The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 2/Number 1/Literary Notices
|The Atlantic Monthly
_Library of Old Authors.--Works of John Webster_. London: John
Russell Smith. 1856-57.
We turn now to Mr. Hazlitt's edition of Webster. We wish he had chosen Chapman; for Mr. Dyce's Webster is hardly out of print, and, we believe, has just gone through a second and revised edition. Webster was a far more considerable man than Marston, and infinitely above him in genius. Without the poetic nature of Marlowe, or Chapman's somewhat unwieldy vigor of thought, he had that inflammability of mind which, untempered by a solid understanding, made his plays a strange mixture of vivid expression, incoherent declamation, dramatic intensity, and extravagant conception of character. He was not, in the highest sense of the word, a great dramatist. Shakspeare is the only one of that age. Marlowe had a rare imagination, a delicacy of sense that made him the teacher of Shakspeare and Milton in versification, and was, perhaps, as purely a poet as any that England has produced; but his mind had no balance-wheel. Chapman abounds in splendid enthusiasms of diction, and now and then dilates our imaginations with suggestions of profound poetic depth. Ben Jonson was a conscientious and intelligent workman, whose plays glow, here and there, with the golden pollen of that poetic feeling with which his age impregnated all thought and expression; but his leading characteristic, like that of his great namesake, Samuel, was a hearty common sense, which fitted him rather to be a great critic than a great poet. He had a keen and ready sense of the comic in situation, but no humor. Fletcher was as much a poet as fancy and sentiment can make any man. Only Shakspeare wrote comedy and tragedy with truly ideal elevation and breadth. Only Shakspeare had that true sense of humor which, like the universal solvent sought by the alchemists, so fuses together all the elements of a character, (as in _Falstaff_,) that any question of good or evil, of dignified or ridiculous, is silenced by the apprehension of its thorough humanity. Rabelais shows gleams of it in _Panurge_; but, in our opinion, no man ever possessed it in an equal degree with Shakspeare, except Cervantes; no man has since shown anything like an approach to it, (for Moliere's quality was comic power rather than humor,) except Sterne, Fielding, and Richter. Only Shakspeare was endowed with that healthy equilibrium of nature whose point of rest was midway between the imagination and the understanding,-- that perfectly unruffled brain which reflected all objects with almost inhuman impartiality,--that outlook whose range was ecliptical, dominating all zones of human thought and action,--that power of verisimilar conception which could take away _Richard III_ from History, and _Ulysses_ from Homer,--and that creative faculty whose equal touch is alike vivifying in _Shallow_ and in _Lear_. He alone never seeks in abnormal and monstrous characters to evade the risks and responsibilities of absolute truthfulness, nor to stimulate a jaded imagination by Caligulan horrors of plot. He is never, like many of his fellow-dramatists, confronted with unnatural Frankensteins of his own making, whom he must get off his hands as best he may. Given a human foible, he can incarnate it in the nothingness of Slender, or make it loom gigantic through the tragic twilight of _Hamlet_. We are tired of the vagueness which classes all the Elizabethan playwrights together as "great dramatists,"--as if Shakspeare did not differ from them in kind as well as in degree. Fine poets some of them were; but though imagination and the power of poetic expression are, singly, not uncommon gifts, and even in combination not without secular examples, yet it is the rarest of earthly phenomena, to find them joined with those faculties of perception, arrangement, and plastic instinct in the loving union which alone makes a great dramatic poet possible. We suspect that Shakspeare will long continue the only specimen of the genus. His contemporaries, in their comedies, either force what they call "a humor" till it becomes fantastical, or hunt for jokes, like rat-catchers, in the sewers of human nature and of language. In their tragedies they become heavy without grandeur, like Jonson, or mistake the stilts for the cothurnus, as Chapman and Webster too often do. Every new edition of an Elizabethan dramatist is but the putting of another witness into the box to prove the inaccessibility of Shakspeare's stand-point as poet and artist.
