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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 10, No. 57, July, 1862 - A Magazine Of Literature, Art, And Politics
Author: Various
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As soon as Gentil heard what a dreadful noise his people were making, he got up, though he still felt poorly, and went out into the streets. The people were fighting, alas! worse than ever; and they were trying to pull down the strong book-walls, that they might get out of the city. A good many of them were wounded in the head, as well as Prince Gentil, by the heavy books falling upon them; and Gentil was very sorry for the people.

"If you want to go out, good people," he said, "I will open the gates and go with you; but do not pull down the book-walls."

And they obeyed Gentil, because they loved him, and Gentil led them out of the city. When they had crossed the first green valley, they found the city of Pastime empty, not a creature in it! and broken toys in the streets. At sight of the toys, the poor book-people cried for joy, and wanted to stop and play. So Gentil left them in the city, and went on alone across the next green valley. But the city of Confection was crammed so full with sick child-people belonging to Bonbon, and with Joujou's hungry ones, that Gentil could not get in at the gate. So he wandered about in the green valleys, very unhappy, until he came to his old father's palace. There he found the fool, sitting on the banks of the river.

"O fool," said Gentil, "I wish I knew what my father meant us to do!"

And the fool tried to comfort Gentil; and they walked together by the river where the fool had made the boat of the will, without knowing what it was. They walked a long way, Gentil crying, and the fool trying to comfort him, when suddenly the fool saw the boat he had made, lying among some green rushes. And the fool ran to fetch it, and brought it to show Gentil. And Gentil saw some writing on the boat, and knew it was his father's writing. Then Gentil was glad indeed; he unfolded the paper, and thereon he read these words,—for a good king's words are not washed away by water:—

"My will and pleasure is, that my dearly beloved sons, Prince Gentil, Prince Joujou, and Prince Bonbon, should all reign together over the three cities which I have built. But there are only enough child-people to fill one city; for I know that the child-people cannot live always in one city. Therefore let the three princes, with Gentil, the eldest, wearing the crown, lead all the child-people to the city of Lessonland in the morning, that the bright sun may shine upon their lessons and make them pleasant; and Gentil to set the tasks. And in the afternoon let the three princes, with Joujou wearing the crown, lead all the child-people to the city of Pastime, to play until the evening; and Joujou to lead the games. And in the evening let the three princes, with Bonbon wearing the crown, lead all the child-people to the city of Confection, to drink sweet wine and pluck fruit off the Christmas-trees until time for bed; and little Bonbon to cut the cake. And at time for bed, let the child-people go forth into the green valleys and sleep upon the beds of flowers: for in Child Country it is always spring."

This was the king's will, found at last; and Gentil, whose great long lessons had made him wise, (though they had tired him too,) thought the will the cleverest that was ever made. And he hastened to the city of Confection, and knocked at the gate till they opened it; and he found all the people sick by this time, and very pleased to see him, for they thought him very wise. And Gentil read the will in a loud voice, and the people clapped their hands and began to get better directly, and Bonbon called to them to lift him down out of the tree where he had stuck, and Joujou danced for joy.

So the king's will was obeyed. And in the morning the people learned their lessons, and afterwards they played, and afterwards they enjoyed their feasts. And at bed-time they slept upon the beds of flowers, in the green valleys: for in Child Country it is always spring.



REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.

1. VICTOR HUGO. Les Misrables. Fantine. New York: P. W. Christern. 8vo.

2. The Same. Translated from the Original French, by CHARLES E. WILBOUR. New York: G. W. Carleton. 8vo.

"FANTINE," the first of five novels under the general title of "Les Misrables," has produced an impression all over Europe, and we already hear of nine translations, It has evidently been "engineered" with immense energy by the French publisher. Translations have appeared in numerous languages almost simultaneously with its publication in Paris. Every resource of bookselling ingenuity has been exhausted in order to make every human being who can read think that the salvation of his body and soul depends on his reading "Les Misrables." The glory and the obloquy of the author have both been forced into aids to a system of puffing at which Barnum himself would stare amazed, and confess that he had never conceived of "a dodge" in which literary genius and philanthropy could be allied with the grossest bookselling humbug. But we trust, that, after our American showman has recovered from his first shock of surprise, he will vindicate the claim of America to be considered the "first nation on the face of the earth," by immediately offering Dickens a hundred thousand dollars to superintend his exhibition of dogs, and Florence Nightingale a half a million to appear at his exhibition of babies.

