Графични страници
PDF файл



It would be somewhat mortifying, we quired that some voice should be raised suspect, to many of those who are against their deleterious influence. generally considered “accredited" au- We hope the conscientious critic dethors, were they to step out of the molished the obnoxious democrat to circle in which their claims are either his own satisfaction ; but to the ma. recognised or disputed. Let them lay jority of the respectable readers of aside periodicals, avoid everyone sus- his publication, we fear he would be pected of a taste for letters, hold no denouncing a man of straw. Un. correspondence with literary friends or doubtedly, however, this as yet limited enemies, and to the rest of the com- reputation is slowly but surely exmunity they will find themselves, to tending, and a few years will greatly use an expressive phrase, “nobody." change his relation to many other Those who are habitually in contact writers more favoured at present. with the literary world can scarcely

- The Scarlet Letter," which appears conceive, or are apt to forget, the first to have procured for him a modi. amount of indifference and ignorance cum of public attention, has been, in which prevails without. Mrs. Iemang some measure, the means of drawing complained of the oppressive weight out of obscurity his other worksof the popular ovations to which she those, too, on which we conceive much was subjected; yet we have an idea that of his future reputation will rest. The we could have introduced her to most fallen leaves of past years have kept respectable society, where she might their green through all seasons of nehave been quite at ease on that score. glect, and now begin to be visible, as As for Elizabeth Barrett Browning, other once flaunting, now withered, notwithstanding her prettily - bound weeds are swept away. volume being so common on drawing- With not a few points of resem. room tables, greatest of female poets blance to recent English and American though she be, in the opinion of others authors, Hawthorne has yet many pebesides Edgar Allan Poe, we think we culiarities of his own, so nicely chacould safely guarantee that she, as well racterised that we cannot think of any. as Messrs. Helps, Kingsley,

Tennyson, thing like a complete prototype to him and even the grim Carlyle himself, in literature. Now, the quaint, still might appear almost anywhere without humour of his thoroughly English being troubled with any demonstra- style, reminds us of Washington Irtion, respectful or otherwise. The ving; now the delicate, imperceptible subject of our present article may be touches of Longfellow become apparanked with the latter class, whose rent; now the calm, genial, effortless names, familiar as household words in flow of Helps. We have often fanthe literary world, are comparatively cied, also, that we could detect a re. unknown out of that cbarmed circle. semblance to John Foster, but we susIn “ The Scarlet Letter," Mr. llaw. pect, were we to attempt a comparison thorne bears humorous testimony to of parallel passages, it would turn out the truth of this, when describing to be rather imaginary. There is a tenhis sudden change from literary habits dency, no doubt, in both, to pry into all and society to those of a custom- the odd nooks, and corners, and dark house. Notwithstanding his good places of the mind; but the firm, strong, , humoured philosophy on the subject, practical nature of Foster never sufwe suspect this discovery must have fers him to carry this beyond a cerbeen rather tantalising, after wait- tain point, and always shapes his reing so long for public recognition ; searches to some masterly conclusion, though, to be sure, as we have said, while Hawthorne often runs riot in setting custom-houses aside, the gene- the pursuit from mere apparent wanral reputation he has acquired is as tonness. Yet, undoubtedly, it is this yet, to say the least, limited. We

