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CATACOMBS OF PARIS, TOMB-STONE WAREHOUSES, ETC. A subscriber and kind correspondent at Paris, in a recent letter, gives us two or three brief but graphic sketches of scenes in the French metropolis. We subjoin an extract, descriptive of the Parisian catacombs, and a manufactory of 'ready-made' tomb-stones: 'I have to-day, through the kindness of a distinguished French officer, been permitted access to the immense catacombs of Paris. After having reached the spot, I followed my guide, who was provided with flaring tapers, down a long flight of steps. At length, more than a hundred feet from the surface of the ground, we paused, and entered one of the low passages, leading to the catacombs. Passing along, we presently arrived at a small black door, over which was an inscription in Latin,' This is the entrance to the Cavern of Death! How vast is its extent! Here the contents, long collecting, of various cemeteries of the metropolis have been deposited. As the door was closed behind me, a cold shudder crept over me, at the thought that I was shut up with three millions of skulls! They grin in ghastly horror on every side. Here, they repose in conical heaps, laid up like cannon balls in the navy-yard at Brooklyn; and there, stretching in long lines, tier after tier, and one above another, like bottles in an extensive wine-cellar. Mighty congress of the dead! - representatives from that dim and shadowy realm, the Past! Could they but speak - could each tell his 'story of a life' — what romance would compare with the varied recital! How many victims of ambition - how many votaries of pleasure-how many slaves to passion-how many wretched and oppressed! After tarrying for an hour or more in this awful Golgotha, I emerged to the day-light, feeling more intensely than I ever felt before, the common blessing of existence. Time seemed doubly precious to me, when I reflected that the forms I had left, had been wafted on the same tide that was bearing me on to eternity.' 'While I am on grave subjects, let me tell you of an incidental visit I paid the other day, with a friend, to a tomb-stone warehouse, in a northern suburb. It was a spacious' shop,' filled with monuments in every variety of form and material, regularly arranged in order of age and character, and-do n't smile, but consider the gravity of the theme - already lettered with minute inscriptions, leaving blanks only for the name! It was amusing to hear the proprietor point out the various divisions: "Those on the left, are for the 'men above forty;' the 'fathers of families above forty' are in the recess behind you,' etc. There is a large variety of engraved virtues, which are suited to all classes and professions of society. 'Friends in need,' with a small bill of particulars,' were numerous. 'Good husbands' were held at about ten dollars, and 'faithful wives' were equally cheap, there being a good assortment of both. 'Friends to the poor' were a large department, but 'virgins untimely cut off' were very dear. Poetical additions are paid for by the line, and exclamation points are extra! 'He lies like a tomb-stone!' says Pantaloon in the play; and to see such systematic laboratories of standing praise, as the one I have described, shows the comparison a good one. 'All are equal in the dust,' here, in the most literal sense of the phrase.'
As touching monuments and tomb-stones. There is not a little adroit satire in an anecdote of THEODORE HOOK, contained in a late London magazine. It illustrates that
speedy assuagement of grief which sometimes occurs, with the seemingly ultra affectionate, in this very curious world:
'One of our most eminent sculptors was applied to, some years since, by a Mrs. Gingham, the widow of an opulent tradesman, who had died exceedingly rich, to make a design for a monument to his memory. The lady, who was, as the poet has it, cursed with a taste, gave a description of the sort of monument she wished for, which was to consist of a group of figures: Fame was to appear sounding the reputation of the late Mr. Gingham, as an eminent linen-draper; Hibernia, with a piece of Irish cloth under her arm, was to lean on her stringless harp; while Britannia was to be represented embracing Mr. G., as he was seated in his armed chair, with an open piece of cambric muslin in his lap; while Liberty, standing behind him, displayed her bonnet rouge ou a pole immediately over his head. Above these again were to be two or three naked, plump little boys, with wings, flying about as wild as swallows; and in the fore-ground were to be disposed several bales of goods, an anchor, a pile of cannon-balls, the rudder of a ship, and other suitable objects, calculated to convey a just idea of the extent of his business; while at his feet were to be seen kneeling his mourning widow and three children. On the right hand was to be a view of St. Paul's Cathedral, with palm-trees, pyramids, crocodiles, and cypresses in the distance. Startled by the elaborate description of the exemplary lady, the sculptor hinted that the execution of such a work would cost at least seven thousand pounds.
A mere trifle to one who loved as I have loved!' said Mrs. G. Make the design.'
