« VorigeDoorgaan »
ospecially if he exhibits good common sense in his reasoning ; for there are but few, even among educators, who are capable of estimating the influence of culture on the faculty which we call by that name, although a moment's reflection would show that what teaches us to reason, and consequently to distinguish right from wrong, and truth from error, must necessarily improve our understanding. But in the present case we should regard the course of training and discipline as good though the style were inflated, the reasoning illogical, and the common sense near akin to nonsense, partly because the reputation of Georgetown College is a guarantee for thoroughness, and partly because there is a certain class of minds so like the barren heath that no amount of cultivation will fertilize them. The fact is pleasanter as it is, however; the address of Mr. Wise exhibits the qualities we have spoken of to a considerable extent, as will presently be seen, although by this we do not mean that it makes any near approach to perfection, or that there is not much room for improvement on the part of the author. It is as the effort of a student who has but recently graduated that we admire and commend it, and we do so because the most that can be expected from the best colleges in the world is to prepare the mind for the acquisition of knowledge, and render it capable of making proper use of that knowledge when acquired. The history of all great thinkers, from Pythagoras and Plato to Kepler, Newton, and Locke, proves this. Some, indeed, attain to eminence at once after they leave college, or even before they leave it, but they are so very few that they can be regarded only as exceptions. The reader will, therefore, understand us, and not think we bestow any unmerited praise, when we present the following extract from the opening of Mr. Wise's address, with the observation that there are those who have occupied for a decade the position of a public writer, who could not express themselves in more appropriate language, or compress a larger amount of enlightened thought into the same space :
“A brief glance at the history of mankind, from the earliest ages of the world, exhibits an insatiable desire of insuring to themselves a government of lasting security, whilst at the same time it reveals a restlessness under control, and a personal love of power. With a world before them-without wisdom or experience-condemned to grope blindly amidst perplexity and uncertainty, they might be truly said to have succeeded to a heritage of woe' when they became 'lords of themselves.' Accordingly, we find them progress slowly, but not surely; and the experience of the world presents a picture of dissatisfaction and dissension, increased in proportion to the multiplication of the human race, striving to effect the good of mankind, and the perfection of human nature, the great ends of all civil institutions, but unable to ascertain any means by which the same are secured. The patriarchal power becomes too weak for a refractory people, where reverence for age and the family tie are ineffectual checks upon the passions of a deluded multitude. The imperial seizes upon the mind, dazzles the imagination, and entwines the subject in its glossy meshes ere be is aware, frustrating the hope of personal security and happiness; and, whilst pandering to the ambition and avarice of his ruler, he but extends the sphere of his misery, by aiding to enslave others under “universal empire. As
syria, Persia, Greece, and Rome flourish and decay. Still works the restless spirit of nge and vague political desire. The student of political science turns almost in vain to history, when he asks for a government, the fundamental principle of which is security, lasting security. We ask almost in vain for the form of government and the set of principles that will make men for allegiance, are the only desiderata asked by the subject; happy, and keep them so. Protection and security, in return, but history rarely shows him where they are attainable, never where they have been lastingly conferred. Political science will teach him, as an elementary principle, that the great features of all good government are, the greatest good to the greatest number; the surrender of the least amount of personal liberty for the better preservation of the rest. But change, change, insecurity, and decay, are stamped upon every government the world has ever seen. The Norman succeeds the Saxon; and laws, customs, manners, and language itself receive the stamp of the conquerer. Again will history point us to houses that have stood for centuries—that have held the wand of power by undisputed title-swept away; a new order of things springing up: while the people are subjected to all the horrors incident to revolution and abrupt change in all those principles of their government on which they had relied for protection. It shows us dynasties falling into decay, it points us to a Cromwell uprooting hereditary power; and again it shows us hereditary power supplanting the short-lived regime inaugurated by Cromwell. It shows us the ultima ratio regum,' too often appealed to for the happiness and prosperity of the people, the gordian knot of the right of succession cut by the sword, and it shows us a wild thirst for power, sacrificing the best interests of a helpless people on the altars of unholy ambition."
Not many of our public functionaries, who occupy high positions in virtue of certain oratorical abilities which they are supposed to possess, could express themselves more sensibly or more forcibly than this. Our young author makes some bold but just criticisms on certain tendencies in public opinion and public taste, which we should be pleased to reproduce; but our diminished space will only permit us to observe, in general terms, that in our opinion he possesses an amount of intellectual power, which, if properly exercised, is capable of effecting much good.
We cannot speak in similar terms of the poem in the same pamphlet, entitled “The Ravages of Time," although, as a specimen, of easy and, generally correct, versification, it must be regarded as a clerer performance for a student. The difficulty is, that even Georgetown College cannot make a poet when nature has forgotten to supply the germ. Not but there are good thoughts happily and vigorously expressed in these stanzas-nay more, there are those who would be highly offended if it were alleged that they do not possess the true poetio spirit, in whose published works there are not many better lines than these :
“O dark, mysterious time! what tongue can tell
Be rung by spectres grim?
Shall chant thy requiem hymn.
Tell of a mortal race.
All ind a resting-place."
This is earnest and solemn; still it is but honest prose in the form of poetry. That it gives evidence of a high degree of culture, and a thoughtful, philosophic turn of mind, far be it froin us to deny. But this is not sufficient; we should perhaps omit to say so, however, were we not of opinion that tbere is no commodity less useful than indifferent poetry. We would, therefore, advise the author rather to cultivate prose, at least rest yet awhile, availing bimself of the precept of Boileau, as he well may without going beyond his professors :
" Faites choix d'un censeur solide et salutaire
Que la raison conduise et le savoir éclaire."
