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ers of the past generation, was an original experiment, admirably fitted to usher its author into favorable notice. Between these publications and “ The Sketch-Book" there was an interval when it seemed more than doubtful whether letters or affairs would become the occupation of Irving. The time and the manner of publication were remarkably auspicious for the success of the last work, whence properly dates his author-life. Issued anonymously, as a serial, and in what was then an elegant style of typography, the refinement, fancifulness, and finish of these popular papers made their legitimate impres
All these facts connected with the appearance of “The Sketch-Book” have a special interest to those who take pride and pleasure in American literature. It was like the portfolio of an artist, - a series of careful and authentic studies from life and nature, embodying the native tastes and traits of the man as elicited by the scenes witnessed and the moods experienced by a genial and contemplative wanderer. It revived the spirit of Goldsmith, the tone of the essayists of Queen Anne's day, and seemed to continue, while it diversified, that pure, humane, naive, and thoughtful style of composition, which, in our vernacular, first made literature a social fact instead of a scholar's monopoly.
To this charming introduction, at once sympathetic and unostentatious, Irving owes the endearing quality of his fame. It propitiated his readers for life; and thenceforth the man and his writings became household treasures. It is indicative of his good-sense and innate sentiment that, from the first, he perfectly understood the scope of his own mind and the qualities by virtue of which he could alone hope for literary success. “If I ever get any solid credit with the public,” he wrote at this time, “it must be in the quiet and assiduous operations of my pen, under the mere guidance of fancy and feeling." Few successful authors have experienced more agreeable surprise than he at the instant and universal popularity of “ The Sketch-Book.” Months elapsed between the despatch of his neat little manuscripts to his friend Brevoort, in New York, and the arrival in England of the printed numbers, with the critical verdict thereon. The intervals were periods of anxious suspense with the author. He shed tears
as he read the cordial praises of his countrymen, — tears, as he wrote, “not of vanity, but for the love." These fresh and far tributes must have been prophetic to him more than to the English author who, in a like case, called them “the voice of a living posterity.” And when to this encouragement came that of British readers and writers, with the literary association and social consideration incident to popular authorship abroad, knowing his natural want of self-confidence, we can well believe his declaration, when he says, “I feel almost appalled by such success.” Foreign appreciation was dear to him, as confirming the partial opinions won at home. “After all," he writes, “I value success here chiefly as tending to confirm my standing in my own country." His natural antipathy to business, and the modest estimate he placed upon his own literary abilities, are expressed with equal sincerity and discrimination in the letters written at this period, when he fairly exchanged the wearisome cares of trade for the precarious but congenial resources of authorship. “I would not again experience,” he wrote, after the affairs of the house at Liverpool were disastrously closed, “ the anxious days and sleepless nights which have been my lot since I have taken hold of business, to possess the wealth of Cræsus." . Elsewhere, speaking of his ambition as a writer, “I seek only to blow a flute accompaniment in the national concert, and leave others to play the fiddle and French horn.”
A sense of the characteristic in animals, and fondness for such as were about him, was a trait of Irving's both artistic and humane. A charge to “pat Archy” is among other friendly salutations with which he closes one of his early letters. How aptly he describes Rip Van Winkle's dog, the prairie species he saw in the far West, and the draggling barn-yard fowls in “ The Stout Gentleman”! Landseer had no quicker eye for the expression of nature in the animal tribes; and wherever Irving sojourned, he found some dog or horse to delineate or pet. A former attaché of the American legation at London related to us a characteristic anecdote. One day he was late at dinner, and apologized therefor, saying he had been so amused in watching a group of dancing dogs in the street, that time passed unheeded. He described so vividly the different expression
of these animals, - how one kept his head on one side, with an air of fantastic melancholy, and another sidled along with pert nonchalance, - this one with a cynical, and that with a reckless glee, - that the company were convulsed with laughter. The next morning, at breakfast, one of the family rallied the Minister's lady on her yawning at so early an hour. “It is Mr. Irving's fault,” she replied; “five times I was woke during the night by my husband's laughing in his dreams; and when I asked the cause, he murmured, Othose dogs, those dogs !!” An English gentleman, whom we knew in Italy, had seen much of Irving at Seville, and had several of his letters, written from different parts of Spain; in one of these, after desiring his affectionate remembrance to various friends, he concludes with, “I give Hill's dog a turn. Yours truly, W. I.” In explanation, the recipient informed us, that the first time Irving passed an evening with Hill, one of their coterie at Seville, his little black dog, usually most friendly in his demonstrations, barked furiously at the new guest. Amused at this, Irving untwisted the dog's tail, which grew in a stiff ring over his back; no sooner did the animal catch a glimpse of it, than he began to run round in the vain endeavor to seize the extremity; and thenceforth, every time Irving appeared, he ran up to him expecting a renewal of the pastime; so that to “give Hill's dog a turn” became a matter of course. In a letter written but a few months before his death, alluding to the danger of rhetorical experiments in writing history, he says: “ My horse, Gentleman Dick, carries me along very well on an even trot, but in attempting some rhetorical flourishes, the other day, he threw me, and ran off.”