• The sculptor did make the design, and at the end of three months, the lady called again: she saw the beautiful sketch; and then said, she thought perhaps it might appear somewhat too ostentatious; that every body knew how extensive poor dear G.'s trade had been, aud that perhaps the single figure sitting alone would be better, under all the circumstances: the fore-ground might he relieved with certain emblems, etc.; but she wished the sculptor to reduce the design to the cost of about two thousand pounds.
'The artist again did as she desired, and her late husband was represented, G. by himself, G., in the same armed chair; Hibernia had left her stringless harp in one corner; Britannia had posed her shield in the other; Fame had left her trumpet on one side of his seat, and Liberty had placed the pole, with her cap upon it, behiud it; the figures had taken their departure, but the emblems remained.
• Three months more elapsed, and the widow came again. Again she admired the design: 'But would it not be better to adopt a little sketch which her friend Mr. Hobkirk had made; merely a tablet and an inscription- quite plain?'
Hereabout the sculptor lost all patience, and doing a violence to his naturally kind feelings, entreated the lady to transfer her favors to the first stone-mason she might meet with, who would no doubt be too happy to receive fifty pounds for embodying her young friend's ideas.'
It may perhaps be superfluous to add, that Mrs. Gingham became Mrs. Hobkirk, long before the tablet was begun, and that the lamented linen-draper measures his length in the parish church to this day, unhonored and unrecorded.
IMPROVED ALPHABET. We have examined, with some attention, the characters for an alphabet, sent us by a correspondent, and perused his remarks. The subject demands a few words in reply. Within two or three hundred years, many attempts have been made to form and introduce a perfect or more complete alphabet than that which is now used. This has been proposed and attempted in England; Dr. Franklin attempted it in this country, as well as in England; and more recently, three or four plans have been suggested in this country. But all schemes of this kind have failed. From the experience we have already had, and from the intrinsic difficulties of the plan, we are of opinion that a new alphabet cannot be introduced; and if any improvements in the alphabet could be introduced, no scheme that we have yet seen is well adapted to the purpose. Were a perfect philosophical alphabet to be formed, many of the characters now used would be as well adapted to the purpose as any others which can be invented. The Latin characters we now use, are, in our judgment, the best letters which have been formed. They consist of straight lines, or easy curves, with few sharp corners, and no involutions, or irregularities of form. They are more easily made with a pen, and less painful to the eye, than any other characters we have ever seen. No consideration should induce us to lay them aside, and substitute others. Their extensive use is another objection to change.
The introduction of entirely new characters would render useless all the books now printed, and all the types now used. Such a change as this is not practicable; and if
it were practicable, it is doubtful whether it would be expedient. The advantages would scarcely repay the expense, or compensate for the immense trouble which the change would require. Some corrections of English orthography, which would be nothing more than restoring the ancient and true spelling, or rejecting a few superfluous letters, in conformity with analogies, and with the pronunciation, and a few points to note distinctions of sound, would render the acquisition of the English language very easy, without any new characters to offend the eye. Any alteration which gives much offence to the eye, will naturally be rejected.
'ALL OF THE OLDEN TIME.'-Ten to one, reader, that you never pored over the timehonored pages of quaint PHILLIP STUBBES; that you never surveyed his 'Anatomie of Abuses,' wherein he denounces, in a catalogue raisonné of the vices and gayeties of his age, the pomps and vanities of the great Babel, in 1585. We therefore consider your hapless case, and will help you to a sample of his matter and manner. After demurring against the 'confuse mingle-mangle of apparell, and the preposterous excesse thereof,' which then prevailed, whereby it was difficult to know gentle from simple-'all whiche, he says, 'I coumpt a great confusyon' - he proceeds to particulars, beginning with the hat, the fashion of which seems to have been rather more various at that remote period than now:
'Sometymes they use them sharpe on the croune, pearking up like the spire or shaft of a steeple, standynge up a quarter of a yarde above the croune of their heades, some more, some lesse, as please the phantasies of their inconstante mindes. Other some be flat, and broad in the croune, like the battlementes of a house. Another sorte have round crounes, sometymes with one kind of bande, sometimes with another; now blacke, now white, now russet, now red, now grene, now yellow; now this, now that; never content with one colour or fashion two daies to an ende. And thus in vanitie they spend the Lorde his treasure, consumynge their golden yeres and silver daies in wickednesse and sinne. And as the fashions be rare and straunge, so is the stuffe whereof their hattes be made, divers also; for some are of silke, some of velvet, some of taffetie, some of sarcenet, some of wooll, and which is more curious, some of a certain kind of fine baire. These they call bever hattes, of twentye, thirtye, or fortye shillinges price, fetched from beyonde the seas, from whence a great sorte of other vanities doe come besides: and so common a thingit is, that everie servyng man, contrieman, and other, even all indifferently, dooe weare of these hattes: for he is of no account, or estimation amongst men, if he have not a velvet or taffatie hatte; and that must be pincked, and cunny ngly carved of the beste fashion. And some are not content, without a greate bunche of feathers, of divers and sundrie colours, peakynge on top of their heades.'
