Choice Specimens of American Literature, And Literary Reader - Being Selections from the Chief American Writers
by Benj. N. Martin
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[Footnote 51: A native of Massachusetts: a vigorous thinker and speaker on the great moral and political topics of the day, and the most eloquent of the Anti-Slavery leaders.]

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From His "Speeches, Lectures." &c.


Above the lust of gold, pure in private life, generous in the use of his power, it was against such a man that Napoleon sent his army, giving to General Leclerc,—the husband of his beautiful sister Pauline,—thirty thousand of his best troops, with orders to re-introduce slavery. Among these soldiers came all of Toussaint's old mulatto rivals and foes.

* * * * *

Mounting his horse, and riding to the eastern end of the island, Samana, he looked out on a sight such as no native had ever seen before. Sixty ships of the line, crowded by the best soldiers of Europe, rounded the point. They were soldiers who had never yet met an equal, whose tread, like Caesar's, had shaken Europe,—soldiers who had scaled the Pyramids, and planted the French banners on the walls of Rome. He looked a moment, counted the flotilla, let the reins fall on the neck of his horse, and, turning to Christophe, exclaimed: "All France is come to Hayti; they can only come to make us slaves; and we are lost." He then recognized the only mistake of his life,—his confidence in Bonaparte, which had led him to disband his army. Returning to the hills, he issued the only proclamation which bears his name and breathes vengeance: "My children, France comes to make us slaves. God gave us liberty; France has no right to take it away. Burn the cities, destroy the harvests, tear up the roads with cannon, poison the wells, show the white man the hell he comes to make"; and he was obeyed. When the great William of Orange saw Louis XIV. cover Holland with troops, he said, "Break down the dykes, give Holland back to ocean"; and Europe said, "Sublime!" When Alexander saw the armies of France descend upon Russia, he said: "Burn Moscow, starve back the invaders"; and Europe said, "Sublime!" This black saw all Europe marshalled to crush him, and gave to his people the same heroic example of defiance.

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Thomas Starr King, 1824-1864. (Manual, p. 532.)

From "Patriotism and other Papers."


If we go to Nature for our morals, we shall learn the necessity of perfection in the smallest act. Infinite skill is not exhausted nor concentrated in the structure of a firmament, in drawing the orbit of a planet, in laying the strata of the earth, in rearing the mountain cone. The care for the bursting flower is as wise as the forces displayed in the rolling star; the smallest leaf that falls and dies unnoticed in the forest is wrought with a beauty as exquisite as the skill displayed in the sturdy oak. All the wisdom of Nature is compressed and revealed in the sting of the bee; and the pride of human art is mocked by the subtile mechanism and cunning structure of a fly's foot and wing. However minute the task, it reveals the polish of perfection. Omnipotent skill is stamped on the infinitely small, as on the infinitely great. It is a moral stenography like this which we need in daily life.... The lesson of Christianity, then, urged and enforced by Nature, is the inestimable worth of common duties, as manifesting the greatest principles; it bids us attain perfection, not by striving to do dazzling deeds, but by making our experience divine; it tells us that the Christian hero will ennoble the humblest field of labor; that nothing is mean which can be performed as duty; but that religious virtue, like the touch of Midas, converts the humblest call of conscience into spiritual gold.

The Greek philosopher, Plato, has left an instructive and beautiful poetic picture of the judgment of souls, when they had been collected from the regions of temporary bliss and pain, and suffered once more to return to the duties and pleasures of earthly life. The spirits advanced by lot, to make their choice of the condition and form under which they should re-enter the world. The dazzling and showy fortunes, the lives of kings and warriors and statesmen were soon exhausted; and the spirit of Ulysses, who had been the wisest prince among all the Greeks, came last to choose. He advanced with sorrow, fearing that his favorite condition had been selected by some more fortunate soul who had gone before him. But, to his surprise and pleasure, Ulysses found that the only life which had not been chosen was the lot of an obscure and private man, with its humble cares and quiet joys; the lot which he, the wisest, would have selected, had his turn come first; the life for which he had longed, since he had felt the folly and meanness of station, wealth, and power....



William Wirt, 1772-1834. (Manual, pp. 487, 490.)

From the "Life of Patrick Henry."


I cannot learn that he gave in his youth any evidence of that precocity which sometimes distinguishes uncommon genius. His companions recollect no instance of premature wit, no striking sentiment, no flash of fancy, no remarkable beauty or strength of expression, and no indication however slight, either of that impassioned love of liberty, or of that adventurous daring and intrepidity, which marked so strongly his future character. So far was he indeed from exhibiting any one prognostic of this greatness, that every omen foretold a life at best, of mediocrity, if not of insignificance. His person is represented as having been coarse, his manners uncommonly awkward, his dress slovenly, his conversation very plain, his aversion to study invincible, and his faculties almost entirely benumbed by indolence. No persuasion could bring him either to read or to work. On the contrary, he ran wild in the forest like one of the Aborigines of the country, and divided his life between the dissipation and uproar of the chase, and the languor of inaction.

His propensity to observe and comment upon the human character, was, so far as I can learn, the only circumstance which distinguished him advantageously from his youthful companions. This propensity seems to have been born with him, and to have exerted itself instinctively, the moment that a new subject was presented to his view. Its action was incessant, and it became at length almost the only intellectual exercise in which he seemed to take delight. To this cause, may be traced that consummate knowledge of the human heart which he finally attained, and which enabled him when he came upon the public stage, to touch the springs of passion with a master hand, and to control the resolutions and decisions of his hearers with a power almost more than mortal.

From what has been already stated, it will be seen how little education had to do with the formation of this great man's mind. He was indeed a mere child of nature, and nature seems to have been too proud and too jealous of her work, to permit it to be touched by the hand of art. She gave him Shakespeare's genius, and bade him, like Shakespeare, to depend on that alone. Let not the youthful reader, however, deduce from the example of Mr. Henry, an argument in favor of indolence, and the contempt of study. Let him remember that the powers which surmounted the disadvantage of those early habits, were such as very rarely appear upon this earth. Let him remember, too, how long the genius even of Mr. Henry was kept down, and hidden from the public view, by the sorcery of those pernicious habits; through what years of poverty and wretchedness they doomed him to struggle; and let him remember, that at length, when in the zenith of his glory. Mr. Henry himself, had frequent occasions to deplore the consequences of his early neglect of literature, and to bewail the ghosts of his departed hours.

* * * * *

From "Eulogium on Adams and Jefferson."


Approaching the house on the east, the visitor instinctively paused, to cast around one thrilling glance at this magnificent panorama, and then passed to the vestibule, where, if he had not been previously informed, he would immediately perceive that he was entering the house of no common man. In the spacious and lofty hall which opens before him, he marks no tawdry and unmeaning ornaments, but before, on the right, on the left, all around, the eye is struck and gratified with objects of science and taste, so classed and arranged as to produce their finest effect. On one side, specimens of sculpture set out in such order as to exhibit ... the historical progress of that art, from the first rude attempts of the aborigines of our country up to that exquisite and finished bust of the great patriot himself, from the master-hand of Ceracchi. On the other side, the visitor sees displayed a vast collection of specimens of Indian art—their paintings, weapons, ornaments, and manufactures; on another, an array of the fossil productions of our country, mineral and animal, the polished remains of those colossal monsters that once trod our forests, and are no more; and a variegated display of the branching honors of those "monarchs of the waste," that still people the wilds of the American continent.

From this hall he was ushered into a noble saloon, from which the glorious landscape of the west again bursts upon his view, and which within is hung thick around with the finest productions of the pencil—historical paintings of the most striking subjects from all countries and all ages, the portraits of distinguished men and patriots both of Europe and America, and medallions and engravings in endless profusion.

While the visitor was yet lost in the contemplation of these treasures of the arts and sciences, he was startled by the approach of a strong and sprightly step; and, turning with instinctive reverence to the door of entrance, he was met by the tall, and animated, and stately figure of the patriot himself, his countenance beaming with intelligence and benignity, and his outstretched hand, with its strong and cordial pressure, confirming the courteous welcome of his lips; and then came that charm of manner and conversation that passes all description—so cheerful, so unassuming, so free, and easy, and frank, and kind, and gay, that even the young, and overawed, and embarrassed visitor at once forgot his fears, and felt himself by the side of an old and familiar friend.

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Timothy Flint, 1780-1840. (Manual, p. 490.)

From "Recollections of the Mississippi Valley."