Webster's most famous works are "The Duchess of Malfy" and "Vittoria Corombona," but we are strongly inclined to call "The Devil's Law-Case" his best play. The two former are in a great measure answerable for the "spasmodic" school of poets, since the extravagances of a man of genius are as sure of imitation as the equable self-possession of his higher moments is incapable of it. Webster had, no doubt, the primal requisite of a poet, imagination, but in him it was truly untamed, and Aristotle's admirable distinction between the _Horrible_ and the _Terrible_ in tragedy was never better illustrated and confirmed than in the "Duchess" and "Vittoria." His nature had something of the sleuth-hound quality in it, and a plot, to keep his mind eager on the trail, must be sprinkled with fresh blood at every turn. We do not forget all the fine things that Lamb has said of Webster, but, when Lamb wrote, the Elizabethan drama was an El Dorado, whose micacious sand, even, was treasured as auriferous,--and no wonder, in a generation which admired the "Botanic Garden." Webster is the Gherardo della Notte of his day, and himself calls his "Vittoria Corombona" a "night-piece." Though he had no conception of Nature in its large sense, as something pervading a whole character and making it consistent with itself, nor of Art, as that which dominates an entire tragedy and makes all the characters foils to each other and tributaries to the catastrophe, yet there are flashes of Nature in his plays, struck out by the collisions of passion, and dramatic intensities of phrase for which it would be hard to find the match. The "prithee, undo this button" of _Lear_, by which Shakspeare makes us feel the swelling of the old king's heart, and that the bodily results of mental anguish have gone so far as to deaden for the moment all intellectual consciousness and forbid all expression of grief, is hardly finer than the broken verse which Webster puts into the mouth of _Ferdinand_ when he sees the body of his sister, murdered by his own procurement,--
"Cover her face: mine eyes dazzle: she died young."
He has not the condensing power of Shakspeare, who squeezed meaning into a phrase with an hydraulic press, but he could carve a cherry-stone with any of the _concellisti_, and abounds in imaginative quaintnesses that are worthy of Donne, and epigrammatic tersenesses that remind us of Fuller. Nor is he wanting in poetic phrases of the purest crystallization. Here are a few examples:--
"Oh, if there be another world i' th' moon,
As some fantastics dream, I could wish all _men_,
The whole race of them, for their inconstancy,
Sent thither to people that!"
(Old Chaucer was yet slier. After saying that Lamech was the first faithless lover, he adds,--
"And he invented _tents_, unless men lie,"--
implying that he was the prototype of nomadic men.)
"Virtue is ever sowing of her seeds:
In the trenches, for the soldier; in the wakeful study,
For the scholar; in the furrows of the sea,
For men of our profession [merchants]; all of which
Arise and spring up honor."
("Of all which," Mr. Hazlitt prints it.)
"Poor Jolenta! should she hear of this,
She would not after the report keep fresh
So long as flowers on graves."
"For sin and shame are ever tied together
With Gordian knots of such a strong thread spun,
They cannot without violence be undone."
"One whose mind
Appears more like a ceremonious chapel
Full of sweet music, than a thronging presence."
"Gentry? 'tis nought else
But a superstitious relic of time past;
And, sifted to the true worth, it is nothing
But ancient riches."
"What is death?
The safest trench i' th' world to keep man free
From Fortune's gunshot."
"It has ever been my opinion
That there are none love perfectly indeed,
But those that hang or drown themselves for love,"
says _Julio_, anticipating Butler's
"But he that drowns, or blows out's brains,
The Devil's in him, if he feigns."
He also anticipated La Rochefoucauld and Byron in their apophthegm concerning woman's last love. In "The Devil's Law-Case," _Leonora_ says:
"For, as we love our youngest children best,
So the last fruit of our affection,
Wherever we bestow it, is most strong,
Most violent, most unresistible;
Since 'tis, indeed, our latest harvest-home,
Last merriment 'fore winter."
In editing Webster, Mr. Hazlitt had the advantage (except in a single doubtful play) of a predecessor in the Rev. Alexander Dyce, beyond all question the best living scholar of the literature of the times of Elizabeth and James I. If he give no proof of remarkable fitness for his task, he seems, at least, to have been diligent and painstaking. His notes are short and to the point, and--which we consider a great merit--at the foot of the page. If he had added a glossarial index, we should have been still better pleased. Mr. Hazlitt seems to have read over the text with some care, and he has had the good sense to modernize the orthography, or, as he says, has "observed the existing standard of spelling throughout." Yet--for what reason we cannot imagine--he prints "I" for "ay," taking the pains to explain it every time in a note, and retains "banquerout" and "coram" apparently for the sake of telling us that they mean "bankrupt" and "quorum." He does not seem to have a quick ear for scansion, which would sometimes have assisted him to the true reading. We give an example or two:
"The obligation wherein we all stood bound
Cannot be concealed [_cancelled_] without great
"The realm, not they,
Must be regarded. Be [we] strong and bold,
We are the people's factors."
