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The important functions which animal charcoal performs in all the recent processes for the purification of sugar, has rendered it interesting to ascertain the manner in which it acts. It is to Lowitz that we are indebted for a knowledge of the antiputrescent properties of charcoal, and its power in destroying or at least abstracting all colour from the substances with which it is mingled. At first, it was supposed that charcoal from wood was the most efficient, but M. Figuier, an apothecary of Montpelier, in employing animal charcoal in the refining of vinegar and some other articles, proved its superiority, and Mr. Derosnes, in 1812, applied it to the refining of sugar. The most happy results crowned his efforts, and since this time the use of this clarifier has been universally adopted in the refineries, and has even passed to the apothecaries and confectioners.
To induce men of science to direct their attention to the operation of this charcoal, the Society of Pharmacy in Paris, offered a premium in 1821 for the best dissertation on this subject. In the essay of M. Bussy, to whom the premium was adjudged, we are informed, that "animal charcoal contains only 10 per cent. of carbon, which alone exercises a discolouring power, the remainder consists of phosphate, carbonate and sulphate of lime, sulphuret and oxyde of iron, and a little silex; that the discolouring property is inherent in carbon, but can only be made manifest under particular circumstances, among which, porosity holds the first place; that the superiority of animal charcoal arises from its great porosity, which may be increased by the influence of the substances with which it is calcined, as potash ; that potash in this connection does not merely augment the porosity of the carbon by the subtraction of the foreign matters which it may contain, but that it acts on the carbon itself, and attenuates its particles. For this reason, a discolouring charcoal may be obtained from vegetable substances if treated with potash."
While it is stated that the use of animal charcoal has entirely superseded that of vegetable charcoal, which was previously employed, the comparative effect of these two substances is no where mentioned. If the carbon of vegetables prepared in the usual manner, possesses at all the discolouring principle, the quantity required would be of little importance in a country like this where it can be so easily obtained.
The latter portion of this manual is devoted to the refining of sugar in its technical meaning, or the manufacturing of loaf sugar. Into these details we shall not enter. We have yet to surmount the first steps in this pursuit. In all of these operations, however, the effects of animal charcoal are constantly
conspicuous. In the debates in Congress, during its late session, on increasing the drawback on refined sugars, it was strenuously maintained that the New-Orleans sugar was not fit for the refineries, but that the manufacturers were obliged to import for their business, dry sugar from the West-Indies.— The following observations on this subject merit attention :
"The operations of the refinery, (say our authors) have been greatly simplified by the application of animal charcoal to the purification of the sugar. Before this substance was used, it was not every kind of sugar which came from the colonies that could be employed in the fabrication of loaf sugar, and of those which were used, each kind was treated separately. It would even happen that there were several shades in the same hogshead. It was, therefore, necessary to open and separate as exactly as possible the different qualities of sugar, and put each apart. Now this operation has become altogether useless."
p. 230. We have entered into many details in following this work, perhaps, we may have been tediously minute, but it appeared to us, that at the present moment, when the attention of so many persons are directed to the culture of the Sugar Cane, a statement of the different operations by which sugar has been separated from the substances with which it is naturally mingled, might be beneficial. If it has been found useful to acidulate the juice of the beet, as well as to treat it with alkalies, the same process may, perhaps, be advantageously applied to that of the cane. The contents of these fluids are, as we have seen, very various, and must be neutralized or abstracted by different agents. Charcoal may correct many of those principles which obstruct the perfect cristallization of sugar in our country. Indeed, while science continues to pursue and analyse all the modifications of matter, we can feel no surprise at the daily improvements of which we hear, and even in this very occupation, of which we have been treating, it will not be extraordinary if, by some skilful application of re-agents, the phrase "sugar not cristallizable," should be obliterated from our vocabulary, and all the saccharine portion of any and every vegetable be readily obtained, in its pure and cristalline form.
Of this work itself, as to composition and manner, we have not much to say. It is incorrectly written, and not always clear. Still we wish that books, containing this species of elementary knowledge, were common in our language, and were generally diffused through our country.
ART. V.-Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. A Novel, from the German of Goethe. 3 vols. 12mo. Wells & Lilly. Boston, 1828.
