Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/827

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
821
AMERICANISMS.

Pope, he might have said: "I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came." He was an early friend of the late Robert Chambers. Between 1826 and his emigration to this country Mr. Wilson had contributed, most acceptably, to Blackwood's Magazine, H. G. Bell's Edinburgh Literary Journal, Chambers' Journal, and other periodicals, and he continued to write, chiefly poetry, all his life. A selection of his poems, edited by Benson J. Lossing, appeared in 1870, and a second edition was published in 1875.

William Wilson, himself "one of the mildest-mannered men that ever lived," must have had fighting blood in his veins. His eldest brother was with Wellington in all his Peninsula battles, and finally at Waterloo. Three of his own sons were in the army of the Union during the civil war, and one was mortally wounded at the battle of Fredericksburg. General James Grant Wilson, one of his sons, who served all through the war, and rose to his rank by good conduct and bravery, is a distinguished man of letters, best known, perhaps, as the editor and biographer of Fitz-Greene Halleck. His latest, which promises to be a perpetually popular, work, is "The Poets and Poetry of Scotland," published some months ago, by Harper & Brothers, New York. It gives a comprehensive view of Scottish song, from Thomas the Rhymer, who wrote in the thirteenth century, to the Marquis of Lome, born in 1845, whose narrative poem of "Guido and Lita," with illustrations by the Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's fourth daughter, was published in 1875, and is now in the third edition.

In this work is the essence, so to say, of six centuries of Scottish song. Two hundred and twenty poets of "auld Caledonia" are thus made known to the world, by specimens of their best productions, prefaced, in every instance, by biographical notices of the poets and their productions, with impartial criticisms. General Wilson has given several poems in full, such as Allan Ramsay's "Gentle Shepherd," Beattie's "Minstrel," Blair's "Grave," John Home's "Douglas," John Grahame's "Sabbath" and Pollok's "Course of Time," which, notwithstanding their merit, are out of print. He also gives, printed from the author's autograph, the ode which we print to-day, and unpublished poems by several other Scottish writers. In an appendix will be found some waifs worthy of preservation. Each volume opens with a list of authors and the specimens selected. There is an index of the titles of the poems, ballads, dramatic pieces, etc., an index of the first lines of the songs, and also an excellent and copious glossary. Ten portraits of eminent writers, engraved on steel, suitably illustrate these volumes.

A short time ago the London Times, noticing this work, complained that, "with the exception of Douglas of Fingland, whose beautiful and well-known ballad of 'Annie Laurie' is relegated to the appendix, the earliest writer quoted is Thomas Campbell," and asked why Allan Ramsay, William Dunbar, Sir David Lyndesay, the Marquis of Montrose — even Robert Burns and Walter Scott — had not been mentioned. In a subsequent notice the critic had to confess that not General Wilson, but himself, had made a mistake — the fact being that the critic had seen only the second volume, in which, beginning with Thomas Campbell's "Pleasures of Hope," published in 1799, only the Scottish poesy of the present century is dealt with! So rarely has the Jupiter Tonans of European journalism been "caught napping" that this instance is worth noticing — particularly as it affects the character of the book in question. There are no extracts from W. E. Aytoun, author of "Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers" — simply because Messrs. Blackwood, his publishers, refused their permission to have any made.




From The Leisure Hour.

AMERICANISMS.

The signboards are instructive. One of them represents the establishment as a "dry-goods store," the name for haberdashery another bears the whimsical legend, "notions," representing small-wares of various kinds. Our maid herself has ceased to be a "servant," and we, who are king and queen of our domestic castle, are no more "master" and "missus." The free air of the country in which all are "citizens" and no "subjects" has raised the servant to be a "help," and her employer to be "governor" or "boss," or, if slang is to be avoided, "Mr. A." or "Mrs. A." A "biscuit" is a soft bun, and a hard English biscuit is called a "cracker." Notes representing a number of dollars are called "bills;" small notes of ten or twenty-five or fifty cents are "greenbacks," or "change." "Potatoes" are either "sweet potatoes" or "Irish potatoes" (also termed "white potatoes"). "Lumber" signifies timber, or sawed boards. "Deal" is unknown as a specifica-