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Atlantic Monthly Volume 7, No. 39, January, 1861
Author: Various
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Even if the secessionists could accomplish their schemes, who would be the losers? Not the Free States, certainly, with their variety of resources and industry. The laws of trade cannot be changed, and the same causes which have built up their agriculture, commerce, and manufactures will not cease to be operative. The real wealth and strength of states, other things being equal, depends upon homogeneousness of population and variety of occupation, with a common interest and common habits of thought. The cotton-growing States, with their single staple, are at the mercy of chance. India, Australia, nay, Africa herself, may cut the thread of their prosperity. Their population consists of two hostile races, and their bone and muscle, instead of being the partners, are the unwilling tools of their capital and intellect. The logical consequence of this political theory is despotism, which the necessity of coercing the subject race will make a military one. Already South Carolina is discussing a standing army. If history is not a lying gossip, the result of the system of labor will be Jamaica, and that of the system of polity, Mexico. Instead of a stable government, they will have a whirligig of pronunciamientos, or stability will be purchased at a cost that will make it intolerable. They have succeeded in establishing among themselves a fatal unanimity on the question of Slavery,—fatal because it makes the office of spy and informer honorable, makes the caprice of a mob the arbiter of thought, speech, and action, and debases public opinion to a muddy mixture of fear and prejudice. In peace, the majority of their population will be always looked on as conspirators; in war, they would become rebels.

It is time that the South should learn, if they do not begin to suspect it already, that the difficulty of the Slavery question is slavery itself,—nothing more, nothing less. It is time that the North should learn that it has nothing left to compromise but the rest of its self-respect. Nothing will satisfy the extremists at the South short of a reduction of the Free States to a mere police for the protection of an institution whose danger increases at an equal pace with its wealth.

It was the deliberate intention of Mr. Calhoun that the compact should be broken the moment the absolute control of Government passed out of the hands of the slaveholding clique. He was willing to wait till we had stolen Texas and paid a hundred millions for Cuba; but if the game seemed to be up, then secede at once. In a hasty moment, he started his revolution, when there was a stronger man than he to confront him. South Carolina was to all appearance as united then as now. But a few months brought a reaction, and no one was more relieved than Mr. Calhoun that matters stopped where they did. Whether the stirrers of the present excitement, which finds vacillation in the Executive and connivance In the Cabinet, will be wise enough to let it go out in the same way, remains to be seen; but the greatest danger of disunion, would spring from a want of self-possession and spirit in the Free States.



REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.

Collection of Rare and Original Documents and Relations concerning the Discovery and Conquest of America, chiefly from the Spanish Archives. Published in the Original, with Translations, Illustrative Notos, Maps, and Biographical Sketches. By K.G. SQUIER, M.A., F.S.A., etc., etc. New York: Charles B. Norton. 1860.

No. I. Carta dirigida al Key de Espana, por el Licenciado Dr. Don DIEGO GARCIA DE PALACIO, Oydor de la Real Audiencia de Guatemala, Ano 1576. Being a Description of the Ancient Provinces of Guazacapan, Izalco, Cuscatlan, and Chiquimula, in the Audiencia of Guatemala: with an Account of the Languages, Customs, and Religion of their Aboriginal Inhabitants, and a Description of the Ruins of Copan. Square 8vo. pp. 132.

This tract is the first number of a series of Rare and Original Documents, relating to the first settlement of America by the Spaniards, which Mr. Squier proposes to edit and publish. The undertaking is one of interest to all students of American history, and deserves a generous encouragement from them. Its success must depend not on the usual machinery of bookselling so much as on the ready support of individuals.

Mr. Squier's proposed collection resembles in its scope the well-known "Recueil des Documents et Memoires Originaux" of M. Ternaux-Compans. Familiar, by long residence and longer study, as few men are or ever have been, with those portions of our continent of which the Spaniards first took possession, acquainted with their antiquities and former condition, and a curious investigator of their present state and prospects, Mr. Squier is peculiarly fitted to select and edit—with judgment such documents of historical interest as his unrivalled opportunities have enabled him to collect.