eye of leisure ” with which he looked on common life, that assimilates the process of his authorship with that of the artist in hues and colors. Observation and sentiment were the materials with which he instinctively worked; laborious research, earnest argument, declamatory zeal, intense conceptions, were alien to his nature. To see and describe the beautiful and the humorous, to relate and to muse, were the congenial exercises of his kindly, graceful, and sensitive mind. So well did Irving understand that a more earnest tone in
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literature, and greater intensity of style, had in a large degree superseded the taste for quiet and graceful utterance, since his advent as an author, that he hesitated as to the expediency of republishing his various books in a uniform edition, doubting if the present generation would confirm the favorable judgment of the contemporaries of his early manhood. The remarkable success and the warm welcome Putnam's elegant reprint met with was a delightful surprise to him, and renewed in his age the most pleasing experience of his early authorship, to which the popularity of his “ Life of Washington” was a grateful and appropriate consummation. Years before, in his Preface to “The Sketch-Book," he wrote: “Though the author does not aspire to those high honors which are the rewards of loftier intellects, yet it is the dearest wish of his heart to have a secure and cherished, though humble corner, in the good opinion and kind feelings of his countrymen. Never was an affectionate ambition so gratified. It is the peculiar merit and interest of this biography, that, by frankly revealing the life and heart of the man, it makes us familiar with the qualities and the experience which obtained for the author that endearing fame to which alone he aspired.
Art. VIII. – REVIEW OF CURRENT LITERATURE.
cées Mr. Sawyer's book of “reconstructions ”* is a great relief to the timid and petty style of erudition which has been prevalent among us in treating of Biblical topics. Its title is unduly ambitious; but it does not exaggerate in the least the radical and unsparing temper in which old theories of literalism and verbal inspiration are handled. A critical reader of the book will regret that the sources of information are so seldom credited. A reference to Bunsen's chronology, which puts Adam twenty thousand years before Christ, and a few comparisons with the Septuagint, make up nearly the whole of the apparatus criticus, so far as appears on the surface. This seems to us an error ;
* Reconstruction of Biblical Theories; or, Biblical Science improved in its History, Chronology, and Interpretation, and relieved from traditionary Errors and unwarrantable Hypotheses." By LEICESTER AMBROSE SAWYER. 'Boston : Walker, Wise, & Co. 12mo. pp. 195.
for not only the evidence of careful reading wins a certain respect from scholars towards the most heterodox opinions, but even the most uncultivated reader likes the visible tokens of learning in the writer. We imagine that the remarkable body of notes appended as ballast to the - Discourse” of Theodore Parker, had a good deal to do with its prosperous voyage among the deeps and shallows of the popular mind. And we are a little tried that a writer so much in earnest, and with so much that is excellent and fresh in matter, gives us so little opportunity to cross-question him.
The book before us consists, first, of a few chapters, which contain a succinct statement of a few preliminary points of erudition, and of the author's own critical theory; then, of select portions of Genesis and Exodus, translated in a literal and careful way, so as to serve as a running commentary, followed by brief but very interesting expositions, in which his views of these passages are given in detail. He accepts them frankly as allegorical, arguing strongly and keenly against a literal exposition, and, in several instances, making a more unqualified use of allegory than we should have thought necessary. Allegory is at best the ultima ratio of a healthy criticism, and should not be cheapened by excessive use. But, we are glad to say, Mr. Sawyer has nothing of the milk-and-water allegorizing which sublimates the grand old Hebrew narrative into a “spiritual” sense, that is, into a series of moral platitudes and transcendental small-talk. His interpretation is clear, masculine, objective, as well as ingenious, and is conscientiously vouched, phrase by phrase, by actual exhibition of the text. Sometimes startling by its boldness, sometimes queer in its expression, it is always sincere, instructive, and full of excellent suggestion for the intelligent reading of the Scripture. The earlier legends in Genesis are the story of the beginnings of human society. Adam is the “stock-man”; Eden, his primeval forest-life; the creation of Eve (after many generations of rude life), the institution of marriage and the family; the forbidden fruit, “probably the cereal grains," discovered by woman as the domestic provider, not at all as the seducer into evil. The Deluge is a migration into colder latitudes; and the Ark, or “chest,” a symbol of the wealth in cattle and goods borne along in that nomadic condition of patriarchal life. It is speaking quite within bounds to say that these interpretations, as expounded and vindicated here, compare advantageously with any similar attempt that has yet been popularized. Even veteran readers of standard commentaries may gather some instructive hints.
The volume contains many indications of vigor in thought and felicity of style, which augur well for the difficult task which the writer has undertaken. With great freedom both of criticism and interpretation, be never once loses bis reverence both for the truth he finds "within the veil” of the letter, or for the venerable compositions themselves with which he deals. We have had occasion heretofore to find fault with some points of taste and expression, as well as specialties of interpretation, in his version of the Gospels. And many a reverent association with the elder Scripture will doubtless be rudely jarred by