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Dr. Hovey, of the Newton Theological Seminary, has recently published a Memoir* of the Life and Times of Rev. Isaac Backus, of Middleborough, Mass., which has an important bearing on New England Ecclesiastical History, and especially upon the early growth of the Baptist denomination. Mr. Backus, a native of Norwich, was in early life made familiar with the church dissensions which arose during and after the great revival of 1740. Those of our readers familiar with an able Article from the pen of Rev. Robert C. Learned, of Berlin, in the New Englander for November, 1852, will remember that the troubles which led to the formation of churches of “Separates,” were especially common in the eastern part of the State of Connecticut, although prevalent elsewhere. The spirit of opposition to the recognized ecclesiastical order of the state, thus manifested, found hearty sympathy on the other side of the colony line, among the followers of Roger Williams. The Separates and Baptists, uniting in their demands for ecclesiastical liberty, were naturally led to agree on other points. Thus, Mr. Backus, having been as a young man a Separate with his family connections, became at a later period a Baptist, and took the foremost rank as a bold and persevering advocate of those principles of freedom in religious worship, in which all denominations of our country now rejoice, but which then encountered the most powerful opposition. He afterwards distinguished himself as the author of an ecclesiastical history of New England, in three volumes octavo, having particular reference to the history of the Baptists. This work has now become quite scarce, and is about to be reprinted, under the editorial supervision of Rev. Dr. Hovey.
The memoir now before us, which may be considered as an introduction to the new edition of the history, is deserving of more extended notice than our present limits will permit. We cannot refrain, however, from recording at this time, our appreciation of the candor and ability with which the work is written. It is natural that Dr. Hovey should sympathize more strongly than we with the opposition movements of the last century, but as he is ready to acknowledge that there was much sound argument to be urged on the side of the established order, so we are ready to rejoice with him in the removal of the civil disabilities which then prevented the very freedom in worshiping God which our forefathers came to the wilderness to gain. We have read the volume with great interest, and recommend it as a valuable contribution to the history of the churches, written from the point of view of a liberal and scholarly Baptist divine.
* A Memoir of the Life and Times of the Rev. Isaac Backus, A. M. By Alvar Hover, D. D., Professor of Christian Theology in Newton Theological Seminary. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. 1858. 12mo. pp. 369.
In this connection, we call the attention of our readers to a little volume, quoted by Dr. Hovey in the early portion of his work, by Rev. Mr. Denison, of Norwich, entitled “Notes of the Baptists and their Princi. ples, in Norwich, Conn."* The discovery of some manuscripts pertain
, , " ing to the First Church in Norwich, which had been supposed to be lost, furnished Mr. Denison with valuable material for illustrating the Separate movement in that town, and the consequent rise of the Baptists. We are informed that the author proposes to extend his researches, and to publish more upon this interesting portion of the local history of the State.
Messrs. Gould & Lincoln are the publishers of a translationt by H. S. Conant of a work on the New England Theocracy, written at the request of the eminent Neander, by H. F. Uhden. It purports to be a history of the Congregationalists of New England to the revival of 1740, and is written with evident impartiality, although not always with that thoroughness of knowledge which would make it satisfactory to the theologians of this country. As a succinct narrative of tho progress of the churches of New England, written for Christians of the old world, we should have little fault to find with it, except its cold and distant style ; but we think it less adapted to the wants of our own country, where the events which it describes, and the characters who figure in its pages, are so thoroughly known and appreciated.
The “ Courtship of Miles Standish "I was published just as the last pages
of our November® number were passing through the press ;-too late for us to take any notice of it. We have since read the poem, and feel inclined to write a few words of criticism upon it.
* Notes of the Baptists and their Principles, in Norwich, Conn., from the settlement of the Town to 1850. By Rev. FREDERICK DENISON, A. M. 12mo. pp. 91.
† The New England Theocracy. By H. F. UHDEN. Translated from the German by H. C. Conant. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. 1858.
The Courtship of Miles Standish, and other Poems. By Henry WADSWORTI LONGFELLOW. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1859. 12mo. pp. 215.
We find that Mr. Longfellow still clings to hexameters. Ho reads them himself, we presume, with ease, and there may be a few others who are successful in the attempt, but we believe that the greater part of those who read poetry find little permanent satisfaction in them. The hexameter may please as a novelty, or as an exhibition of skill; an occasional felicitous expression, as, “The
Puritan maiden, Priscilla,"
may attract attention; but a poem constituted in this manner can never become a part of that poetry which lives permanently in the memory and heart of the people; yet, if it is to be written, there is no one who writes it so well as Mr. Longfellow.
