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ART. XI. CRITICAL NOTICES.
1.- Passages from the History of Liberty. By SAMUEL ELIOT. Boston: William D. Ticknor & Co. 1847. 16mo. pp. 278.
THIS little book, planned not only in the spirit of scholarship, but in profound sympathy with the services to humanity rendered by the great men whom it commemorates, is an interesting labor of a student earnestly devoted to high moral and intellectual purposes. The idea is to show, in a connected way, the toils and sufferings borne by isolated individuals, in the cause of reform and human progress, during the mediæval period; to gather, as it were, into one bright picture the scattered rays of light illumining here and there the darkness of that night which preceded the glad dawn of modern civilization and civil and religious liberty. The study of the Middle Ages, and especially of the Italian Republics, in that period of confusion and transition, is necessary to the full understanding of the struggles endured and the progress made by men and states for the last three centuries. In Milton's comprehensive scheme of reading, this department of history is said to have occupied fifteen months. But in Milton's time, all the bearings of that act in the world's drama could not, of course, have been appreciated.
One great source of interest in Mr. Eliot's little book is the true perception he has and so clearly expresses, of the individuality of the men whom he has selected for commemoration. Great as is the influence each has exerted upon the course of human affairs, each stood upon his own strength, contending against overpowering odds of hostile interests, and risking every thing in the encounter. To recall these great but obscured names to our present contemplation was a pious duty to the illustrious dead; and lovingly and piously has that duty been performed. The researches of the young scholar have been given to objects of pure and permanent interest. The motive and design of this work are excellent. Enlightened and comprehensive views of the moral dignity of the persons and scenes he describes, and a religious sense of the dealings of Providence with the history of man, seem ever present to the mind and conscience of the author. The style, with some faults and mannerisms which further experience will remove or amend, is clear and perspicuous. The various scholarship which Mr. Eliot has treasured up in travel and study is used, not for show, but to furnish the
materials of his work, and is consecrated to the high aims of Christian philanthropy.
The materials of the work are distributed in four general divisions. The first embraces the history of the early Italian reformers. In this division, the isolation of the Middle Ages is first graphically delineated; then, under the three somewhat quaint titles of Labor for Liberty, Labor for Peace, and Labor for Country, we have, as exponents and symbols of the principles these topics involve, well-drawn historical sketches of Arnaldo da Brescia, Giovanni di Vicenza, and Jacopo de' Bussolari. The peculiar merits of these men, whose great spirits far outran their ages, are set forth and illustrated with fulness of knowledge, clearness of apprehension, and sympathy of feeling. In the concluding section of this part, the failures in such reforms are ably discussed.
In our judgment, the second division of the book, which is exclusively occupied with the life and labors of John Wycliffe, is the most able and valuable. The services of this truly Christian and most admirable person-who, to most minds, even now is but the shadow of a mighty name, a distant foreboding only of Luther-are here distinctly traced and developed. We see in them the germ of those great additions to human happiness and liberty which have occupied the minds of men during the last three centuries, and some of which even the present age is employed in making or perfecting. The scope of his reforms embraced church and state; and the nineteenth century has scarcely surpassed the wise and Christian spirit in which those reforms were conceived, and so far as lay in the power of the Reformer himself, carried into effect. Mr. Eliot adorns his work with striking expressions from Wycliffe's writings. Among the most remarkable things about this man was the view he took of war, astonishing for his age, for even the nineteenth century is not sufficiently Christianized to renounce this direst work of the Devil. "What honor," exclaims Wycliffe, "falls to a knight that he kills many men? The hangman killeth many more, and with a better title; better were it for men to be butchers of swine than slayers of their brethren."
The third division is occupied with the reforms of Savonarola, and the fourth, with the war of the Communities in Castile. These complete Mr. Eliot's well-considered plan. We regard the book, notwithstanding occasional crudities of sentiment and expression, as a valuable contribution to historical literature.
2.- The Statesmen of America in 1846. By SARAH MYTTON MAURY. London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longman; Paternoster Row. 1847. 12mo. pp. 508.
We do not wonder it took so many publishers to bring out this book. It is one of the most remarkable productions of the present age. Nor do we wonder at the ill-treatment it has received from a portion of the London press. The journalists of England have always been a prejudiced race, and jealous of American superiority in arts and arms; and the greater part of the English travellers have played into the hands of these narrow-minded gentlemen, by attributing to us the same faults that mark the other portions of the human race. Our orations on the Fourth of July and in the general Congress constantly deny the soft impeachment; but John Bull refuses to be convinced. Mrs. Maury has come out on our side with such unanswerable examples, that Mr. Bull grows angry, and tries to evade the conclusion by railing at "politics in petticoats." He is unwilling that such impartial and strong testimony in our favor should go forth uncontradicted to the world, and thinks to counteract it by an alliteration upon that sacred and characteristic garment, which even Mr. Weller the elder, in his conversation with the old housekeeper, shrunk with delicate awe from mentioning. But pray, what objection can there be, in the nature of things, to politics in petticoats? Does not John Bull, or his organ the London Spectator, know that in the languages of the two most politic and polished nations that have flourished in the world's history, the very science of politics is of the feminine gender? How does he construe ǹ Ioλɩɩký and la Politique? And what does he say to himself for submitting to that which good King James used to call "the monstrous regiment of women"? What does he think of Queen Victoria, the source of every political honor he can enjoy? Why, John is under petticoat government himself, but without seeming to know it, though every body is on the broad grin. Let us hear from him, then, no more taunting alliterations, no more unbecoming allusions to one part or another of the feminine dress, remembering that the great Pericles was taught politics and eloquence by the fair lips of Aspasia.