"Shall not be o'erburdened [_overburdened_] in
"A merry heart
And a good stomach to [a] feast are all."
"Have her meat serv'd up by bawds and
ruffians." [_dele_ "up."]
"Brother or father
In [a] dishonest suit, shall be to me."
"What's she in Rome your greatness cannot awe,
Or your rich purse purchase
Promises and threats." [_dele_ the second "your."]
"Through clouds of envy and disast [rous] change."
"The Devil drives; 'tis [it is] full time to go."
He has overlooked some strange blunders. What is the meaning of
"Laugh at your misery, as foredeeming you
An idle meteor, which drawn forth, the earth
Would soon be lost i' the air"?
We hardly need say that it should be
"An idle meteor, which, drawn forth the earth, would," &c.
"_For_wardness" for "_fro_wardness," (Vol. II. p. 87,) "tennis-balls struck and ban_ded_" for "ban_died_," (Ib. p. 275,) may be errors of the press; but:
"Come, I'll love you wisely:
has crept in by editorial oversight for "wisely, that's jealously." So have:
"Ay, the great emperor of [_or_] the mighty Cham";
"This wit [_with_] taking long journeys";
"Virginius, thou dost but supply my place,
I thine: Fortune hath lift me [_thee_] to my chair,
And thrown me headlong to thy pleading bar";
"I'll pour my soul into my daughter's belly, [_body_,]
And with my soldier's tears embalm her wounds."
We suggest that the change of an _a_ to an _r_ would make sense of the following:--
"Come, my little punk, with thy two compositors,
to this unlawful painting-house,"
[printing-house,] which Mr. Hazlitt awkwardly endeavors to explain by this note on the word _compositors_:--"i.e. (conjecturally), making up the composition of the picture"! Our readers can decide for themselves;--the passage occurs Vol. I. p. 214.
We think Mr. Hazlitt's notes are, in the main, good; but we should like to know his authority for saying that _pench_ means "the hole in a bench by which it was taken up,"--that "descant" means "look askant on,"--and that "I wis" is equivalent to "I surmise, imagine," which it surely is not in the passage to which his note is appended. On page 9, Vol. I., we read in the text,
"To whom, my lord, bends thus your awe,"
and in the note, "i.e. submission." The original has _aue_, which, if it mean _ave_, is unmeaning here. Did Mr. Hazlitt never see a picture of the Annunciation with _ave_ written on the scroll proceeding from the bending angel's mouth? We find the same word in Vol. III. p. 217,--
"Whose station's built on avees and applause."
Vol. III. pp. 47-48:--
"And then rest, gentle bones; yet pray
That when by the precise you are view'd,
A supersedeas be not sued
To remove you to a place more airy,
That in your stead they may keep chary
Stockfish or seacoal, for the abuses
Of sacrilege have turned graves to viler uses."
To the last verse Mr. Hazlitt appends this note, "Than that of burning men's bones for fuel." There is no allusion here to burning men's bones, but simply to the desecration of graveyards by building warehouses upon them, in digging the foundations for which the bones would be thrown out. The allusion is, perhaps, to the "Churchyard of the Holy Trinity";--see Stow's _Survey_, ed. 1603, p. 126. Elsewhere in the same play, Webster alludes bitterly to "begging church-land."
Vol. I. p. 73, "And if he walk through the street, he ducks at the penthouses, like an ancient that dares not flourish at the oathtaking of the praetor for fear of the signposts." Mr. Hazlitt's note is, "_Ancient_ was a standard or flag; also an _ensign_, of which Skinner says it is a corruption. What the meaning of the simile is the present editor cannot suggest." We confess we find no difficulty. The meaning plainly is, that he ducks for fear of hitting the penthouses, as an ensign on the Lord Mayor's day dares not flourish his standard for fear of hitting the signposts. We suggest the query, whether _ancient_, in this sense, be not a corruption of the Italian word _anziano_.
Want of space compels us to leave many other passages, which we had marked for comment, unnoticed. We are surprised that Mr. Hazlitt, (see his Introduction to "Vittoria Coromboma,") in undertaking to give us some information concerning the Dukedom and Castle of Bracciano, should uniformly spell it _Brachiano_. Shakspeare's _Petruchio_ might have put him on his guard. We should be glad also to know in what part of Italy he places _Malfi_.
