Page images

nations. A new spirit is at work in political transactions. The views of governments are now directed to the making of treaties for trade and for the removal of abuses, and not treaties for defence or offence. The era of commerce in national affairs has succeeded to that of war. The glowing language of Burke is literally true, and in a far higher sense than that in which he used it. “ The age of chivalry is gone. That of economists and calculators has succeeded; but the glory of Europe is not,” as he deemed it, “ extinguished forever. No. The glory of Europe and of the world never blazed forth as now, in living splendors.

“ Farewell ! the plumed troop, and the big wars,

That make ambition virtue ; 0, farewell !
Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner; and all quality,
Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war !

Farewell ! Othello's occupation 's gone." Though the commercial world may be unconscious agents in this process of redemption; though they may not know, nor rightly value their high calling, and follow it rather for gain than godliness; though they may contemplate no such effect as the result of their operations; though that effect should even be contrary to their purposes and intentions; to this, at last, in the course of modern civilization, it must assuredly come.

Art. III. - The Americans in their Moral, Social,

and Political Relations. By Francis J. Grund. Boston: Marsh, Capen, & Lyon. 1837. Two volumes in one. 12mo. pp. 423.

Nothing annoys a portion of our countrymen more than certain books, concerning us, which English VOL. I. NO. II.


travellers from time to time put forth. These books, it is said, abuse, misrepresent, caricature, and make us sweet food for laughter. All this is unquestionably very provoking; but it is nothing more than they who complain deserve. It is meet that English travellers should make us their sport, so long as we continue to worship the English. When we cease to be apes and dare be men, when we leave off our blind devotion to everything English, and set up for a national character of our own, thinking our own thoughts, speaking our own words, and living after our own manner, English travellers, and all other travellers, will try us by the proper standard, treat us with proper respect, and tell the truth about us. Till then, God grant that the Halls, the Trollopes, and the Hamiltons may continue to write and publish concerning us.

The book before us, by an intelligent German, who has resided several years among us, is in a very different vein from the productions with which English travellers have so liberally favored us. It is a work of respectable ability and information. It has evidently been conceived and executed in a good spirit, and with a friendly intent. The impression concerning our morals, manners, institutions, and social relations, the perusal of it must leave on the mind of a foreigner, we should think, would be in the main correct. Perhaps it is too little disposed to find fault, and that it sometimes praises us, when it would do well to censure us. However this may be, we welcome the book, and recommend it as deserving the attention of our countrymen. They may find in it some useful suggestions, and derive much pleasure from its perusal, perhaps profit from its study.

This book has one fault, at least what will be deemed a fault by many. It is not written in the interests of the aristocracy. Mr. Grund's literary reputation, as well as his standing in American “ Good Society," will be seriously affected by the respect he has shown for democratic principles. Will it be believed in the Saloons, in State Street, in Wall Street, and especially in Old Harvard, that a man capable of writing a book of unquestionable ability, has spoken of General Jackson in terms of respect, and even gone so far as to approve his administration? The fact is even so, incredible as it may appear. This is probably because Mr. Grund was neither born nor educated in America. Had he been born and educated in this country, it is not likely that he would have been guilty of such high handed lèse-aristocratie. The presidents and professors of our colleges take proper care that no democracy infect their halls, which are duly fumigated, and ever and anon, ventilated with fresh currents of good English atmosphere.

A foreigner might naturally think that the literature of a democratic country should be democratic; but we can teach him better. This country is too democratic to tolerate a democratic literature. What would become of our aristocracy, if our literature, by any strange mischance, should become democratic? Where would it be, if the “Rabbis of the Universities,” together with the learned Dean who presides over the North American, should, by any singular confusion of ideas, embrace democratic notions, and undertake to train up the young men entrusted to their care, to love the free and democratic institutions of their country? Gone were it, and gone forever. Aristocracy dies in this country the day that it loses the aid of our literature. The people of this country will do very much as they have a mind to do; and if they take it into their heads to give the aristocracy the go-by, they will do it, and no power on earth can hinder them. Need is there then that the aristocracy keep in their own hands the control of all the influences which go to form the mind of the people. This is their only means of salvation. Of these influences the most important is literature. The men who come forth from colleges are looked upon as the masters of literature, as its creators rather, and hence the necessity of keeping democracy out of colleges.

The necessity there is of keeping up an aristocratic tone in our literature, accounts in part for our fondness for English literature and our aversion to French and German. The French and Germans, in literary matters, are rank democrats. They pay no deference to Cant, they speak out boldly what they think, and they think for themselves too. The English are not guilty of these sins. They dress the altars of thrice holy Cant, take good care to exhibit no trace of free thought or of bold and manly utterance. Their literature is not disfigured by any wildness of speculation, by any consciousness of mental independence,

living sentiment of Humanity. It is therefore just the literature for us, young Americans. It is safe, and will tend to keep us in order. Should we once begin to study, to some extent, the literature of France and Germany, there is no telling what strange consequences might ensue. There would soon be no respect paid to a thing merely because it is old, nor to a man because he is rich. It is even possible that we should become so perverse as to reverence only worth, and to reverence that though clad in


Our remarks are not quite just to English literature. England has had, and has, some writers whose works are not altogether tame and servile; but these writers are not commended, and are generally represented as dangerous and not to be read. Scott it is safe to read and to praise, for he was too much engaged with the past, too busy in furbishing up old escutcheons, and tracing out old heraldric bearings, to ever dream of elevating the masses, or of giving countenance to doctrines of political equality. But the “ Lay of the Last Minstrel” has been sung. The Minstrel sleeps with his fathers. Peace to his ashes. We did him due honor for his genius in his day, and suffered ourselves to be beguiled, by his enchanting volumes, of many a weary hour. Bulwer it is not safe to praise or to read. He is evidently democratic. His moral character is said to be very bad, and the saints eschew his books; though these same saints will support a man for president of the United States, whose character is said to be no better than they represent Mr. Bulwer's. But then this candidate for the presidency is not loaded with the sin of democracy. Poor Byron is under the ban of the Reviews, is declared to have been no poet, to have been given to the flesh, and to have sometimes sipped gin and water. There is great peril in reading him. He should be eschewed by all who have a regard for their morals. Not indeed because he was given to the flesh, for that may sometimes be the case with men accounted godly, nor because he drank gin and water, for it is lawful to praise Charles Lamb, though he would now and then get tipsy; but because he did not reverence Cant, and because he was not, as he was in duty bound to be, a staunch aristocrat. Wordsworth may be praised, for few have the patience to read him, and moreover he is a Tory; but poor Shelley must not be mentioned, for he dreamed of social equality. Coleridge and Southey are permitted to be read, notwithstanding the “pantisocratic” dreams of their youth, for when they became men they “put away childish things.”

Of our own writers it is lawful to praise Washington Irving, for he has never, we believe, written anything not acceptable to the North American and the London Quarterly. Cooper was a favorite, so long as he wrote only to amuse, and took good care to show no sympathy with the democracy; but since he has felt himself an American, and sought to infuse into his works some portion of American thought and feeling, he has fallen from grace, and must now be looked upon as under the ban of all the Quarterlies in the world, — except our own. It would hardly do for Bryant to hazard another volume of poems. Channing, it is said, is a loco foco, and has an eye to Congress, for he has shown no little sympathy with common Humanity. Bancroft must be endured, because nobody but a thorough going democrat can write the History of the United States, and it is very desir

« PreviousContinue »