The French bookseller also piqued the curiosity of the universal public by a story that Victor Hugo wrote "Les Misrables" twenty-five years ago, but, being bound to give a certain French publisher all his works after his first celebrated novel, he would not delight the world with this product of his genius until he had forced the said publisher into a compliance with his terms. The publisher shrank aghast from the sum which the author demanded, and this sum was yearly increased in amount, as years rolled away and as Victor Hugo's reputation grew more splendid. At last the publisher died, probably from vexation, and Victor Hugo was free. Then he condescended to allow the present publisher to issue "Les Misrables" on the payment of eighty thousand dollars. It is not surprising, that, to get his money back, this publisher has been compelled to resort to tricks which exceed everything known in the whole history of literature.

"Fantine," therefore, comes before us, externally, as the most desperate of bookselling speculations. The publisher, far from drinking his wine out of the skull of his author, is in danger of having neither wine nor ordinary cup, and is forced into the most reckless charlatanerie to save himself from utter ruin and complete loss of the generous fluid. Internally, "Fantine" comes before us as an attempt both to include and to supersede the Christian religion. Wilkinson, in a preface to one of his books, stated that he thought that "Christendom was not the error of which Chapmandom was the correction,"—Chapman being then the English publisher of a number of skeptical books. In the same way we may venture to affirm that Christendom is not the beginning of which Hugoism is the complement and end. We think that the revelation made by the publisher of "Les Misrables" sadly interferes with the revelation made by Victor Hugo. Saint Paul may be inferior to Saint Hugo, but everybody will admit that Saint Paul would not have hesitated a second in deciding, in the publication of his epistles, between the good of mankind and his own remuneration. Saint Hugo confessedly waited twenty-five years before he published his new gospel. The salvation of Humanity had to be deferred until the French saviour received his eighty thousand dollars. At last a bookselling Barnum appears, pays the price, and a morality which utterly eclipses that of Saint Paul is given to an expectant world.

This morality, sold for eighty thousand dollars, is represented by Bishop Myriel. The character is drawn with great force, and is full both of direct and subtle satire on the worldliness of ordinary churchmen. The portion of the work in which it figures contains many striking sayings. Thus, we are told, that, when the Bishop "had money, his visits were to the poor; when he had none, he visited the rich." "Ask not," he said, "the name of him who asks you for a bed; it is especially he whose name is a burden to him who has need of an asylum." This man, who embodies all the virtues, carries his goodness so far as to receive into his house a criminal whom all honest houses reject, and, when robbed by his infamous guest, saves the life of the latter by telling the officers who had apprehended the thief that he had given him the silver. This so works on the criminal's conscience, that, like Peter Bell, he "becomes a good and pious man," starts a manufactory, becomes rich, and uses his wealth for benevolent purposes. Fantine, the heroine, after having been seduced by a Parisian student, comes to work in his factory. She has a child that she supports by her labor. This fact is discovered by some female gossip, and she is dismissed from the factory as an immoral woman, and descends to the lowest depths of prostitution,—still for the purpose of supporting her child. Jean Valjean, the reformed criminal, discovers her, is made aware that her debasement is the result of the act of his foreman, and takes her, half dead with misery and sickness, to his own house. Meanwhile he learns that an innocent person, by being confounded with himself, is in danger of being punished for his former deeds. He flies from the bedside of Fantine, appears before the court, announces himself as the criminal, is arrested, but in the end escapes from the officers who have him in charge. Fantine dies. Her child is to be the heroine of Novel Number Two of "Les Misrables," and will doubtless have as miserable an end as her mother. From this bare abstract, the story does not seem to promise much pleasure to novel-readers, yet it is all alive with the fiery genius of Victor Hugo, and the whole representation is so intense and vivid that it is impossible to escape from the fascination it exerts over the mind. Few who take the book up will leave it until they have read it through. It is morbid to a degree that no eminent English author, not even Lord Byron, ever approached; but its morbid elements are so combined with sentiments abstractly Christian that it is calculated to wield a more pernicious influence than Byron ever exerted. Its tendency is to weaken that abhorrence of crime which is the great shield of most of the virtue which society possesses, and it does this by attempting to prove that society itself is responsible for crimes it cannot prevent, but can only punish. To legislators, to Magdalen societies, to prison-reformers, it may suggest many useful hints; but, considered as a passionate romance, appealing to the sympathies of the ordinary readers of novels, it will do infinitely more harm than good. The bigotries of virtue are better than the charities of vice. On the whole, therefore, we think that Victor Hugo, when he stood out twenty-five years for his price, did a service to the human race. The great value of his new gospel consisted in its not being published. We wish that another quarter of a century had elapsed before it found a bookseller capable of venturing on so reckless a speculation.

