Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

portant terms employed, as classes, orders, families, genera, and species, and their signification, and dwells upon the great idea that all the denominations represented by these terms exist definitely in Nature, and can be legitimate and permanent only as they conform to the plan laifl down by Nature herself. Much of the work is devoted to the enforcement of this doctrine. He shows us, more especially by the class of Radiates, how objects at first view widely different all conform to the same definite plan, and how some which during a part of their history would not be suspected of having any alliance with each other, yet, by alternate generations, come to be identical. Ue shows, by the ovarian egg, the great simplicity and apparent identity of the beginnings of all animal life, and the successive steps by which the diversified forms of animals are developed, and insists upon the necessity of following the history of an animal through all its phases before its true place in the grand plan can be determined. He discusses the permanence of species, and the limits of their variation, which he illustrates more especially by the growth of corals, and most emphatically expresses his dissent from the startling development-doctrines of Darwin. But it would be fruitless to attempt an abstract of the numerous truths he has alluded to, and the methods by which such truths are to be sought. It is to these truths, in contradistinction to the mere study and description of species, and the building up of systems on external characters alone, that he hopes to direct attention. These comprehensive truths are few. Agassiz tells us, that, after a whole life devoted to the study of Nature, a simple sentence may express all he himself has done: "I have shown that there is a correspondence between the succession of fishes in geological times and the different stages of their growth in the egg, — this is all." Though this is by no means the limit of his claim so modestly expressed, yet that was a grand generalization, and, like the great doctrine of gravitation, and the demonstration by Cuvier of the existence of races of animals and plants on the globe anterior to those now existing, it proves to be of almost indefinite application, and, like those doctrines, has revolutionized science. The peculiar scientific views here pre

sented this is no place to criticize. But we may say that to every student of liberal culture this work is essential. Every teacher's table and every school-library should be furnished with it.

Hannah Thurston: A Story of American Life. By Bayard Taylob. New York: G. P. . Putnam.

Mr. Bayard Taylor evidently does not subscribe to the theory which "Friends in Council" attributes to a large class: "that men cannot excel in more things than one; and that, if they can, they had better be quiet about it." Having already achieved a reputation as a traveller, a poet, and a secretary to a foreign legation, he now enters the lists with the novelists, who must look well to their laurels, if ther would not have them snatched from their brows by this new-comer.

The book is called "A Story of American Life." It is American life, just as the statue of the Venus do' Medici or the Apollo Belvedere is the representation of the human figure. No Athenian belle, no Delphiu athlete, stood for those beautiful shapes; but the nose was modelled from one copy, the limbs from another, the brow from a third, and the result is a joy forever. So the American life portrayed in this story is a conglomeration, and partially a caricature, of the various isms which have disturbed the strata of our social life. That any American village should present within its outmost circle the collection of peculiarities gathered here would be little less than marvellous. That they are found in so many American villages as to justify their being attributed to American villages in general is preposterous. Certainly, this picture does not daguerreotype New England, however it may be in New York, — and though New England is small and provincial and New York is large and cosmopolitan, still we respectfully submit that any characteristic which may belong to New York and does not belong to New England is local and not national; and though a writer, for his own convenience and the better to convey his moral, may, if he choose, group all the wickednesses and weaknesses of the land In one secluded spot, he ought not to convey to strangers so wrong an idea of our rural social life as to make that spot the exponent of all.—So much for the title.

We now open the book, and arc immediately in the midst of scenes which have an indescribable familiarity. We have a confused sense of having met these people before. Certainly they have a strong family-likeness to denizens of modern novels. The sewing-circles an£ small-talk savor of the cheap wit of Widow Bedott. Jutnapore must have descended in a right line from Borrioboola - Gha. The traditional spinsters with their " withered bosoms " march in four abreast. The hereditary clergymen, hungry, sectarian, sanctimonious, rabid, form into line with the precision acquired by long drill. The hero and heroine stand up as good as married in the first chapter. The features of the hero are instantly recognizable. There is the small stir, the rising of the curtain, and some one steps upon the stage, "tall and sunburnt, with a moustache," —'t is he! Alonzo ! — " with easy selfpossession and a genial air," — the very man, — " habitual manners slightly touched with reserve, but no man could unbend more easily," — who but he, our old acquaintance 1 — "a rich baritone voice," "strung with true masculine fibre," striking in among the sharps and flats and bringing them all into harmofly,—that is the invariable way. "Generally, the least intellectual persons sing with the truest and most touching expression, because voice and intellect are rarely combined, [the reason seems to us rather a restatement of the fact,] but Maxwell Woodbury's fine organ had not been given to him at the expense of his brain." Certainly not. He never would have been our hero, if it had. When you add, that " his manners were thoroughly refined, and his property large enough and not too large for leisure," why, one might almost send a sheriff to arrest him, trusting to this description to make sure of his identity. The heroine is of course the "pale, quiet, earnest - looking girl," who, in the midst of snoods, frocks, jackets, pocket-handkerchiefs, and other commonplace handicraft, is embroidering with green silk upon warm brown cloth the thready stems and frail diminishing fronds of a group of fern-leaves, — who alone among assured matrons and faded spinsters b) ritited by " a flitting blush, delicate and transient as the shadow of a rose tossed