Har a work like this, one giving the antediluvian history of the Celtic
This volume is modest, both in size and pretensions, but the lovers of art will find much in it that is at once instructive and entertaining. As the title implies, the author takes a trip to Paris via Belgium and Burgundy, his chief object being to make a complete study of Van der Weyden's Last Judgment, in the Hospital of St. Anthony, at Beaune. Dr. Förster is as well known throughout Germany, as an art-critic, as Ruskin is in England; but the views of the former are much more reliable, and exhibit far higher culture, and a more matured taste than those of the latter ; although his English rival is a more attractive writer and a more
convincing reasoner. But there is not one of Mr. Ruskin's books that contains so many sound precepts or valuable suggestions as this. The Doctor's sketch of the life of Memling is an instructive and interesting study by itself, and its value is not a little enhanced by the account of the origin of oil painting with which it is accompanied.
Probably the chief attraction of the volume, however, consists in the elaborate description which it gives of the recent alterations in the great Art Museum of the Louvre, and of the important additions that have been made to it within the last seven years. This suggests to the critic some reinarks on the compilation of catalogues for art galleries which those of our amateurs, who aspire to manage such institutions, when they make their annual exhibitions, would do well to study.
Essays in Criticism. By Matthew ArnoLD, Professor of Poetry in the
University of Oxford. 12.no, pp. 506. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1865.
It is pleasant to see those succeed who always exhibit taste, discrimination, and enterprise as public caterers. Of none can this be said more emphatically than of the publishers of this volume; it afforded us much gratification, therefore, during a recent visit to the modern Athens, to find those gentlemen occupying one of the most elegant and tasteful buildings in the most classic part of the city, in the immediate vicinity of one of the finest public parks in this country. As the Messrs. Ticknor & Fields have had the edifice built expressly to suit the various departments of their constantly increasing business, it is almost needless to say that it lacks no convenience which taste or skil! could suggest. Were this the place to describe even what may be called an intellectual temple, there is no one which we would sketch with more pleasure; as it is, let it suffice to remark in passing that the arrangement thronghout is truly admirable. The multifarious publications of the house are finely classified, and the different elegant styles of binding which Ticknor & Fields have been the first to introduce into this country, and which are the best specimens the American trade can boast of, contrast gaily and attractively with each other.
Although these remarks have no bearing on the volume before us, we do not think they are altogether inappropriate as an introduction to our impressions of a work so liberal and cosmopolitan in spirit-one whose obvious design is to do justice to foreigners as well as to natives, to Jew as well as Gentile, holding merit to be the only rightful claim to the language of approbation, and allowing no immunity to error, let it come from whence it may; no matter in what guise i imay appear. It may be said
that we are not entirely free from prejudice in speaking of Professor Arnold,s book, because it will be seen that some of his most prominent views are such as we have ourselves earnestly sought to inculcate from time to time in these pages. This we can easily show if the reader will only exercise his memory a little. Indeed, little more is required on our part than to mention some of those views of the author on which he himself lays most stress, and which, in our opinion, deserve that distinction. Thus, the subject of his first article is “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time;" in this he shows the great defects of the existing mode of criticism in England, his remarks applying to American criticism with at least equal force. He shows that criticism in England is either sectarian or political, and consequently that it is impossible for it to be impartial. The following passage from his remarks is as truthful as it is bold and manly:
“For what is at present the bane of criticism in this country? It is that practical considerations cling to it and stifle it; it subserves interests not its own; our organs of criticism are organs of men and parties having practical ends to serve, and with them those practical ends are the first thing, and the play of mind the second ; so much play of mind as is compatible with the prosecution of those practical ends is all that is wanted. An organ like the Revue des Deux Mondes, having for its main function to understand and utter the best that is known and thought in the world, existing, it may be said, as just an organ for a free play of the mind, we have not; but we have the Edinburgh Review, existing as an organ of the old whigs, and for as much play of mind as may suit its being that; we have the Quarterly Review, existing as an organ of the tories, and for as much play of mind as may suit its being that; we have the British Quarterly Review, existing as an organ of the political dissenters, and for as much play of mind as may suit its being that; we have the Times, existing as as organ of the common, satisfied, well-to-do Englishman, and for as much play of mind as may suit its being that. And so on through all the various fractions, political and religious, of our society ; every fraction has, as such, its organ of criticism, but the notion of combining all fractions in the common pleasure of a free, disinterested play of mind meets with no favor.”—p. 18.
An ordinary English writer or thinker is sure to speak of anything French, in comparison with anything English, as "Frenchy," "Gallic," &c.; nor does anything German fare better in similar circumstances. English or American writers are, however, not peculiar in this. The writers of all countries possessed of an equal amount of intelligence-or rather the writers whose minds are equally narrow, who know little beyond their own circle-are equally contemptuous in their comparative estimates of their neighbors. Knowledge and reflection are the only remedies against that weakness. But our author proceeds to show that the proverbial arrogance for which we blame our English cousins is produced by their politicians and sectaries. As an instance, he quotes language like the following, from an address by Mr. Adderley to the farmers of Warwickshire : “ Talk of the inprovement of breed! Why, the race we ourselves represent, the men and women, the old Anglo-Saxon race, are the best breed in the whole world.” (p. 20) A similar quotation is given from a speech