* * * * *

Christ the Spirit: being an Attempt to state the Primitive View of Christianity. By the Author of "Remarks on Alchemy and the Alchemists," and "Swedenborg a Hermetic Philosopher." 2 vols. New York: James Miller.

Tins remarkable work is said to be by Major-General Hitchcock, of the United States Army, whose important services in the Mexican campaign and in our war with the Florida Indians will always command for him the grateful remembrance of his country. It presents many striking views, and at first glance appears to sweep somewhat breezily through the creeds and ceremonies of the external church. The danger, however, may not be great. The work is written in a spirit of forbearance and moral elevation that cannot fail to do good, if it is only to teach theologians that bitter warfare is no way to convince the world of the divinity of their opinions. The author affirms that he seeks to reestablish Christianity upon, its true basis. In opposition to existing churches, he places himself in the position of Saint Paul as opposed to the Pharisees, and says, with him, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing,"—or again, with the Spirit of Truth itself, he declares, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." General Hitchcock believes that the New Testament was written by the Essene philosophers, a secret society well known to the Jews as dividing the religious world of Judea with the Pharisees and Sadducees. It was written for the instruction of the novitiates, and in symbolism and allegories, according to the oath by which they were solemnly bound. Whatever may be said of the truth of this theory, the interpretations it gives rise to are exceedingly interesting and instructive.

The law of Moses, which all the Jews regarded as divine, the Essenes thought contained a twofold signification. They saw in it a letter and a spirit. As a letter it was the Son of Man, because written by man; as spirit it was the Son of God, because it proceeded from God. They held that the Pharisees murdered the spirit through adhering to the letter; and in the books which the Essenes themselves wrote—the Four Gospels—they taught this doctrine. In Jesus Christ they personified the law of Moses,—Christ representing in his double character both the spirit and the letter of the Law; John the Baptist, the witness of the spirit, representing the letter exclusively; the Virgin Mary the "wisdom" constantly personified in the Old Testament. She is also the Church, the bride of Christ, and that "invisible nature" symbolized in all mythologies as divine. The Father is the Spirit of the Law and the Spirit of Nature,—the infinite God from whom all life proceeds and in whom it abides.

From this brief statement it will be seen that General Hitchcock takes a view of Christianity widely different from that of theologians. Jesus of Nazareth, as a person, he regards simply as a great teacher of this sect of philosophers; and in the Christ of the New Testament, a being endowed with supernatural powers, he sees a personification of the Spirit of Truth. The literal history of a series of supernatural events occurring in Judea two thousand years ago he transforms into sublime teachings of the great truths inherent in human nature, and which, wherever man is, are there forever renacting the same drama,—in the assumed history of Jesus, divinely portrayed,—not, if rightly understood, as an actual history of any one man, but as a symbolic narration, representing the spiritual life of all men.

Many grave reflections are forced upon us in contemplating a view so original of a subject upon which apparently nothing more remained to be said. It becomes not only the question, How will this work be received by the religious world? but, How, in a true spirit of inquiry, ought it to be received? The theory of the author is peculiarly simple, but in its simplicity lies an exceeding beauty. The idea that the Scriptures are symbolical has always found adherents, but never such an advocate. Swedenborg affirmed this truth, and invented a formal mode of interpretation, upon which he wrote his multitudinous octavos, themselves mystical volumes, and whose effect has been to involve a subject already obscure in still deeper darkness, and to transfer the adoration of a small portion of the Christian world from the letter of the Scriptures to the letter of Swedenborg,—a questionable benefit to his followers, in spite of the many important truths which this great man advocated. The radical difference between such a system and that which we are now considering is evident. Not Swedenborg alone, but many others, through artificial systems of their own, have sought to interpret the mysteries of the Bible; but it has remained for the author of "Christ the Spirit" to attempt a discovery of the key unlocking the symbolism of the New Testament, as it was understood by the gospel writers themselves.