We need give no analysis of a poem which has been so extensively read. We point out a few things which impressed us in reading it.
In John Alden, Mr. Longfellow seeks to represent the contest between love and friendship. But was there any sufficient call for such a conflict in this case? Mr. Longfellow has brought out with genuine poetic sensibility the deep and secret love of John Alden for “the Puritan maiden, Priscilla." But Miles Standish had no such love. He did indeed think it was not good for a man to be alone ;"—his life had been “weary and dreary," since he had lost Rose Standish,
“ Beautiful Rose of love."
Priscilla was alone in the world, and a "patient, courageous” woman; "an angel”-on reflection; and well adapted to fill a void in Miles Standisl's heart and household. Now we submit there was no reason at all under these circumstances, why John Alden should get up such a tremendous conflict in his breast between love and friendship, and explode in heroics.
But, we confess, we do not think much of John Alden, as a lover. He has quite too much of friendship, and a good deal too little of love. He even talks of going back to old England, and leaving the “Puritan maiden, Priscilla,"—we like to repeat the dactyls and spondee-al
– though he bad the grace in connection with it, to talk of the “churchyard," and lying there “ close by the side" of his mother. We fear if the genuine Priscilla--not the poetic one-had known of that resolve, she might have let hiin go ;—at least some of her descendants in like circumstances we think would have done so. On the other hand, Miles Standish is well drawn. It was natural that the “choleric captain " should be indignant at the issue of his courtship; it was natural, too, that he should soon digest his disappointment
" 'Twas but a dream,- let it pass—let it vanish like so many others !
Be but a fighter of battles, a lover and wooer of dangers !" Equally natural was it, that with his strong good sense, he should at length see the absurdity of the whole affair :
“ Then he said with a smile : I should have remembered the adage
If you would be well served, you must serve yourself; and moreover,
No man can gather cherries in Kent at the season of Christmas." We have a word to say on “ the loveliest maiden of Plymouth,” berself. Portions of the picture which the poet has drawn are exquisite. There are touches in it worthy the hand of the writer. Nothing more beautiful can be imagined than this Puritan maiden at the spiuningwheel, with
- the carded wool like a snow-drift
Piled at her knee. We recognize, too, her pure and delicate nature, as she says in her conversation with John Alden,
“I have been thinking all day,' said gently the Puritan maiden,
* Dreaming all night, and thinking all day, of the hedge-rows of England, -
Wish myself back in Old England, I feel so lonely and wretched.""
“ Rose as he entered, and gave him her hand in signal of welcome,
Saying, “I knew it was you when I heard your step in the passage ;
For I was thinking of you, as I sat there singing and spinning.'” The famous remark to John Alden at the end of the interview, the poet has accompanied with a commentary,
“Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter,
Said, in a tremulous voice, 'why don't you speak for yourself, John ?' which gives the true interpretation of that sally. It was half in joke
and half in earnest, out of pity for a bashful man. Now, about the last thing we should suppose a man would think of in such a connection was
-"David's transgression," and "Bathsheba's beautiful face,”— or of “Satanic temptations," as the poet informs us John Alden did. John Alden may bave been a worthy man, and, we doubt not, he made a good busband, but certainly he did not shine as a lover.
We return to the character of Priscilla. Thus far, the poet has drawn it with great skill—especially the naivete and archness of her disposition. But now, as it seems to us, he departs from this view of her character. He represents her as making a grave apology to John Alden for her boldness—and the apology itself sounds to us much like a speech in a woman's convention, in behalf of the right to say such things. As a somewhat between joke and earnest, the words of the maiden were a thing pleasant to be remembered; as an error to be apologized for, something, rather, always to be ashamed of. But the reply of John Alden was still worse. Here was a youthful maiden ingenuously apologizing for what might appear an over-forwardness, and how is she met? "Thereupon, answered John Alden, the scholar, the friend of Miles Standish: I was not angry with you, with myself alone
was angry, Seeing how badly I managed the matter I had in my keeping.”– With himself, indeed! Could he at this time, think only of self! Had he no generous sentiments in his heart! Was this all he could say to put the maiden at peace with herself! This interview between Priscilla and John Alden on the shore seems to us a blemish on the poem. It comes to the following very lame and impotent conclusion, in the words of John Alden ?
“Yes! we must ever be friends; and of all who offer you friendship,
Let me be ever the first, the truest, the nearest and dearest !?”
But out of this reconciliation of friendship, las arisen a passage of beautiful poetry which we quote:
Straight uprose from her wheel the beautiful Puritan maiden,
Come, you must not be idle; if I am a pattern for housewives,