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by Mr. Roebuck to the Sheffield cutlers; then the author tells us how, after reading both specimens of braggadocia, he meets with the following paragraph in an English paper:
“A shocking child-murder has just been committed at Nottingham. A girl named Wragg left the workhouse there on Saturday morning with her young illegitimate child. The child was soon afterwards found dead on Mapperly Hills, having been strangled. Wragg is in custody.”—p. 21.
In commenting on this, he remarks: “How suggestive are those few lines: 'Our old Anglo-Saxon breed, the best in the whole world !'-how much that is harsh and ill-favored there is in this best! Wragg!” Further on he says: “In Ionia and Attica they were luckier in this respect than the best race in the world;' by the Ilissus there was no Wragg, poor thing! And our unrivalled happiness,'—what an element of grimness, bareness, and hideousness mixes with it and blurs it; the workhouse, the dismal Mapperly Hills—how dismal those who have seen them will remember the gloom, the smoke, the cold, the strangled illegitimate child! The sex lost in the confusion of our unrivalled happiness; or shall I say the superfluous Christian name lopped off by the straightforward vigor of our old Anglo Saxon breed !"-(p. 22.)
Now be it remembered that he is no foreigner who speaks in this style but one of the most distinguished professors at Oxford. After having rendered it obvious to the most thoughtless, how foolish and pernicious this national boasting is, he proceeds to show what incalculable good, true, legitimate criticism is capable of doing ; but he takes care to explain that it will be neither true nor legitimate as long as it is merely local; that, in short, English critics must be as independent and cosmopolitan as the continental critics before they can expect to do much good :
But, after all, the criticism I am really concerned with-the criticism which alone can much help us for the future, the criticism which, through out Europe, is at the present day meant, when so much stress is laid on the importance of criticism and the critical spirit-is a criticism which regards Europe as being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one great confederation, bound to a joint action and working to a common result, and whose members have, for their proper outfit, a knowledge of Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity, and of one another. Special, local, and temporary advantages being put out of account, that modern nation will, in the intellectual and spiritual sphere, make most progress which most thoroughly carries out this programme.”—pp. 36, 37.
This is true philosophy; the best evidence of an enlightened and liberal mind. But the whole article must be read in order to be appreciated. How well it becomes a professor of one of the two famous and venerable English universities to proclaim to his countrymen that the French Academy is a model which England would do well to imitate if she couldl for this is the predominant idea in the very interesting and instructive article entitled “The Literary Influence of Academies.” The author pays Richelieu, the illustrious founder of the Academy, the high tribute which he deserves from every true friend of science, literature,
or intellectual progress. Having shown what a powerful and valuable influence the Academy has exercised not only on the think.rs of France, but on those of all Europe, illustrating his views by many brilliant and suggestive observations, he concludes by warning his readers once more against that most characteristic weakness of the Anglo-Saxon race which leads it to imagine that it surpasses all other races in all things:
“ But then every one amongst us, with any turn for literature, will do well to remember to what shortcomings and excesses, which such an academy tends to correct, we are liable ; and the more liable, of course, for not having it. He will do well constantly to try himself in respect of these, steadily to widen his culture, severely to check in himself the provincial spirit; and he will do this the better the more he keeps in mind that all mere glorification by ourselves of ourselves or our literoture, in the strain of what, at the beginning of these remarks, I quoted from Lord Macaulay, is both vulgar, and, besides being vulgar, retarding.”—p. 72.
