Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

have personal knowledge, within the circle of their acquaintance, of the gradual disappearance, absorption, annihilation of collections once large and precious. The history of our Revolution and constitutional organization is yet to be written. Nothing but materials have been published on this unparalleled theme. And many more materials 'must yet be given to the world, and perhaps another generation elapse, before the history can be written. The archives at Washington must be explored; those of the several states thoroughly searched ; and the treasures, which are scattered about in the families of the revolutionary worthies, must be given to the world. The latter is quite as important a preliminary as either of the others. The history of the Revolution is in the letters of the great men who shone in it. It is from them alone that characters can be graduated, majorities sifted, parties unraveled, opinions historically deduced under changing names. Take for illustration the Journal of the Federal Convention. Meagre as it is at best, what would it have been without the contributions to it, furnished by General Bloomfield as executor to Mr Brearly, by Mr C. Pinckney, and by Mr Madison. Even the sketches of Chief Justice Yates, imperfect as they are, present us all that we as yet possess, in the nature of a Report of the discussions in that august body. Much more remains in manuscript, than has yet been given to the world from the papers of the revolutionary period. General Washington's have been carefully perused by Chief Justice Marshall, but a gleaning of them only appears in his work. President Adams's, Mr Jefferson's, Mr Madison's are still, and may they long so continue, in the hands of these venerable men. The hope has occasionally been indulged, that the last of them would be induced to employ a part of his honorable leisure, in arranging the materials for a history of those momentous periods of our political history, with which no man living is so well acquainted as himself. To General Hamilton's papers we have already alluded, and trust the time is not far distant, when they will be made to contribute to the general stock of the materials for our independent history.

Such a subject, as that which this history presents, is nowhere else in the range of ages to be pointed out. Beginning with the first steps of the new colonial policy of Britain toward America, in 1764, and brought down to the adoption of the Constitution, and organization of the government in 1790, it is a theme of epic unity and grandeur. It comprehends every kind of interest; politics alternately of the subtilest and of the most expansive school; the action and reaction upon each other of the mature political strength of the English Cabinet, and the adolescent energy of America. It is filled with characters, with incidents; the senate house rings with an eloquence, like that which was wont to be heard in the storms of the old commonwealths; strains of exhortation and resolute responses echo to each other across the Atlantic; in the shifting scenes of the war, all the races of man and the stages of civilization are mingled, the British veteran, the German mercenary, the gallant Chevaliers of Poland and France, the hardy American yeoman, the mountaineer, the painted savage. At one moment the mighty fleets of Europe are thundering in the Antilles ; at the next, the blue eyed Brunswickers, the veterans of the Seven Years' War, are seen winding down from the Canadian frontier, under the command of an English Gentleman, to capitulate to the American militia; peace is made; thirteen republics stand side by side on the Continent, bleeding from the wounds of war, tremblingly alive for the independence, which their labors and agonies had gained them; the trial of war has been borne, that of peace succeeds; a Constitution is proposed, is discussed, is adopted; a new life is breathed by it into the exhausted channels of the nation, which starts from that moment in a career of prosperity so rapid, so resistless, so adventurous, that the reality every day puts our brightest visions to shame. And this astonishing drama of events was the work of our days; its theatre was our beloved country; its immortal actors were our fathers.

Hyrayi

2.C. Art. VII.- The Rebels, or Boston before the Revolution. By

THE AUTHOR OF HOBOMOK. Boston. Cummings, Hilliard, and Co. 12mo. pp. 304. We are glad to see that the author of Hobomok, whom we understand to be a lady, has resumed her pen. That interesting little tale made its way to the public favor solely by its own merits, and was scarcely noticed by our critics, till their opinions had been rendered of little consequence by the decision of the literary community. Whatever objections may be made to the mode in which the story is conducted, and the catastrophe produced, it cannot be denied, that these faults are abundantly redeemed by beauties of no ordinary value. In graphic descriptions of scenery, in forcible delineations of character, in genuine pathos, we think Hobomok may be safely compared with any work of fiction, which our country has produced. It was natural, therefore, that the expectations of the public should be highly excited, by the appearance of another work from the same hand; and, in fact, a new novel has rarely been seized upon with greater avidity.

The author has paid the usual price of an early reputation, that of being compelled to use redoubled exertions in order to prevent it from fading. We cannot venture to say, that her laurels have lost none of their freshness by the present attempt, but on the other hand, we think that her failure is only a partial one, and that it may be ascribed to other causes than want of ability. In the first place, the choice of the subject is singularly unfortunate. The era of Hobomok was fixed in so remote a period, that the author was entirely exempted from any necessity of adhering to historical truth in her narration of events.