The Pearl of Orr's Island. A Story of the Coast of Maine. By MRS. HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, Author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "The Minister's Wooing," etc. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.

Mrs. Stowe is never more in her element than in depicting unsophisticated New-England life, especially in those localities where there is a practical social equality among the different classes of the population. "The Pearl of Orr's Island," the scene of which is laid in one of those localities, is every way worthy of her genius. Without deriving much interest from its plot, it fastens the pleased attention of the reader by the freshness, clearness, and truth of its representations, both of Nature and persons. The author transports us at once to the place she has chosen as the scene of her story, makes us as familiarly acquainted with all its surroundings as if we had been born and bred there, introduces us to all the principal inhabitants in a thoroughly "neighborly" way, and contrives to impress us with a sense of the substantial reality of what she makes us mentally see, even when an occasional improbability in the story almost wakes us up to a perception that the whole is a delightful illusion.

This foundation of the story in palpable realities, which every Yankee recognizes as true the moment they are presented to his eye, enables the writer to develop the ideal character of Mara Lincoln, the heroine of the book, without giving any sensible shock to the prosaic mind. In the type of womanhood she embodies, she is almost identical with Agnes, in the beautiful romance which Mrs. Stowe has lately contributed to this magazine: the difference is in time and circumstance, and not in essential nature. The Puritan maiden, with all her homely culture and rough surroundings, is really as poetic a personage as any of Spenser's exquisite individualizations of abstract feminine excellence; perhaps more so, as the most austere and exalted spiritualities of Christianity enter into the constitution of her nature, and her soul moves in a sphere of religious experience compared with which "fairy-land" is essentially low and earthy. She is an angel as well as a woman; yet the height of her meditations does not interfere with, but rather aids her performance of the homeliest human duties; and the moral beauty of her nature lends a peculiar grace to her humblest ministries to human affections and needs. The vivid delineation of this character, from her childhood to her death, we cannot but rank among Mrs. Stowe's best claims to be considered a woman of true imaginative genius.

In the rest of the population of Orr's Island the reader cannot fail to take a great interest, with but two exceptions. These are Moses, the hero of the novel, and Sally Kittredge, who, in the end, marries him. But "Cap'n" Kittredge and his wife, Miss Roxy and Miss Ruey, and Zephaniah Pennel, are incomparably good. Each affords matter enough for a long dissertation on New England and human character. Miss Roxy, especially, is the typical old maid of Yankee-land, and is so thoroughly lovable, in spite of her idiom, her crusty manners, and her eccentricities, that the only wonder is that she should have been allowed to remain single. But the same wonder is often expressed, in actual life, in regard to old maids superior to Miss Roxy in education, accomplishments, and beauty, and her equals in vital self-sacrifice and tenderness of heart.

We have referred to Moses as a failure, but in this he is no worse than Mrs. Stowe's other heroes. They are all unworthy of the women they love; and the early death of Mara, in this novel, though very pathetic, is felt by every male reader to be better than a long married life with Moses. The latter is "made happy" in the end with Sally Kittredge. Mrs. Stowe does not seem conscious of the intense and bitter irony of the last scenes. She conveys the misanthropy of Swift without feeling or knowing it.

In style, "The Pearl of Orr's Island" ranks with the best narratives in American literature. Though different from the style of Irving and Hawthorne, it shows an equal mastery of English in expressing, not only facts, events, and thoughts, but their very spirit and atmosphere. It is the exact mirror of the author's mind and character. It is fresh, simple, fluent, vigorous, flexible, never dazzling away attention from what it represents by the intrusion of verbal felicities which are pleasing apart from the vivid conceptions they attempt to convey. The uncritical reader is unconscious of its excellence because it is so excellent,—that is, because it is so entirely subordinate to the matter which it is the instrument of expressing. At times, however, the singular interest of the things described must impress the dullest reader with the fact that the author possesses uncommon powers of description. The burial of James Lincoln, the adventure of little Mara and Moses on the open sea, the night-visit which Mara makes to the rendezvous of the outlaws, and the incidents which immediately precede Mara's death, are pictured with such vividness, earnestness, and fidelity, that nobody can fail to feel the strange magic communicated to common words when they are the "nimble servitors" of genius and passion. In conclusion we may say, that, in the combination of accurate observation, strong sense, and delicate spiritual perception,—in the union of humor and pathos, of shrewdness and sentiment,—and in the power of seizing character in its vital inward sources, and of portraying its outward peculiarities,—"The Pearl of Orr's Island" does not yield to any book which Mrs. Stowe has heretofore contributed to American literature.

