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produce. The Flibbertigibbet of the tale, Job Pray, is a happy attempt at one of those beings endowed with ubiquity, omniscience, and fatuity, which the practice of modern novelists has made almost as essential to a regularly constructed production of this class, as the Arlecchino is to the Italian Opera Buffa. His shrewdness, however, would frequently make us forget the light in which the author intends us to consider him, were we not repeatedly recalled to the remembrance of it by the epithets of 'simpleton, .fool, “idiot,' and changeling, which he applies so unceremoniously, and sometimes we cannot help thinking so unfairly, to this boy of twenty-seven. But, in spite of this little incongruity, Job is interesting throughout. His courage, his fidelity, his constant exultation in being “a Boston boy,” his unshaken confidence, that “the people will show the grannies the law,” the delight with which he dwells upon the idea of “a stir in Old Funnel,” and many other happily imagined and ably developed traits, make him, altogether, a successful delineation of a character the most difficult to draw, because, as a whole, it is without a model in nature. Abigail Pray is the only other leading personage, and she appears to be of little use but to explain, in the catastrophe, some of the mysteries of the story, which might, perhaps, have been explained as well without her.
Among the subordinate characters, Polwarth is the most conspicuous, and he certainly discharges his various functions of captain, companion, caterer, and cook, with great consistency, and, sometimes, with infinite humor. The ingenuity with which he draws all his illustrations of every topic, from the savory subject on which he delights to dwell, is, in many cases, admirable; but there is often an exaggeration about him approaching to caricature. We mean, for example, where he is made to administer his uncouth and unwholesome prescription to the dying Job, and to lecture the conscience-stricken and repentant Abigail, at her last gasp, upon the excellencies and the enjoyments of eating.
To one class of individuals, whom the period and the scene of the story naturally introduce, we do not think that the author has done that justice which we had a right to expect from the subject itself, and from his own unquestioned powers. We refer to those from whom specimens might have been furnished of the yankee character and dialect. The instances of the old woman at Cambridge, the old man in the wagon, Allen, and above all, Seth Sage, although slight in themselves, are excellent as far as they go, and show what might have been done if pains had been taken to elaborate that part of the work. Why were we
not presented with one of a higher order and on a greater scale? Was it too much to demand of the inventor of that prince of whalers, the inimitable Tom Coffin, that he should extend bis observations to another sphere, and not overlook the opportunity that lay so invitingly before him, of producing, at full length, a rugged yankee hero of the Stark or Putnam school?
We shall not descend to the invidious office of enumerating the oversights in mere style and the use of language, which are to be found so frequently in the pages of this work. The author, in his preface, has so contumaciously disclaimed all critical jurisdiction, that we fear it would be of little benefit to him, as it certainly would be of little interest to others, to point out his instances of baldness or mannerism in using some favorite word on subjects entirely inconsistent with each other of mistake, in applying common words otherwise than in their common and only intelligible acceptation-of affectation and inelegance, in using his verbs in the interrogative form, invariably without auxiliaries—and of carelessness, if not clumsiness, in leaving his meaning so entangled in the web of his construction, that our struggles to free it to our own comprehension, have been sometimes entirely unsuccessful. We regret this the more, because the author's popularity is likely to carry his example into precedent; and we are unwilling that our subsequent writers should be allowed to avail themselves of the sanction of his authority for vices in style, which in spite of his candid confession of having long since forgotten the little that colleges and (some may think he might have added) that schools have taught him, must, for the most part, have been committed rather from indolence than ignorance. We do not wish, however, to dwell upon this ungrateful topic; and, resting our hopes of his farther amendment in this respect, upon the improvement which he has regularly exhibited from “Precaution" to the present work, rather than upon any expectation of furnishing him with “a single hint which his humble powers can improve,” we shall proceed to those features of the latter which we have been able to contemplate with unalloyed admiration.
