« PreviousContinue »
A TRIBUTE TO THE MEMORY OF FITZHUGH SMITH. By the Author of 'Thoughts on a
New Order of Missionaries,' etc. In one volume. pp. 290. New-York: Published for the Author : WILEY AND PUTNAM.
FITZHUGH Smith, the implied subject of the above-named volume, was a son of GERRIT SMITH, Esq., of Madison county, in this state; a gentleman distinguished for his liberality, and for the conspicuous interest he has taken in certain public movements of the day. The deceased, who departed this life at the early age of eleven years, was evidently a boy of clever parts, remarkable for his agreeable person, and sweetness of disposition, as well as for great moral and religious propriety of deportment; a propriety which appears to have been the result of careful paternal training. Leaving the home of his childhood desolate, he was early translated to a better habitation; to the arms of a heavenly parent, in whose house are many mansions :
There, mid day-beans round him playing;
He his FATHER's face shall see,
'Lilele children, come to me!''
With this brief allusion to the ostensible subject of the volume before us, we pass to a consideration of the work itself. We had scarcely perused a score of its pages, before we 'were enabled to form a correct conjecture as to its character ; for it is as easy to see one's way through a flat book, as it is in travelling to discern a flat country in the onward distance. The volume, instead of being a tribute to the memory of FITZHUGH Smith, is for the most part a heterogenous compound of inflated small-talk, upon something more than three hundred irrelevant topics, or ramifications of themes, which are partly designated by a syllabus at the head of each chapter, something after the manner of CRABBE, in the 'Rejected Addresses ;' as, 'Hobbs binds his son John a'prentice in London - and why; interior of a theatre-pit described ; check-takers insolent - and why,' etc. The writer proceeds with an uninterrupted eeries of aimless digressions, until he arrives at the two hundred and fiftieth page, where we find him felicitating himself upon 'having now obtained the ear of the reader,' (apparently unmindful that he had already exchanged two ears, of unusual length, for the one he had gained) for which reason he takes occasion to 'dwell still farther' upon his stores of diminutive and desultory scraps.
Throughout the whole book, incontrovertible facts, not above the clear comprehension of a boy of twelve years, are 'fortified by nebulous disquisitions — crude, diluted, and incoherent - pleasantly denominated 'arguments,'or, to use a favorite term of the writer, "positions under notice;' and in this way the author goes on, chapter after chapter, bristling with stale truisms, and prurient with elaborately-defended but trite ideas. He does not seem to affix any very precise meaning to much of the language he employs ; yet in the weak, washy, everlasting flood' of words which he pours out, there will be found some one or two pets, that are constantly recurring, until other windy favorites take their places, which are only relinquished when, even in the writer's estimation, VOL. XV.
they must be deemed thread-bare. The forcibly.critical remark of Hood's boatswain, that 'where there is a heavy ground-swell of words, there can be no great depth of ideas,' is fully verified in this ambitious volume. The simplest thoughi is mounted high upon stilts. Even if pilfered, as is frequently the case, from other writers, our author dresses up the borrowed idea in characteristic language, and having made it ridiculous, it readily passes as original. An example or two may serve to 'sustain the position under notice.' 'No parent has a right to send out into the world a spider, whose filthy work it shall be to suck poison from what it sees around! There is a mawkish pitying of the poor, which passes current on the Bourse of a spurious philanthrophy! 'Earth teemed with a perennial and golden spontaneity! – and so thornless were the flowers, and so tareless the grain, that even the Almighty affirmed that it was very good.' "The twig must be swayed aright, if we would hope for a comely and fruit-producing tree! This intense embellishment of the commonest thought, always a mark of invincible mediocrity, is a distinctive characteristic of our author's style, if that can be called style, which is no style at all. Had he found occasion to use the time-worn term, 'looking two ways for Sunday,' he would doubtless have written,' vigilantly scrutinizing, in duple directions, for the holy Christian Sabbath.' A fault not less apparent, is a certain weakness and mawkishness of sentiment, whenever it is deemed appropriate to affect it. An author who makes an attempt at a display of fine feelings, always betrays himself. Numerous examples, passim, from the volume before us, might be cited, ' in illustration of the correctness of our position. The affectation alluded to is not suppressed even at the bed-side of the dying boy; for here, we are told, there was, to