The Letter of Palacio is now for the first time published in the original, although it was largely used by Herrera in his "Historia General." "To me," says Mr. Squier, "the relation has a special interest. I have been over a great part of the ground that was traversed by its author, and I am deeply impressed with the accuracy of his descriptions.... His memoir will always stand as one of the best illustrations of an interesting country, as it was at the period immediately succeeding the Conquest." It appears, that, under an order from the Crown, Palacio was deputed to visit a number of the Provinces of Guatemala, and to report upon them, especially in respect to the condition of their native inhabitants. The memoir now published relates chiefly to the territory comprised in the present Republic of San Salvador. It shows Palacio to have been an intelligent observer, and a kindly, well-disposed man,—not free from the superstitions of his time and race, but less credulous than many of his contemporaries. His report is full of matter of value to the historical inquirer, and of entertainment for the general reader. His stories of the manners of the people, and his accounts of the animals of the district are brief, but characteristic. But the most interesting part of his narrative is that which relates to the wonderful ruins of Copan. It is a remarkable fact, stated by Mr. Squier in his Prefatory Note, that these ruins do not appear to have been noticed by any of the chroniclers of the country down to the time of Fuentes, who wrote in 1689, more than one hundred years after Palacio. It was not, indeed, until 1841, when Stephens published his account of them, that an accurate description was given to the world of these most interesting and most puzzling remains of a forgotten people and an unknown antiquity. Even in Palacio's time, only vague traditions existed regarding them. His account has a permanent value from being the earliest known, and as proving that within fifty years after the Spanish Conquest they presented very nearly the same appearance as at present.

Mr. Squier has enriched Talacio's Letter with numerous and important notes. He claims a lenient judgment of his translation, which is printed side by side with the original, on account of the obscurities of the manuscript, and the uncertainty as to the meaning of some of the writer's expressions. But, allowing for these difficulties, we regret that Mr. Squier did not bestow a little more pains on this part of his work. He has fallen into some slight errors, which might easily have been corrected, and he has, as we think, lost something of the spirit of the original by too free a version. The book is one which in typographic beauty would meet the demands of the most exacting bibliographer. We regret the more that the pages are disfigured with misprints, many of which are left uncorrected in the long list of Errata, while others occur in the very list itself.

1. Le Panlatinisme, Confederation Gallo-Latine et Celto-Gauloise, Contre-Testament de Pierre le Grand et Contre-Panslavisme. Paris: Passard, Libraire-Editeur. 1860. 8vo. pp. 260.

2. Testament de Pierre le Grand, ou Plan de Domination Europeenne laisse par lui a ses Descendants et Successeurs au Trone de la Russie. Edition suivie de Notes et de Pieces Justificatives. Paris: Passard. 1860. 8vo.

We seem to be living in an age of pamphleteers. More than ever, both in France and Germany, are pamphlets the order of the day. In Paris alone, the year 1860 has given birth to hundreds of these writings of circumstance,—political squibs, visionary remodellings of European states,—vying with each other for ephemeral celebrity. They fill the windows of the book-shops, and are spread by scores along the stands in the numerous galleries which the Parisian population throngs of evenings. Those issued in the early part of the year have gradually descended from the rank of new publications, and may be found on every quay, spread out, for a few centimes, side by side with old weather-beaten books, odd volumes, refuse of libraries, which book-lovers daily finger through in the hope of finding some pearl, some rarity, in the worthless mass.

Thus we have seen the interminable Rhine question discussed in its every possible phase,—still more that of Italy. Between come the Druses, the Orient, the Turks. Then Italy again, Garibaldi, Naples, the Pope.

To state in general terms the tendency of these rockets of literature, or to arrive at the spirit which seems to pervade them, is not quite so easy as it would seem. They are written by authors of all party-colors, within certain impassable limits prescribed by the parental restrictions of Government. Still it seems to be the old story of soothing; and many a conclusion—as where England is smoothed down by a few flatteries and told that her most natural ally is France, or where Germany is heartily assured that she has nothing to fear, that all the changes proposed are for the good of the Teutonic race—reminds us very strongly of that widely known verse in child-literature,—

"Will you walk into my parlor," etc.

We have before us, however, a work which, from its size and from the labor bestowed upon it, deserves to be ranked above the various productions that have scarcely called forth more than a passing notice in the daily press.