* * * * *

RECENT AMERICAN PUBLICATIONS

RECEIVED BY THE EDITORS OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.

The Life and Letters of Washington Irving. By his Nephew, Pierre M. Irving. Vol. I. New York. G. P. Putnam. 13mo. pp. 463. $1.50.

History of the United States Naval Academy, with Biographical Sketches, and the Names of all the Superintendents, Professors, and Graduates. To which is added a Record of some of the Earliest Votes by Congress, of Thanks, Medals, and Swords, to Naval Officers. By Edward Chauncey Marshall, A.M., formerly Instructor in Captain Kinsley's Military School at West Point, Assistant Professor in the New York University, etc. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 12mo. pp. 156. $1.00.

Instruction for Naval Light Artillery, Afloat and Ashore. Prepared and arranged for the United States Naval Academy. By William H. Parker, Lieutenant U.S.N. Second Edition. Revised by Lieutenant S.B. Luce, U.S.N., Assistant Instructor of Gunnery at the United States Naval Academy. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 8vo. pp. 120. $1.50.

Manual of Target-Practice for the United States Army. By Major G.L. Willard, U.S.A. Philadelphia. Lippincott & Co. 18mo. pp. 80. 50 cts.

A Course of Instruction in Ordnance and Gunnery; compiled for the Use of the Cadets of the United States Military Academy. By Captain J.G. Benton, Ordnance Department, late Instructor of Ordnance and Science of Gunnery, Military Academy, West Point; Principal Assistant to the Chief of Ordnance, U.S.A. Second Edition, revised and enlarged. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 8vo. pp. 550. $4.00.

Seventh Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioners of the State of Massachusetts. January 1, 1862. Part I., Marine and Fire Insurance: Part II., Life Insurance. Boston. William White, Printer to the State. 8vo. pp. xxxvi., 262; xl., 33; 15.

Ballads of the War. By George Whitfield Hewes. New York. G.W. Garleton. 16mo. pp. 147. 50 cts.

The Spirit of the Hebrew Poetry. By Isaac Taylor. With a Sketch of the Life of the Author and a Catalogue of his Writings. New York. William Gowans. 12mo. pp. 311. $1.00.

The Channings. A Domestic Novel of Real Life. By Mrs. Henry Wood, Author of "East Lynne," etc. Philadelphia. T.B. Peterson & Brothers. 8vo. paper, pp. 302. 50 cts.

The Bay Path. A Tale of New England Colonial Life. By J.G. Holland, Author of "Letters to the Young," "Lessons in Life," etc. New York. C. Scribner. 12mo. pp. 418. $1.25.

The Church in the Army; or, The Four Centurions. By Rev. William A. Scott, D.D., of San Francisco. New York. G.W. Carleton. 12mo. pp. 443. $1.25.

Prison-Life in the Tobacco-Warehouse at Richmond. By a Ball's-Bluff Prisoner, Lieutenant William C. Harris, of Colonel Baker's California Regiment. Philadelphia. G.W. Childs. 16mo. pp. 175. 75 cts.

Mount Vernon, and other Poems. By Harvey Rice. Columbus. Follett, Foster, & Co. 16mo. pp. 221. $1.00.

Last Poems. By Elizabeth Barrett Browning. With a Memorial by Theodore Tilton. New York. James Miller. 32mo. pp. 242. 75 cts.

Manual for Engineer Troops. Consisting of, I., Ponton Drill; II., Rules for Conducting a Siege; III., School of the Sap; IV., Military Mining; V., Construction of Batteries. By Captain J.C. Duane, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 12mo. pp. 275. $2.00.

Our Flag. A Poem in Four Cantos. By F.H. Underwood. New York. G. W. Carleton. 16mo. paper, pp. 41. 25 cts.

A Treatise on Military Law and the Practice of Courts-Martial. By Captain S.V. Bent, Ordnance Department, U.S. Army: late Assistant Professor of Ethics, Law, etc. Military Academy, West Point. New York. D. Van Nostrand. 8vo. pp. 377. $3.00.

THE END

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