ruling feature of Hawthorne's mind lately saw a critique on him, assuming that invests his writings with much of that the popularity of his works re- their peculiar charm; - producing extravagant and overdrawn description in raptures with from beginning to in some; in others it is the zest and end. spirit of the whole. In reading the Were we particularly anxious to im. works of Macaulay or Bulwer Lytton, press a reader favourably with Haw. there is often a disagreeable conscious- thorne at starting, we do not think we ness that all is splendidly got up; could succeed better than by directing but with Hawthorne all seems to flow him to take up the “Mosses from an Old from the heart, and apropos of this, Manse," and begin at the beginning, we may remark, that it is a pretty when, if he did not go the end of the fair test, in most cases, of an au- first article, we should certainly prothor's sincerity, if his reader recog- nounce him an incorrigible dullard. nises, or thinks he recognises, some We remember our own first introducthought of his own — some thought, tion to Hawthorne's works most vivid. probably, be could never adequately ly. We had just returned, in a very express in his own language-that had improper and contemptuous frame of flitted across his mind in casual mus. mind, from hearing a dreary lecture ings. We believe people are often on the mighty progress of this great unconsciously swayed by this feeling scientific nineteenth century, addressin the choice of an author for their ed to a philosophical institution, and favourite ; feeling, if not seeing, with found the “Mosses" awaiting our critiAlton Locke - " Here is one who can cal opinion. We took it up carelessly, put our own thoughts into language expecting to be further provoked by for us.”

some vile Yankee twaddle, and cannot Like almost every original author, say how agreeably we were disappointHawthorne occasionally verifies our ed. How breezy and wholesome the great dramatist's remark about vault- picture of the old manse, the river, ing. ambition o'erleaping itself and the woods, and the garden, compared falling on the other side, giving utter- with the sickening, rounded periods ance to the veriest drivel, such as scrib- about the advancement of science and blers of the lowest order could hardly the improvement of the human race, be guilty of perpetrating. It would the “jabber about education” (to use be hard to say how many readers he Mr. Helps' expressive words) and has lost who have had the misfortune moral trainings, which had been fall. to take up, say the “ Twice-Told ing like lead on us so long! It was a Tales," and opened with “ Tales of renewal of the sensation we felt when the Province House," or " The Three- first, in the calm of an autumn noon, fold Destiny.” Even in the “ Mosses reposing on a bank of moss, with a from an Old Manse,” which abounds canopy of bright green leaves above, in unmistakable evidences of his ge- through which an occasional glimpse nius, abundance of pieces might be of the clear blue sky was caught, we cited which would require the utmost turned over the magic pages of Tenny, stretch of charity to pass by. To a son, and fancied we saw the fairy-footed critic of the Lord Jeffrey genus, in Olivia sporting by the tall oak beside want of something to prey upon, us, or yonder little billock to be where Wordsworth's

poenis would hardly be " Claribel low lieth." more valuable in the way of affording To the merits of the “House of the scope for very piquant abuse. For Seven Gables," the most pleasing and our own part, we are inclined to be complete of Hawthorne's tales, an admore good-natured, rather leaning to verse critic, in our opinion, unconPoe's opinion, that the effusions of the sciously pays a high compliment, when mind of a man of genius may be com- he complains that the author seizes on pared to a series of ascents and de- the reader by the button, as it were, scents, while those of one less highly and, like the Ancient Mariner, compels gifted are more akin to a level, on him to hear the story to an end, which, which hypothesis we are disposed to after all, turns out to be no story at forgive the descents in consideration all—that is to say, there is no grand deof the ascents, and to be much better nouement, no long a-missing marriagepleased with a book the half of which certificate is discovered, nor is any bi. is nonsense, and the other half, as therto supposed plebeian elevated to Christopher North would have said, patrician rank. An original idea, “glorious,” than with one which is all truly, to censure an author for convery good, and has nothing to fall triving so to rivet your attention that


you must read his book through, even hissing gas or long-wick'd candle, apthough, as the saying is, there is no- pear squatted around in ghostly con. thing in it! What would we have given ference. It is, certainly, open to the for such an attracting influence in the charge of encouraging a taste for the pages of some of those tales of stirring “ morbid and borrible ;" and after interest, thrilling incident, sparkling fairly getting out of its weird fascinadialogue, masterly plot, &c., over tions, and entering on the introduction which we have yawned in our consci. to which we have already alluded (and entious wish to falsify the popular be- which, of course, falls to be read last) lief that critics read no farther than it is, to use Coleridge's style of comthe title-page of the book they demo- parison, like leaving a heated theatre lish? "The House of the Seven Ga. for an open lawn on a breezy night in bles" may be very faulty as a story, May. and we certainly would not recom