his view, a tangibility, a substantiality, a spiritual corporeity, so to speak, in those things to which he was going!' Where 'the writer under notice' gives us real sentiment, there is such a desire to parade it - so much of what the French call gauche – that it entirely loses its effect. “It is a sort of sulphate of meanness,' says he, in one of his fumid sentences, to coin or give currency to any thing prejudicial to another, unless some public good may be derived from it.' This precise 'good' must constitute our apology for cutting down a gnat with a broad-sword. The book we have discussed is bad, beyond all kindred specimens of mental debility on stilts we remember ever to have encountered. Moreover, it is not, it should seem, the first publication from the same source, (a source, let us add, entirely unknown to us,) and the writer even threatens to inflict yet another volume upon an unoffending public. Oral examples, in this kind, it is true, are often “heard at conventicle,' from some prosy divine, who makes no assertion that he is not prepared to prove on the spot; who compares till he perplexes, and illustrates till he confounds; and in such case, the courteous hearer has no alternative but to possess his soul in patience, until the speaker preaches the last dog out of the aisles. But a reader is differently situated; and we esteem it the duty of an honest critic to guard the public against flights of immortardulness, when appearing in a book the subject and pretension of which may give it temporary currency; and to caution young writers against a style of literary composition, which, while it has no one attribute to recommend it, is at war alike with simplicity, clearness, beauty, and common sense.
The Greek READER. By FREDERICK JACOBS. A new Edition, with English Notes.
By CHARLES ANTHON, LL. D. pp. 179. New-York: HARPER AND BROTHERS.
This is an excellent elementary Greek work, as much superior to the 'Collectanea Minora,' for the learner, as that was, when first introduced, to the old elementary Greek treatises. Indeed, this little volume seems to make the road to Greek literature so smooth and easy, that the 'rusty' scholar is almost tempted to revive his knowledge, through these new paths, of the delightful treasures of that elegant language. Classical literature of all kinds is greatly indebted to Professor ANTHON for his numerous and valuable treatises; and we say most heartily, to both author and publishers of this noble series of classical works, macte virtute.
GENERAL HISTORY OF CivilIZATION IN EUROPE, FROM THE FALL OF THE ROMAN
EMPIRE TO THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. Translated from the French of M. Guizot. New-York: D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.
We have here a good translation of M. Guizor's great work on civilization. It should be carefully perused by every one who desires to obtain a calm, profound, and philosophical view of the origin, progress, and various forms, of human civilization, and a correct history of the development of the human mind. The author has surveyed, with an observant eye, the long track of history, and generalizing facts and events in his reflective and philosophical mind, he points out clearly how some bear upon others, and arrives at his abstract principles and profound conclusions, with a power and eloquence which have seldom been equalled. His sagacious and penetrating intellect grasps at once the peculiar principle that prevailed in the civilization of the various races and nations of mankind; perceives clearly the chain of events which modified that principle; and forcibly points out the causes that extinguished it, or gave life to a new one. How delightful to a mind thoroughly acquainted with the history of his race, to contemplate the abstract principles that have made their destiny; and, looking upon the theatre of the world where vasily interesting events are rapidly occurring, displaying every variety of human passion and character, to be able to trace them to the first moving cause; the principle that set the elements in motion; the mind, as it were, that conceived, directed, and governed the great human drama! Our author considers the leading and peculiar principle of modern civilization to be individualism, the energy of personal exist. ence;
and that the development of the individual man, of his mind, and faculties, is the result of the modern social systen. It was the offspring of German society, a gift from the officina gentium, that is destined to make ample amends for the overthrow of the mere municipal and unprogressive civilization of Rome, which related to forms and physical existences, rather than to ideas and feelings, by establishing a principle that gives im. pulse to the individual, and provides for the illimitable improvement of the condition of
AxswerS TO THE QUESTIONS, What ConstituTES CURRENCY? WHAT ARE THE
Causes OF UNSTEADINESS OF THE CURRENCY ? AND What is the REMEDY? By H. C. Carey. Philadelphia : LEA AND BLANCHARD.
