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It sounds like stories from the land of spirits,
merit that which he obtains.
For shame, dear friend ; renounce this canting strain.
XXVII. - SLAVERY.
WILLIAM COWPER was born at Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, England, November 26, 1731 ; and died April 25, 1800. He was of an extremely delicate and sensitive organization; and he had the misfortune, when only six years old, to lose an affectionate mother, whom he has commemorated in one of the most popular and beautiful of
He was educated at Westminster School, where his gentle nature suffered much at the hands of older and rougher lads. He spent some time in the study of the law, and was called to the bar ; but his morbid temperament was found unequal to the discharge of professional and official duties. He declined the struggles and the prizes of an active career, and retired into the country, to a life of seclusion ; living for many years in the family of Mr. Unwin, an English clergyman. His first volume of poems, containing “Table Talk,” Hope,” “The Progress of Error,” “Charity,” etc., was published in 1782, when he was fifty-one years old. It rarely happens that a poet's first appearance is so late in life. This volume did not attract much attention. But in 1784 he published “The Task,” which was received with much more favor. Its vigorous and manly style, its energetic moral tone, and its charming pictures of natural scenery and domestic life, were soon appreciated, although the general taste at that time preferred a more artificial style of poetry. After the publication of “The Task,” he spent some years upon a translation of Homer into blank verse, published in 1791.
Many of Cowper's smaller pieces still enjoy great and deserved popularity. Liko many men of habitual melancholy, he had a vein of humor running through his
nature. His “ John Gilpin " is a well-known instance of this; and the same quality throws a frequent charm over his correspondence. Cowper's life is full of deep and sad interest. His mind was more than once eclipsed by insanity, and often darkened by melancholy. He had tender and loving friends, who watched over him with affectionate and untiring interest. His most intimate friendships were with women; and there is a striking contrast between the masculine vigor of his style and his feminine habits and manner of life.
His letters are perhaps the best in the language. They are not superior, as intellectual efforts, to those of Gray, Walpole, Byron, or Scott; but they have in the highest degree that conversational ease and playful grace which we most desire in this class of writings. They are not epistolary essays, but genuine letters, the unstudied effusions of the heart, meant for no eye but that of the person to whom they are addressed. Cowper's life has been written, and his poems and prose writings edited, by Southey; and they form a work of great interest and permanent value in literature.
FOR a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
wrong and outrage with which earth is filled.
Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast.
XXVIII. - PEARL AT PLAY.
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, an American novelist, was born in Salem, July 4, 1804 ; and died May 19, 1864. He was graduated at Bowdoin College in 1825. He is the author of “The Scarlet Letter,” “The Blithedale Romance,”
” “ The House of the Seven Gables, “Our Old Home,” - a collection of sketches of the scenery and manners of England, where he resided for some years as United States Consul at Liverpool, — “The Marble Faun,” of “Twice-Told Tales,” Mosses from an Old Manse,” “ The Snow Image, and other Twice-Told Tales,' the last three being collections of papers contributed to various periodicals. He has also written three or four books
for children. Since his death, six volumes have been published containing extracts from his Note-Books in America, England, and Italy.
Hawthorne was a man of peculiarly original genius, and no writer of our time was less indebted to the thoughts and words of other men than he. Reserved in his temperament and secluded in his habits, his mind grew by a self-contained law of in
He combined a rare imaginative faculty with a vein of deep, often mournful, reflection.
He had an unequal power of moving in that twilight region which lies between the real and the unreal, and of so clearing up his mysteries as still to leave the shadow of doubt resting upon them. He was a fine and sharp observer, and painted character with admirable discrimination and effect. His scenes and incidents are mostly drawn from the history and life of New England; and it is a proof of no common genius in him to have found the elements of romantic interest in a soil generally deemed unpropitious to such growth. His popularity is great, and probably would be greater were it not for the frequent intrusion into his pages of dark and sad visions, which fascinate but do not charm.
Hawthorne's style is of rare beauty and finish ; he writes with perfect correctness ; hardly any living writer, English or American, is equal to him in this respect, and yet without any stiffness or appearance of elaboration. The music of his delicious cadences never palls upon the ear, because it is always natural and never monotonous. He has a poet's sense of beauty, and his descriptions of natural scenes have all the elements of poetry except the garb of verse.
The following extract is from “The Scarlet Letter," one of his most original and powerful productions, and of deep and painful interest.
ESTER PRYNNE went, one day, to the mansion
of Governor Bellingham. This was a large wooden house, built in a fashion of which there are specimens still extant in the streets of our elder towns; now mossgrown, crumbling to decay, and melancholy at heart, with the many sorrowful or joyful occurrences, remembered or forgotten, that have happened and passed away within their dusky chambers. Then, however, there was the freshness of the passing year on its exterior, and the cheerfulness gleaming forth from the sunny windows of a human habitation, into which death had never entered.
It had, indeed, a very cheery aspect; the walls being overspread with a kind of stucco, in which fragments of broken glass were plentifully intermixed, so that, when the sunshine fell aslantwise over the front of the edifice, it glittered and sparkled as if diamonds had been flung
against it by the double handful. The brilliancy might have befitted Aladdin's palace, rather than the mansion of a grave old Puritan ruler.
Pearl, looking at this bright wonder of a house, began to caper and dance, and imperatively required that the whole breadth of sunshine should be stripped off its front and given her to play with. “No, my little Pearl !” said her mother.
“ Thou must gather thine own sunshine. I have none to give thee.”
They approached the door, when they beheld the old physician, with a basket on one arm, and a staff in the other hand, stooping along the ground in quest of roots and herbs to concoct his medicines withal.
Hester bade little Pearl run down to the margin of the water, and play with the shells and tangled sea-weed, until she should have talked awhile with yonder gatherer of herbs.
So the child flew away like a bird ; and, making bare her small feet, went pattering along the moist margin of
Here and there she came to a full stop, and peeped curiously into a pool, left by the retiring tide as a mirror for Pearl to see her face in. Forth peeped at her, out of the pool, with dark, glistening curls around her head, and an elf smile in her eyes, the image of a little maid, whom Pearl, having no other playmate, invited to take her hand and run a race with her.
But the visionary little maid, on her part, beckoned likewise, as if to say, “This is a better place! Come thou into the pool!” And Pearl, stepping in, beheld her own white feet at the bottom; while, out of a still lower depth, came the gleam of a kind of fragmentary smile, floating to and fro on the agitated water. Soon finding,