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apoplexy, as a safety signal to the wearer. My friend is a man who rides several hobbies at once, like your clown at the circus-he is mathematical, hydrostatical, everything but practical his house is lumbered up with disordered air-pumps and broken Leyden phials. The other day he invented a fire-engine on an entirely new principle. You were to pull a wire, which released a spring, which set a wheel going, which turned a tap, which let out gas, which put out the fire. The old engine was sold as antiquated, and the new favourite solemnly installed in its place. Two days after a dreadful fire broke out in the old family house. The wonder of science was hauled forth. Nothing could work better than spring, wheel, wire, and tap; but, unfortunately, by the time the whole machinery was fairly set a-going, the house was entirely burnt to the ground.
SEA-SICKNESS. There is an amusing old legend I have read in some mouldy chronicle, of an island that long remained unconquered, from a rumour that gained ground amongst the people of the mainland that it was surrounded by an enchanted sea; for whenever their canoes put forth to reach its coast, the crews were instantly seized with uncontrollable vomiting, yea, almost unto death, loathing their food, and calling on those round them to slay them with knives or spears ; and believing this the effect of some sea god's vengeance, they always put back, and so, for two centuries, the island remained free. To me it seems clear that this is sea-sickness.
THE PRODIGAL HEIR. There's young Post-obit_I won't mention names-whose ears are filled, day and night, with no sounds but three, and those musical, but bad—the gurgling of wine, the rattling of dice, and the susurrus of an opera-dancer's whisper. Isn't his coffin already growing in the family elms ? Isn't there a niche for him in the family vault-an empty place for his leaden coffin on the shelf under his great grandfather, who was run through the body in Will's Coffee-house, in Dryden's time, by a Tityre Tu, and over his grandfather, who died of dropsy? Isn't there a vacancy for him in the family portrait-gallery, where his hollow eyes and sensual lip will soon figure among the ruffs, and falling bands, and cuirasses, with Sir Marmaduke - who fell at Naseby, and old Admiral
- who boarded Van Tromp's ship; and, above all, isn't there, sirrah, three inches of marble slab left for his degenerate name on the old flat alabaster monument, where a lady prays eternally in stone opposite to the cross-legged knight who died at Joppa ? Were bodies transparent, he might see that it is a skeleton who draws his Champagne cork, who whirls the roulette, who bets him two to one on the favourite, who lips him, and asks for a set of diamonds; who befools him ; who drags him swift down, down, down to hell.
MODERN POETRY. It's all landscape painting ; all the seventh heaven ; like Shelley, with no sympathy for earth; or all versified newspaper, like Tupper's rhymed didactics, with our five senses forgotten. Poetry is written now for the images, not images for the poetry. They are separate thoughts welded together and showing the join.
THE TRUTHS OF OLD MYTHOLOGY. I once began a work with this title, intending to review all creeds, past and present, and to show the universal existence of primitive postdiluvian tradition; the Hindoo, the Grecian, and the Scandinavian Trinities ; the Deluge, remembered in Mexico and Hindostan ; even to the dove and the number saved. I should have reviewed the degraded worship of the race of Ham ; cannibalism, as a religious rite ; devil homage, and serpent adoration, which still exists in India and Africa, and was visible in Greece, in the emblems of deities, as Mercury and Æsculapius. But I felt my health going; and one day in autumn-it was about six o'clock, and sunset beginning-I bound up my MSS., and threw them into an old chest I have in my study, closing it again as one would a coffin-lid on a beloved face, leaving the shaped stones to be formed (perhaps) into a palace by other hands. I couldn't go on writing when I saw Death's bony finger following my pen, and obliterating as I wrote.
COMPENSATION. It does not relieve me to know it was a golden knife that amputated my arm; if you must have a wooden leg, it's all one whether it be of deal or mahogany.
THE SEXES. “I've a sort of feeling,” says the woman. “I begin to think,” says the man. Female vanity finds a mirror even in the clasps of her prayerbook.
EVERYTHING HAS A BEGINNING. Newton was once a child, and often got whipped ; Alexander ran in leading-strings ; and Cæsar was thrashed for stealing a top.