Three is no wonder that the way of life which the boatman, lead, in turn extremely indolent and extremely laborious, for days together requiring little or no effort, and attended with no danger, and then on a sudden laborious and hazardous beyond the Atlantic navigation, generally plentiful as it regards food, and always so as it regards whiskey, should always have seductions that prove irresistible to the young people that live near the banks of the river. The boats float by their dwellings on beautiful spring mornings, when the verdant forest, the mild and delicious temperature of the air, the delightful azure of the sky of this country, the fine bottom on the one hand, and the romantic bluff on the other, the broad, and smooth stream rolling calmly down through the forest, and floating the boat gently forward,—all these circumstances harmonize in the excited youthful imagination. The boatmen are dancing to the violin on the deck of their boat. They scatter their wit among the girls on the shore, who come down to the water's edge to see the pageant pass. The boat glides on until it disappears behind a point of wood; at this moment, perhaps, the bugle, with which all the boats are provided, strikes up its note in the distance, over the water. These scenes, and these notes, echoing from the bluffs of the beautiful Ohio, have a charm for the imagination, which, although I have heard a thousand times repeated, and at all hours, and in all positions, is even to me always new, and always delightful. No wonder that to the young, who are reared in these remote regions, with that restless curiosity which is fostered by solitude and silence, who witness scenes like these so frequently,—no wonder that the severe and unremitting labors of agriculture, performed directly in the view of such scenes, should become tasteless and irksome.

* * * * *

Washington Irving, 1783-1839. (Manual, pp. 478, 498.)

From "Knickerbocker's History of New York."


A history of New York, from the beginning of the world to the end of the Dutch dynasty,... being the only authentic history of the times that ever hath been or ever will be published, by Diedrick Knickerbocker.... Book I., chap. i. Description of the World.... Book II., chap. i.... Also of Master Hendrick Hudson, his discovery of a strange country.... Chap. vii. How the people of Pavonia migrated from Communipaw to the Island of Manhattan.... Chap. ix. How the city of New Amsterdam waxed great under the protection of St. Nicholas, and the absence of laws and statutes. Book III., chap. iii. How the town of New Amsterdam arose out of mud, and came to be marvellously polished and polite, together with a picture of the manners of our great-great-grandfathers.... Book IV., chap. vi. Projects of William the Testy for increasing the currency; he is outwitted by the Yankees. The great Oyster War.... Book V., chap. viii. How the Yankee crusade against the New Netherlands was baffled by the sudden outbreak of witchcraft among the people of the East ... Book VII., chap. ii. How Peter Stuyvesant labored to civilize the community. How he was a great promoter of holydays. How he instituted kissing on New Year's Day.... Chap. iii. How troubles thicken on the province. How it is threatened by the Helderbergers,—the Merrylanders, and the Giants of the Susquehanna.

* * * * *


First of all came the Van Bummels, who inhabit the pleasant borders of the Bronx. These were short, fat men, wearing exceeding large trunk-breeches, and are renowned for feats of the trencher; they were the first inventors of suppawn, or mush and milk.... Lastly came the Knickerbockers, of the great town of Schahticoke, where the folks lay stones upon the houses in windy weather, lest they should be blown away. These derive their name, as some say, from Knicker, to shake, and Beker, a goblet, indicating thereby that they were sturdy tosspots of yore; but in truth, it was derived from Knicker, to nod, and Bocken, books, plainly meaning that they were great nodders or dozers over books; from them did descend the writer of this History.

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From the "Tales of a Traveller."


A part of the church-yard is shaded by large trees. Under one of them my mother lay buried. You have no doubt thought me a light, heartless being. I thought myself so; but there are moments of adversity which let us into some feelings of our nature to which we might otherwise remain perpetual strangers.

I sought my mother's grave: the weeds were already matted over it, and the tombstone was half hid among nettles. I cleared them away, and they stung my hands; but I was heedless of the pain, for my heart ached too severely. I sat down on the grave, and read, over and over again, the epitaph on the stone.

It was simple,—but it was true. I had written it myself, I had tried to write a poetical epitaph, but in vain; my feelings refused to utter themselves in rhyme. My heart had gradually been filling during my lonely wanderings; it was now charged to the brim, and overflowed, I sunk upon the grave, and buried my face in the tall grass, and wept like a child. Yes, I wept in manhood upon the grave, as I had in infancy upon the bosom, of my mother. Alas! how little do we appreciate a mother's tenderness while living! how heedless are we in youth of all her anxieties and kindness! But when she is dead and gone; when the cares and coldness of the world come withering to our hearts; when we find how hard it is to find true sympathy;—how few love us for ourselves; how few will befriend us in our misfortunes—then it is that we think of the mother we have lost. It is true I had always loved my mother, even in my most heedless days; but I felt how inconsiderate and ineffectual had been my love. My heart melted as I retraced the days of infancy, when I was led by a mother's hand, and rocked to sleep in a mother's arms, and was without care or sorrow. "O my mother!" exclaimed I, burying my face again in the grass of the grave, "O that I were once more by your side; sleeping never to wake again on the cares and troubles of this world."

I am not naturally of a morbid temperament, and the violence of my emotion gradually exhausted itself. It was a hearty, honest, natural discharge of grief which had been slowly accumulating, and gave me wonderful relief. I rose from the grave as if I had been offering up a sacrifice, and I felt as if that sacrifice had been accepted.

I sat down again on the grass, and plucked one by one the weeds from her grave: the tears trickled more slowly down my cheeks, and ceased to be bitter. It was a comfort to think that she had died before sorrow and poverty came upon her child, and all his great expectations were blasted.

I leaned my cheek upon my hand, and looked upon the landscape. Its quiet beauty soothed me. The whistle of a peasant from an adjoining field came cheerily to my ear. I seemed to respire hope and comfort with the free air that whispered through the leaves, and played lightly with my hair, and dried the tears upon my cheek. A lark, rising from the field before me, and leaving as it were a stream of song behind him as he rose, lifted my fancy with him. He hovered in the air just above the place where the towers of Warwick castle marked the horizon, and seemed as if fluttering with delight at his own melody. "Surely," thought I, "if there were such a thing as a transmigration of souls, this might be taken for some poet let loose from earth, but still revelling in song, and carolling about fair fields and lordly towers."

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From "The Life and Voyages of Columbus."


The arrival of Columbus at Cadiz, a prisoner, and in chains, produced almost as great a sensation as his triumphant return from his first voyage. It was one of those striking and obvious facts, which speak to the feelings of the multitude, and preclude the necessity of reflection. No one stopped to inquire into the case. It was sufficient to be told that Columbus was brought home in irons from the world he had discovered. A general burst of indignation arose in Cadiz, and its neighboring city, Seville, which was immediately echoed throughout all Spain.... However Ferdinand might have secretly felt disposed towards Columbus, the momentary tide of public feeling was not to be resisted. He joined with his generous queen in her reprobation of the treatment of the admiral, and both sovereigns hastened to give evidence to the world, that his imprisonment had been without their authority, and contrary to their wishes.

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He appeared at court in Granada, on the 17th of December, not as a man ruined and disgraced, but richly dressed, and attended by an honorable retinue. He was received by their majesties with unqualified favor and distinction. When the queen beheld this venerable man approach, and thought on all that he had deserved, and all that he had suffered, she was moved to tears. Columbus had borne up firmly against the rude conflicts of the world; he had endured with lofty scorn the injuries and insults of ignoble men; but he possessed strong and quick sensibility. When he found himself thus kindly received by his sovereigns, and beheld tears in the benign eyes of Isabella, his long-suppressed feelings burst forth. He threw himself upon his knees, and for some time could not utter a word for the violence of his tears and sobbings.

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From Wolfert's Roost.


Every now and then the world is visited by one of these delusive seasons, when "the credit system," as it is called, expands to full luxuriance; every body trusts every body; a bad debt is a thing unheard of; the broad way to certain and sudden wealth lies plain and open, and men are tempted to dash forward boldly, from the facility of borrowing.

Promissory notes, interchanged between scheming individuals, are liberally discounted at the banks, which become so many mints to coin words into cash; and as the supply of words is inexhaustible, it may readily be supposed what a vast amount of promissory capital is soon in circulation. Every one now talks in thousands; nothing is heard but gigantic operations in trade, great purchases and sales of real property, and immense sums made at every transfer. All, to be sure, as yet exists in promise; but the believer in promises calculates the aggregate as solid capital, and falls back in amazement at the amount of public wealth, "the unexampled state of public prosperity!"

Now is the time for speculative and dreaming or designing men. They relate their dreams and projects to the ignorant and credulous, dazzle them with golden visions, and set them maddening after shadows. The example of one stimulates another; speculation rises on speculation; bubble rises on bubble; every one helps with his breath to swell the windy superstructure, and admires and wonders at the magnitude of the inflation he has contributed to produce.

Speculation is the romance of trade, and casts contempt upon all its sober realities. It renders the stock-jobber a magician, and the exchange a region of enchantment. It elevates the merchant into a kind of Knight-errant, or rather a commercial Quixote. The slow but sure gains of snug percentage become despicable in his eyes: no "operation" is thought worthy of attention, that does not double or treble the investment. No business is worth following, that does not promise an immediate fortune. As he sits musing over his ledger, with pen behind his ear, he is like La Mancha's hero in his study, dreaming over his books of chivalry. His dusty counting-house fades before his eyes, or changes into a Spanish mine; he gropes after diamonds, or dives after pearls. The subterranean garden of Aladdin is nothing to the realms of wealth that break upon his imagination.