The writer of the religious or of the historical novel, has difficulties to contend with, peculiar to the walk of composition which he has selected; and unless the purposes of his work be blended in those nice proportions which it is the lot of few exactly to attain, the lighter reader will skim over the fiction, and throw aside the remainder with disgust, while the graver one will prefer to deduce his morality from real sermons, and to seek his knowledge in the authorized and established repositories of
facts. The composition of the historical novel is encumbered with still another and a greater embarrassment. The author is obliged to regard, in the invention of his characters and incidents, all the proprieties of reality, and of that very reality in which he has placed his scene, with far more strictness here, than in fictions where no measure is immediately at hand to detect and to estimate his extravagance. The circumstances and characters which are known, have the effect of familiar objects in a landscape, which not only enable you to judge of the general perspective, but to ascertain the magnitude of others, which the artist, in the absence of these convenient tests of nature, might with impunity exaggerate or distort. The writer of such a work, then, has stretched
his imaginations upon a Procrustean bed of his own making, and must force them all to correspond to it, at whatever risk of dislocating the limbs, or mutilating the stature of these children of his brain. In surmounting all these difficulties, the author of this book has been eminently successful. He has thrown himself fearlessly into the midst of scenes, fresh in the personal experience of many who are now alive, and destined to be eternally fresh in the traditional recollections of millions who have not yet begun to live. He has transfused into his narrative the sturdy spirit of those times, when every citizen was a soldier, and every soldier a patriot. Even in the bumble personages whom he has chosen to illustrate this spirit, he has exhibited with admirable consistency, the sagacity with which the colonists discovered, and the shrewdness with which they explained their rights, as well as the jealousy with which they guarded, and the stoutness with which they defended them. The pettiness and homeliness of the details of these struggles, as compared with the larger operations of European warfare, which have made them to be usually considered unfit themes for the imaginative writer, have not induced him to shrink from the battle grounds on which our freedom was born, or to pass them by as unsusceptible of the decorations, or unworthy of the gifts of genius. In the skirmish at Lexington, the retreat from Concord, and the battle of Breed's or Bunker's Hill, he has fairly transplanted us to the periods and the spots which he describes; and with that rare felicity, both of selection and coloring, which is at once the triumph and the test of talent, he has made us see, and hear, and feel all the stir of the glorious strife which has led to consequences ineffably more glorious. But it would be tame and even unfair, to estimate the value of this part of the story by the interest which it may create in the present generation of readers. It deserves to be considered with
more extended views. It deserves to be appreciated by the effects which it must produce, as a portion of our national literature, upon the young and ardent lover of his country, in those days when distance of time shall have somewhat blended and softened the ruder features of reality, which now we can hardly help associating with events so near us both in time and place. How much more delightful to an author, must be the consciousness that he is destined, perhaps, to contribute to the formation of the future character of a part of his countrymen, by mingling his own productions with their earliest and most sacred national associations, than the barren and temporary triumph of having succeeded at last in wringing from the foreign arbiters of literary fate, by a studied and constant conformity to their prejudices, the wretched privilege of literary naturalization. To this consciousness we think Mr. Cooper has an undeniable right; and however our duty may have compelled us to notice the minor blemishes of his book, he has no readers who regard with more complacency than ourselves, what he has already done, or who await with more earnest expectation, what we hope he feels himself bound to continue to do.
Art. VI.- The Journal of Madam Knight, and Rev. Mr. Buck
ingham, from the Original Manuscripts, written in 1704 and 1710. New-York. Wilder and Campbell. 1825.
The publication of an old American manuscript is too great a rarity not to be especially entitled to our notice. And here is one so old, so very old, that the great grandchildren of the authoress (if she ever had any) must have died before its publication. We candidly acknowledge, that we felt, at first, unwilling to give credit to so improbable a story, but a sight of the original, with which we have been favored, vanquished all our doubts. It is a genuine antique, a manuscript of unquestionable yellowness, of most manifest fragility, and withal, of a “very ancient and fish-like smell.” The antiquarians of Europe may turn up their noses, as they please, at archives but a hundred and twenty years old; we can tell them, that we felt as much delight at the sight of this relic of our fabulous ages, as Champollion must have felt when his eyes first glanced upon the hieroglyphic records of the Pharaohs of Egypt.
The manuscript was written, it appears, in the latter part of the year 1704, seventy-two before the revolutionary war, and is a faithful copy from the diary of a journey from Boston to New-York, undertaken, and (after many wonderful escapes)
successfully accomplished, by a very worthy, well-informed, and enterprising woman, of the name of Madam Knight. She was so called, we are informed, out of respect to her character, according to a custom, which, it seems, was once common in New-England. The Bostonians have no reason to be ashamed of Madam Knight. She must have been no common woman, who could intrepidly encounter the hardships and the hazards of a long and tedious journey, two hundred and fifty miles of which were over a tract as little travelled as the country of the Pottowattomies. Who can help admiring the fearlessness, with which, even in that dark age, she speaks against the bigoted inhabitants of Connecticut, who were so “very Riggid in their Administrations towards such as their Lawes made Offenders, even to a harmless Kiss, or Innocent Merriment among Young people.” With how much political sagacity does she declare that the annual election of governor is “a blessing the good people of Connecticut can never be thankful enough for." How much to her credit is the gratitude with which she speaks of "the wonderful Civility of the Honble Govern" Winthrop, Esq. A Gentleman of an Ancient and Honourable Family," who commanded her to stay and “take a supper with him.” And who has described, with more spirit and fidelity, the manners and the language of the primitive yankees, than the writer of this journal has done, in her lively sketches of the unmannerly Debb Billinges, the petulant Jemima, and the gawky country Bumpkin, with his Joane Tawdry sweetheart?
Madam Knight set out upon her formidable tour on the second day of October, 1704. She appears to have experienced much difficulty in finding a man who would undertake to conduct her through these unfrequented regions. At last she finds the wife of a tavern-keeper, who offers, for a large sum, to let her son John go as guide upon this perilous expedition. Madam Knight demurs to the consideration-money.
“Then John shau't go, sais shee. No, indeed, shan't hee; And held forth at that rate a long time, that I began to fear I was got ainong the Quaking tribe, beleeving not a Limbertong’d sister among them could out do Madm. Hostes.
“Upon this, to my no small surprise, son John arrose, and gravely demanded what I would give him to go with me? Give you, sais I, are you John ? Yes, sais he, for want of a Better ; And behold! this John look't as old as my Host, and perhaps had bin a man in the last Century. Well, Mr. John, sais I, make your demands. Why, half a pss. of eight and a dram, sais John. I agreed, and gave him a Dram (now) in hand to bind the bargain."-pp. 10, 11.
After a long and tiresome night-ride, through swamps almost