge of madness. The newer stock material also comes in,- the college scrapes, the boatrace, the Australian background, and the Balaclava charge, with the hospitals and Miss Nightingale in reserve. We are struck, on looking back, with the moderate amount of sympathy or respect one feels for any of the group he has got to know so well. Personal love for Charles, and anxiety to further his welfare by the most startling self-sacrifices, is the one virtue found in various types and various degrees of development. Perhaps it was as well, dramatically, that higher virtues (if peradventure there be such) should be ignored. But we own to having been a little disappointed, after all, to find ourselves on the level of the old question, who is heir to the estates, and who shall have the splendid revenues of my Lord Saltire. It suggests, also, an inquiry as to those laws which try so hard to secure the succession and tie up properties by entail, that an estate almost princely is in the wrong hands for two generations, and the rightful heir is at the mercy of a parish record which the "Times" advertisement and the golden reward are unable to bring to light, and must wait the remorse of a dying priest.
Whether the story, on the whole, was worth telling is one thing; how it is told is another thing. In the power to win the hearer's ear at starting, and keep his attention unflagging to the close, in all the qualities which belong to merit of the second class, few tales stand with us higher than "Ravenshoe."
AMONG the lesser tales of the day is a volume very interesting in its incident, and very charming in its spirit, a tale of a music-master, his household and his friends.* The charms, trials, and perils of the profession are sketched with great felicity and beauty. The story is well developed, easily winning and retaining the reader's attention, though it hinges on a quite unnecessary and painful mystery, which is resolved at the end in a somewhat theatrical tableau. Each of the characters, with a curious skill, and without any duplicating, is endowed with some specialty of musical genius; and the serene, noble figure of the Master, large-hearted, gentle, and touched by great griefs, is well worthy to be the central figure. The contrast of the maidens, the brilliancy of the younger man, the half-cynic wisdom and tragic experience of the elder, the crazed tenant of the "den," the proud, fond, jealous wife, with the background of humbler life, and the picturesque sugges tion of Southern landscape as a foil to the New England city, make a great wealth of material for so small a compass.
We regret that a writer of so much accomplishment should have been guilty of using the petty vulgarism of "illy," or the uncouth and un-English"commenced to feed." "Commence" is not a desirable verb, at best; but at any rate, it should be used only absolutely, — as, "the battle commenced"; or else with a direct object, as, "when we commenced this paragraph." In either case, "begin" is better.
* The Master. By MRS. MARY A. DENISON. Boston: Walker, Wise, & Co.