When a man of business, therefore, hears on every side rumors of fortunes suddenly acquired; when he finds banks liberal, and brokers busy; when he sees adventurers flush of paper capital, and full of scheme and enterprise; when he perceives a greater disposition to buy than to sell; when trade overflows its accustomed channels, and deluges the country; when he hears of new regions of commercial adventure, of distant marts and distant mines, swallowing merchandise and disgorging gold; when he finds joint stock companies of all kinds forming; railroads, canals, and locomotive engines, springing up on every side; when idlers suddenly become men of business, and dash into the game of commerce as they would into the hazards of the faro table; when he beholds the streets glittering with new equipages, palaces conjured up by the magic of speculation; tradesmen flushed with sudden success, and vying with each other in ostentatious expense; in a word, when he hears the whole community joining in the theme of "unexampled prosperity." let him look upon the whole as a "weather breeder," and prepare for the impending storm.

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From The Life of Washington.


The proud spirit of Braddock was broken by his defeat. He remained silent the first evening after the battle, only ejaculating at night, "Who would have thought it!" He was equally silent the following day; yet hope still seemed to linger in his breast, from another ejaculation: "We shall better know how to deal with them another time!"

He was grateful for the attentions paid to him by Captain Stewart and Washington, and more than once, it is said, expressed his admiration of the gallantry displayed by the Virginians in the action. It is said, moreover, that in his last moments, he apologized to Washington for the petulance with which he had rejected his advice, and bequeathed to him his favorite charger and his faithful servant, Bishop, who had helped to convey him from the field.

Some of these facts, it is true, rest on tradition, yet we are willing to believe them, as they impart a gleam of just and generous feeling to his closing scene. He died on the night of the 13th, at the Great Meadows, the place of Washington's discomfiture in the preceding year. His obsequies were performed before break of day. The chaplain having been wounded, Washington read the funeral service. All was done in sadness, and without parade, so as not to attract the attention of lurking savages, who might discover and outrage his grave. It is doubtful even whether a volley was fired over it, that last military honor which he had recently paid to the remains of an Indian warrior. The place of his sepulture, however, is still known, and pointed out.

Reproach spared him not, even when in his grave. The failure of the expedition was attributed both in England and America, to his obstinacy, his technical pedantry, and his military conceit. He had been continually warned to be on his guard against ambush and surprise, but without avail. Had he taken the advice urged on him by Washington and others, to employ scouting parties of Indians and rangers, he would never have been so signally surprised and defeated.

Still his dauntless conduct on the field of battle shows him to have been a man of fearless spirit; and he was universally allowed to be an accomplished disciplinarian. His melancholy end, too, disarms censure of its asperity. Whatever may have been his faults and errors, he in a manner expiated them by the hardest lot that can befall a brave soldier, ambitious of renown—an unhonored grave in a strange land: a memory clouded by misfortune, and a name for ever coupled with defeat.

* * * * *


The committee having made their report, the baron's proffered services were accepted with a vote of thanks for his disinterestedness, and he was ordered to join the army of Valley Forge. That army, in its ragged condition and squalid quarters, presented a sorry aspect to a strict disciplinarian from Germany, accustomed to the order and appointments of European camps; and the baron often declared, that under such circumstances no army in Europe could be kept together for a single month. The liberal mind of Steuben, however, made every allowance; and Washington soon found in him a consummate soldier, free from pedantry or pretension.

* * * * *

For a time, there was nothing but drills throughout the camp, then gradually came evolutions of every kind. The officers were schooled as well as the men. The troops, says a person who was present in the camp, were paraded in a single line with shouldered arms; every officer in his place. The baron passed in front, then took the musket of each soldier in hand, to see whether it was clean and well polished, and examined whether the men's accoutrements were in good order.

He was sadly worried for a time with the militia; especially when any manoeuvre was to be performed. The men blundered in their exercise; the baron blundered in his English; his French and German were of no avail; he lost his temper, which was rather warm; swore in all three languages at once, which made the matter worse, and at length called his aide to his assistance, to help him curse the blockheads as it was pretended—but no doubt to explain the manoeuvre.

Still the grand marshal of the court of Hohenzollern mingled with the veteran soldier of Frederick, and tempered his occasional bursts of impatience; and he had a kind generous heart, that soon made him a favorite with the men. His discipline extended to their comforts. He inquired into their treatment by the officers. He examined into the doctor's reports; visited the sick; and saw that they were well lodged and attended.

He was an example, too, of the regularity and system he exacted. One of the most alert and indefatigable men in the camp; up at day-break if not before, whenever there were to be any important manoeuvres, he took his cup of coffee and smoked his pipe while his servant dressed his hair, and by sunrise he was in the saddle, equipped at all points, with the star of his order of knighthood glittering on his breast, and was off to the parade, alone, if his suite were not ready to attend him.

The strong good sense of the baron was evinced in the manner in which he adapted his tactics to the nature of the army and the situation of the country, instead of adhering with bigotry to the systems of Europe. His instructions were appreciated by all. The officers received them gladly and conformed to them. The men soon became active and adroit. The army gradually acquired a proper organization, and began to operate, like a great machine; and Washington found in the baron an intelligent, disinterested, truthful coadjutor, well worthy of the badge he wore of the Order of Fidelity.

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Richard Henry Wilde, 1789-1847. (Manual, pp. 501, 521.)

From "Conjectures concerning Torquato Tasso."


There is scarcely any poet whose life excites a more profound and melancholy interest than that of Torquato Tasso.

His short and brilliant career of glory captivates the imagination, while the heart is deeply affected by his subsequent misfortunes. Greater fame and greater misery have seldom been the lot of man, and a few brief years sufficed for each extreme.

An exile even in his boyhood, the proscription and confiscation suffered by his father deprived him of home and patrimony. Honor and love, and the favor of princes, and enthusiastic praise, dazzled his youth. Envy, malice, and treachery, tedious imprisonment and imputed madness, insult, poverty, and persecution, clouded his manhood. The evening of his days was saddened by a troubled spirit, want, sickness, bitter memories, and deluded hopes; and when at length a transient gleam of sunshine fell upon his prospects, death substituted the immortal for the laurel crown.

Mystery adds its fascination to his story. The causes of his imprisonment are hidden in obscurity; it is still disputed whether he was insane or not.

Few points of literary history, therefore, are more interesting, or more obscure, than the love, the madness, and the imprisonment of Tasso.

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George Ticknor, 1791-1871. (Manual, p. 502.)

From "The History of Spanish Literature."


His purpose in writing the Don Quixote has sometimes been enlarged by the ingenuity of a refined criticism, until it has been made to embrace the whole of the endless contrast between the poetical and the prosaic in our natures,—between heroism and generosity on one side, as if they were mere illusions, and a cold selfishness on the other, as if it were the truth and reality of life. But this is a metaphysical conclusion drawn from views of the work at once imperfect and exaggerated; a conclusion contrary to the spirit of the age, which was not given to a satire so philosophical and generalizing, and contrary to the character of Cervantes himself, as we follow it from the time when he first became a soldier, through all his trials in Algiers, and down to the moment when his warm and trusting heart dictated the Dedication of "Persiles and Sigismunda" to the Count de Lemos. His whole spirit, indeed, seems rather to have been filled with a cheerful confidence in human virtue, and his whole bearing in life seems to have been a contradiction to that discouraging and saddening scorn for whatever is elevated and generous, which such an interpretation of the Don Quixote necessarily implies.

* * * * *

At the very beginning of the work, he announces it to be his sole purpose to break down the vogue and authority of books of chivalry, and at the end of the whole he declares anew in his own person, that "he had no other desire than to render abhorred of men the false and absurd stories contained in books of chivalry;" exulting in his success as an achievement of no small moment. And such, in fact, it was, for we have abundant proof that the fanaticism for these romances was so great in Spain, during the sixteenth century, as to have become matter of alarm to the more judicious....

To destroy a passion that had struck its roots so deeply in the character of all classes of men, to break up the only reading which at that time could be considered widely popular and fashionable, was certainly a bold undertaking, and one that marks anything rather than a scornful or broken spirit, or a want of faith in what is most to be valued in our common nature. The great wonder is, that Cervantes succeeded. But that he did there is no question. No book of chivalry was written after the appearance of Don Quixote, in 1605; and from the same date, even those already enjoying the greatest favor ceased, with one or two unimportant exceptions, to be reprinted; so that, from that time to the present, they have been constantly disappearing, until they are now among the rarest of literary curiosities—a solitary instance of the power of genius to destroy, by a single well-timed blow, an entire department, and that, too, a flourishing and favored one, in the literature of a great and proud nation.

The general plan Cervantes adopted to accomplish this object, without, perhaps, foreseeing its whole course, and still less all its results, was simple as well as original. In 1605 he published the first part of Don Quixote, in which a country gentleman of La Mancha, full of genuine Castilian honor and enthusiasm, gentle and dignified in his character, trusted by his friends, and loved by his dependants—is represented as so completely crazed by long reading the most famous books of chivalry, that he believes them to be true, and feels himself called on to become the impossible knight-errant they describe,—nay, actually goes forth, into the world to defend, the oppressed and avenge the injured, like the heroes of his romances.

* * * * *

James Hall, 1793-1868. (Manual, p. 510.)

From "Statistics of the West."


