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strikes us as one of the most singular phenomenons in that vast region of curiosities and wonders. We are glad to see that the reviewer paye a passing tribute to Mr. NATHANIEL J. WYETH. We have ever admired the spirited attempt of that enterprising individual, to rear once more the American flag in the lost domains of Astoria, and to regain for his country the opulent trade of the Columbia.' We regret that his intrepid and persevering efforts could not have been aided and enforced by government, so as to enable him to maintain the foot-hold which he had effected in the country. He appears to have had an energy and decision of character, and a scope of thought, that fitted him to follow out the great plans of Mr. Astor. All he wanted was the purse.
ENGLISH REMINISCENCES OF 'THE WAR-TIME,' DECATUR, ETC. — A distinguished literary friend, whose name, were we authorized to announce it, would give additional interest and force to the following reminiscence, writes us, in a letter referring to the anecdote of Sir Admiral HARVEY, in the last KvickEREOCKER, as follows: 'Shortly after our last war, I was in Liverpool, where I became acquainted with the officers of the Eighty-Fifth, then stationed in that town. This regiment had served in the maraud upon the city of Washington, and one of the officers, Major Brown, had received promotion for his services in that affair, having been left by the British, among the rest of . their wounded, on their rapid retreat, after having set fire to the public buildings. He was a frank, worthy fellow, and took no merit to himself for his share in the affray. 'He acted,' he said, “under orders, but his heart revolted at the whole transaction. When he was left upon the scene of maraud, and the people of Washington recovered from their confusion and consternation, he anticipated rough treatment at their hands. 'How can it be otherwise,' thought he, 'when they see their public buildings smoking around them, and catch one of the offenders among the very ruins he has created ?' On the contrary, nothing could be more kind and humane than the treatment of the wounded. As to Brown, being an officer, and a young man, he was treated with peculiar attention. He received the best of nursing and attendance; he was continually receiving presents of comforts and delicacies from the ladies of the place; and declared that if he had been among his own country people, he could not have been treated more tenderly. 'Egad!' said he, 'they punished me with kindness. It was heaping coals of fire upon my head. I almost wished they would treat me ill, for it made me feel like a culprit.'
From the same source as the above, we derive the subjoined original anecdotes, related 10 the writer by the brave Decatur, whose memory is so justly dear to every patriotic American : "The late gallant DecaTUR was a sailor to the very heart's core, and loved to tell anecdotes of the common sailors. I recollect one which he used to relate, to the following purport: In one of the actions before Tripoli, while fighting hand to hand with the captain of a gun-boat, DECATUR came near being cut down by a Turk, who attacked him from behind. A seaman named REUBEN JAMEs, who was already wounded in both hands, seeing the risk of his commander, rushed in and received the blow of the vplifted sabre on his own head. Fortunately, the honest fellow survived to receive his reward. Sometime afterward, when he had recovered from his wounds, DECATUR sent for him on deck, expressed his gratitude for his self-devotion, in presence of the crew, and told him to ask for some reward. The honest tar pulled up his waist-band, and rolled his quid, but seemed utterly at a loss what recompense to claim. His mess-mates gathered around him, nudging him with their elbows, and whispering in his ear: 'He had all the world in a string, and could get what he pleased ;' 'the 'old man'could deny him nothing,' etc. One advised this thing, another that; 'double pay,' 'double allowance,' 'a boatswain's berth,' 'a pocket-full of money, and a full swing on ehore,' etc. Jack elbowed them all aside, and would have none of their counsel. After mature deliberation, he announced the reward to which he aspired; it was, to be excused from rolling up the hammock cloths! The whimsical request was of course granted ; and from that time forward, whenever the sailors were piped to stow away their hammocks, Jack was to VOL. XV.
