« VorigeDoorgaan »
THE NEW YORK
SAMUEL L. KNAPP,
IN THE CLERK'S OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT 0
GEORGE C. SHATTICK, M.D.,
PRESIDENT OF THE MASSACHUSETTS MEDICAL SOCIETY.
I have taken the liberty to dedicate this small volume to you, as a slight token of my grateful recollections of the many instances of friendship and professional skill I have to acknowledge as flowing from your kindness; and in addition to these, I am indebted to you for many deep and clear readings of the motives and actions of men, communicated in the course of our acquaintance.
These Tales are founded on incidents gathered in the common pathway of life, and intended to exhibit some of the lights and shades as we see them daily.
The profession you have chosen, and so honorably pursued to distinction, has been favorable for the study of human nature; but it seldom happens, in this busy age, among this mercurial people, that one who has happily caught the lineaments of the physiognomy of the minds about him, can command the requisite time to portray them. I ask you to cast your eyes upon these sketches, in some breathing interval between professional labors—for leisure you have none—and see if they have in them any features of nature, or faithfulness to the relations of society.
With ardent wishes for your health and happiness, I am
Your Obliged Friend, and Hum. Ser.,
SAMUEL L. KNAPP.
WHEN the far-famed Talleyrand, now Prince Benevento, was travelling in the United States during the French Revolution, his conversation was considered a philosophical treat by the wise men of our nation. On the affairs of his own country, he conversed like a seer who looked far a-head; but his remarks often excited a smile, when discussing the prospects and character of America. “ The United States,” said he, “can never be a naval power; for there is not oak timber enough in the country to make two ships of the line.” Another of his profound remarks was—“You can
. never be instructed by poetry or fiction of your own; for by your laws all men are put upon an equality, and to form differences of character, there must be many acknowledged grades in society.” Timber has, however, been found sufficient for a more extended purpose ; and poetry and fiction have commenced a course that has proved the futility of the wise man's remarks. He thought we had no romance in our history: he had never read Hubbard's or Penhollow's Indian Wars. I have stated this, to show that no man can judge of the character of a people, without being well acquainted with their history, however shrewd he might be on general subjects. The foreigner says that there can be but little difference in persons similarly situatedthat for strong features of character, you must go to nations who have hereditary distinctions—nations agitated by avarice, ambition, and thirst of blood-rising, and falling, or dashing against each other with every wave of fortune. It must be confessed, that in such a people you can find more readily incidents to illustrate the character you attempt to exhibit, than in a quiet community. It is not in the difference of pursuits, but in the elements of character, that contrasts and peculiarities are seen. The Apostles, who followed one Master in the same great cause, exhibited the greatest variety of disposition and temper.
It may seem tame to those heated by fictions of other lands, in which the worst of crimes are set in the strongest lights—where murders by dagger and bowl are found in every legend—to trace the lines of nature and truth among a moral, quiet, and industrious people; but he who examines human nature closely, will find that there is a greater variety in the latter than in the former state of society.
Courtiers are all of one class; the avaricious and ambitious are governed by a few strong impulses; and all know, that whatever may be the component parts of a mob, its spirit is violent and vindictive; but when every one is under the guidance of his own reason, infinite varieties of thought and action shoot out for examination.
A healthy appetite in literary matters is taking place of a literary dispepsia, which has deranged us for a long time. Such novels as Lewis's Monk now give place to the Vicar of Wakefield, and the day of simplicity is dawning. I could have found subjects of greater interest in the history of my country ; but I have left those for others to expatiate upon, and seized these found in the common pathway of life.