There is no question, at the present moment, that agitates this community so much as that of the currency. The existing derangement, from whatever cause it may have arisen, is spreading desolation over our whole country; and unless some remedy or relief can be found very soon, will result in the destruction of our industry, commerce, prosperity, and wealth. It behooves every true patriot to cast aside the bitter recriminations and bickerings of partizan spirit, with which one party seeks to throw the blame of public calamities upon the other, and advance at once to a calm and candid consideration of the best remedies for the acknowledged and far-reaching evils. The pamphlet before us, written by Mr. CAREY, of Philadelphia, the author of several able treatises upon various branches of political economy, enters into the discussion of this important subject with a proper spirit, and exhibits no ordinary degree of talent, research, and information. The author first inquires, 'What constitutes Currency? which he defines to be, gold or silver coin, or bullion; and engagements of individuals or associations, to deliver, on demand, certain quantities of money; the latter consisting of circulating notes, or credits, commonly called deposits, transferable by means of checks or drafts. Left to its natural course, undisturbed, currency is capital seeking investment ; but when, by an exercise of the will of the owners, arising from panic, fear of war, or doubt of any kind, it is hoarded in a strong box, or withdrawn from its province of facilitating the exchanges of property, it ceases to be currency; and the exchangeable value of property depreciates in consequence of its losing its appropriate character.
Our author then proceeds to discuss the question of the causes of the unsteadiness of the currency. A portion of this currency, in all countries, consists of deposits, unpro
ductive to their owners; and the power of affecting the currency, and of increasing or diminishing prices, 'exists in precisely the ratio which this unemployed capital bears to the whole currency.' The greatest amount of unemployed capital is to be found in France, where the currency is exposed to great fuctuations. Mr. Carey reviews the currency of France, England, Scotland, our Southern, Middle, and New-England States; and shows, that where the people are most free to select for themselves their own medium of exchange, the currency will most nearly approach the amount actually needed for the daily business of life, and will consequently be least liable to expansion or contraction. He demonstrates, and as it seems to us, conclusively, that the unsteadiness of the currency is by no means the result, as some suppose, of the adoption of the credit system, or the substitution of checks, drafts, and circulating notes, for gold and silver ; for prices are now much more uniform, throughout the world, than they were fifty, one hundred, or five hundred years ago. The price of grain in the fifteenth century Auctuated in a single year from four shillings to four pounds, and there was then nothing but gold and silver for currency. It is not, consequently, the extension of the credit system, that causes fluctuation of the currency; but such a condition of things as leaves a large amount of capital unproductive, or not subject to daily appropriation and use. He finds that in the New-England states this state of things exists, and hence their currency is more stable than any where else in the world. In France, as much capital is retained, in gold and silver, as would require the labor of one hundred and twenty-nine days to produce; whereas in New-England, the gold and silver retained would require only three days' labor for its production. This is a most striking commentary upon the value of a well-regulated credit system. Indeed it is evident that a well-regulated credit system would furnish a currency, which, supplying a little gold and silver for domestic trade, and for paying off foreign balances, would give facilities for constant employment of capital, and thus render it impossible to cause any great fluc. tuation in prices, except such as real abundance or scarcity should naturally create.