Imagine a stream of a mile in width, whose waters are as transparent as those of the mountain spring, flowing over beds of rock or gravel. Fancy the prairie commencing at the water's edge—a natural meadow covered with grass and flowers, rising, with a gentle slope, for miles, so that in the vast panorama thousands of acres are exposed to the eye. The prospect is bounded by a range of low hills, which sometimes approach the river, and again recede, and whose summits, which are seen gently waving along the horizon, form the level of the adjacent country.... The timber is scattered in groves and strips, the whole country being one vast illimitable prairie, ornamented by small collections of trees.... But more often we see the single tree, without a companion near, or the little clump, composed of a few dozen oaks or elms; and not unfrequently, hundreds of acres embellished with a kind of open woodland, and exhibiting the appearance of a splendid park, decorated with skill and care by the hand of taste. Here we behold the beautiful lawn enriched with flowers, and studded with trees, which are so dispersed about as not to intercept the prospect, standing singly, so as not to shade the ground, and occasionally collected in clusters, while now and then the shade deepens into the gloom of the forest, or opens into long vistas and spacious plains, destitute of tree or shrub.

When the eye roves off from the green plain, to the groves, or points of timber, these also are found ... robed in the most attractive hues. The rich undergrowth is in full bloom. The red-bud, the dog-wood, the crab-apple, the wild plum, the cherry, the wild rose, are abundant in all the rich lands; and the grape-vine, though its blossom is unseen, fills the air with fragrance. The variety of the wild fruit and flowering shrubs is so great, and such the profusion of the blossoms with which they are bowed down, that the eye is regaled almost to satiety.

The gayety of the prairie, its embellishments, and the absence of the gloom and savage wildness of the forest, all contribute to dispel the feeling of lonesomeness which usually creeps over the mind of the solitary traveler in the wilderness. Though he may not see a house nor a human being, and is conscious that he is far from the habitations of men, he can scarcely divest himself of the idea that he is traveling through scenes embellished by the hand of art. The flowers so fragile, so delicate, and so ornamental, seem to have been tastefully disposed to adorn the scene. The groves and clumps of trees appear to have been scattered over the lawn to beautify the landscape; and it is not easy to avoid that illusion of the fancy which persuades the beholder, that such scenery has been created to gratify the refined taste of civilized man.

* * * * *

Henry R. Schoolcraft, 1793-1864. (Manual, p. 504.)

From "Oneota."


Of all the existing branches of the Algonquin stock in America, this extensive and populous tribe appears to have the strongest claims to intellectual distinction, on the score of their traditions, so far at least, as the present state of our inquiries extends. They possess in their curious fictitious legends and lodge-tales, a varied and exhaustless fund of tradition, which is repeated from generation to generation. These legends hold, among the wild men of the north, the relative rank of story-books; and are intended both to amuse and instruct. This people possess also the art of picture writing in a degree which denotes that they have been, either more careful, or more fortunate, in the preservation of this very ancient art of the human race. Warriors, and the bravest of warriors, they are yet an intellectual people.

... They believe that the great Spirit created material matter, and that He made the earth and heavens, by the power of His will.... He made one great and master-spirit of evil, to whom He also gave assimilated and subordinate evil spirits having something of his own nature, to execute his will. Two antagonist powers, they believe, were thus placed in the world, who are continually striving for the mastery, and who have power to affect the lives and fortunes of men. This constitutes the ground-work of their religion, sacrifices, and worship.

They believe that animals were created before men, and that they originally had rule on the earth. By the power of necromancy, some of these animals were transformed to men, who, as soon as they assumed this new form, began to hunt the animals, and make war against them. It is expected that these animals will resume their human shapes, in a future state, and hence their hunters feign some clumsy excuses for their present policy of killing them. They believe that all animals, and birds, and reptiles, and even insects, possess reasoning faculties, and have souls. It is in these opinions, that we detect the ancient, doctrine of transmigration.

One of the most curious opinions of this people is their belief in the mysterious and sacred character of fire. They obtain sacred fire, for all national and ecclesiastical purposes, from the flint. Their national pipes are lighted with this fire. It is symbolical of purity. Their notions of the boundary between life and death, which is also symbolically the limit of the material verge between this and a future state, are revealed in connection with the exhibition of flames of fire. They also make sacrifices by fire of some part of the first fruits of the chase. These traits are to be viewed, perhaps, in relation to their ancient worship of the sun, above noticed, of which the traditions and belief are still generally preserved. The existence of the numerous classes of jossakeeds, or mutterers (the word is from the utterance of sounds low on the earth), is a trait that will remind the reader of a similar class of men in early ages in the eastern hemisphere. These persons constitute, indeed, the Magi of our western forests.

* * * * *

Edward Everett, 1794-1865. (Manual, pp. 487, 531.)

From "Orations and Speeches."


There is much by day to engage the attention of the observatory; the sun, his apparent motions, his dimensions, the spots on his disk (to us the faint indications of movements of unimagined grandeur in his luminous atmosphere), a solar eclipse, a transit of the interior planets, the mysteries of the spectrum—all phenomena of vast importance and interest. But night is the astronomer's accepted time: he goes to his delightful labors when the busy world goes to its rest. A dark pall spreads over the resorts of active life; terrestrial objects, hill and valley, and rock and stream, and the abodes of men, disappear; but the curtain is drawn up which concealed the heavenly hosts. There they shine and there they move, as they moved and shone to the eyes of Newton and Galileo, of Kepler and Copernicus, of Ptolemy and Hipparchus; yea, as they moved and shone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. All has changed on earth; but the glorious heavens remain unchanged. The plough has passed over the remains of mighty cities, the homes of powerful nations are desolate, the languages they spoke are forgotten; but the stars that shone for them are shining for us; the same eclipses run their steady cycle; the same equinoxes call out the flowers of spring, and send the husbandman to the harvest; the sun pauses at either tropic, as he did when his course began; and sun and moon, and planet and satellite, and star, and constellation, and galaxy, still bear witness to the power, the wisdom, and the love of Him who placed them in the heavens, and upholds them there.

* * * * *


Much, however, as we are indebted to our observatories for elevating our conceptions of the heavenly bodies, they present even to the unaided sight, scenes of glory which, words are too feeble to describe. I had occasion, a few weeks since, to take the early train from Providence to Boston; and for this purpose rose at two o'clock in the morning. Everything around was wrapt in darkness and hushed in silence, broken only by what seemed at that hour the unearthly clank and rush of the train. It was a mild, serene, midsummer's night,—the sky was without a cloud,—the winds were whist. The moon, then in the last quarter, had just risen, and the stars shone with a spectral lustre, but little affected by her presence. Jupiter, two hours high, was the herald of the day; the Pleiades, just above the horizon, shed their sweet influence in the east; Lyra sparkled near the zenith; Andromeda veiled her newly-discovered glories from the naked eye, in the south; the steady pointers, far beneath the pole, looked meekly up from the depths of the north, to their sovereign.

Such was the glorious spectacle as I entered the train. As we proceeded, the timid approach of twilight became more perceptible; the intense blue of the sky began to soften; the smaller stars, like little children, went first to rest; the sister beams of the Pleiades soon melted together; but the bright constellations of the west and north remained unchanged. Steadily the wondrous transfiguration went on. Hands of angels, hidden from mortal eyes, shifted the scenery of the heavens; the glories of night dissolved into the glories of the dawn. The blue sky now turned more softly gray; the great watch-stars shut up their holy eyes; the east began to kindle. Faint streaks of purple soon blushed along the sky; the whole celestial concave was filled with the inflowing tides of the morning light, which came pouring down from above in one great ocean of radiance; till at length, as we reached the Blue Hills, a flash of purple fire blazed out from above the horizon, and turned the dewy tear-drops of flower and leaf, into rubies and diamonds. In a few seconds, the everlasting gates of the morning were thrown wide open, and the lord of day, arrayed in glories too severe for the gaze of man, began his state.

I do not wonder at the superstition of the ancient Magians, who, in the morning of the world, went up to the hill-tops of Central Asia, and ignorant of the true God, adored the most glorious work of His hand. But I am filled with amazement when I am told that in this enlightened age, and in the heart of the Christian world, there are persons who can witness this daily manifestation of the power and wisdom of the Creator, and yet say in their hearts, "there is no God."

* * * * *

From a Discourse on the Discover and Colonization of America.


This great Celtic race is one of the most remarkable that has appeared in history. Whether it belongs to that extensive Indo-European family of nations, which, in ages before the dawn of history, took up a line of march in two columns from Lower India, and moving westward by both a northern and a southward route, finally diffused itself over Western Asia, Northern Africa, and the greater part of Europe; or whether, as others suppose, the Celtic race belongs to a still older stock, and was itself driven down upon the south and into the west of Europe by the overwhelming force of the Indo-Europeans, is a question which we have no time at present to discuss. However it may be decided, it would seem that for the first time, as far as we are acquainted with the fortunes of this interesting race, they have found themselves in a really prosperous condition, in this country. Driven from the soil in the west of Europe, to which their forefathers clang for two thousand years, they have at length, and for the first time in their entire history, found a real home in a land of strangers. Having been told, in the frightful language of political economy, that at the daily table which Nature spreads for the human family there is no cover laid for them in Ireland, they have crossed the ocean to find occupation, shelter, and bread, on a foreign but friendly soil.