Mr. Hazlitt's General Introduction supplies us with no new information, but this was hardly to be expected where Mr. Dyce had already gone over the field. We wish that he had been able to give us better means of distinguishing the three almost contemporary John Websters one from the other, for we think the internal evidence is enough to show that all the plays attributed to the author of the "Duchess" and "Vittoria" could not have been written by the same author. On the whole, he has given us a very respectable, and certainly a very pretty, edition of an eminent poet.
In leaving the subject, we cannot but express our satisfaction in comparing with these examples of English editorship the four volumes of Ballads recently published by Mr. Child. They are an honor to American scholarship and fidelity. Taste, learning, and modesty, the three graces of editorship, seem to have presided over the whole work. We hope soon, also, to be able to chronicle another creditable achievement in Mr. White's Shakspeare, which we look for with great interest.
_History of the Inductive Sciences, from the Earliest to
the Present Time_. By WILLIAM WHEWELL, D.D.,
Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. Third Edition,
with Additions. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1858.
2 vols. 8vo. pp. 566, 648.
We are heartily glad to welcome this reprint of the "History of the Inductive Sciences," from an improved edition. From an intimate acquaintance with the first edition, we should cordially recommend these volumes to those who wish to take a general survey of this department of human learning. The various subjects are, for the most part, treated in a manner intelligible and agreeable to the unlearned reader. As an authority, Whewell is generally trustworthy, and as a critic usually fair. But in a work going over so much ground it would be unreasonable to expect perfect accuracy, and uniformly just estimates of the labors of all scientific men. Dr. Whewell's scientific philosophy naturally affects his ability as an historian and critic. In his Bridgewater Treatise, he indulged in a fling at mathematics, for which we have never wholly forgiven him; and in the present volume we see repeated evidence of his underestimate of the value of the sciences of Space and Time. He says, Vol. I. p. 600, that it was an "erroneous assumption" in Plato to hold mathematical truths as "Realities more real than the Phenomena." But to us it seems impossible to understand any work of Nature aright, except by taking this view of Plato. The study of natural science is deserving of the contempt which Samuel Johnson bestowed upon it, if it be not a study of the thoughts of the Divine Mind. And as phenomena are subject to laws of space and time as their essential condition, they are primarily a revelation of the mathematical thoughts of the Creator. Those mathematical ideas are, in Erigena's phrase, the created creators of all that can appear.
This false view of the mathematics lies at the foundation of Whewell's view of a type in organized nature. He conceives a genus to consist of those species which resemble the typical species of the genus more than they resemble the typical species of any other genus. It follows from this view that a species might be created that would not belong to any genus, but resemble equally the types of two or three genera. Thus, our little rue-leaved anemone might belong to the meadow rues or to the wind-flowers, at the pleasure of the botanist. We believe that classification is vastly more real than this, real as geometry itself. Another instance of a similar want of idealism in Dr. Whewell may be found in Vol. II. p. 643:--"Nothing is added to the evidence of design by the perception of a unity of plan which in no way tends to promote the design." Now to one who believes, with us, that a thought is as real as the execution of the thought, the perception of a unity of plan is the highest evidence of design. No more convincing evidence of the existence of an Intelligent Designer is to be found than in the unity of plan,--and his design, thus proved, is the completion of the plan. For what purpose he would complete it, is a secondary question.
In this third edition many valuable additions have been made; and no tales of Oriental fancy could be more wonderful than some of these records of the discoveries in exact science made by our contemporaries. What more magical than the miracles performed every day in our telegraphic offices?--unless it be the transmission of human speech in that manner under the waves of the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe. What more like the dreams of alchemy than taking metallic casts, in cold metal, with infinitely more delicacy and accuracy than by melted metals,--taking them, too, from the most fragile and perishable moulds? What sounds more purely fanciful than to assert a connection between variations in the direction of the compass-needle and spots on the surface of the sun! or what is more improbable than that the period of solar spots should be ten years? What would seem to be more completely beyond the reach of human measurement than the relative velocities of light in air and in water, since the velocity in each is probably not less than a hundred thousand miles a second? Yet two different experimenters arrived, according to Whewell, in the same year, 1850, at the same result,-- that the motion is slower in water; thus supplying the last link of experimental proof to establish the undulatory theory of light. While the records of science are strewn on every page with accounts of such triumphs of human skill and intellect, we see no need of resorting to fiction or to necromancy for the gratification of a natural taste for the marvellous.