be seen loitering around, and looking on, with the most gentlemanlike leisure. He always continued in the same ship with Decatur. 'I could always know the state of my bile by Jack,' said the commodore. 'If I was in good humor, and wore a pleasant aspect, Jack would be sure to heave in sight, to receive a friendly nod: if I was out of humor, and wore, as I sometimes did, a foul-weather physiognomy, Jack kept aloof, and skulked among the other sailors. It is proper to add, that ReveeN JAMEs received a more solid reward for his gallant devotion, than the privilege above-mentioned, a pension having been granted to him by government. · · On another occasion, Decatur had received at New-York the freedom of the city, as a testimonial of respect and gratitude. On the following day, he overheard this colloquy between two of his sailors: ‘Jack,' said one, 'what is the meaning of this freedom of the city,' which they've been giving to the 'old man ? Why, do n't you know? Why, it's the right to rollick about the streets, as much as he pleases; kick up a row; knock down the men, and kiss the women!' 'O ho!' cried the other ; 'that's something worth fighting for!
A PLEASANT PROSPECT. We alluded, recently, to Mr. FRANKENSTEIN, a young sculptor and artist, whose bust and portrait of our esteemed friend, Governor SEWARD, and his accomplished lady, he had lately taken, together with those of other distinguished state officers, and citizens of Albany. We have just heard, and with much gratification, that, in company with a kindred mind, and an accomplished artist, Mr. ROTHERMEL, Mr. FRANKENSTEIN, for the more ample study of the better portions of human nature, and the gratification of a passion for scenery, is about to travel through the country, tarrying for a brief space at the different places on their route, to practice their profession. They will leave Philadelphia for a jaunt through Pennsylvania, on or near the first of March instant; and we take pleasure in cordially commending them to the courteous attention of our readers in the Key-stone State, as well as elsewhere.
To Readers and Correspondenta. – Several articles, intended by the writers for the present issue, (among them an 'Ollapodiana,' and a sixth letter from the 'American in Paris,') were received too late for insertion, the cumber being ready for press on the 17th of February. The following will receive immediate attention : The Cook, a Domestic Portrait ;' • Fowling,' by.Alfred B. Street, Eeq.; 'Winter;' 'Lines on the Death of Lieut. Hulbert ;' • The White Fish ;' «The City by the Sea ;' with several other papers, concerning which the writers have had private advisement. We shall continue, in subsequent numbers, the amusing · History of the Devil,' by the author of 'Robinson Crusoe,' with other entertainments. A review in detail of Carey on the Currency,' with notices of Mrs. Romeyn's Seminary, 'Albion' plate,' Southern Literary Messenger,' Tyller's Vaiversal History,' Willia's · Romance of Travel,'• The American Repertory,' etc., are in type for the April number. . . . 'T.B.C.'s kind words are appreciated, but they are unfortunately not deserved. We cannot claim the honor of being a Yankee, having been born and reared (* raised' they say in Pennsylvania, and at the South, where they put a man on a par with a vegetable,) in the Empire State,' in which we have good reason to be proud, even while we remember the glory of New-England, which we may share only as an American. ... We frequently observe, in the literary weekly journals of New York, and her neighbor cities, attractive announcements of "A nete Tale by Washington Irving!' 'New Story by Geoffrey Crayon !' etc. It is proper to remark here, therefore, that Mr. Irving's communications appear originally in the Knickerbocker, and that he writes for no other work. Hence, the productions of Geoffrey Crayon will never be 'new' to any reader of this Magazine, in any other medium; as the work is now circulated to all our subscribers out of town a week before it is served in the city, although here it is delivered promptly ou tbe first day of the mouth. Thus, before Mr. Irving's articles can reach the distant readers of the journals alluded to, they will have been perused a week or fortnight before, by every subscriber to the Knickerbocker. The present number, for example, is circulated to all its country readers a week previous to its punctual issue in town; and this arrangement will be steadily observed hereafter. ... A word here, touching a very small matter : In a labored and otherwise rather amusing communication, penned over the signature of the late joint Proprietar of this Magazine, a portion of the public bave been Iaformed, that during the last six years, “but eleven pages per annum have been furnished from the Editor's pen.' The Editor must be permitted briefly to reply, that during this period, there appeared in the origiual department of Literary Notices' and 'Editors' Table,' fourteen hundred and fifty pages of fine type, equal to two thousand nine hurdred pages of the larger type, in the body of the work, in which also appeared some seventy additional pages from his pen. Take frem these, at the very utmost, one hundred and forty pages, and there remain what would form two thousand seven kundred and sisty pages, in the type of the 'Original Papers,' contributed by the Editor to his own departments of the Magazine. Of the quality of these portions of the work, and the amount of originality which they exhibit, those of our readers who have peruaed twelve or thirteen volumes of the Kuickerbocker, have probably formed a satisfactory estimate. The Editor can only regret that they were not better. It remains but to affirm, that the other statements of the communication alluded to, are just as true as the one we hace cited, but no more 80 ; and to repeat, that 'the services of the late joiut proprietor were entirely confined 10 the business department ;'ldat 'no articles were erer accepted or declined by him, nor did a line of his campa. sition wer enter the Magazine.'