« The Blithedale Romance," one of mend it as a model to apprentice fic- Hawthorne's most recent publications, tion-mongers ; but as we have abun. lies more open than any other to dance of good story-writers, and, unsparing and well - deserved ridijudging from the past, will have till cule in the characters especially: one doomsday, we think such an author as being inflated to bursting with about Hawthorne may be allowed to let as much success as the frog of old ; anhis genius find its own vent, and di. other insipid; another wofully wishyverge as often as it pleases from any washy; and the hero of the tale him. path it may ostensibly follow. "The self, who tells the story in the first House of the Seven Gables," we ven- person, an impertinent sort of eavesture to say, would have wanted the dropper. Perhaps the very undigni. best part of its attractions, had the fied character of the latter, Mr. Miles author rigidly repressed the prompt- Coverdale, may be accounted for on ings of his luxuriant fancy, and closely the supposition, that as the author evi. pursued the even tenor of his narra- dently intends him to be understood tive, even though the plot and wind- as his mouthpiece, his anxiety to avoid ing-up had been exciting enough to anything like egotism may have led please our fastidious censor.

him astray. Yet, with all drawbacks, As might be expected from Haw. there is hardly one of his works we thorne's peculiar idiosyncrasy, he pos- could read over with more pleasure sesses, in a remarkable degree, the than this eccentric production, which faculty of indicating by imperceptible professes to be a romance founded on shades the approaching event long ere the author's own youthful experience, it is announced, like the hush becom- setting forth how, as one of a band of ing stiller and stiller as the noiseless Socialists, he attempted to commence battalia of clouds creep denser and the work of regenerating the world by denser together before the storm. labouring with his “ brothers and sisBulwer Lytton has often attempted ters" on a model farm. The mode of this delicate descriptive feat, but has life at this new Arcadia is the great been little more successful than in charm of the book, for Hawthorne can writing verses (for the latter, see hardly fail to delight when he catches “The Pilgrim of the Rhine"). Only a glimpse of nature. To use his own the pen that flung that strange, ter- words, he speaks of her “like the very rible gloom over the closing scenes of spirit of earth imbued with a scent of “ Bleak House,” could rival the inci. freshly-turned soil.” In his sketches dental touches immediately antecedent and essays, American scenery comes to the death of Judge Pyncheon. before us in all its rich luxuriance and

“The Scarlet Letter" (Hawthorne's unfettered gladness — no trim shaven most popular book, by the way) has the lawns and hedges, and as little of same button-seizing power; but as the that intolerable sublimity so tiresome narrative is made up of more excitable in Alpine and classic scenery; but the materials, its interest is of a much more forest-paths, and slow-sailing river, intense and even feverish nature; and with trees standing up to their knees we would not say, but that if made in its waters, and rivulets dancing acquaintance with at the witching with wayward round and babble amid hour of midnight, some of its principal tangled underwood. The farm-house characters might, to a very imagina- at Blithedale, and its surrounding tive reader's eyes, bleared with the fields and woods, linger in our recol.


[ocr errors]


lection as a picture of perfect seclu- pipes, and thence communicated to a quadsion, combining something of the quiet ruple row of lamps along the whole extent stillness of English scenery with the of the passage. Thus, a radiance has been untrammelled freedom of the woods,

created even out of the fiery and sulphorous though we miss that feature of the for

curse that rests for ever upon the valley mier alluded to by our great master of

a radiance, however, hurtful to the eyes, landscape :

and somewhat bewildering, as I discovered

by the changes which it wrought in the An English home-grey twilight pour'd

visages of my companions. In this respect, On dewy pasture, dewy trees,

as compared with natural daylight, there is Softer than sleep-all things in order stored ; the same difference as between truth and A haunt of ancient peace."