This "Celtic Exodus," as it has been aptly called, is to all the parties immediately connected with it one of the most important events of the day. To the emigrants themselves it may be regarded as a passing from death to life. It will benefit Ireland by reducing a surplus population, and restoring a sounder and juster relation of capital and labor. It will benefit the laboring classes in England, where wages have been kept down to the starvation-point by the struggle between native population and the inhabitants of the sister island, for that employment and food, of which there is not enough for both. This benefit will extend from England to ourselves, and will lessen the pressure of that competition which our labor is obliged to sustain, with the ill-paid labor of Europe. In addition to all this, the constant influx into America of stout and efficient hands supplies the greatest want in a new country, which is that of labor, gives value to land, and facilitates the execution of every species of private enterprise and public work.

I am not insensible to the temporary inconveniences which are to be set off against these advantages, on both sides of the water. Much suffering attends the emigrant, there, on his passage, and after his arrival. It is possible that the value of our native labor may have been depressed by too sudden and extensive a supply from abroad; and it is certain that our asylums and alms-houses are crowded with foreign inmates, and the resources of public and private benevolence have been heavily drawn upon. These are considerable evils, but they have perhaps been exaggerated.

* * * * *

Hugh S. Legare, 1797-1843. (Manual, p. 487.)

From his "Collected Writings."


Not to have the curiosity to study the learned languages is not to have any vocation at all for literature: it is to be destitute of liberal curiosity and of enthusiasm; to mistake a self-sufficient and superficial dogmatism for philosophy, and that complacent indolence which is the bane of all improvement, for a proof of the highest degree of it....

All that we ask, then, is, that a boy should be thoroughly taught the ancient languages from his eighth to his sixteenth year, or thereabouts, in which time he will have his taste formed, his love of letters completely, perhaps enthusiastically, awakened, his knowledge of the principles of universal grammar perfected, his memory stored with the history, the geography, and the chronology of all antiquity, and with a vast fund of miscellaneous literature besides, and his imagination kindled with the most beautiful and glowing passages of Greek and Roman poetry and eloquence; all the rules of criticism familiar to him—the sayings of sages and the achievements of heroes indelibly impressed upon his heart. He will have his curiosity fired for further acquisition, and find himself in possession of the golden keys which open all the recesses where the stores of knowledge have ever been laid up by civilized man. The consciousness of strength will give him confidence, and he will go to the rich treasures themselves, and take what he wants, instead of picking up eleemosynary scraps from those whom, in spite of himself, he will regard as his betters in literature. He will be let into that great communion of scholars throughout all ages and all nations,—like that more awful communion of saints in the holy church universal,—and feel a sympathy with departed genius, and with the enlightened and the gifted minds of other countries, as they appear before him, in the transports of a sort of vision beatific, bowing down at the same shrines, and flowing with the same holy love of whatever is most pure, and fair, and exalted, and divine in human nature.

* * * * *

From a Review of Kent's Commentaries.


It is our misfortune, in one sense, to have succeeded, at the very outset of our career, to an over-grown inheritance in the literature of the mother country, and to have stood for a century in that political and social relation towards her, which was of all others most unfavorable to any originality in genius and opinions. Our good fathers piously spoke of England as their home. The inferiority—the discouraging and degrading inferiority—implied in a state of colonial dependence, chilled the enthusiasm of talent, and repressed the aspirations of ambition. Our youth were trained in English schools to classical learning and good manners; but no scholarship—great as we believe its efficacy to be—can either inspire or supply, the daring originality and noble pride of genius, to which, by some mysterious law of nature, the love of country and a national spirit seem to be absolutely necessary. We imported our opinions ready-made—"by balefuls," if it so pleases the Rev. Sidney Smith. We were taught to read by English school-masters—and to reason by English authors—English clergymen filled our pulpits, English lawyers our courts—and above all things, we deferred to and dreaded the dictatorial authority and withering contempt of English criticism. It is difficult to imagine a state of things more fatal to intellectual dignity and enterprise, and the consequences were such as might have been anticipated. What is still more lamentable, although the cause has in a good measure ceased, the effect continues, nor do we see any remedy for the evil until our youth shall be taught to go up to the same original and ever-living fountains of all literature, at which the Miltons, and the Barrows, and the Drydens drank in so much of their enthusiasm and inspiration, and to cast off entirely that slavish dependence upon the opinions of others which they must feel, who take their knowledge of what it is either their duty, their interest, or their ambition to learn, at second hand.

* * * * *

Francis L. Hawks, 1798-1866. (Manual, p. 480.)

From "Narrative of the United States Expedition to Japan."


Viewed in any of its aspects, the empire of Japan has long presented to the thoughtful mind an object of uncommon interest. And this interest has been greatly increased by the mystery with which, for the last two centuries, an exclusive policy has sought to surround the institutions of this remarkable country....

The political inquirer, for instance, has wished to study in detail the form of government, the administration of laws, and the domestic institutions, under which a nation systematically prohibiting intercourse with the rest of the world has attained to a state of civilization, refinement, and intelligence, the mere glimpses of which so strongly invite further investigation.

The student of physical geography, aware how much national characteristics are formed or modified by peculiarities of physical structure in every country, would fain know more of the lands and the seas, the mountains and the rivers, the forests and the fields, which fall within the limits of this almost terra incognita.

... The man of commerce asks to be told of its products and its trade, its skill in manufactures, the commodities it needs, and the returns it can supply.

The scholar asks to be introduced to its literature, that he may contemplate in historians, poets, and dramatists (for Japan has them all), a picture of the national mind.

The Christian desires to know the varied phases of their superstition and idolatry, and longs for the dawn of that day when a purer faith and more enlightened worship shall bring them within the circle of Christendom.

Amid such a diversity of pursuits as we have enumerated, a common interest unites all in a common sympathy; and hence the divine and the philosopher, the navigator and the naturalist, the man of business and the man of letters, have alike joined in a desire for the thorough exploration of a field at once so extensive and so inviting.

* * * * *

George P. Marsh, 1801-. (Manual, p. 532.)

From "Lectures on the English Language."


The groundwork of English, indeed, can be, and best is, learned at the domestic fireside—a school for which there is no adequate substitute; but the knowledge there acquired is not, as in homogeneous languages, a root, out of which will spontaneously grow the flowers and the fruits which adorn and enrich the speech of man. English has been so much affected by extraneous, alien, and discordant influences, so much mixed with foreign ingredients, so much overloaded with adventitious appendages, that it is to most of those who speak it, in a considerable degree, a conventional and arbitrary symbolism. The Anglo-Saxon tongue has a craving appetite, and is as rapacious of words, and as tolerant of forms, as are its children, of territory and of religions. But in spite of its power of assimilation, there is much of the speech of England which has never become connatural to the Anglican people; and its grammar has passively suffered the introduction of many syntactical combinations, which are not merely irregular, but repugnant. I shall not here inquire whether this condition of English is an evil. There are many cases where a complex and cunningly-devised machine, dexterously guided, can do that which the congenital hand fails to accomplish; but the computing, of our losses and gains, the striking of our linguistic balance, belongs elsewhere. Suffice it to say, that English is not a language which teaches itself by mere unreflecting usage. It can only be mastered, in all its wealth, in all its power, by conscious, persistent labor; and therefore, when all the world is awaking to the value of general philological science, it would ill become us to be slow in recognizing the special importance of the study of our own tongue.

* * * * *

From "Man and Nature."


The multitude of species, intermixed as they are in their spontaneous growth, gives the American forest landscape a variety of aspect not often seen in the woods of Europe; and the gorgeous tints which nature repeats from the dying dolphin to paint the falling leaf of the American maples, oaks, and ash trees, clothe the hill-sides and fringe the watercourses with a rainbow splendor of foliage, unsurpassed by the brightest groupings of the tropical flora. It must be admitted, however, that both the northern and the southern declivities of the Alps exhibit a nearer approximation to this rich and multifarious coloring of autumnal vegetation than most American travellers in Europe are willing to allow; and, besides, the small deciduous shrubs, which often carpet the forest glades of these mountains, are dyed with a ruddy and orange glow, which, in the distant landscape, is no mean substitute for the scarlet and crimson and gold and amber of the trans-atlantic woodland.

No American evergreen known to me resembles the umbrella pine sufficiently to be a fair object of comparison with it. A cedar, very common above the Highlands on the Hudson, is extremely like the cypress, straight, slender, with erect, compressed ramification, and feathered to the ground, but its foliage is neither so dark nor so dense, the tree does not attain the majestic height of the cypress, nor has it the lithe flexibility of that tree. In mere shape, the Lombardy poplar nearly resembles this latter, but it is almost a profanation to compare the two, especially when they are agitated by the wind; for under such circumstances, the one is the most majestic, the other the most ungraceful, or—if I may apply such an expression to any thing but human affectation of movement—the most awkward of trees. The poplar trembles before the blast, flutters, struggles wildly, dishevels its foliage, gropes around with its feeblest branches, and hisses as in impotent passion. The cypress gathers its limbs still more closely to its stem, bows a gracious salute rather than an humble obeisance to the tempest, bends to the winds with an elasticity that assures you of its prompt return to its regal attitude, and sends from its thick leaflets a murmur like the roar of the far-off ocean.