We are then easily brought to see what is the remedy for the existing evils. It is not in forcing the currency back to the basis of the dark ages, gold and silver only; it is not in breaking down credits, and impairing confidence ; it is not in accumulating capital in masses, to lie idle and unemployed; it is not in imposing legislative restraints, with & view to control the current of trade, or to increase and diminish the circulating medium; but it is simply, by adopting a system substantially similar to that of Rhode Island; by abolishing restraints upon the employment of capital and credit ; by recognizing the right of men to associate together on such terms as they may agree upon among them: selves; and to trade with those who choose to trade with them, in such manner as they may deem best for their respective interests; and to extend or limit their liability, provided they give perfect publicity to their arrangements and operations. The great fault of our banking system has been its character of monopoly; which, by throwing the power into certain legalized hands, of increasing or diminishing that portion of the currency which consists in credits, gives them an opportunity of expanding it at one time, beyond the real wants of the public, and forces them at another, when disaster of panic occurs, to contract it below the actual necessities of the community. The monopoly of the exclusive privilege of creating this kind of currency operates upon this country, in fact, in the same way that an actual accumulation of gold and silver currency in the hands of a few, does upon France; inducing expansions and contractions at the will of the owners, whether influenced by caprice, panic, or other cause, and leading, consequently, to great fluctuations in the prices of all kinds of property. Abolish monopoly, and this kind of currency would adapt itself to the actual wants of the public, to facilitate the exchanges of property, and would in practice furnish its own checks and balances, to prevent any serious fluctuations. Such are, substantially, the views of this very sensible and intelligent writer; and we sincerely hope this little work will be extensively read, since it can scarcely fail to correct many of the essential errors which are prevalent on the subject of the currency.
THE TOMB OF WASHINGTON. – We have been permitted to examine a very beautiful volume, from the press of Messrs. CAREY AND Hart, Philadelphia, printed, as we infer, for private circulation, containing the correspondence relating to the marble sarcophagus sculptured by Mr. John STRUTHERS, of Philadelphia, and presented by him to the execu, tors of General WASHINGTON, two or three years since. A brief account of the depositing of the remains of the Father of his Country in this enduring work of art, was given at the time in the public journals; but until the appearance of the volume before us, the interesting details of the removal had not been published; they will therefore be mainly new to our readers. Leaving the original correspondence in relation to the sarcophagus, we pass to the mansion at Mount Vernon, where, after much care and trouble, the 'ponderous marble' had arrived. An interesting description is given of the house and grounds, where, among other striking relics, are to be seen a primitive map, with marks in pencil by WASHINGTON, Iracing the route which he traversed in BRADDOCK'S disastrous and fatal campaign against the Indians; the key of the French Bastile; together with rare plants, exotics, etc., originally presented to WASHINGTON. After an account of the opening of the old vault, and a description of the new tomb, we find the following passage, depicting the appearance, and describing the removal, of the body: 'The coffin containing the remains of WASHINGTON was in the extreme back part of the yault; and to remove the case containing the lead en receptacle, it was found necessary to put aside the coffins that were piled up between it and the door-way. After clearing a passage-way, the case, which was much decayed, (and near which was found a silver breast-plate, on which was engraved the date of his birth and death,) was stripped off, and the lead of the lid was discovered to have sunk very considerably from head to foot; so much so, as to form a curved line of from four to five inches in its whole length. This fractured part was turned over on the lower part of the lid, exposing to view a head and breast of large dimensions, which appeared, by the dim light of the candles, to have suffered but little from the effects of time. The eye-sockets were large and deep, and the breadıh across the temples, together with the forehead, appeared of unusual size. There was no appearance of grave clothes. The chest was broad; the color was dark, and had the appearance dried flesh and skin adhering closely to the bones. We saw no hair, nor was there any offensive odor from the body. A hand was laid upon the head, and instantly removed; the lead of the lid was restored to its place; the body, raised by six men, was carried and laid in the marble coffin, and the ponderous cover being put on, and set in cement, it was sealed from our sight on Saturday, the seventh day of October, 1937.' Fine lithographic engravings of the exterior of the new tomb, and of the front and side views of the sarcophagus, with its beautiful sculpturing, illustrate the letter-press descriptions. The volume closes, most appropriately, with WASHIngton's Farewell Address, that invaluable legacy, which will be handed down to the remotest period of our history as a nation. We never can peruse this patriotic and truly characteristic document, without a renewed reverence for its author. With what a prophetic vision he surveyed the glorious future of the republic he had formed ! anticipating, and guarding his countrymen against, the fury of party spirit, and the impostures of pretended patriotism; and urging them to watch over the interests of the