It is true, Dr. Whewell does not give these discoveries, in the spirit of an alchemist, as marvels,--but in the spirit of a philosopher, as intellectual triumphs. Few men of our times have shown a more active and powerful mind, a more earnest love of truth for truth's sake, than the author of this History,--and few men have had a wider or more thorough knowledge of the achievements of other scientific men. Yet we are surprised, in reading this improved edition, written scarce a twelvemonth ago, to find how ignorant Dr. Whewell appears to have been of the existence or value of the contributions to knowledge made on this side the Atlantic. The chapter on Electro-Magnetism does not allude to the discoveries of Joseph Henry, in regard to induced currents, and the adaptation of varying batteries to varying circuits,--discoveries second in importance only to those of Faraday,--and which were among the direct means of leading Morse to the invention of the telegraph. The chapters on Geology do not mention Professor Hall, and only allude in a patronizing way to the labors of American geologists, and to the ease of "reducing their classification to its synonymes and equivalents in the Old World," as though the historian were not aware that Hall's nomenclature is adopted on the continent of Europe by the most eminent men in that department of science. In Geological Dynamics Dr. Whewell speaks slightingly of glacial action, and approves of Forbes's semifluid theory, in utter ignorance, it would seem, of the labors of the Swiss geologists who now honor America with their presence. The chapters on Zoology, and on Classifications of Animals, make no allusion to Agassiz's introduction of Embryology as an element in classification, which was published several years before the "close of 1856." The history of Neptune gives no hint of the fact, that its orbit was first determined through the labors of American astronomers, with all the accuracy that fifty years of observation might otherwise have been required to secure. Nor does Dr. Whewell allude to the fact, that Peirce alone has demonstrated the accuracy of Le Verrier's and Adams's computations, and shown that a planet in the place which they erroneously assigned to Neptune would produce the same perturbations of Uranus as those which Neptune produced. Much less does he allude to that wonderful demonstration by Peirce of the younger Bond's hypothesis, that the rings of Saturn are fluid; or to Peirce's remark, that the belt of the asteroids lies in the region in which the sun could most nearly sustain a ring. Yet all these points are more important than many of those which he introduces, and more to the purpose of his chapters.
Notwithstanding these deficiencies in Whewell's scholarship and in his philosophy, his History is a valuable addition to our modern literature, and gives a better sketch of the whole ground than can be found in any other single work. It is particularly valuable to those whose ordinary pursuits lead them into other fields than those of science, and we have known such to acknowledge their great obligations to these clearly written and most suggestive volumes.
_The Life of George Stephenson, Railway Engineer_.
By SAMUEL SMILES. From the
Fourth London Edition. Boston: Ticknor
There is something sublime about railway engineers. But what shall we say of the pioneer of this almost superhuman profession? The world would give much to know what Vulcan, Hercules, Theseus, and other celebrities of that sort, really did in their mortal lives to win the places they now occupy in our classical dictionaries, and what sort of people they really were. But whatever they did, manifestly somebody, within a generation or two, has done something quite as memorable. Whether the world is quite awake to the fact or not, it has lately entered on a new order of ages. Formerly it hovered about shores, and built its Tyres, Venices, Amsterdams, and London only near navigable waters, because it was easier to traverse a thousand miles of fluid than a hundred miles of solid surface. Now the case is nearly reversed. The iron rail is making the continent all coast, anywhere near neighbor to everywhere, and central cities as populous as seaports. Not only is all the fertility of the earth made available, but fertility itself can be made by our new power of transportation.
Who more than other man or men has done this? Is there any chance for a new mythology? Can we make a Saturn of Solomon de Caus, who caught a prophetic glimpse of the locomotive two hundred years ago, and went to a mad-house, without going mad, because a cardinal had the instinct to see that the hierarchy would get into hot water by allowing the French monarch to encourage steam? Can we make a Jupiter of Mr. Hudson, one bull having been plainly sacrificed to him? and shall Robert Schuyler serve us for Pluto? Shall we find Neptune, with his sleeves rolled up, on the North River, commanding the first practical steamboat, under the name of Robert Fulton? However this may be, we think Mr. Smiles has made out a quite available demigod in his well-sketched Railway Engineer. George Stephenson did not invent the railway or the locomotive, but he did first put the breath of its life into the latter. He built the first locomotive that could work more economically than a horse, and by so doing became the actual father of the railroad system. In 1814, he found out and applied the steam-blast, whereby the waste steam from the cylinders is used to increase the combustion, so that the harder the machine works, the greater is its power to work. From that moment he foresaw what has since happened, and fought like a Titan against the world--the men of land, the men of science, and the men of law--to bring it about.