* * * * *

George H. Calvert, 1803-. (Manual pp. 503, 505.)

From "First Years in Europe."


That Coleridge with his mental pockets full of gold, and with a mine in fee wherefrom he not only replenished his daily purse but enriched his neighbors, should now and then borrow a guinea, is a fact at which we should rather smile than frown, or, more fitly, pass by without special sensation, seeing what has been the practice of the highest,—a practice which may with full ethical assent be regarded as a privilege inherent in their supremacy, the free use of all knowledge collected and experience acquired, no matter when, where, or by whom, being a natural right of him who has the genius to turn it to best account. That in certain cases where acknowledgment was due it was not made, we may ascribe to opinion; or to defects which broke the complete rotundity of such a circle of endowments that without this breach they would have swollen their possessor to almost preterhuman proportions, empowering him to "bestride the narrow world like a Colossus."

Let the truth be spoken of all men. Let no man's greatness be a bar to full utterance; but let temperance and charity—duties peculiarly imperative when uttering derogatory truth—be especially observed towards a resplendent suffering brother like Coleridge, suffering from his own weakness, but on that very account entitled to a tenderer consideration from those who are themselves endowed to feel and claim something more than common human affinity with a nature so large and so susceptive. Could but a tithe of the fresh insights he has given us be allowed as an offset against his short-comings, never, from any scholar of sound sensibilities, would a whisper be heard against his name. Under the coarse, rusty, one-pronged spur of sectarian or political rancor, or from the knawing consciousness of sterile inferiority to a creative mind, plenty of people are ready and eager to try, with their net-work of flimsy phrases, to cramp the play of a giant's limbs, or, with the slow slimy poison of envy and malice, to spot and deform his beauty and his symmetry. To such, to the half-eyed and the half-souled, to the prosaic and the unsympathetic, be left all harsh condemnation of Coleridge.

For the living, not for the dead, are these inadequate words spoken. The writings of Coleridge—in tone high, refined, noble; in expression rich, choice, copious; in spirit as pure as the sun's light; intellectually of rare breadth and mellowness and brilliancy—are a healthful power in literature, their influence solely for good, warming, strengthening, elevating. As for Coleridge himself, his is an immortal name; and as he walks through the ages his robes adjusting themselves with varying grace, in harmony with the mutations of opinion, his inward life will be ever fresh to his fellow-men, while his detractors will be shaken from him as gryllidoe from the tunic of the superb Diana.

* * * * *

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803- (Manual pp. 478, 503, 531.)

From "Essays," Second Series.


There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection; when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if Nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather which we distinguish by the name of Indian summer. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills, and warm, wide fields. To have lived through all its sunny hours seems longevity enough. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes.

* * * * *

From "Society and Solitude."


The perfection of the providence for childhood is easily acknowledged. The care which covers the seed of the tree under tough husks and, stony cases, provides, for the human plant, the mother's breast and the father's house. The size of the nestler is comic, and its tiny beseeching weakness is compensated perfectly by the happy patronizing look of the mother, who is a sort of high reposing Providence toward it. Welcome to the parents the puny straggler, strong in his weakness, his little arms more irresistible than the soldier's, his lips touched with persuasion which Chatham and Pericles in manhood had not. His unaffected lamentations when he lifts up his voice on high, or, more beautiful, the sobbing child,—the face all liquid grief, as he tries to swallow his vexation,—soften all hearts to pity, and to mirthful and clamorous compassion. The small despot asks so little that all reason and all nature are on his side. His ignorance is more charming than all knowledge, and his little sins more bewitching than any virtue. His flesh is angels' flesh, all alive. "Infancy," said Coleridge, "presents body and spirit in unity: the body is all animated." All day, between his three or four sleeps, he coos like a pigeon-house, sputters, and spurs, and puts on his faces of importance; and when he fasts, the little Pharisee fails not to sound his trumpet before him. By lamp-light he delights in shadows on the wall; by daylight, in yellow and scarlet. Carry him out of doors,—he is overpowered by the light and the extent of natural objects, and is silent. Then presently begins his use of his fingers, and he studies power, the lesson of his race. First it appears in no great harm, in architectural tastes. Out of blocks, thread-spools, cards, and checkers, he will build his pyramid with the gravity of Palladio. With an acoustic apparatus of whistle and rattle, he explores the laws of sound. But chiefly, like his senior countrymen, the young American studies new and speedier modes of transportation. Mistrusting the cunning of his small legs, he wishes to ride on the necks and shoulders of all flesh. The small enchanter nothing can withstand, no seniority of age, no gravity of character; uncles, aunts, grandsires, grandams, fall an easy prey: he conforms to nobody, all conform to him; all caper and make mouths, and babble, and chirrup to him. On the strongest shoulders he rides, and pulls the hair of laurelled heads.

* * * * *


Civilization depends on morality. Everything good in man leans on what is higher. This rule holds in small as in great. Thus, all our strength and success in the work of our hands depend on our borrowing the aid of the elements. You have seen a carpenter on a ladder with a broad-axe, chopping upward chips from a beam. How awkward! At what disadvantage he works! But see him on the ground, dressing his timber under him. Now, not his feeble muscles, but the force of gravity brings down the axe; that is to say, the planet itself splits his stick. The farmer had much ill-temper, laziness, and shirking, to endure from his hand-sawyers until one day he bethought him to put his saw-mill on the edge of a waterfall; and the river never tires of turning his wheel; the river is good-natured, and never hints an objection.

We had letters to send: couriers could not go fast enough, nor far enough; broke their wagons, foundered their horses, bad roads in spring, snow-drifts in winter, heat in summer, could not get the horses out of a walk. But we found out that the air and earth were full of electricity; and always going our way,—just the way we wanted to send. Would he take a message? Just as lief as not; had nothing else to do; would carry it in no time. Only one doubt occurred, one staggering objection,—he had no carpet bag, no visible pockets, no hands, not so much as a mouth, to carry a letter. But, after much thought and many experiments, we managed to meet the conditions, and to fold up the letter in such invisible compact form as he could carry in those invisible pockets of his, never wrought by needle and thread,—and it went like a charm.

I admire still more than the saw-mill the skill which, on the sea-shore, makes the tides drive the wheels and grind corn, and which thus engages the assistance of the moon like a hired hand, to grind, and wind, and pump, and saw, and split stone, and roll iron.

Now that is the wisdom of a man, in every instance of his labor, to hitch his wagon to a star, and see his chore done by the gods themselves. That is the way we are strong, by borrowing the might of the elements. The forces of steam, gravity, galvanism, light, magnets, wind, fire, serve us day by day, and cost us nothing.

Our astronomy is full of examples of calling in the aid of these magnificent helpers. Thus, on a planet so small as ours, the want of an adequate base for astronomical measurements is early felt, as, for example, in detecting the parallax of a star. But the astronomer, having by an observation fixed the place of a star, by so simple an expedient as waiting six months, and then repeating his observation, contrived to put the diameter of the earth's orbit, say two hundred millions of miles, between his first observation and his second, and this line afforded him a respectable base for his triangle.

All our arts aim to win this vantage. We cannot bring the heavenly powers to us, but, if we will only choose our jobs in directions in which they travel, they will undertake them with the greatest pleasure. It is a peremptory rule with them, that they never go out of their road. We are dapper little busybodies, and run this way and that way superserviceably; but they swerve never from their foreordained paths,—neither the sun, nor the moon, nor a bubble of air, nor a mote of dust.

And as our handiworks borrow the elements, so all our social and political action leans on principles. To accomplish anything excellent, the will must work for catholic and universal ends. A puny creature walled in on every side, as Daniel wrote,—

"Unless above himself he can, Erect himself, how poor a thing is man!"

but when his will leans on a principle, when, he is the vehicle of ideas, he borrows their omnipotence. Gibraltar may be strong, but ideas are impregnable, and bestow on the hero their invincibility. "It was a great instruction," said a saint in Cromwell's war, "that the best courages are but beams of the Almighty." Hitch your wagon to a star. Let us not fag in paltry works which serve our pot and bag alone. Let us not lie and steal. No god will help. We shall find all their teams going the other way. Charles's Wain, Great Bear, Orion, Leo, Hercules: every god will leave us. Work rather for those interests which the divinities honor and promote,—justice, love, freedom, knowledge, utility.

* * * * *


Be sure, then, to read no mean books. Shun the spawn of the press on the gossip of the hour. Do not read what you shall learn without asking, in the street and the train. Dr. Johnson said, "he always went into stately shops;" and good travelers stop at the best hotels; for, though they cost more, they do not cost much more, and there is the good company and the best information. In like manner, the scholar knows that the famed books contain, first and last, the best thoughts and facts. Now and then, by rarest luck, in some foolish grub street is the gem we want. But in the best circles is the best information. If you should transfer the amount of your reading day by day from the newspaper to the standard authors.—But who dare speak of such a thing.

