« PreviousContinue »
of evidence for Christianity, which the Christian theologian will find not without value.
These are, rudely and imperfectly sketched, the chief outlines of Mr. Alcott's system, so far as we have ourselves been able to comprehend it. Of the two volumes before us we will not attempt to form an estimate. Different minds will estimate them differently. That they do in part accomplish the end for which they were designed we think no one can reasonably deny. They may be read with profit by all students of the New Testament; and to minds of some quickness of apprehension they will open up, in that often read but poorly comprehended volume, many views of rich and varied beauty on which the soul may feast with delight. Parents and Sunday School teachers will find them a valuable help in their work of instructing their children, and in conversing with children on religious subjects; and to them we conscientiously commend these volumes, not for the doctrines they may be supposed to teach, but for the suggestions they contain, and for the method of approaching the young mind they in part unfold.
As it regards Mr. Alcott's religious and metaphysical system, we have not much to offer. We have aimed to state it, not to criticise it. It strikes us as neither absurd nor alarming. We see much truth in it, and we recognise in it the marks of a mind earnestly in love with truth and willing to labor to gain it. The system, though original with Mr. Alcott, is by no means new or peculiar. As a whole we do not embrace it. We differ from him in several essential particulars. We do not admit that identity between Man and God, and God and Nature, which he does. God is in his works; but he is also separate from them. Creation does not exhaust the Creator. Without Him his works are nothing ; but He nevertheless is, and all He is, without them. I am in my intention, but my intention makes up no part of me. I am in the word I utter; and yet I am the same without the word that I am with it. In uttering it I have put forth a creative energy, but I nevertheless retain, after uttering it and independently of it, all the creative energy I had before. So of God. The universe is his intention, his word, and we may find him in it; but he remains independent of it, and is no more identical with it, than my resolution is identical with the power I have of forming resolutions, or than my word is identical with the power that utters it. Mr. Alcott appears to us not to distinguish with sufficient accuracy between the Creation and the Creator. The relation of the universe to God, according to him, is the relation of a word to the idea it stands for, whereas we regard it as the relation of an effect to its cause.
It would be hard for us to entertain his views, without becoming more pantheistic than we believe truth and piety warrant.
But notwithstanding this, Mr. Alcott's views of education, as he reduces them to practice, are unexceptionable. If he runs into an extreme in some cases, if he dwells too much in the Inward, and insists too much on Spontaneity, he probably goes not farther than is necessary to counteract the strong tendency in an opposite direction, which is the most striking characteristic of our schools as they are.
What we regard as erroneous in his theory, can in the actual state of things amongst us have no bad effect. We have overlooked the Inward; we have lost our faith in the Spiritual ; and it is well that a man comes amongst us, who persists in directing our attention to the voice of God that speaks to us, is ever speaking to us, in the soul of man. The Instincts, as Mr. Alcott calls them, are no doubt from God; they deserve to be studied and reverenced; we must, however, be on our guard that we do not become exclusively devoted to them, for if we do we shall become Mystics.
Art: IV. – Philosophical Miscellanies, translated from
the French of Cousin, Jouffroy, and Benjamin Constant. With Introductory and Critical Notices. By George Ripley. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, & Co. 1838. 2 vols. 12mo.
These two volumes are the first of a series of translations, Mr. Ripley proposes to bring out, from time to time, under the general title of Specimens of Foreign Standard Literature. The works he propsses to translate, or to cause to be translated, are the works in highest repute in France and Germany, the best works of the ablest scholars and most distinguished authors of the two nations in the departments of Philosophy, Theology, History, and General Literature. He will be assisted in this undertaking by some of our first scholars and most eminent literary men, and will, if he realizes his plan, give us not only specimens of foreign standard literature, but also specimens of correct and elegant translation.
Mr. Ripley's undertaking is a noble one, and one in which our whole country is deeply interested. The importance of reproducing in our own language the standard literature of other nations cannot easily be overrated. Every nation has its peculiar idea, its special manner of viewing things in general, and gives a prominence, a development to some one element of universal truth, which is given by no other nation. The literature of one nation has therefore always something peculiar to itself; something of value, which can be found in the literature of no other. The study of the literatures of different nations will necessarily tend, therefore, to liberalize our minds, to enlarge our ideas, and augment our sum of truth. Very few among us have the leisure or the opportunity to make ourselves sufficiently acquainted with foreign languages, to be able to relish the works of foreigners save in translations. It is always on translations that the great mass of the people must depend for all the direct benefit they are to receive from the labors and researches of foreign scholars; and it is the direct benefit of the great mass of the people, that the American scholar is bound always to consult.
If translations are to be made at all, they ought to be well made, and to be of the best works, the standard works of the languages from which they are made. We have many translations from the French and German, but in a majority of cases, perhaps, we may say of works that were hardly worth the translating. This may be said especially in reference to the German. The American public study Germany not in the mature productions of her ripest schol
Second and third rate authors, and second and third rate performances, at best, are those most generally translated. This is a grievous wrong to Germany, for it compels us to judge her for altogether less than she is; it is also a grievous wrong to ourselves, for it deprives us of a good we might receive, and which we need. Translations too are in general miserably executed, by persons who are in no sense whatever qualified to be translators. This perhaps is more especially the case in England than in this country. They are made too often by literary hacks, who must make them or starve, and who have no adequate knowledge of either the foreign language or their own, and not the faintest conception of the thought they undertake to reproduce. In consequence of want of taste and judgment in selecting the works to be translated, and of proper qualifications on the part of translators, translations in general, unless of purely scientific works, serve little other end than to encumber our book-shelves, corrupt the language, and overload it with foreign idioms and barbarous words and phrases. Both these evils are sought to be avoided by Mr. Ripley's plan, and will be, if his plan be realized, as we doubt not it must. His plan ensures us a French or German classic reproduced in English, and constituting ever after an English classic, whereby the intellectual and literary treasures within reach of the mere English student will be greatly augmented, the language itself enriched and perfected, the national taste refined and purified, and the national character elevated.
We are also much in want of the works Mr. Ripley proposes to reproduce. We have much to learn in the departments of Philosophy, Theology, and History, from the literatures of France and Germany. We are comparatively. a young people. We have had a savage world to subdue, primitive forests to clear away, material interests to provide for. Our hands have necessarily and rightly been employed, and our thoughts busy, in procuring the means of subsistence and in preparing the theatre of our future glory; and we have not had the leisure to pore over the records of the past, to push our inquiries into surrounding nature, to sit down and patiently watch the fleeting phenomena which rapidly pass and repass over the field of consciousness, or to engage with spirit and ardor in high and extensive literary pursuits. It is not our fault, then, if we are in some respects behind the cultivated nations of the Old World. We shall not be behind them long. There is a literature in the American soul, waiting but a favorable moment to burst forth, before which the most admired literatures of the Old World will shrink into insignificance, and be forgotten. This nation is destined to excel in every department of human activity. It now takes the lead in commercial and industrial activity; it will take the lead in the sciences and the arts.
From us is, one day, light to radiate, as from the central sun, to illumine the moral and intellectual universe. To us shall come, from all lands, the statesman, the philosopher, the artist, to gain instruction and inspiration, as from the God-appointed prophets of Humanity. We need not blush, then, to avail ourselves for the moment of foreign resources. The capital we borrow from abroad we shall profitably invest, and be able soon to repay, and with usury too.
This is not all. We are now the literary vassals of