But before we go farther, who was this George Stephenson? A collier-boy,--his father fireman to an old pumping-engine which drained a Northumbrian coal-mine,--his highest ambition of boyhood to be "taken on" to have something to do about the mine. And he was taken on to pick over the coal, and finally to groom the engine, which he did with the utmost care and veneration, learning how to keep it well and doctor it when ill. He took wonderfully to steam-engines, and finally, for their sake, to his letters, at the age of seventeen! He became steam-engineer to large mines. Of his own genius and humanity, he studied the nature of fire-damp explosions, and, what is not more wonderful than well proven, invented a miner's safety-lamp, on the same principle as Sir Humphrey Davy's, and tested it at the risk of his life, a month or two before Sir Humphrey invented his, or published a syllable about it to the world! He engineered the Stockton and Darlington Railway. He was thereupon appointed engineer of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Though the means of transportation between those cities, some thirty miles, were so inadequate that it took longer to get cotton conveyed from Liverpool to Manchester than from New York to Liverpool, yet it was with the utmost difficulty that a grant of the right to build a railway could be obtained from Parliament. There was little faith in such roads, and still less in steam-traction. The land-owners were opposed to its passage through their domains, and obliged Mr. Stephenson to survey by stealth or at the risk of a broken head. So great was this opposition, that the projectors were fain to lay out their road for four miles across a remarkable Slough of Despond, called Chat Moss, where a scientific civil-engineer testified before Parliament that he did not think it practicable to make a railway, or, if practicable, at not less cost than £270,000 for cutting and embankment. George Stephenson, after being almost hooted out of the witness-box for testifying that it could be done, and that locomotives could draw trains over it and elsewhere at the rate of twelve miles an hour,--for which last extravagance his own friends rebuked him,--carried the road over Chat Moss for £28,000, and his friends over that at the rate of thirty miles an hour. Thus he broke the back of the war, and lived to fill England with railroads as the fruits of his victory; all which, and a great deal more of the same sort, the reader will find admirably told by Mr. Smiles,--albeit we cannot but smile too, that, when addressing the universal English people, he expects them to understand such provincialisms as _wage_ for wages, _leading coals_ for carrying coal, and the like. But, nevertheless, his freedom from literary pretence is really refreshing, and his thoroughness in matters of fact is worthy of almost unlimited commendation. On the important question, Who invented the locomotive steam-blast? had Mr. Smiles made in his book as good use of his materials as he has since elsewhere, he would have saved some engineers and one or two mechanical editors from putting their feet into unpleasant places. Our Railroad Manuals, that have adopted the error of attributing this great invention to "Timothy Hackworth, in 1827," should be made to read, "George Stephenson, in 1814." Their authors, and all others, should read Samuel Smiles, the uppermost, by a whole sky, of all railway biographers.
_A Volume of Vocabularies, illustrating the Condition and Manners
of our Forefathers, as well as the History of the Forms of
Elementary Education and of the Languages spoken in this Island,
from the Tenth Century to the Fifteenth_. Edited, from MSS. in
Public and Private Collections, by THOMAS WRIGHT, ESQ., etc.
Privately printed. [London.] 1857. 8vo. pp. 291.
Mr. Wright, in editing this handsome volume, has done another service to the lovers and students of English glossology. Their thanks are also due to Mr. Joseph Mayer, who generously bore the expense of printing the book.
A great deal that is interesting to the student of general history lies imbedded in language, and Mr. Wright, in a very agreeable Introduction, has summarized the chief matters of value in the collection before us, which comprises the printed copies of sixteen ancient MSS. of various dates. As far as we have had time to examine it, the book seems to have been edited with care and discretion, and Mr. Wright has added much to its value by timely and judicious notes.
Most of the vocabularies here printed (many of them for the first time) were intended for the use of schoolmasters, and throw great light on the means and methods of teaching during the periods at which they were compiled. Mr. Wright tells us that there exist very few MSS. of educational treatises of the fourteenth century, (during which teaching would accordingly seem to have been neglected,) in comparison with the thirteenth and fifteenth, when such works were abundant. To all who would trace the history of education in England and follow up our common-school system to its source, the editor's Introduction will afford valuable hints.