The three practical rules, then, which I have to offer, are: 1st. Never read any book that is not a year old. 2d. Never read any but famed books. 3d. Never read any but what you like; or, in Shakespeare's phrase,

"No profit goes where is no pleasure ta'en: In brief, sir, study what you most affect."

Montaigne says, "Books are a languid pleasure;" but I find certain books vital and spermatic, not leaving the reader what he was: he shuts the book a richer man. I would never willingly read any others than such.

* * * * *

John Russell Bartlett, 1805-.

From the "Personal Narrative of Explorations," &c.


On the present occasion, circumstances rendered it necessary for safety, as well as for the purpose of warning the desperate gang who were now about to have their deserts, that all should be doubly armed. In the court-room, therefore, where one of the most solemn scenes of human experience was enacting, all were armed save the prisoners. There sat the judge, with a pistol lying on the table before him; the clerks and attorneys wore revolvers at their sides; and the jurors were either armed with similar weapons, or carried with them the unerring rifle. The members of the commission and citizens, who were either guarding the prisoners or protecting the court, carried by their sides a revolver, a rifle, or a fowling-piece, thus presenting a scene more characteristic of feudal times than of the nineteenth century. The fair but sun-burnt complexion of the American portion of the jury, with their weapons resting against their shoulders, and pipes in their mouths, presented a striking contrast to the swarthy features of the Mexicans, muffled in checkered serapes, holding their broad-brimmed glazed hats in their hands, and delicate cigarritos in their lips. The reckless, unconcerned appearance of the prisoners, whose unshaven faces and dishevelled hair gave them the appearance of Italian bandits rather than of Americans or Englishmen, the grave and determined bearing of the bench; the varied costume and expression of the spectators and members of the Commission, clad in serapes, blankets, or overcoats, with their different weapons, and generally with long beards, made altogether one of the most remarkable groups which ever graced a court-room....

The evidence being closed, a few remarks were now made by the prosecuting attorney, followed by the charge of the judge, when the case was given to the jury. In a short time they returned into court with a verdict of guilty, against William Craig, Marcus Butler, and John Wade; upon whom the judge then pronounced sentence of death.

The prisoners were now escorted to the little plaza or open square in front of the village church, where the priest met them, to give such consolation as his holy office would afford. But their conduct, notwithstanding the desire on the part of all to afford them every comfort their position was susceptible of, continued reckless and indifferent, even to the last moment. Butler alone was affected. He wept bitterly, and excited much sympathy by his youthful appearance, being but 21 years of age. His companions begged him "not to cry, as he could die but once."

The sun was setting when they arrived at the place of execution. The assembled spectators formed a guard around a small alamo, or poplar tree, which had been selected for the gallows. It was fast growing dark, and the busy movements of a large number of the associates of the condemned, dividing and collecting again in small bodies at different points around and outside of the party, and then approaching nearer to the centre, proved that an attack was meditated, if the slightest opportunity should be given. But the sentence of the law was carried into effect.

* * * * *

Nathaniel Parker Willis, 1807-1867. (Manual, pp. 504, 519.)

From "Pencillings by the Way."


It is a queer feeling to find oneself a foreigner. One can not realize long at a time how his face or his manners should have become peculiar; and after looking at a print for five minutes in a shop-window, or dipping into an English book, or in any manner throwing off the mental habit of the instant, the curious gaze of the passer-by, or the accent of a strange language, strikes one very singularly. Paris is full of foreigners of all nations, and of course physiognomies of all characters may be met everywhere; but, differing as the European nations do decidedly from each other, they differ still more from the American. Our countrymen, as a class, are distinguishable wherever they are met; not as Americans however, for of the habits and manners of Our country, people know nothing this side the water. But there is something in an American face, of which I never was aware till I met them in Europe, that is altogether peculiar. The French take the Americans to be English; but an Englishman, while he presumes him his countryman, shows a curiosity to know who he is, which is very foreign to his usual indifference. As far as I can analyze it, it is the independent, self-possessed bearing of a man unused to look up to any one as his superior in rank, united to the inquisitive, sensitive, communicative expression which is the index to our national character. The first is seldom possessed in England but by a man of decided rank, and the latter is never possessed by an Englishman at all. The two are united in no other nation. Nothing is easier than to tell the rank of an Englishman, and nothing puzzles an European more than to know how to rate the pretensions of an American....

* * * * *

From "Ephemera."


Like the public feeling, the condition and powers of criticism toward an author's fame, are essentially changed by his death. His personal character, and the events of his life—the foreground, so to speak, in the picture of his mind, are, till this event, wanting to the critical perspective; and when the hand to correct is cold, and the ear to be caressed and wounded is sealed, some of the uses of censure, and all reserve in comparison and final estimate, are done away.

* * * * *

Such men as Hillhouse are not common, even in these days of universal authorship. In accomplishment of mind and person, he was probably second to no man. His poems show the first. They are fully conceived, nicely balanced, exquisitely finished—works for the highest taste to relish, and for the severest student in dramatic style to erect into a model. Hadad was published in 1825, during my second year in college, and to me it was the opening of a new heaven of imagination. The leading characters possessed me for months, and the bright, clear, harmonious language was, for a long time, constantly in my ears. The author was pointed out to me, soon after, and for once, I saw a poet whose mind was well imaged in his person. In no part of the world have I seen a man of more distinguished mien, or of a more inborn dignity and elegance of address. His person was very finely proportioned, his carriage chivalric and high-bred, and his countenance purely and brightly intellectual. Add to this a sweet voice, a stamp of high courtesy on everything he uttered, and singular simplicity and taste in dress, and you have the portrait of one who, in other days, would have been the mirror of chivalry, and the flower of nobles and troubadours. Hillhouse was no less distinguished in oratory.

... Hillhouse had fallen upon days of thrift, and many years of his life which he should have passed either in his study, or in the councils of the nation, were enslaved to the drudgery of business. His constitution seemed to promise him a vigorous manhood, however, and an old age of undiminished fire, and when he left his mercantile pursuits, and retired to the beautiful and poetic home of "Sachem's Wood," his friends looked upon it as the commencement of a ripe and long enduring career of literature. In harmony with such a life were all his surroundings—scenery, society, domestic refinement, and companionship—and never looked promise fairer for the realization of a dream of glory. That he had laid out something of such a field in the future, I chance to know, for, though my acquaintance with him was slight, he confided to me in a casual conversation, the plan of a series of dramas, different from all he had attempted, upon which he designed to work with the first mood and leisure he could command. And with his scholarship; knowledge of life, taste, and genius, what might not have been expected from its fulfilment? But his hand is cold, and his lips still, and his light, just rising to its meridian, is lost now to the world. Love and honor to the memory of such a man.

* * * * *

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-. (Manual, pp. 503, 505.)

From "Hyperion."


One by one the objects of our affection depart from us. But our affections remain, and like vines stretch forth their broken, wounded tendrils for support. The bleeding heart needs a balm to heal it; and there is none but the love of its kind,—none but the affection of a human heart. Thus the wounded, broken affections of Flemming began to lift themselves from the dust and cling around this new object. Days and weeks passed; and, like the Student Crisostomo, he ceased to love, because he began to adore. And with this adoration mingled the prayer, that, in that hour when the world is still, and the voices that praise are mute, and reflection cometh like twilight, and the maiden, in her day dreams, counted the number of her friends, some voice in the sacred silence of her thoughts might whisper his name.

They were sitting together one morning, on the green, flowery meadow, under the ruins of Burg Unspunnen. She was sketching the ruins. The birds were singing, one and all, as if there were no aching hearts, no sin nor sorrow, in the world. So motionless was the bright air, that the shadow of the trees lay engraven on the grass. The distant snow-peaks sparkled in the sun, and nothing frowned, save the square tower of the old ruin above them.

"What a pity it is," said the lady, as she stopped to rest her weary fingers, "what a pity it is, that there is no old tradition connected with this ruin!"

"I will make you one, if you wish," said Flemming.

"Can you make old traditions?"

"O, yes! I made three, the other day, about the Rhine, and one very old one about the Black Forest. A lady with dishevelled hair; a robber with a horrible slouched hat; and a night storm among the roaring pines."

"Delightful! Do make one for me."

"With the greatest pleasure. Where will you have the scene? Here, or in the Black Forest."

"In the Black Forest, by all means! Begin."

"I will unite this ruin and the forest together. But first promise not to interrupt me. If you snap the golden threads of thought, they will float away on the air like the film of the gossamer, and I shall never be able to recover them."

"I promise." "Listen, then, to the Tradition of 'THE FOUNTAIN OF OBLIVION.'"


Flemming was reclining on the flowery turf, at the lady's feet, looking up with dreamy eyes into her sweet face, and then into the leaves of the linden-trees overhead.