The pamphlet named at the head of this article, and which is but a complement to the volume, is one of the numerous reconstructions and rearrangements of European limits made in the quiet of the study. Were it this alone, it would deserve but little attention. It is more. The author bases his theories upon other than political reasons, having labored hard to establish many debatable points of Ethnography in the interesting notes appended to the work, and which form by far the most remarkable part of it. So we have the question of Races discussed at full length. There is certainly some philological legerdemain, as may be seen from some of the convenient conclusions of the author concerning the Celts and the Gauls. He is full of such paragraphs as this in his argumentation:—

"It has seemed to us proved, that the names, Volces, Volsks, Bolgs, Belgs, Belgians, Welsh, Welchs, Waels, Wuelchs or Walchs, Walls, Walloons, Valais, Valois, Vlaks, Wallachians, Galatians, Galtachs, Galls, Gaels or Caels, Gaelic, Galot, Gallegos, Gaul, and even Ola, Olatz, and Vallus, were but one and the same word under different forms."

The point to be established at all hazards is, that the French, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Belgians, and even the English and Greeks, form but one great family, of one hundred and fifteen million individuals,—the Gallo-Roman. This Neo-Latin world the author would wish combined in one grand confederation, like the States of America. Hence his use of the term Panlatinism, in opposition to the so much debated one of Panslavism. The merit of the work under consideration is, that, though decidedly French in all its views, it condenses in a few paragraphs the present mooted question of race. The idea of Panslavism, or the uniting of eighty millions of Sclavonians under one banner, was, in its origin, republican and federal, whatever it may have become since. Few words have acquired more diametrically opposite meanings, according as they were uttered by radical or conservative. Hence the confusion, hence the many strange phrases to be met with in the periodical press. The author of the present work has sought to throw some light on this important point. Leaving aside his prophetic fears of future shocks with American or Asiatic powers as visionary, we can say for the work that it presents in a clear light the question of races as referring to European politics. The notes are good, and no research seems to have been spared by the writer to establish the position he maintains.

1. Ancient Danish Ballads. Translated from the Originals, by R.C. ALEXANDER PRIOR, M.D. London: Williams & Norgate. Leipzig: R. Hartmann. 1860, 3 vols. pp. lx., 400, 468, 500.

2. Edinburgh Papers. By ROBERT CHAMBERS, F.R.S.E., etc., etc. The Romantic Scottish Ballads, their Epoch and Authorship. W. & R. Chambers: London and Edinburgh. 1859. pp. 40.

3. The Romantic Scottish Ballads, and the Lady Wardlaw Heresy. By NORVAL CLYNE. Aberdeen: A. Brown & Co. 1859. pp. 49.

The expectations raised by the title of Dr. Prior's volumes are in a great measure disappointed by their contents. The book is of value only because it gives for the first time, in English, the substance of a large number of Danish ballads, and points out the relations between them and similar productions in other languages. Of the spirit and life of these remarkable poems a person hitherto unfamiliar with them would find but scanty indication in Dr. Prior's versions. He has merely done them into English in a somewhat mechanical way, and one scarcely gets a better notion of the more imaginative ones in his bald reproductions than of the "Iliad" from the analysis of that poem in the "Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum." It seems to require almost as peculiar powers to translate an old ballad as to write a new one.

Dr. Prior complains of Jamieson, that his versions from the Danish are done in a broad Scotch dialect, almost as unintelligible to ordinary readers as the language of which they profess to give the meaning. But if any one compare Jamieson's rendering of "The Buried Mother" with Dr. Prior's, (Prior, vol. i. p. 368,) he will, we think, see cause to regret that Jamieson did not do what Dr. Prior has attempted, and that he has not left us a greater number of translations equally good. Jamieson's fault was not so much his broad Scotch as his over-fondness for archaisms, sometimes of mere spelling, which give rise to a needless obscurity. We think that he was theoretically right; but he should not have pushed his theory to the extent of puzzling the reader, where his aim was to give only that air of strangeness which allures the fancy. As respects ballads dealing with the supernatural, Jamieson's notion of the duty of a translator was certainly the true one. There is something almost ludicrous in a ghost talking the ordinary conversational language of every-day life, which might, to be sure, serve very well for some of Jung Stilling's spirits in bottle-green hunting-coats with brass buttons, but hardly for the majesty of buried Denmark. Dr. Prior may claim that his renderings are more literal; but it is the vice of literal translation, that the phrases of one language, if exactly reproduced in another, while they may have the same sense, convey a wholly different impression to the imagination. It is to such cases that the Italian proverb, Tradutiore traditore, applies. Dryden, citing approvingly Denham's verses to Fanshawe,