We hope we have disposed of John Bull and the London Spectator. Now let us consider, for a few moments, the extraor dinary book which has so stirred up the insular mind. The quality which most strikes us, in the analysis of its contents, is the laudable discrimination displayed in the political portraits. An envious person might possibly insinuate that Mrs. Maury some- No. 135.
times oversteps the modesty of nature, that she colors too highly. Suggestions of this sort, however, coming from the source they do, are entitled to no consideration. Mrs. Maury never colors too highly, never is indiscriminate. Her distinctions are great, greater, greatest, — good, better, best; and what better distinctions can any one make than the three degrees of comparison? If she makes no more, it is not her fault, but the fault of English adjectives; for we have not, as the Greeks had, the liberty of constructing double comparatives and superlatives. If we had, we doubt not Mrs. Maury would have applied them, with her usual skill, to at least half a dozen of her heroes. Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Charles Jared Ingersoll, would certainly have been placed among the superlatives of the second degree.
A short preliminary dissertation disposes of the President and People of the United States. Then -"begin from Jove the strain" — the portraits of individual deities commence with James Buchanan, the Secretary of State, of whom she says that the moment she saw him, at a ball, she knew that she had looked upon a friend." Her deep intuition was justified by the event; for, says she, "he granted me every indulgence, and accorded my every wish." Even at the most frightful moments of brave talk respecting a war with England about Oregon, she "sought consolation from Mr. Buchanan." To most people this would seem, under the circumstances, a very odd source to go to for comfort; and nothing short of Mrs. Maury's divining-rod could have pointed her thither. "I ever left his presence," says she," with a light and happy heart." We learn from her, too, that Mr. Buchanan has "an aristocratic address and manner," and a "fullblooded system," both of which are peculiar qualifications for a Democratic Secretary of State. The sketch is followed by extracts from the Hon. Secretary's speeches. Mr. Haywood of North Carolina, whose "compliments are always gratifying," and who "speaks excellent English," comes next to the Secretary of State. Mr. Abbott Lawrence occupies four pages. His "features are very handsome." The general conclusion, the result of profound reflection, that "the American forehead is almost always well formed," introduces a peculiarity of Mr. Lawrence's ; namely, that it clearly denotes the immense superiority of the intellectual over the physical nature." So that point is settled. Mrs. Maury made the curious discovery, among other things, that Mr. Lawrence's "religion" is "Episcopalian"; people have generally supposed it was the Christian religion. Of the Hon. Hugh L. White, we are assured that "in personal appearance, dress, manners, and mode of speaking, he is truly a gentleman."
Mr. Benton's recent approximation to a major-generalship (we understand the sword has proved but an air-drawn dagger, after all) has excited the public attention. His Bobadilian tactics have amused the quidnuncs, and, we fear, have not frightened the Mexicans. Mrs. Maury says he " possesses much weight in the Senate," that "he is somewhat inclined to corpulency," and that "he has much senatorial dignity." His "nose is broader, the nostrils more expanded, the lips more full, and the mouth less wide, than is usual in the American contour." Whatever else the Senator can do, then, he cannot suspend an opponent naso adunco. In a note upon the description of Mr. Benton, we are favored with a sketch of a typical American, an American in the abstract. "Their hands and feet are more delicately formed, the shoulders are more falling, the neck has more length and less thickness, the limbs are longer, and the step is more rapid than that of their forefathers." What means Mrs. Maury has of ascertaining how rapidly our forefathers stepped we cannot imagine. Of the Hon. Samuel D. Hubbard, she says, "Surely
no man was ever so maliciously good as this representative of stern old Connecticut; and I can only account for it by supposing that he originally came out of the Mayflower, and landed with the Pilgrim Fathers; he is their very express image. I envied the Whigs and Puritans such intelligence, judgment, and virtue, and have tried all arts to beguile him from their ranks, but in vain." What an obstinate, hard-headed, pragmatical old fellow he must be. We, too, can account for his obdurate resistance to Mrs. Maury's weapons- Mauri jaculis - only by the supposition that he came over in the Mayflower, and is one of the slow-paced forefathers of the Plymouth rock.
Mr. Van Buren has until now been greatly misunderstood both by friends and foes. Both have imputed to him a foxiness of character, as well as of whiskers. But it is all a mistake, for "he speaks of himself with that unreserved confidence which is so attractive in a distinguished man." At the same time, however, he has the knack of conjuring "men's hearts out of their bosoms." In obedience to "her husband's positive command," an apparent recognition of the much-contested doctrine, that the husband has a right to command, Mrs. Maury, with her son "the Doctor," called upon the Ex-President, though without a letter of introduction. "The Ex-President's manners are bewitching, he took me by the hand, laughed heartily at my mode of self-introduction, himself lifted from the carriage my travelling bandbox, first ordered the driver home, and then said, 'The name you bear, Madam, is of itself a sufficient introduction; of course you will stay here, for it will give us the greatest pleas