falsehood; but if the reader ever travelled The rest of Hawthorne's works con

through the Dark Valley, he will have learned

to be thankful for any light that he could sist principally of tales and sketches ;

get ; if not from the sky above, then from and in these, notwithstanding his filial

the blasted soil beneath. Such was the red love for the pleasant, tangible realities brilliancy of these lamps, that they appeared of eartb, and the shafts he occa- to build walls of fire on both sides of the sionally aims at transcendentalism track, between which we held our course at and mysticism, allegory is frequently lightning speed, while a reverberating thunemployed, with masterly effect, to der filled the valley with its echoes. Had give life to his conceptions. His the engine run off the track-a catastrophe most brilliant and finished effort of this it is whispered, by no means unprecedentedkind is “ The Celestial Railroad,” in

the bottomless pit, if there be any such which the mantle of Bunyan appears

place, would undoubtedly have received us.

Just as some dismal fooleries of this nature to have descended on him with a dou.

bad made my heart quake, there came & ble portion of his spirit--the quaint,

tremendous shriek careering along the valnervous simplicity of the prince of ley, as if a thousand devils had burst their dreamers blending with his own rich lungs to utter it; but it proved to be merely vividness of descriptive power, and the whistle of the engine on arriving at a quiet under-current humour.

stopping-place. The spot where we bad worthy philosophical institution - lec- now paused is the same that our friend turer could hardly have supposed the

Bunyan, truthful man, but infected with science, even of the nineteenth cen. many fantastic notions, has designated, in tury, capable of achieving such a com.

terms plainer than I like to repeat, as the modious and comfortable mode of

mouth of the infernal regions. This, how

ever, must have been a mistake, as Mr. transit to the celestial city, in which,

Smooth-it-away, while we remained in the instead of trudging along the road, smoky and lurid cavern, took occasion to the pilgrim is borne on the breath of

prove that Tophet has not even a metasteam, with the memorable burden phorical existence. The place, he assured us, stowed away in the luggage van. As is no other than the crater of a half-extinct in most other railways, a tunnel is ne- volcano, in which the directors bad caused cessary, and the reader may compare forges to be set up for the manufacture of the following account of the modern railroad iron. Hence, also, is obtained a pilgrim's passage through the Dark plentiful supply of fuel for the use of the Valley, with Christian's terror-struck

engines. Whoever had gazed into the dis

mal obscurity of the broad cavern-mouth, gropings among satyrs and hobgob

whence ever and anon darted huge tongues lins:

of dusky flame, and bad seen the strange,

half-shaped monsters, and visions of faces, “Even while we were yet speaking, the

horribly grotesque, into which the smoke train shot into the entrance of this dreaded

seemed to wreath itself, and had heard the valley. Though I plead guilty to

awful murmurs, and sbrieks, and deep, sbud. foolish palpitations of the heart, during our

dering whispers of the blast, sometimes headlong rush over the causeway here con

forming themselves into words almost artistructed, yet it were unjust to withhold the

culate - would have seized upon Mr. Smoothhighest encomiums on the boldness of its ori

it-away's comfortable explanation as greedily ginal conception, and the ingenuity of those

as we did, who executed it. It was gratifying, likewise, to observe how much care had been taken to dispel the everlasting gloom, and “ The engine-bell rang, and we dashed supply the defect of cheerful sunshine; not away, after dropping a few passengers, but a ray of which has ever penetrated among receiving no new ones. Rattling cnward these awful shadows. For this purpose

through the valley, we were dazzled with the inflammable gas, which exudes plenti- the fiercely gleaming gas-lamps as before, fully from the soil, is collected by means of But sometimes in the dark of intense bright