THIS is a novel of striking interest and great power: confessedly the work of no ordinary genius. The author appears to have exhausted in its preparation, the resources of a mind prolific in invention, and replete with all that learning, a familiarity with the fine arts, and an acute and matured criticism could furnish to the perfection of a favourite enterprize. No one at all acquainted with the greater or lesser mysteries of elegant composition, can fail to pronounce it, πολλῆς μὲν πείρας τελευταῖον éyévvna. Accordingly, it is not surprising that critics of every ἐπιγέννημα. name and degree in Germany, have united their suffrages, with those of the universal public, in pronouncing this work a classical production. In a question of literary reputation, such a decisiou is final and sovereign, and leaves the breathless reviewer, panting after disquisition, no other alternative than to enlarge or contract his rules to the dimensions of the object before him. When the canons of the lofty epic depart from Homer, it is quite as fair, certainly much safer to condemn the former to the bed of the torturer, rather than the latter, from whom they have derived their very being, their form and fea
With all this humility and condescension on our part, we are yet obliged to confess that we are not very sanguine in our expectations, that Wilhelm Meister will ever become popular with the mere English readers of either hemisphere. There are circumstances in the plot, which, however artfully combined and wrought into a whole, are essentially abhorrent from our manners and prejudices. It is true that nature is separate and above every thing that is merely conventional, and when fairly exhibited to view, will triumphantly assert her supremacy. Nevertheless, it is too much to hope, that the mass of such persons, as are interested in tales of fiction, will previously undertake the hardest of all tasks-that of unlearning all their early associations and predilections, for the purpose of enjoying any literary performance, however bruited. To most readers, all the great productions of Attica, for it is she who has chiefly monopolized the admiration of mankind, are as sealed books. It is impossible for any one, who has not made a study of the French character, to entertain any strong affection for the offspring of the French muses. Goethe, with his rich and varied,
and glorious Teutonic dialect, must not expect a more indulgent fate. He is aware of this, for although aspirants of every quality and degree, have attempted to transfuse the spirit of his genius, they have only diluted it, until it became vapid. With every disposition to be grateful and courteous to his admirers, the secret has been reluctantly wrung from him, that he cannot discover his own features in their imitations. He does not complain of this, but good humouredly ascribes it to some idiosyncracy of mind, which must for ever prevent the English from thoroughly imbibing the peculiar thoughts of his countryHe might have extended his observation; for we hold it not too much to assert, that all master pieces in literature are untranslatable. It is not to be denied indeed, that productions of great merit, may occasionally result from these abortive attempts at translation; for the most part, however, in such imitations, the deformities may be traced to the original with much more precision, than the excellencies.
What will our readers say of an attempt to excite interest and convey instruction in the example of a hero, who neglects the business and the duties of life, to attach himself to a company of strolling players, and who, with such frail coadjutors, attempts to revolutionize and reform the drama? Whether it be from an overwhelming conviction, that the realities of life are sufficient, and more than sufficient, to weigh down the energies of the stoutest and the wisest of us all, or from an avidity of power, which clings to aristocratical distinctions, as proofs of superiority, the more valuable, because they confer a cheap eminence upon those who have no chance of elevation in any other way, we cannot exactly decide. Certain it is, however, that whilst the stage has furnished a favourite amusement to the inhabitants of all civilized nations, the profession of an actor, even in the most exalted perfection of his powers, has never been regarded in any other light than as a pis aller. From Roscius to Garrick, the craft has been tolerated, but never recognised as one of the legitimate departments of human exertion. Johnson always considered the latter as a "shadow," and laughed at his style of living, as too "splendid for a player." Of the former, Cicero says in one and the same breath, that he was the only actor fit to be seen on the stage, and yet so respectable a man as to be alone worthy of not appearing there.*
Even the levelling influence of our democratical institutions, has not availed so far as to confer on those, who minister to the
* "Est enim, cum artifex ejusmodi sit, ut solus dignus videatur esse, qui in scenâ spectetur, tum vir ejusmodi est, ut solus dignus videatur, qui eò non accedat." Pro P. Quintio, xxv.
"gaiety of nations," a rank commensurate with the supposed dignity and difficulty of their calling. To be thoughtless, seems to be inseparable from a profession, which is unavoidably migratory in its habits, and if it be attended with high character, men at best want the opportunity of testing its excellence. In a life without system, decency is perhaps the ultimate term of human virtue. Hence players, like travellers, although they elicit admiration, seldom succeed in commanding durable esteem.
Aware of all these drawbacks, Goethe has, notwithstanding, contrived to make a tale, in which the interest is well sustained, and which is, incidentally, the vehicle of many capital observations on art and on the conduct of life. Ordinary writers endeavour to command notice by the dignity of the events which they develope. This writer, on the contrary, in a miraculous conformity with nature, seeks to demonstrate how trifles, light as air, in their infinite combinations and aggregations, make up at last, the important and sum total of our destinies. Whilst all on the surface appears to be obedient to his direction and will, an under current is continually diverting the hero from his course, and conducting him to a goal, which no human sagacity could have anticipated.
Wilhelm Meister is represented as the son of a wealthy merchant, who, owing to the strong impression made upon his mind, at an early age, by the exhibition and management of a set of puppets, contracts an enthusiastic predilection for the stage. In his visits to the theatre, he forms a dangerous liaison with a youthful actress named Mariana, who, notwithstanding certain temptations to which she is exposed, and in spite of contrary appearances, yet entertains an ardent attachment for him, and is repaid, on his part, with enthusiastic admiration and devotion. Circumstances, however, are against the heroine and the moonstruck lover, whilst serenading his mistress, is petrified with horror at the spectre of a man gliding from her habitation at a very suspicious hour of the night. A fever is the consequence, and after a lingering illness, which is followed by a tender and pensive melancholy, the youth is persuaded by his father to visit busy life again, and re-assume his place at the desk and in the ware-house. His passion for the stage, and his admiration for beauty are, for a time, so far repressed, as to present no obstacle to the attainment of every mercantile accomplishment. He becomes an adept in the permutations and combinations of numbers, and a very cognoscente in samples. The whole firm, especially the good papa, are lost in admiration of the hopeful transformation, and no business is deemed too important to be entrusted to one so confirmed in his principles, and of such assi