The Southern Literary Messenger, 1834-1864/Eighth Volume

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Here is another large and rich volume of 800 pages, with a January number of 104. But this time the editor has no poetic herald: at once, he extends New Year's greetings to patrons and friends. He is exultant as well as grateful and might appear to be boastful, were it not that he is able to state some big facts. He says: "Within the last year, our subscription list has increased largely and fresh numbers are daily lengthening it. Never has the circulation of the Messenger been as great as it now is." * * * "If the Messenger has been good in times past, it shall be better in times to come. It has never had such a list of correspondents as those whose pens are now engaged to adorn its pages. To them and not to us belongs the honor of its excellencies; to them we feel and acknowledge our obligations." Begging them to excuse any seeming neglect of their offerings, he adds: "We have bushels of these now before us and every mail brings fresh supplies to the pile. With the growing popularity of the Messenger, such has been the increase of contributors, that it would now keep one person constantly employed to overhaul MSS. and do nothing else."

Yes, the number of contributors, new and old, is very striking, as is also the wide range from which they come, besides "the Sunny Southland."

By way of contrast, we next have a long biographical notice of the founder, in Pennsylvania, of the Brackenridges, or Breckenbridges, and a shorter Memoir, by the Rev. William Norwood, of the Rt. Rev. Richard Channing Moore, the venerable and beloved Bishop of Virginia. Nasus (Miss Susan Walker, of Fredericksburg, ) gives us a good story about "Female Influence," and several other Virginia ladies contribute tales and novelettes. Tuckerman tells of Keats and other poets; and DeLeon, of South Carolina, several times indulges in a similar vein. Consul Andrews runs his "Knights of Malta" through the volume.

After the fifth paper on "Arabian Literature" (author still unknown), we come upon "The University of Virginia," written by a friendly and admiring alumnus, B. B. Minor. Here shall be slipped in something which has been held in reserve. Mr. White must have had some trusted editorial help right at hand. The notices of new works—especially in May—and other indications prove this; and it would be very gratifying
Matthew Fontaine Maury 3b.jpg

Matthew Fontaine Maury

if it could be known who that editor was. Rev. Mr. Chapin had gone back to the North and nothing can be ascertained in regard to Mr. Sparhawk spoken of by Mr. Whitty and Mr. Fergusson. It is known, however, that a good deal of editorial assistance was rendered by Lieut. M. F. Maury, from Washington City. This editorship was greatly facilitated by the Hon. Wm. B. Lewis, Auditor of the U. S. Treasury Department, who granted the Messenger the liberal use of his franking privilege. This privilege was afterwards much restricted; but Major Lewis had no scruples about promoting the plans and objects of the Southern Literary Messenger. That Maury edited the above article on the "University of Virginia" is shown by his handwriting on the MS. and he was still editing the Messenger, in the same way, when it was sold.

Mr. N. C. Brooks has published a poem on the Church and is complimented for "a fine classical style blended with a hallowed spirit of piety." Park Benjamin reappears and has started in New York the weekly New World, which the Messenger lauds very highly. Erastus Brooks has something about the Congressional Buryingground, in Washington. Mrs. Seba Smith favors us with the seven parts of her poem the "Sinless Child." John Blair Dabney (?) pokes exquisite fun at the proposed "Whisker Order," by which the beard of sailors and soldiers was to be curtailed. "Ancient and Modern Eloquence" is an excellent essay by Mr. Anon.

The Messenger has captured the Navy and the Army and was so overwhelmed with communications stirred up by ["Harry Bluff"—was a pen name used by Lieut. Matthew Fontaine Maury, USN], that it had to reject many of them. But one, by Commander L. M. Powell, in favor of a Naval School is admitted. Then we have a full review of the report of Judge Upshur, as Secretary of the Navy. There are 26 chapters of "Scenes and Adventures in the Army," by a captain of U. S. Dragoons, St. George Cooke, father-in-law of General J. E. B. Stuart. There are also three long instalments of "Extracts from the Journal of An American Naval Officer." But the feather belongs to the cap of [Harry Bluff MFM] for his grand dissertation on "The Right of Search," which took Lord Aberdeen by surprise and turned in our favor the tide of diplomacy. In the same connection may be mentioned the review of Henry Wheaton's work on "The Right of Search and Visitation," claimed by England.

There is a discussion, pro and con, of "The Protective Policy," not as a question of party, but one of political economy. But the editor, seeing the danger, stopped the controversy. "Grecian and Roman Poetic Literature" is treated ably and at considerable length, by B., and several quotations are printed in Greek. The Greek Dramatists are also reviewed by Charles Minnigerode, when he was a professor of Humanities in William and Mary. He became distinguished as an Episcopal minister and was, during the war of the Southern Confederacy, rector of St. Paul's Church, Richmond, which was attended by President Davis and Gen. R. E. Lee; and he visited Mr. Davis in his prison at Fortress Monroe.