ness, grim faces, that bore the aspect and impression of individual sins or evil passions, seemed to thrust themselves through the veil of light, glaring upon us, and stretching forth a great dusky hand, as if to impede our progress. I almost thought that they were my own sins that appalled me there. These were freaks of imagination-nothing more, certainly-mere delusions, which I ought to be heartily ashamed of; but all through the Dark Valley I was tormented, and pestered, and dolefully bewildered, with the same kind of waking dreams. The mephitic gases of that region intoxicate the brain. As the light of natural day, however, began to struggle with the glow of the lanterns, these vain imaginations lost their vividness, and finally vanished with the first ray of sunshine that greeted our escape from the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Ere we had gone a mile beyond it, I could wellnigh have taken my oath that this whole gloomy passage was a dream."

Most of Hawthorne's other allegori. cal compositions sound as incomplete half utterances, hinting but vaguely at the meaning intended to be conveyed, though we are not sure if we should call this indefiniteness a defect- the power of negative suggestion thus displayed being often perfectly magical. Yet we cannot say that allegory is made much more attractive to us by Hawthorne than by his predecessors; and, as with them, the degree of pleasure corresponds in great measure to that in which the sense of allegory is lost. We remember when our worthy pastor broke upour childish enthusiasm for starting direct on Christian's pil. grimage; by "explaining" the " Pils grim's Progress" in connexion with the notes, our interest sensibly diminished ; and so with the “ Faëry Queen,” when we found that Sír Guyon was a mere emblem of holiness. We must confess a preference for an humbler vehicle of instruction, the idea of which, probably suggested by Æsop's píthy apothegms, appears to be of Ger. man origin, and has been employed with the happiest effect by some of our own writers. We need only instance Bulwer Lytton's inimitable sketch in “ The Pilgrims of the Rhine,” showing how the fox lost his tail; and Helps' fable of the lions, who made an attempt at Socialism in “ Friends in Council." It is pleasant enough now and then to step out of the material world; but we do not like to be incessantly reminded that all is unreal, mist and shadow. The mind craves a firmer

foothold, and prefers swallowing down. right impossibilities, if presented with an unblushing air of veracity, and imbued with a sufficient tinge of the vraisemblable. This has not escaped Hawthorne; and he has very happily embodied ideas in this form in one or two papers, telling his tale as if perfect. ly prepared to vouch for the authenticity of the whole. “The Artist of the Beautiful” is a fine instance of this; and the moral conveyed loses none of its effect, that the reader is left to find it out for himself. In another narrative on this principle, however, as might be expected from Hawthorne's constant tendency to overleap his ob. ject, he goes too much astray, we fear, for the most devoted idealist.

Perhaps, on the whole, the walk in which Hawthorne most excels is in that blending of the essay, sketch, and tale, for which we have no definite term as yet a style which seems so careless and easy, but which is perhaps the most difficult of all, and one we would defy any of our artificial writers to acquire-Macaulay, for instance, notwithstanding all his brilliance and nerve. One of Hawthorne's dreamy reveries, clothed in the glittering array of Macaulay's rounded, nicely balanced sentences, would be as supremely ridiculous as an idy! of Tennyson's « done into " Popeian heroic measure. A volume of Hawthorne's compositions of this nature, selected from his works, and cleared from all surrounding rubbish, would be a perfect chef-d'eure of its kind, worthy to take its place beside “ Companions of my

Solitude." There is one paper in his “Mosses from an Old Manse" which would have made the fortune of any ordinary literary aspirant-original, so far as our memory serves us, in conception, and rivalling the happiest efforts of Goldsmith and Irving in execution. “P.'s Correspondence," as it is styled, purports to be a letter from a friend of the author's, whose intellect being partially disordered, jumbles together past and present, living and dead, and is a great traveller, without stirring from the white-washed, iron-grated room to which he is confined, meeting in his imaginary wanderings a variety of personages who have long ceased to be visible to any eye save his own. Thus, in this letter, Mr. P. imagines himself in London, and gives his friend a most interesting and edifying account of the

« ПредишнаНапред »