In perusing a late Review, containing a dissertation upon the works of the celebrated German writer, Goethe, I find quoted from them the following strictures upon Shakspeare's Hamlet. As all Americans, who are readers, and have some literary pretensions, are interested in the right interpretation of our favorite poet and dramatist, I am assured it will not be deemed a work of mere supererrogation, that I should undertake to show the error into which Goëthe has fallen, in his attempt to sketch the character of Hamlet. In his • Wilhelm Meister' may be found the subjoined criticism of Shakspeare's tragedy. Speaking of Hamlet, he says: 'Imagine to your self this youth, this king's son; figure to yourself accurately his position ; and then observe him when he learns that the ghost of his father has appeared. Place yourself by his side, in that terrible night, when the venerable spirit itself appears to him. A prodigious horror seizes him; he addresses the wonderful apparition, sees it beckon to him, follows and hears. The terrible accusation against his uncle sounds in his ears the demand of vengeance, and the pressing and repeated supplication, Remember me!' And when the ghost has vanished, whom do we see standing before us ? A young hero panting for revenge? A born prince, who rejoices that he is challenged against the usurper of his crown? No. Astonishment and despondency overcome the solitary youth. He is bitter against smiling villains, swears not to forget the departed, and concludes with the significant sigh :
"The times are out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set them right! In these words, methinks, lies the key to Hamlet's whole behaviour; and it is evident to me, that Shakspeare intended to depict a great deed imposed upon a soul which is not equal to the deed. And in this sense, I find the piece complete throughout. Here is an oak planted in a delicate vase, which was intended to hold flowers; the roots develope themselves, and the vase is shattered and destroyed.
Such is Goethe's conception of the character of Hamlet, in which, as is evident to me, he is entirely mistaken, and in which he shows VOL. XV.
that he never ascended to the dignity and even majesty of that hero's whole character. It was not because Hamlet was below the task assigned him by his father, that he discovered so much regret, chagrin, and even despondency, upon perceiving that the execution of it had fallen to his lot, but because he was above it. As modelled by the hands of Shakspeare, he is one of those fine, mercurial, and elevated spirits, who are capable of any enterprise which becomes a great and good man, who has the fear of God before his eyes, and the love of his fellow creatures in his heart; but it was with the deepest repugnance and inward horror, that by the revelations made to him from the ghost, he felt himself constrained to imbrue his hands in the blood of a fellow creature, and that fellow creature his uncle, and now his king, and the husband of his mother. Were these the sensations of a man incompetent to the task of avenging a father's wrongs? Did they not rather characterize him as the very person to whom a noble spirited father would choose to intrust the redress of bis injuries, and the punishment of an atrocious offender? it ever yet thought a disqualification for his office in a judge, that in pronouncing sentence of death upor a criminal, his heart melted with compassion, and his mouth reluctantly uttered the dreadful penalties of the law? How much more strong emotions of repugnance to the part he was performing, might he be indulged in feeling, when he was to become not only the judge, but the executioner? Hamlet is represented by Shakspeare, not only as a youth of the finest capacity, and of a proud, bold, and magnanimous spirit, but also of elevated moral worth, and of a delicate and scrupulous conscience, and acutely alive to the hopes and fears of his religion. These were the feelings that caused him to look upon the part he was compelled to perform in life, by the wickedness of an uncle, with such extreme disquietude and agitation of mind. A remorseless villain would have assumed the office, and then have executed it with satisfaction, and more especially, when by so doing, he would not only punish a relative for supplanting him in the empire, but prepare the way for his own more speedy asceni to it. This is the kind of personage which Goëthe more than intimates he would have regarded as equal to the task which the elder Hamlet imposed upon his son.