"Gentle Lady! Dost thou remember the linden trees of Buelach,—those tall and stately trees, with velvet down upon their shining leaves, and rustic benches underneath their overhanging eaves? A leafy dwelling, fit to be the home of elf or fairy, where first I told my love to thee, thou cold and stately Hermione! A little peasant girl stood near, and listened all the while, with eyes of wonder and delight, and an unconscious smile, to hear the stranger still speak on in accents deep yet mild,—none else was with us in that hour, save God and that little child!"

"Why, it is in rhyme!"

"No, no! the rhyme is only in your imagination. You promised not to interrupt me, and you have already snapped asunder the gossamer threads of as sweet a dream as was ever spun from a poet's brain."

"It certainly did rhyme!"

* * * * *

Henry Reed, 1808-1854. (Manual, p. 501.)

From "Lectures on English History."


It would be a weary, and probably vain inquiry to consider minutely the claims which such historical materials have on our belief; and so little is there attractive in the legends of British history, that I need not attempt to dwell upon any of the alleged facts. But I wish before passing from this part of my subject, briefly to examine the curious tenacity with which the belief in this legendary literature was once held, and to show that it was not relinquished until a more critical standard of historic belief was adopted, and scientific investigation took the place of uninquiring and passive credulity. It has been said that no man, before the sixteenth century, presumed to doubt that the Britons were descended from Brutus the Trojan; and it is equally certain that no modern writer could presume confidently to assert it.

... It is most difficult for us, in these later days of higher standards of historic credibility, to form anything like an adequate conception, of the entire and unquestioning confidence which was felt for the story of British origin, and the race of ancient British kings. Of this feeling there is a curious proof in a transaction in the reign of Edward I., when the sovereignty of Scotland was claimed by the English monarch. The Scots sought the interposition and protection of the pope, alleging that the Scottish realm belonged of right to the see of Rome. Boniface VIII., a pontiff not backward in asserting the claims of the papacy, did interpose to check the English conquest, and was answered by an elaborate and respectful epistle from Edward, in which the English claim is most carefully and confidently derived from the conquest of the whole country by the Trojans in the times of Eli and Samuel—assuredly a very respectable antiquity of some two thousand four hundred years. No Philadelphia estate could be more methodically traced back to the proprietary title of William Penn, than was this claim to Scotland up to Brutus, the exile from Troy.... Now, all this is set forth with the most imperturbable seriousness, and with an air of complete assurance of the truth. It appears, too, to have fully answered the purpose intended; and the Scots, finding that the papal antiquity was but a poor defence against such claims, and as if determined not to be outdone by the Southron, replied in a document asserting their independence by virtue of descent from Scota, one of the daughters of Pharaoh. The pope seems to have been silenced in a conflict of ancestral authority, in which the succession of St. Peter seemed quite a modern affair, when overshadowed, by such Trojan and Egyptian antiquity.

* * * * *

Caroline M. Kirkland, 1808-1864. (Manual, p. 484.)

From "Forest Life."


One darling tree,—a giant oak which looked as if half a dozen Calibans might have been pegged in its knotty entrails—this one tree, the grandfather of the forest, we thought we had saved. It stood a little apart,—it shadowed no man's land,—it shut the broiling sun from nobody's windows, so we hoped it might be allowed to die a natural death. But one unlucky day, a family fresh from "the 'hio" removed into a house which stood at no great distance from this relic of primeval grandeur. These people were but little indebted to fortune, and the size of their potato-patch did not exactly correspond with the number of rosy-cheeks within doors. So the loan of a piece of ground was a small thing to ask or to grant. Upon this piece of lent land stood our favorite oak. The potatoes were scarcely peeping green above the soil, when we observed that the great boughs which we looked at admiringly a dozen times a day, as they towered far above the puny race around them, remained distinct in their outline, instead of exhibiting the heavy masses of foliage which had usually clothed them before the summer heat began. Upon nearer inspection it was found that our neighbor had commenced his plantation by the operation of girdling the tree, for which favor he expected our thanks, observing pithily that "nothing wouldn't never grow under sich a great mountain as that!" It is well that "Goth" and "Vandal" are not actionable.

Yet the felling of a great tree has something of the sublime in it. When the axe first falls on the trunk of a stately oak, laden with the green wealth of a century, or a pine whose aspiring peak might look down on a moderate church steeple, the contrast between the puny instrument and the gigantic result to be accomplished approaches the ridiculous. But as "the eagle towering in his pride of place was, by a mousing owl, hawked at and killed," so the leaf-crowned monarch of the wood has no small reason to quiver at the sight of a long-armed Yankee approaching his deep-rooted trunk with an awkward axe. One blow seems to accomplish nothing: not even a chip falls. But with another stroke comes a broad slice of the bark, leaving an ominous, gaping wound. Another pair of blows extends the gash, and when twenty such have fallen, behold a girdled tree. This would suffice to kill, and a melancholy death it is; but to fell is quite another thing.... Two deep incisions are made, yet the towering crown sits firm as ever. And now the destroyer pauses,—fetches breath,—wipes his beaded brow, takes a wary view of the bearings of the tree,—and then with a slow and watchful care recommences his work. The strokes fall doubtingly, and many a cautious glance is cast upward, for the whole immense mass now trembles, as if instinct with life, and conscious of approaching ruin. Another blow! it waves,—a groaning sound is heard—... yet another stroke is necessary. It is given with desperate force, and the tall peak leaves its place with an easy sailing motion accelerated every instant, till it crashes prone on the earth, sending far and wide its scattered branches, and letting in the sunlight upon the cool, damp, mossy earth, for the first time perhaps in half a century.

* * * * *

From "Western Clearings."


One of the greatest temptations to our friend Silas, and to most of his class, is a bee hunt. Neither deer, nor 'coons, nor prairie hens, nor even bears, prove half as powerful enemies to anything like regular business, as do these little thrifty vagrants of the forest. The slightest hint of a bee tree will entice Silas Ashburn and his sons from the most profitable job of the season, even though the defection is sure to result in entire loss of the offered advantage; and if the hunt prove successful, the luscious spoil is generally too tempting to allow of any care for the future, so long as the "sweet'nin" can be persuaded to last. "It costs nothing," will poor Mrs. Ashburn observe; "let 'em enjoy it. It isn't often we have such good luck."

* * * * *

Margaret Fuller Ossoli, 1810-1850. (Manual, p. 502.)

From "At Home and Abroad."


Accustomed to the infinite wit and exhuberant richness of his writings, his talk is still an amazement and a splendor scarcely to be faced with steady eyes. He does not converse,—only harangues. It is the usual misfortune of such marked men (happily not one invariable or inevitable) that they cannot allow other minds room to breathe and show themselves in their atmosphere, and thus miss the refreshment and instruction which the greatest never cease to need from the experience of the humblest. Carlyle allows no one a chance, but bears down all opposition, not only by his wit and onset of words, resistless in their sharpness as so many bayonets, but by actual physical superiority, raising his voice and rushing on his opponent with a torrent of sound. This is not the least from unwillingness to allow freedom to others; on the contrary, no man would more enjoy a manly resistance to his thought; but it is the impulse of a mind accustomed to follow out its own impulse as the hawk its prey, and which knows not how to stop in the chase. Carlyle, indeed, is arrogant and overbearing, but in his arrogance there is no littleness or self-love: it is the heroic arrogance of some old Scandinavian conqueror,—it is his nature, and the untamable impulse that has given him power to crush the dragons. You do not love him, perhaps, nor revere, and perhaps, also, he would only laugh at you if you did; but you like him heartily, and like to see him the powerful smith, the Siegfried, melting all the old iron, in his furnace till it glows to a sunset red, and burns you if you senselessly go too near. He seemed to me quite isolated, lonely as the desert; yet never was man more fitted to prize a man, could he find one to match his mood. He finds such, but only in the past. He sings rather than talks. He pours upon you a kind of satirical, heretical, critical poem, with regular cadences, and generally catching up near the beginning some singular epithet, which serves as a refrain when his song is full, or with which as with a knitting-needle he catches up the stitches, if he has chanced now and then to let fall a row. For the higher kinds of poetry he has no sense, and his talk on that subject is delightfully and gorgeously absurd; he sometimes stops a minute to laugh at it himself, then begins anew with fresh vigor; for all the spirits he is driving before him seem to him as Fata Morgana; ugly masks in fact, if he can but make them turn about, but he laughs that they seem to others such dainty Ariels. He puts out his chin sometimes till it looks like the beak of a bird, and his eyes flash bright instinctive meanings like Jove's bird; yet he is not calm and grand enough for the eagle: he is more like the falcon, and yet not of gentle blood enough for that either. He is not exactly like anything but himself, and therefore you cannot see him without the most hearty refreshment and goodwill, for he is original, rich, and strong enough to afford a thousand faults; one expects some wild land in a rich kingdom. His talk, like his books, is full of pictures, his critical strokes masterly; allow for his point of view, and his survey is admirable. He is a large subject; I cannot speak more nor wiselier of him now, nor needs it; his works are true, to blame and praise him, the Siegfried of England, great and powerful, if not quite invulnerable, and of a might rather to destroy evil than legislate for good. At all events, he seems to be what Destiny intended, and represents fully a certain side; so we make no remonstrance as to his being and proceeding for himself, though we sometimes must for us.

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