He passes down to the neck, and is kindled to tenfold rage, as he comes in contact with the manifold abominations of the ruff, and its diabolical auxiliary, starch. Hear him:
"They have great and monstrous ruffes, made either of cambricke, holland, lawne, or els of some other the finest cloth that can be got for money, whereof some be a quarter of a yarde deepe; yea, some more, very few lesse; so that they stande a full quarter of a yarde (and more) from their neckes, hanging over their shoulder-points, insteade of a vaile. But if olus with his blasts, or Neptune with his storms, chauuce to hit upon the crazie barke of their bruised ruffes, then they gooth flip-flap in the winde, like ragges that flew abroad, lying upon their shoulders like the dish cloute of a slut. But, wot you what? The devil, as he, in the fullnesse of his malice, first invented these great ruffes, so hath he now found out also two great pillars to beare up and maintaine this his kyngdome of great ruffes, (for the devil is kyng and prince over all the children of pride.) The one arche or pillar, whereby his kyngdome of great ruffes is underpropped, is a certain kinde of liquid matter, which they call STARCH, wherein the devil hath willed them to wash and dive their ruffes well; which beyng drie, will then stand stiff and inflexible about their neckes. The other pillar is a certaine device made of wiers, crested for the purpose, whipped over either with gold, thred, silver, or silke; and this he calleth a supportasse, or underpropper.'
Take this description with you, reader, into some gallery of old portraits - such 'undoubted originals' as are multiplied abroad, (like Goldsmith's petrified lobsters,) for the New-York market- and mark with what ludicrous faithfulness the picture is drawn, But do not sneer with the satirical STUBBES; because thirty years may not elapse, before your own dress shall be looked back upon with scarcely less disfavor and contempt "The fashion of this world passeth away!'
BYRON. We have been gratified to perceive the applause which has been bestowed upon Mr. SIMMONS' lecture on the 'Poetry of BYRON,' before a crowded and delighted audience, at the hall of the Mercantile Library Association. It was admirable in every sense; and its delivery, it is unnecessary to add, was perfect. The lecturer regarded Byron as having been, more emphatically than any of his contemporaries, the poet of the age and of the people; more a cosmopolite in his spirit; presenting scenes, images, and contemplations, of a more universal interest; not addressing the sympathies or tastes of any particular class, temperament, or neighborhood, but dealing with the common mind of man. In these respects, the lecturer instituted a comparison between 'Childe Harold' and the poetry of Pope, Cowper, Goldsmith, Scott, Campbell, Moore, and Wordsworth. In the extent and variety of scenes, and the amount of observation on men and manners, he placed Childe Harold side by side with the Odyssey of Homer. The dissimilarity, however, of the ancient and the modern poet, in their descriptions of artificial objects, and of natural scenery, was very strikingly developed, and philosophically accounted for. The principal faults, in the style of Childe Harold, were occasional prolixity, over-statement or exaggeration, and frequent egotism. On these points, especially the last, the lecturer commented with candid severity. He charged, however, a more subtle form of egotism on such poets as Coleridge and Wordsworth, Hunt and Keats, who so completely infuse their own very peculiar idiosyncracies into every fibre of their compositions, that these can be fully appreciated only by readers of their own temperament and tastes; so that much of their poetry must ever be insignificant to the ardent, the energetic, and the occupied.
With Mr. SIMMONS' views of the spirit of Byron's poetry, we fully agree. We think them generous and manly. The ultra rigid, howbeit, may have deemed them too indulgent. He traced back the misanthropy, the scepticism, and the voluptuousness, that occasionally sully our poet's page, to certain elements in his temper, which combined to inspire him with 'a perverse spirit of nonconformity, and a delight in defying the frown of a harsh or hypocritical morality, and subduing its professors, in their own despite, by the laughing sweetness of his strain.' 'So far,' said the lecturer, in substance, 'as this spirit may have induced him to represent the gratification of the senses as the highest good, or to encourage a voluptuousness of the heart, by stimulating our sensibility to material beauty, without rousing those energies of the soul which alone can direct that sensibility aright, the fault carries its punishment with it; for such a spirit can be entertained by none but an unhappy man, and embodied on none but a perishing page.' Mr. SIMMONS made it appear, however, that much that had been objected to, among Byron's gayeties, was written with no other view than to expose that cunt, which the poet so frequently pronounced to be the besetting sin of the times. After a brief analysis of Byron's poetic genius, intellectually considered, the lecturer closed with a very touching allusion to his zeal and self-sacrifice in the cause of Grecian freedom; and with the quotation of a noble passage from Walter Scott, written on hearing the news of Byron's death.