The following extracts from Mr. Wright's Introduction will give some notion of the archaeological and philological value of the volume.
"It is this circumstance of grouping the
words under different heads which gives these
vocabularies their value as illustrations of the
conditions and manners of society. It is evident
that the compiler gave, in each case, the
names of all such things as habitually presented
themselves to his view, or, in other
words, that he presents us with an exact list
and description of all the objects which were
in use at the time he wrote, and no more.
We have, therefore, in each a sort of measure
of the fashions and comforts and utilities of
contemporary life, as well as, in some cases, of
its sentiments. Thus, to begin with a man's
habitation, his house,--the words which describe
the parts of the Anglo-Saxon house are
few in number, a _heal_ or hall, a _bur_ or bedroom,
and in some cases a _cicen_ or kitchen,
and the materials are chiefly beams of wood,
laths, and plaster. But when we come to
the vocabularies of the Anglo-Norman period,
we soon find traces of that ostentation in domestic
buildings which William of Malmsbury
assures us that the Normans introduced
into this island; the house becomes more
massive, and the rooms more numerous, and
more diversified in their purposes. When we
look at the furniture of the house, the difference
is still more apparent. The description
given by Alexander Neckam of the hall, the
chambers, the kitchen, and the other departments
of the ordinary domestic establishment,
in the twelfth century, and the furniture
of each, almost brings them before our
eyes, and nothing could be more curious than
the account which the same writer gives us
of the process of building and storing a castle."
"The philologist will appreciate the tracts printed in the following pages as a continuous series of very valuable monuments of the languages spoken in our island during the Middle Ages. It is these vocabularies alone which have preserved from oblivion a very considerable and interesting portion of the Anglo-Saxon tongue, and without their assistance our Anglo-Saxon dictionaries would be far more imperfect than they are. I have endeavored to collect together in the present volume all the Anglo-Saxon vocabularies that are known to exist, not only on account of their diversity, but because I believe that their individual utility will be increased by thus presenting them in a collective form. They represent the Anglo-Saxon language as it existed in the tenth and eleventh centuries; and, as written no doubt in different places, they may possibly present some traces of the local dialects of that period. The curious semi-Saxon vocabulary is chiefly interesting as representing the Anglo-Saxon in its period of transition, when it was in a state of rapid decadence. The interlinear gloss to Alexander Neckam, and the commentary on John de Garlande, are most important monuments of the language which for a while usurped among our forefathers the place of the Anglo-Saxon, and which we know by the name of the Anglo-Norman. In the partial vocabulary of the names of plants, which follows them, we have the two languages in juxtaposition, the Anglo-Saxon having then emerged from that state which has been termed semi-Saxon, and become early English. We are again introduced to the English language more generally by Walter de Biblesworth, the interlinear gloss to whose treatise represents, no doubt, the English of the beginning of the fourteenth century. All the subsequent vocabularies given here belong, as far as the language is concerned, to the fifteenth century. As written in different parts of the country, they bear evident marks of dialect; one of them--the vocabulary in Latin verse--is a very curious relic of the dialect of the West of England at a period of which such remains are extremely rare."--p. xix.
_Sermons, preached at Trinity Chapel, Brighton_. By the late REV. FREDERICK W. ROBERTSON, M. A., the Incumbent. Second Series. From the Fourth London Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 12mo.
The biography of Robertson, prefixed to this volume, will gratify the curiosity which every sympathetic reader of the first series of his sermons must have felt regarding the incidents of his career. It was evident to a close observer that the peculiar charm and power of the preacher came from peculiarities of character and individual experience, as well as from peculiarities of mind. There was something so close and searching in his pathos, so natural in his statements of doctrine, so winning in his appeals,--his simplest words of consolation or rebuke touched with such subtile certainty the feelings they addressed,--and his faith in heavenly things was so clear, deep, intense, and calm,--that the reader could hardly fail to feel that the earnestness of the preacher had its source in the experience of the man, and that his belief in the facts of the spiritual world came from insight, and not from hearsay. His biography confirms this impression. We now learn that he was tried in many ways, and built up a noble character through intense inward struggle with suffering and calamity,--a character sensitive, tender, magnanimous, brave, and self-sacrificing, though not thoroughly cheerful. The heroism evinced in his life and in his sermons is a sad heroism, a heroism that has on it the trace of tears. Always at work, and dying in harness, the spur of duty made him insensible to the decay of strength and the need of repose. He had no time to be happy.
