The Southern Literary Messenger, 1834-1864/Seventh Volume
THE SEVENTH VOLUME
This volume, VII., is the largest that was ever issued, for it has 876 pages; yet several others have exceeded the appointed number.
Mrs. Seba Smith has the honor of ushering in the year 1841 with a poem on "Youth and Old Age," and afterwards attention is directed to her "Sinless Child," her "Powhatan" and other productions. The editorial, "The New Year; to our subscribers," is rather stilted, but thankful and hopeful, and has some remarks which are here quoted: "It is true we hold our Messenger as peculiarly the herald of Southern talent. * * * We have made and, by every consideration of kindred and sympathy, shall make our Journal the medium for the defence and exposition of Southern interests and Southern rights. * * * In all this we have been sectional, and we humbly opine that if we had not been so, not only would the proud word that stands first in our title be a mockery and a sound, but we should stand recreant to gratitude and to duty. * * * Above the discordant strife of sectarism and the heated atmosphere of party, in a region of freer and purer light, we have endeavored to foster generous talent wherever we have found it and to present to our readers the thoughts of truthful and loving spirits; in whatever section of our one broad land their fountains have gushed." Such continued the tone and purpose of the Messenger during the whole time of Mr. White's successor.
There are some thirty new contributors, who, with many of those already mentioned, fill up the teeming pages with every variety of composition and some translations. There are two double numbers, May and June and July and August; and there are some very long articles, in both sizes of type; e. g., "A review of Capt, Marryatt and his Diary," probably by Jno. Blair Dabney, one of the best writers for the Messenger, occupies near 24 pages of the smaller type; and another writer takes him to task for having wasted so much on such a trifling subject. Gen. Lewis Cass also requires 24 pages of larger type, for his second paper, which is an account of the Island of Cyprus, the fabled kingdom of Aphrodite. Harry Bluff, too, has large space for No. IV. of his Scraps, in which he insists upon reorganizing the Navy. From the beginning he has been deservedly a pet with the Messenger and none other of its contributors ever gave it such great influence. His probings of the Navy stirred up the wrath of some high official, so that he came after Harry very hotly. The Messenger admitted his reply; but had to expurgate his MS. However, Harry marshalled more facts and floored the aroused dignitary. At length Harry became known and the July number contains a sketch of M. F. Maury. It tells how sedulously he improved himself after he left the school of Bishop Jas. H. Otey, in Franklin, Tenn., and entered the U. S. N. But it omits one fact which had a blessed effect upon his subsequent career, beginning with his appearance as a writer for the great public. Whilst a mere midshipman and pursuing, with the aid of diagrams drawn on cannon balls, professional studies, he felt keenly his inferiority to his messmates and the ship's officers in Belles Lettres and resolved to make up his deficiencies. So he added good literature to his studies, in which he was generously aided by a brother of Washington Irving, who had a well selected library with him. Maury never after slighted good literature, though he may have somewhat undervalued the classical languages, which he would hardly have done had he remained with his great friend Bishop Otey, for he was devoted to the Classics and had taught them in the University of North Carolina. Indeed a writer from Frankfort, Ky., criticises Maury for being too narrow in regard to the acquisition of languages in his school ship for the Navy.
This volume is quite full of the Navy. There are three sets of "Extracts from the Journal of an American Naval Officer;" four letters from Union Jack to Henry Clay and a sketch of Judge Abel P. Upshur, whom President Tyler had made the Secretary of the Navy. What an earnest appeal does this sketch embrace for the Judge to exert his position and influence in promoting reforms in the Navy!
There is a discussion as to the moral tendency of the "History of an Adventurer" and its Sequel, by a critic whom Mr. White consulted, and the author. The critic is very strait-laced, but not offensive, and the controversy is agreeably courteous.
The eleven chapters of "The Quakeress" are finished; but other tales are going on, though there are several short ones. There are some lengthy and even pretentious poems. Judge Meek writes one, "The Nuptial Fête, an Irregular Poem." Geo. B. Wallis continues one: "Arabella, a Story of the Texan Revolution." Notice is taken of "Pocahontas," a poetical legend, by a lady of Richmond, Mrs. John G. Mosby, published in book form. There are two poems from the pen of Ex-President John Q. Adams, and oh! how many others. Our good and distinguished Ex- Secretary of the Navy, J. K. Paulding, has got out a collection of his poems. There is a review of Navarrete's work on "Spain," which Mr. S. Teackle Wallis, of the Baltimore Bar, contributed, as he did previous articles on Spain and her literature.
There was a memorable celebration in Richmond, on this 22d of February. Virginia had voted swords of honor to eight of her sons, who had distinguished themselves in the military and naval service of their country, in and about 1812; and on the above great anniversary they, or their representatives, received those swords, on the Southern portico of the Capitol, from Gov. Thos. Walker Gilmer, in the presence of thousands of spectators, many of whom had been drawn from all parts of the State and from other States. The Messenger records the event.
Near the close of the year Miranda furnishes a vivid description of Pennsylvania scenery, as she enjoyed it in a journey, with her father, from Philadelphia to Pittsburg, by river and canal. Her father was Maury's Tennessee teacher, Bishop Otey, and some years later she became a frequent contributor to the Messenger, as La Visionnaire, etc.
Governor Gilmer and Wm. G. Minor, of Missouri, write about the importance of obtaining and preserving the records of the Colonial history of Virginia, a subject which the Messenger resumed with earnest zeal under Mr. White's successor.
In most of the numbers, the bibliographical department receives due attention and a merited tribute is paid to the American publishers for the vast improvements they have introduced, in every aspect of their beneficent business.