upon marble,"—and who matches the " glorious lay" of the hero, that "thrilled and shook her with its despairing solemnity," with an Alpine song, that, pure and sweet, sets the hero once more face to face with the Rosenlaui glacier and the jagged pyramid of the Wetterhorn.

To this there is no special objection. Every man has a right to heap virtues and graces upon his hero, and to heighten their effect by as much uncouthness and insincerity as he chooses to attribute to the subordinates; but so far as he professes to represent life, he should keep within the bounds of natural laws. If he chooses to introduce time-honored personages, we shall not quarrel with him, although we certainly think it desirable that some fresh piquancy in their characters shall be the vindication of their reappearance. We may regret that a subtle, but palpable ridicule is cast upon foreign missions, — a cause which, whether successful or unsuccessful in its immediate oblects, will forever stand recorded as one of the most unselfish, the most sublime, and the most Christ-like movements that have ever been originated by man. The hero does, indeed, patronize them to the extent of saying that he has "seen something of your missions in India, and believes that they are capable of accomplishing much good," — adding, however, lest his words excite hopes too sanguine, "Still, you must not expect immediate returns. It is only the lowest caste that is now reached, and the Christianizing of India must come, eventually, from the highest," — words which we shall be very ready to take as opinion, but very slow to receive as oracle, since, from the time when the Founder of Christianity was upon the earth, and the common people heard him gladly, while the higher classes thrust hull out of their synagogues, till the present day, the history of Christianity has been the history of an influence rising from the lower layers of society into the upper, rather than filtering down from the upper into the lower.

Since, also, however vulgarly the Grindies may put it, it is true that drunkenness is the agony of wives, the dread of mothers, —that it does destroy hopes, desolate hearths, break hearts, — that within the last two years it has added to its terrible deeds wide disasters to our arms, long sorrow to our country, and fruitless death in a thousand households,—we think it would have been well, if the discredit cast upon temperance measures, and thu discomfiture visited upon its advocates, had been accompanied by a less covert recognition of the evil and by a more obvious sympathy with its victims. Since the methods taken to insure self-control are insufficient, would it not have been possible to indicate better? Since Woodbury does not think abstinence to be the cure of intemperance, could he not justify his practice by a higher principle than self-indulgence, lay it on a deeper foundation than dilettanteism?

We regret, also, that in a book by Bayard Taylor there should have been found room for such a paragraph as this :—

"The churches in the village undertook their periodical 'revivals,' whicb«absorbed the interest of the community while Ihey lasted. It was not the usual season in Ptolemy for such agitations of the religious atmosphere,—but the Methodist clergyman, a very zealous and impassioned speaker, having initiated the movement with great success, the other sects became alarmed lest he should sweep all the repentant sinners of the place into his own fold. As soon as they could obtain help from Tiberius, the Baptists followed, and the Rev. Lemuel Styles wns constrained to do likewise. For a few days the latter regained the ground he had lost, nnd seemed about to distance his competitors. Luckily for him,.... the material for conversion, dniwn upon from so many different quarters, was soon exhausted; but the rival churches stoutly held out, until convinced that neither had any further advantage to gain over the other."

No one who has given to the religions phenomena of the day the smallest degree of intellectual and sympathetic attention can fail to pronounce this a gross and illbred caricature. Ridicule is the legitimate weapon of Truth; but ridicule that strikes rudely and indiscriminately, wounding without benefiting, is not found in the hands of Christian courtesy. We regret these blemishes, and such as these, the more because we are persuaded that the effects produced were not intended by the author. We believe, not orriy from his previous reputation, but from the spirit of the i>ook, which warms, deepens, and clarifies itself as it goes on, that he aimed only at results pure, healthful, and desirable. It is by no design of his, that young feet, already wavering downward, will not be strengthened to pause, to turn, to steady themselves,

but will rather \it lured on by his words. It is no purpose of his to make the crusts of Materialism harden still more hopelessly above the stifled soul. He designs to ridicule only that which is ridiculous. There are evidences of a purpose to relieve the darkness of his coloring in each instance by lines of light, but it is not made palpable enough for running readers. He has seen the weakness that generally develops itself in, and the hypocrisy that almost invariably clings to the skirts of a great popular movement, and it is these alone which he aims to bring down. In this he is right. He errs in that his vision is neither clear nor broad. He does not always wisely discriminate as to the nature or extent of the disease, or the effect of*the remedy which he applies. The cause of the difficulty has baffled his researches. The people upon whom his strictures fall, and to whom strictures belong, will be inflamed, but they will not be enlightened; and they who do sec the real nature of the movement, its bane as well as its blessing, and who are constantly laboring to separate the chaff from the wheat, will not be helped, but hindered, by his wellmeant efforts.