Her incidents are almost entirely the offspring of her own fancy, and her personages may every one of them be considered as fictitious; for though we find in history the names of Governor Endicott, of Lady Arabella, of Corbitant, and Hobomok, yet so little is generally known of their respective characters, that the author could invest every one of them with such qualities as she might deem expedient, without doing violence, for a single moment, to the recollections of her readers.

But the scene of the work before us is fixed, as its title indicates, in Boston, a few years previous to the American Revolution, and the author has incorporated into her story many public events of that recent and interesting period, and introduced among her dramatis persone such well known public characters, as Samuel Adams, James Otis, Governor Hutchinson, and Mather Byles. It is manifest, therefore, that instead of choosing a period and a scene, which would have given full play to her powerful fancy, she has voluntarily shackled it with no light impediments, and undertaken a task, beneath which even the genius of the Unknown might have faltered without disgrace.

In fact, this work is in a great degree a mere copy from real history, a narrative of events possessing an interest which fiction can do little to heighten, a repetition of political sentiments, which we find expressed with far more force and eloquence in the writings of Adams and of Quincy, and which are as familiar to the mind of every New England reader, as the simplest elements of morality. These defects were almost forced upon our author by her injudicious choice of a subject. There are others, however, which cannot be fairly ascribed to the same cause.

The narrative is greatly deficient in simplicity and unity, and is not so much one story as a number of separate stories, not interwoven, but loosely tied together. Every prominent character is introduced with a long genealogy, and we feel something of the same embarrassment, in tracing their several histories, and preventing them from mingling with each other in our recollections, which a lawyer experiences in hunting down a title, through a number of long and intricate conveyances. The author, in short, seems to have been perplexed by the richness of her inventive powers, and has crowded into a short volume, a sufficient quantity of incidents to form the groundwork of half a dozen respectable novels. We think it the more necessary to comment on this fault, because no point has been so much neglected, by the writers of historical romances, from the author of Waverley downwards, as the management of their narrative ; and we have even seen it maintained by critics as an axiom, that the story of a novel is of as little consequence, as the frame of a picture, or the thread of a pearl necklace. It would be easy to oppose simile to simile, and to speak of the difference between a regular and magnificent structure, and a confused pile of splendid materials, but we prefer submitting the question without argument to the taste of the public.

This profusion of incidents and want of method are, however, neither the only nor the greatest faults in the narrative of the Rebels. Almost every reader, we believe, will be dissatisfied with the manner in which the author has thought proper to wind up the history of Lucretia. This character is perhaps better drawn than any other in the whole work. It has ever been considered, as one of the most difficult problems in novel writing, to render a heroine interesting without beauty; and the success with which this is done, in the present instance, is of itself a sufficient proof of no ordinary talents. From the first moment of her appearance, to her rejection of Somerville at the altar, Lucretia maintains a powerful hold on our feelings. Had her story then closed, or had she then been consigned, like her friend Grace, to an early grave, or to a hopeless celibacy, we believe that every reader would have been amply gratified ; but to see her, after all, comfortably married, excites much the same benevolent disappointment in all lovers of true sentiment, as is manifested in many of our public prints, when a long expected duel is prevented by an amicable arrangement, in which case, as we have heard it aptly said, “the generous public will be satisfied with nothing but bloodshed.' To speak rather more seriously, the marriage between the high spirited Lucretia and a lover whom she had once rejected, bespeaks more of the prudent calculation of real life, than of the romantic dignity, which we are accustomed to exact from the heroes and heroines of the world of fiction.

A still more serious objection may be made to the incident, which takes place in the tomb of the Osbornes. The introduction of such a circumstance reminds us of some of the worst passages of Crabbe; and it is surely better to leave our feelings untouched, than to attempt to move them by such revolting and shocking objects.

We have now pointed out the principal faults of the author with a freedom, which we have thought it our duty to use. Had she produced merely a dull and insipid work, we should have left it to sink quietly into oblivion, without attempting to arrest or to accelerate its progress. But as we have before intimated, her faults are evidently those, not of a feeble, but a misguided intellect; and this work is, after all, a production of great merit. In the first place, the style is pure and elegant, and equally free from affectation and carelessness. Besides, whatever objections may be made to the work, as a regular and harmonious whole, no one can deny that it abounds in passages, which, taken by themselves, are strikingly beautiful and interesting. The description of the mob, which destroyed Governor Hutchinson's library, is drawn with the hand of a master. The sermon of Whitefield is executed with great felicity, and is in exact keeping with the character of that eloquent and untutored enthusiast. To these passages, we may add the following account of the procession of the nuns, in the convent at Quebec. The clause which we have marked in italics is a little finical.

• An old priest, exceedingly lazy in his manner, and monotonous in his tone, was reading mass, to which most of the audience zealously vociferated a response.

• An arch, ornamented with basso relievo figures of the saints, on one side of the chancel, surmounted a door, which apparently led to an interior chapel ; and beneath a similar one, on the op

« PředchozíPokračovat »