No other magazine in this country could have dared to present such articles as the Messenger did.

The reviewer of Navarrete had spoken of Irving's unacknowledged indebtedness to that author, in his "Life of Columbus;" for which the Knickerbocker called the reviewer to account. He replies and maintains his point.

There are some interesting papers on "Blindness and the Blind," from the State Institute for the Blind, at Staunton.

Elm, the Rev. E. L. Magoon, writes well about "The Patriotism of St. Paul" and "Christianity and Patriotism." He was pastor of the Second Baptist Church, in Richmond, and, wishing to improve his pulpit deliverances, had the independence and good sense to take lessons in elocution from Forrest, the actor. But the goody-goodies censured him. He was called to Cincinnati and there gratified his ambition as orator and author.

Now we come to "Riego, or the Spanish Martyr, a Play in five acts," by the celebrated Judge John Robertson, who kept his pet secret for many years. At last, whilst he was preparing a new and revised edition, he dropped a proof sheet, which fortunately was found and handed to him by a particular friend. He bound that friend to silence and it was several years yet ere it leaked out that one so highly distinguished in law and politics had such a penchant for poetry and the stage. At one time he had strong hopes that his Riego would be put upon the boards by Mr. Boucicault, of New York.

The "Genealogy of Ideas" is from the fertile brain and facile pen of Edward Win. Johnston, who was so well known as a correspondent of the National Intelligencer. He was brought to Richmond to edit the Daily Whig, but literature was more his forte than politics. Before the great internecine war, he removed to Missouri and was for several years the learned librarian of the Mercantile Library of St. Louis. He was a brother of Gen. Jos. E. Johnston and I often met him in St. Louis.

Blackwood's Magazine had made a vituperative attack upon our peerless Washington and, of course, he is heartily defended. Washington Alston's tale, "Monaldi," is artistically commended by a South Carolinian of Cheraw and the author's reputation as a painter is also set forth. Alston gives us a sonnet. Mrs. Anna Cora Mowatt (gracefully reviewed by Poe) has several poems. She attained some rank as an actress; but became Mrs. Wm. F. Ritchie and entered Richmond society, where her culture and taste aided laudable undertakings. Once, on a visit to Mt. Vernon, she charmed her fellow passengers with her fine elocution. Jane Tayloe Lomax, besides her verses and "Love Sketches," treats of Madame de Genlis and Madame de Staël. She was the daughter of Major Lomax, U.S.A., and a niece of Judge John Tayloe Lomax.

"Napoleon, Wellington," etc. Lieut. General Dumas translated into French "Napier's History of the Peninsular War" and the Journal des Débats reviewed it. Alpha translates this review for the Messenger. Archaeus Occidentalis (who was he?) carries through, in nine chapters, his Pennsylvania story, "The Hunchback."

Book notices draw very diverse things into close companionship; e. g., "Lomax's Learned Digest, of the Laws of Real Property," in 3 tomes, is right between "The Youth's Mirror," for Sabbath Schools, and "Random Shots and Southern Breezes," containing critical remarks on the Southern States and Institutions; with semi-serious observations on men and manners, by Louis F. Tasistro, a traveling play actor.

There are notices of Mrs. Wm. C. Rives' "Tales and Souvenirs of her Residence in Foreign Lands;" of "Pocahontas," a long poem, by a lady of Richmond, Mrs. Mosby; of "Lewis and Clark's Famous Expedition," just published by the Harpers; of R. W. Griswold's "Poets and Poetry of America" and hosts of other productions.

As to addresses, the Messenger had been so liberal that a rule of excluding them was adopted; but when the old veteran educator, James M. Garnett, appeared before an Education Convention, in Richmond, an exception was made in his favor. Another exception was made for Judge Beverly Tucker, who had spoken before the Temperance Society of William and Mary. The editor said that the Judge's contributions had become "like angels' visits and he would fain woo him again into his columns."

There is an abundance of poetry and much of it real. The editor took pains to collect 16 "beautiful little pieces of poetry," which he publishes together as "Minstrelsy from Yankee Land." Besides, he has several of his approved authors from that same land and elsewhere. Yet the volume closes with something peculiar about poetry. A friend of Mr. White addresses an earnest letter to him complaining of the lack of inspiration on the part of his poetasters and urging him to devise some means of working an amelioration in his poetical department. Accordingly Mr. White offers an honorarium of a silver medal, or cup, of the value of $10, for the best poem, of not less than 75 nor more than 150 lines, which should be sent in on or before the first day of February next. Five competent and impartial gentlemen were appointed to make the award.

But the liberal-minded, enterprising, indefatigable and originative founder of the Messenger was not to be permitted to witness the result of the above proposal. The paralytic was then lying on a couch which Death was already draping.