Now, we may ask our readers how often have we urged views of this kind during the last five years? We would have continued to do so had Professor Arnold never spoken, because we believe they are just; but we are not the less glad on this account to find that our author advocates them so boldly. We have yet only glanced at two of his papers; there are twelve in the book; and the remaining ten are, on an average, at least as good as these two. To many the majority will be much more interesting ; if, indeed, they be not so to all, especially those papers on Heine, Spinoza, Joubert, and Maurice de Guérin. To the classical student, the most attractive, if not the most useful, will be the two chapters on translating Homer. It is a pity that Lord Derby did not see these before he ventured to publish his translation; and yet we have some reason to doubt whether our author himself could have given us a good version of the Iliad had he acted on the advice, which he says he has often received from his friends, to undertake that task. The titles we have mentioned show that Professor Arnold takes a wide scope; but he adverts to many topics which none would expect under such heads. Thus, for example, he makes some rather sharp and not very complimentary criticisms on the United States in the paper entitled a “ French Eton." We make room for one extract, which must be the last :
“But why do they refuse to perceive, that, apart from all class-jealousy of aristocracies towards a democratic republic, there existed in the most impartial and thoughtful minds a profound dissatisfaction with the spirit and tendencies of the old American Union, a strong aversion to their unchecked triumph, a sincere wish for the disciplining and correcting of them ? And what were the old United States but a colossal expression of the Eng. lish middle-class spirit, somewhat more accessible to ideas there than here, because of the democratic air it breathed ; much more arrogant and overweening there than here, because of the absence of all check and counterpoise to it,,but there, as here, full of rawness, hardness, and imperfection; there, as here, greatly needing to be liberalized, enlarged, and ennobled, before it could with advantage be suffered to assert itself absolutely? Ali the energy and success in the world could not have made the United States admirable so long as their spirit had this imperfection. Even if they had
overrun the whole earth, their old national style would have still been detestable, and Mr. Beecher would have still been a heated barbarian.".
It is not plea:ant to have the tone of American society so recently as before the rebellion compared to the English middle-class spirit; " still less pleasant is it to be styled arrogant and overweening,” and then accused of “rawness, hardness, and imperfection,” not to mention his regarding our great Beecher as a heated barbarian." It is but too evident that our author has not as high an opinion of the latter gentleman as himself and many of his friends have. It might liave been different, however, had he heard some of his classic jokes in the pulpit of Plymouth Church some fine Sabbatlı morning, after the pews in that sacred edifice brought an unusually high price at auction. At all events, we must not blame him, since he is equally free and unceremonious in dealing with the Beechers of England, whom he is ill-natured enough to regard not as divines, but as fourth-rate politicians, whose teachings have a tendency to vitiate the public taste.
Sybil: A Tragedy in Five Acts. By John SAVAGE. 12mo., pp. 105.
New York: James B. Kirker, 1865.
We find a new edition of this drama on our table as we are preparing to go to press; and we think it has sufficient merit to justify us in glancing at it even, at so unseasonable a time. We believe it has been well received on the stage in all our principal cities; although we coufess we have never seen it represented ; indeed never read it until the present hour. Our first wish, on perusing it so far as to make ourselves familiar with the plot, was that the author had chosen a better subject; which would have been vain had he not impressed us strongly. Yet we were so much dissatisfied with the first act, with its matter, its style, and what may be called its morals, or rather its want of morals, that more than once we were almost provoked to throw the book aside. We thought that much was not to be expected from a five-act tragedy which opens as follows:
“ Wolfe. Our new member is not stirring yet.
1st Gent. No-thanks to your sleight of hand last night. I should not be surprised if he didn't stir for a month.
2d Gent. I never saw a jollier initiation |
Nor do we think even now that this is a suitable introduction, but the reverse. We are only surprised that an author who displays such good taste, and such power of language, in each of the other four acts,
should have commenced in a manner so ill calculated to prepossess either
Sybil. Thank Heaven, I fail not; each unerring shot
These are fine thoughts. There is true poetry in them; but they rest on a dangerous basis. In any case revenge is unchristian; it is particularly unworthy of woman; but we are only at the beginning of its development in the present case. As we proceed, we are reminded of the sentiment put by Voltaire into the mouth of Zaire, in his celebrated tragedy of that name:
« Je vois avec mépris ces maximes terribles,
Luifont de tant de rois des tyrans invisibles.".
The following is a very fine passage; we remember nothing of the kind so replete with the spirit of cold calculating vengeance, and yet so pathetic, save a somewhat similar scene in Otway's “Venice Preserved." We do injustice to the author by giving only a fragment, but our limited space in this department does not admit any more:
“Sybil (rising). Why do I weep? Have I not said the word.
woman l image of all feebleness
This does not breathe much tenderness for the new lover, but rather shows that she only wants to use him to gratify her passion for revenge. Nor is this strange or inconsistent, but on the contrary, since she who would murder one lover would be likely to murder another quite as