"They but preserve his ashes, thou his flame, True to his sense, but truer to his fame,"

says, with his usual pithiness, "Too faithfully is indeed pedantically."

In Dr. Prior's version of the "The Buried Mother" we find a case precisely in point. The Stepmother says to the poor Orphans,—

"In blind-house shall ye lie all night."

Jamieson gives it,—

"Says, 'Ye sall ligg i' the mirk all night.'"

Now, the object in all translations of ballad-poetry being to reproduce simple and downright phrases with equal simplicity and force, to give us the same effects and not the same words, we vastly prefer Jamieson's verse to Dr. Prior's, in spite of the affectation of ligg for lie. If blind-house be the equivalent for dark in the original, Dr. Prior should have told us so in a note, giving us the stronger (because simpler) English word in the text. He might as well write hand-shoe for glove, in a translation from the German. Elsewhere Jamieson errs in preferring groff to great, and the more that groff means more properly coarse than large.

The following couplet is also from Dr. Prior's translation of this ballad:—

"They cried one evening till the sound Their mother heard beneath the ground."

Jamieson has it,—

"'Twas lang i' the night, and the bairnies grat [cried], Their mither she under the mools [mould] heard that."

Again, Dr. Prior gives us,—

"Her eldest daughter then she sped To fetch Child Dyring out of bed";

instead of Jamieson's—

"Till her eldest dochter syne [then] said she, 'Ye bid Child Dyring come here to me.'"

And, still worse,—

"Out from their chest she stretch'd her bones And rent her way through earth and stones";

where Jamieson is not only more literal, but more forcible,—

"Wi' her banes sae stark a bowt she gae Hath riven both wall and marble gray."

The original is better than either,—

"She upward heaved her mighty bones And rived both wall and gray marble-stones."

Jamieson had the true instinct of a translator, though his own verses defy the stanchest reader; and, reasoning by analogy, Dr. Prior's translations are so bad that he ought to be capable of very good original poetry.

However, with all its defects, Dr. Prior's book is of value for the information it gives. Under the dead ribs of his translations the reader familiar with old ballads can create a life for himself, and can form some conception of the spirit and strength of the originals.

Mr. Chambers's pamphlet is one that we should hardly have expected from the editor of the best collection of ballads in the language before that of Professor Child. Directly in the teeth of all probability, he attributes the bulk of the romantic Scottish ballads to Lady Wardlaw, who wrote "Hardyknute." This is one of those theories (like that of Lord Bacon being the author of Shakspeare's plays) which cannot be argued, but which every one familiar with the subject challenges peremptorily. Without going very deeply into the matter, Mr. Norval Clyne has put in a clever plea in arrest of judgment. The truth is, that, in the present state of our knowledge, "Hardyknute" could not pass muster as an antique better than "Vortigern," or the poems of "Master Rowley"; and the notion that Lady Wardlaw could have written "Sir Patrick Spens" will not hold water better than a sieve, when we consider how hopelessly inferior are the imitations of old ballads written by Scott, with fifty times her familiarity with the originals, and a man of genius besides.

* * * * *

Miss Gilbert's Career. An American Story. By J.G. HOLLAND. New York: Charles Scribner.