The most striking mental characteristic of his sermons is the originality of his perceptions of religious truth. He takes up the themes and doctrines of the Church, the discussion of which has filled libraries with books of divinity which stand as an almost impregnable wall around the simple facts and teachings of the Scriptures, protecting them from attack by shutting them from sight, and in a few brief and direct statements cuts into the substance and heart of the subjects. This felicity comes partly from his being a man gifted with spiritual discernment as well as spiritual feeling, and partly from the instinct of his nature to look at doctrines in their connection with life. He excels equally in interpreting the truth which may be hidden in a dogma, and in overturning dogmas in which no truth is to be found. In a single sermon, he often tells us more of the essentials of a subject, and exhibits more clearly the religious significance of a doctrine, than other writers have done in labored volumes of exposition and controversy. This power of simplifying spiritual truth without parting with any of its depth accounts for the interest with which his sermons are read by persons of all degrees of age and culture. His method of arrangement is also admirable; his thoughts are not only separately excellent, but are all in their right places, so that each is an efficient agent in deepening the general impression left by the whole. The singular refinement and beauty of his mind lend a peculiar charm to its boldness; we have the soul of courage without the rough outside which so often accompanies it; and his diction, being on a level with his themes, never offends that fine detecting spiritual taste which instinctively takes offence when spiritual things are viewed through unspiritual moods and clothed in words which smack of the senses. Combine all his characteristics, his intrepidity of disposition and intellect, his deep experience of religious truth, the sad earnestness of his faith, his penetration of thought, his direct, executive expression, and the beauty which pervades and harmonizes all,--and it is hazarding little to say, that his volumes will take the rank of classics in the department of theology to which they belong.
_The Church and the Congregation_. A Plea
for their Unity. By C. A. BARTOL.
Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 16mo.
As church-membership is in some respects the aristocracy of Congregationalism, and as it is considered by many minds to be as necessary for the safety of theology as the old distinction of _esoteric_ and _exoteric_ was for the safety of philosophy, the publication by a clergyman of such a volume as this, with its purpose clearly indicated by its title, will excite some surprise, and certainly should excite discussion. Mr. Bartol contends for open communion, as most consonant with Scripture, with the spirit of Christianity, with the practice of the early Church, with the meaning and purpose of the rite. He denies that the ordinance of the Lord's Supper has any sacredness above prayer, or any of the other ordinances of religion; and while he appreciates and perhaps exaggerates its importance, he thinks that its most beneficent effects will be seen when it is the symbol of unity, and not of division. The usual distinction between Church and Congregation he considers invidious and mischievous, as not indicating a corresponding distinction in religious character, and as separating the body of Christian worshippers into two parts by a mechanical rather than spiritual process. Though he meets objections with abundant controversial ability, the strength of his position is due not so much to his negative arguments as to his affirmative statements; for his statements have in them the peculiar vitality of that mood of meditation in which spiritual things are directly beheld rather than logically inferred, and, being thus the expression of spiritual perceptions, they feel their way at once to the spiritual perceptions of the reader, to be judged by the common sense of the soul instead of the common sense of the understanding. This is the highest quality of the book, and indicates not only that the author has religion, but religious genius; but there is also much homely sagacity evinced in viewing what may be called the practical aspects of the subject, and answering from experience the objections which experience may raise. The writer is so deeply in earnest, has meditated so intensely on the subject, and is so free from the repellent qualities which are apt to embitter theological controversies, that even when his ideas come into conflict with the most obstinate prejudices and rooted convictions, there is nothing in his mode of stating or enforcing them to give offence. The book will win its way by the natural force of what truth there is in it, and the most that an opponent can say is, that the author is in error; it cannot be said that he is arrogant, contemptuous, self-asserting, or that he needlessly shocks the opinions he aims to change.
Mr. Bartol's style is bold, fervid, and figurative, exhibiting a wide command of language and illustration, and at times rising into passages of singular beauty and eloquence. The fertility of his mind in analogies enables him to strengthen his leading conception with a large number of related thoughts, and the whole subject of vital Christianity is thus continually in view, and connected with the special theme he discusses. This characteristic will make his volume interesting and attractive to many readers who are either opposed to his views of the Lord's Supper, or are unable to agree with him in regard to the importance of the change he proposes.