Such a 'young
hero, panting for revenge, or born prince, rejoicing that he is challenged against the usurper of his crown,' might, indeed, at once, and without pain or compunction of conscience, have plunged a dagger into the bosom of the king, and brought the conflict to a speedy close. But such a hero would not have been a Hamlet, nor have suited the pencil of such a painter as Shakspeare, who delighted not in the portraiture of such monsters as Meister, Faust, and Mephistophiles, but in blending the mixed lights and shades that enter into real and natural characters, with whom human beings can cordially sympathize, and in whose features they can trace, under diversified modifications, their own likeness. After quoting these lines,
"The times are out of joint; O cursed spite,
Goëthe remarks: 'In these words, methinks, lies the whole key to Hamlet's behaviour ; and it is evident to me, that Shakspeare intended
to depict a great deed, imposed upon a soul which was not equal to the deed.' A strange conception, indeed, that so consummate a master of his art as Shakspeare, would have selected as the hero of his drama a personage incompetent to the task allotted him in the action! This interpretation is of a piece with that of another late commentator upon this author, who broached the opinion that Hamlet is not acting under the influence of a feigned but real insanity. Such critics would make sad work with this noble monument of human genius. To suppose Hamlet insane, or incompetent to the commission assigned him by his father, would disfigure the whole propriety, and blur the majesty of the performance. The misconception of the German writer would be fatal to that grandeur and magnanimity which are indispensable properties in a heroic character. The repugnance to the task allotted him, which is evinced by Hamlet, and a vexatious chagrin that it had fallen to his share to execute it, instead of furnishing any proof of timidity and weakness, are decided indications of moral superiority, and that delicate structure of heart and mind, that cannot brook the indignity of being constrained to perpetrate a deed which is odious and disgusting. But let it be remarked, in complete exoneration of Hamlet from this unjust imputation, that this inward reluctance to avenge a father by the condign punishment of an uncle and a mother, formed but a single ingredient in that complex feeling which at this time filled and disquieted his mind, and upon some turns of fortune, well nigh tossed reason and conscience from their throne. With this inward regret was connected all that virtuous indignation which was naturally awakened by atrocious guilt, together with a firm and steadfast determination to obey his father's solemn injunction, and bring the offender to a just retribution. Goëthe should have looked in other places to find the true key to Hamlet's conduct, and the great spring by which he was propelled. We would refer to the following passages of the drama, as more fully disclosing his state of mind to the reader. After the ghost has revealed to him the horrible circumstances of the murder, and solemuly enjoined upon him the punishment of the culprit, he exclaims :
passage is the one which furnishes the true key to all the subsequent deportment of Hamlet; and to the purpose he here promulges he most inflexibly adheres, whatever may be the vacillations of mind to which he becomes subject afterward, on account of his doubts, difficulties, and scruples of conscience. It is this mixed character in Hamlet, and the lights and shadows that are alternately falling upon the scene, and perplexing his vision of the several objects presented, which give rise to all those interesting events and conversations, that render this production such a noble delineation of those divers affections and passions that actuate the human heart, and an unrivalled monument of human genius.