There is scarcely a more hazardous experiment for any novelist than "a novel with a purpose." If the moral does not run away with the story, it is in most cases only because the author's lucky star has made the moral too feeble, in spite of his efforts, to do that or anything else,—in other words, because his book has fortunately defeated its own object. That any clever girl will be kept from the perilous paths of authorship by the warnings, however strongly inculcated, of any novel whatever, we are not prepared to assert: we venture to say no one will be deterred by the history of Miss Fanny Gilbert. If a woman's happiness is to be found in love, and not in fame, the question nevertheless recurs,—What is she to do before the love comes? Our author only shows that his heroine's restless unhappiness was owing to her having to wait for her heart to be awakened: to prove what he desires to prove, he should demonstrate that it was owing to her having adopted authorship during the time of her waiting. During that time, Miss Fanny Gilbert wrote novels, and was unhappy: would she have been happy, if, in the interval, she had chronicled small beer? And even admitting that her authorship caused her unhappiness, we can scarcely believe Dr. Holland prepared to say, after having allowed his heroine a real talent, as one condition of the problem, that she ought to have concealed that talent in the decorous napkin of silence.

What the moral loses the story gains. Our author has lost nothing of that genuine love of Nature, of that quick perception of the comic element in men and things, of that delightful freshness and liveliness, which threw such a charm about the former writings of Timothy Titcomb. No story can be pronounced a failure which has vivacity and interest; and the volume before us adds to vivacity and interest vigorous sketches of character and scenery, droll conversation and incidents, a frequent and kindly humor, and, underlying all, a true, earnest purpose, which claims not only approval for the author, but respect for the man.

Dr. Holland describes admirably whatever he has himself seen. Unfortunately, he has not seen his hero or his heroine. About Arthur Blague there is nothing real or distinctive. There is a life and reality in many scenes of his experience; but the central figure of the group stands conventional and inanimate,—the ordinary walking gentleman of the stage,—the stereo-typed hero of the novel,—hero only by virtue of his finally marrying the heroine. The one merit of the delineation—that it is a portrait of a delicate Christian gentleman—is sadly marred by the vulgar smartness of Arthur's repartees with the scampish New-Yorker. A victory in such a contest was by no means necessary to vindicate the hero's superiority; and if he so far forgot himself as to engage at all in the degrading warfare, a defeat would have been more creditable. His retorts are undeniably smart; but "smartness" is the attribute of a "fellow," not of a "gentleman."

Miss Fanny Gilbert is a warm-hearted, high-spirited girl, clever and ambitious, and disposed at first to look contemptuously on poor Arthur, whose humble labors appear in most dingy and sordid colors, when contrasted with the fair Fanny's gorgeous dreams. She is not a very fascinating nor a very real heroine; but she is better than most of our heroines, and some of her experiences are very pleasantly told.

Arthur's miserly employer is very good, and his shrewd friend Cheek is capitally drawn. It was a peculiarly happy thought to make Cheek into a railroad-conductor, and finally into a "gentlemanly and efficient" superintendent. Nothing else would have suited his character half so well. The business-like religionists, Moustache and Breastpin, are not so good as the author meant to have them. The young bookseller is very well done, and Dr. Gilbert very natural and lifelike. The story of the Doctor's awakened interest in his daughter's success, and of his journey to New York, is very well told. We like especially the lesson which the triumphant authoress, in the full glory of her fame, receives, on finding that her father sets a higher value on his son's least achievement than on his daughter's highest success,—that, however a woman may deserve a man's place, the world will never award it to her. It would have been more effective, however, if Dr. Holland had not been quite so anxious that no one should fail to perceive the moral,—if he had had a little more confidence in his readers. But we can give unqualified praise to the scene between Miss Gilbert and the little crippled boy, which is one of the most beautiful and touching pictures ever yet presented.

It is a real satisfaction to find a book which one may venture to criticize fearlessly, knowing that it will bear the test,—especially at present, when one needs be as chary of trying any book fairly as Don Quixote was of proving his unlucky helmet. And an additional satisfaction is caused by the fact, that the book, not only in origin, but in essence, is American from cover to cover.



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Martin's Natural History. Translated from the German by Sarah A. Myers. First Series. New York. Phinney, Blakeman, & Mason. 12mo. pp. 404. $1.50.

Poems, Sacred and Secular. By Rev. William Croswell, D.D. Edited, with a Memoir, by Rev. A. Cleveland Coxe, D.D. Boston. Ticknor & Fields. 16mo. pp. 273, xlviii. $1.00.

Selections from the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. For Families and Schools. By Rev. D.G. Haskins. Boston. E.P. Dutton & Co. 12mo. pp. 440. $1.25.

THE END

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