But, as we intimated, the book, like fame, increas.es in going. Under all the wit and humor, which are often very charming, under all the satire, which is none the less enjoyable because occasionally halfhidden, under the somewhat multifarious machinery, which the peculiar structure of the book renders necessary, there rises slowly into view and presently into prominence the outline of a purpose as noble as it is rare. In the teeth of popular prejudice, Bayard Taylor has had the courage to tako for his heroine a woman "strongminded," austere in her faith, past her first youth, given to public speaking, arid imbued, we might almost say to stubbornness, with ultra ideas of "woman's rights." True, he has given her to us in the most modified form possible to such a character, utterly pure, unselfish, true, refined, without ambition, impelled by the highest motives, and guided by the highest principles. But the conjunction of these two classes of qualities in one person is the real Maiakoff. That accomplished nnd the work is done. In this conception lies the true originality of the book. In this attempt lies the true consciousness of power. He who can make hls hero say,—" It was my profound appreciation of those very elements in your character which led you to take up these claims of woman and make them your own, that opened the way for you to my heart: I reverence the qualities,without accepting all the conclusions born of them," — hs. i a deeper insight than most of his fellows. He shows that he looks at things, and not at the traditions of things. He is not led away by the cry of the mob, and the gleam of gold so pure and solid almost changes into indignation our regret that he has ever suffered .himself to be deceived by the glare of tawdry tinsel.

Yet even here he has not struck all truth. It is the most improbable thing in the world that any woman should have built up such a wall around herself as is represented here. It is morally impossible that such a woman as Hannah Thurston should have done it. It is simply unnatural.. It might, perhaps, happen, just is a woman might happen to have been born with five fingers on each hand. But it is not with freaks of Nature, it is with Nature, that we have to deal. Girls may please tl;°niselves with fine-sounding phrases about equal powers and equal rights in marriage, but they generally vanish with the first approach of a living affection No idea of independence or equality ever, we dare afilrm, came between a great nature and its great love. No woman of exulted aims and large capacities, it may be safely said, will ever be held back from love, or even from marriage, by any scruples as to her relative stand- . ing. The stumbling-block in the way of such a woman as Hannah Thurston would not be n dread of the " submission of love," but rather of a submission without love, a submission of mere contiguity to somewhat hard, false, coarse, unjust, naming itself with a nnmc to which it had no title. If she trusted her lover thoroughly, she would intrust all risks to love. She would know with her head and feel with her heart, that, with the chivalry, the intensity, the reverence, the elevation of such a sentiment as she imagined, there could be neither bondage nor freedom, neither mine

no<- thine, but a oneness that would bring all relations into harmony with itself. The ve-ry essence of love is humility, and at the same time its glory is that it abolishes all laws, all rights, all powers, and is to itself alone law, right, and power. By the completeness of self- abnegation may the footsteps of love be traced. This partially the author recognizes, choosing it for the conclusion of the whole matter, but erring in that he makes it come with resistance and reluctance, the conquest of love, instead of spontaneously and unconsciously, its necessary concomitant.

In the hero of the story and his relations to the heroine, with occasional questionable traits, we find often a generosity, delicacy, and devotion which give promise of good. A man who can conceive a character so much above the common level, where the common level has always been low, cannot fail by continued observation and candid thinking to rise still higher. Frequently already, seeming hardly to be conscious of it, he impinges upon a farreaching, deep-lying, but generally unrecognized truth. When men shall have come to study the nature of woman, instead of haranguing about her duties, a great point will have been gained.

The blemishes which we have pointed out, and others which we have not pointed out, are only blemishes, and chiefly upon the surface. They mar, but they do not vitiate.

The limits 'of a magazine will not admit that adequate analysis and criticism which the ability of the book, both in point of subject and treatment, deserves. We have only space to say, that, making every allowance for every fault, it has the merit of-being a pioneer, and an able pioneer, in a tract which has been hitherto, so far as we know, unbroken wilderness. Its author has not solved the problem, — he does not even understand all its conditions; but he is travelling in the direction of the true solution: and he offers us the rare, we had almost said the solitary, spectacle of a man and an opponent bringing to the discussion of the " Wonmn's-Rights question" an appreciable degree of sense, justice, and moral dignity.

RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS

RECEIVED BY THE EDITORS OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.

Manual of Instructions for Military Surgeons, on the Examination of Recruits and Discbarge of Soldiers. With an Appendix, containing the Official Regulations of the Provost-MarshalGeneral's Bureau, and those for the Formation of the Invalid Corps, etc. Prepared at the Request of the U. S. Sanitary Commission. By John Ordronaux, M. D., Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in Columbia College, New York. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 12mo. pp. 238. $1.50.

Systems of Military Bridges in Use by the United States Army, those adopted by the Great European Powers, and such as are employed in British mdia. With Directions for the Preservation, Destruction, and Reestablishment of Bridges. By Brigadier-General George W. Cullum, Lieutenant-Colonel Corps of Engineers U. S. Army, Chief of Staff of the General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 8vo. pp. vi., 22ti. $3.50.

General Order No. 100, Adjutant-General's Office. Instructions for the Government of Armies of (he United States in the Field. Prepared by Francis Lieber, LL. D., and revised by a Iio:vrd of Officers. New York. D. Van Nostrand. lCmo. paper, pp. 36. 25 cts.

A Treatise on Hygiene, with Special Reference to the Military Service. By William A. Hammond, M. D., Surgeon-General U. S. Army, Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Member of the Philadelphia Pathological Society, of the Academy of Natural Sciences, of the American Philosophical Society, Honorary Corresponding Member of the British Medical Association, etc., etc Philadelphia. J. B. Lippincott & Ob. 8vo. pp. xvi., 604. $5.00.

A Supplement to lire's Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines, containing a Clear Exposition of their Principles and Practice. From the Last Edition. Edited by Robert Hunt, F. R. S., F. S. S., Keeper of Mining Records, etc., assisted by Numerous Contrite utors Eminent in Science and Familiar with Manufactures. Illustrated with Seven Hundred Engravings on Wood. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 8vo. pp. 1096. $7.00.

Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Illustrated from Drawings by F. O. C. Dnrley and John Gilbert. Bleak House. In Four Volumes. New York. Sheldon & Co. lii-.ii.,. pp. 312, 321, 320, 308. $4.00.

War-Pictures from the South. By B. Estvan, Colonel of Cavalry in the Confederate Army. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. viii., 352. $1.25.

In the Tropics. By a Settler in San Domingo. With an Introductory Notice by Richard B. Kimball, Author of" St. Leger," etc. New York. G. W. Carleton. 16mo. pp. 306. $1.25.

Rockford; or, Sunshine and Storm. By Mrs. Lillie Devereux Umstead, Author of " Southwold." New York. G. VV. Carleton. 16mo. pp. 308. $1.00.

What to Eat and How to Cook it: containing over One Thousand Receipts, systematically and practically arranged, to enable the Housekeeper to prepare the most Difficult or Simpler Dishes in the Best Manner. By Pierre Blot, late Editor of the "Almsnach Gastronomique " of Paris, and other Gastronomical Works. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 16mo. pp. 259. $1.00.

A Critical History of Free Thought in Reference to the Christian Religion. Eight Lectures preached before the University of Oxford, in the Year MDCCCLXIL,on the foundation of the late John Bampton, M. A., Canon of Salisbury. By Adam Storey Farrar, M. A., Michel Fellow of Queen's College, Oxford. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. xlvi., 487. $2.00.

The White-Mountain Guide-Book. Third Edition. Concord, N. H. Edson C. Eastman. 16mo. pp. 222. 75 cts.

The Historical Shakspearian Reader: comprising the " Histories " or " Chronicle Plays" of Shakspeare; carefully expurgated and revised, with Explanatory Notes. Expressly adapted for the Use of Schools, Colleges, and the Family Reading-Circle. By John W. S. Hows, Author of "The Shakspearian Reader," etc. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 503. $1.50.

The Gold - Seekers. A Tale of California. By Guetnve Aimard. Philadelphia. T. B. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. paper, pp.148. 50cts.

Peter Carradine; or, The Martindale Pastoral. By Caroline Chesebro. New York. Sheldon & Co. 12mo. pp. 399. $1.50.

Sights A-Foot. By Wilkie Collins. Philadelphia. T. B. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. pp. 135. 50 cts.

Light. By Helen Modfit. New York. D. Appleton & Co. 12mo. pp. 339. $1.25.

The Young Parson. Philadelphia. Smith, English, & Co. 12mo. pp. 3S4. $1.25.

« ZurückWeiter »