'LETTERS FROM ROME.' Our readers, we are sure, will share our gratification, in the perusal of another series of Letters from the popular author of the 'Letters from Palmyra.' They will form, in some sort, a sequel to those well-known papers, and will be found to possess, as they proceed, we have reason to believe, an equal, or if possible a superior interest. They will bring back, we may judge as well from the scene and era chosen as from the ability of the writer, with vivid distinctness, the long-vanished Past. There will be heard 'the voice of Time disparting towers;' and the mighty events which are now buried 'in the dark backward and abysm of years,' will be bared, like the splendors of Palmyra, to the eye of the Present. But enough for conjecture. We shall see anon.
'LA PETITE AUGUSTA.'- Crowded as we are for space, we yet cannot resist the inclination to devote a few lines to the expression of an opinion, touching the merits of this extraordinary little girl — a mere child of twelve years. Graceful, lithe, and fairylike, yet firm in her step, and ripe in her execution, she has won at once a high reputation as a finished artiste. With an expressive and handsome countenance, finelymoulded limbs, and such richness of early talent, what may not be expected of her, when she shall have returned from abroad, with the advantages of study, under the best masters and mistresses of her art? The delighted audiences who have attended her recent performances at the Park, can realize what such improvement will effect, in one so preeminently promising.
'THE MOTLEY BOOK.' - Our deceased friend, 'BEN. SMITH,' whose funeral obsequies were celebrated in these pages many months since, comes before the public again in "The Motley Book' - much to our surprise, of course; since, as SCOTT said to his wife, if he was not dead, his friends treated him very wrongfully in burying him. The work will consist of a series of tales and sketches, intended to represent what is humorous and touching in life and character; and its professed object is, to 'while away a dull hour, to cheer a doubting or despondent heart, and to prove that the world is not yet turned into a moping, melancholy pageant.' Mr. SMITH has a tolerable eye for the burlesque and the humorous; but generally, in his lighter sketches, his canvass is quite too crowded; and a sense of vagueness of something sometimes sufficiently droll, it may be, but still always shadowy and in patches - detracts from the merit of his humorous performances. Let him curb his fancy somewhat, when it is most disposed to curvet and rolick, if he desire to gain or retain his reader's remembrance and admiration. 'Pickwick,' for example, is inimitable in its humor; but that humor is never confused, nor frittered away in elevating trifles, unless they are effectively accessory to the writer's purpose. The 'Potters' Field' is not ill conceived. It has a touch of the German spirit, with something Radcliffeian in language; and it brings collateral satire to bear upon certain abuses of the cold and heartless present. The 'Motley Book' is illustrated by three engravings on wood, and the whole is creditable in externals. JAMES TURNEY, Jr., Gold-street.
"THE NEW-YORKER.' - The fifth volume of this widely-circulated weekly journal will commence on the 24th instant. The favorable opinion which we have heretofore expressed of this periodical, has been enhanced by its increasing merit. Its literary articles, original and selected, evince talent and good taste, its editorial department great industry and sound judgment, and its criticisms, discrimination and fearless candor. Its professed political aims are, to exhibit the views of all parties and sects, as set forth by their leaders and oracles. PARK BENJAMIN, Esq., Editor of the 'American Monthly Magazine,' has recently assumed the supervision of the literary department. There is a city and foreign department, under the charge of Dr. ELDRIDGE, a competent co-laborer with Messrs. GREELEY and BENJAMIN, in the editorial conduct of the work. We cordially wish the 'New-Yorker' that support, to which it presents undeniable claims, and which it has secured, to an almost unexampled extent.
PORTRAIT OF OSCEOLA. - A full length likeness of OSCEOLA, drawn on stone by one of our first artists, will soon be published. The sketch was taken in May last, from life, by Capt. J. R. VINTON, of the United States' Army, and includes a view of the locale, Lake Monroe and the adjacent scenery. It is a striking portrait of the renowned warrior, while in full health and vigor. It will be executed upon fine India paper, in the first style of the art, and with an appropriate margin for binding. New-York: WILLIAM W. HOOPER, engraver, 126 Nassau-street.