HAYDON. Haydon was one of those men who always talked as if there was a fiery chariot waiting to take him up at the next cab-stand.
THE JEWS. It is a singular thing that for forty years in the wilderness their clothing waxed not old, nor knew they such a thing as cast-off raiment; and now for hundreds of years they have lived by trading on the sloughs of civilised Europe.
CASUISTRY. It is rather a Jesuit's question, whether flinging a crown at a bald beggar, and cutting his head open with it, is charity.
A BULLY. Bullies go through society with the impunity that a sweep or a brimming dung-cart passes along the streets.
BY SIR NATHANIEL.
No. IX.- N. P. WILLIS. THAT eminent N. P. Willis ! Eminently the poet of good society, says Griswold, who loves (ornare) to adorn him. Eminently amusing, whatever he may write about, says Thackeray, who loves (subridere) to genteelly flout him. Eminent in pencillings and poetisings, as feuilletoniste and as attaché, in romantic inklings of adventure and in the conventionalisms of salon life. Eminently the Representative Man of American cockneyism ; for, in the lines of his compatriot, Mr. Lowell,
He's so innate a cockney, that had he been born
'T had been made by a tailor to lounge in Broadway. This jaunty, pert, quasi-distingué air appertains, more or less, to all the eminent man's writings. Not that it is substituted for good sense, or sagacious reflection at times, or dashing cleverness of description. No; Mr. Willis is a clever writer, and can produce really smart sayings, and even tasteful fancies, almost à discretion. But in reading him you never lose sight, for a couple of pages together, of the writer's intense self-consciousness
-of his precautions against being merged in his subject-of his resolve to haunt you with the scent of his perfumed kerchiefs, and the glitter of his jewelled attire, and the creak of his japanned boots : never do you escape, as it were, the jingle of rings on his fingers and rings on his toes, wherewith he makes music wherever he goes—be it to Banbury Cross or the Boulevards, Niagara or Chamouny, Auld Reekie or the literal Modern Athens.
While yet in statû pupillari at Yale College, Mr. Willis appeared in print as a “religious” poet, and made something of a sensation it is said. Thus encouraged, volume followed volume-a good sprinkling of “ religious" verses in each. There are some excellent things, too, among these miscellanies ; nor let it be supposed for a moment that we speak scoffingly of poetry often distinguished by touching beauty and simple purity of tone. Most readers of verse are familiar with that fine scriptural study, the 6 Healing of the Daughter of Jairus,"—though even that somehow reminds one, with a saving difference, of the scriptural studies of certain Parisian conteurs. “Melanie” is a melodiously accented and feelingly rendered tale of brotherly devotion—for an acquaintance with which many English lovers of poetry felt grateful to its English editor, Barry Cornwall—though Bon Gaultier and other critics express their gratitude somewhat ironically, and, while accusing the poet of perpetually quoting and harping on his poem, love to cap his die-away verses,
The moon shone cold on the castle court,
Oh, Melanie! oh, Melanie! with some such uncomplimentary complement as this, . And the baron he called for something short,
Oh, villany! oh, villany! Dec.--VOL. XCIX. NO. CCCXCVI.
“ The Dying Alchymist” is another of his most successful pieces od very effectively told story of an aged suicide-one who, sent blindfold on a path of light, had turned aside to perish—“a sun-bent eagle stricken from his high soaring down-an instrument broken with its own compass.” The dramatic poem entitled “Lord Ivon” has also won large approval-containing as it does passages of more sustained vigour and less finical pretence than is the author's wont. Some of his shorter fragments, devoted to household ties and the domestic affections, are however his likeliest claims to anything beyond ephemeral reputemarked as these are, sometimes in a memorable degree, by a tenderness and sincerity of emotion that at once conciliate censorship, and that have probably made more than one hostile critic shed “ some natural tears," however scrupulous his highness may have been to wipe them soon.
Nevertheless, Mr. Willis can hardly be ranked very high among poets, and those American poets. His strains are too glib and fuent, too dainty-sweet and prettily-equipped, too evidently the recreation of an easy-minded essayist, instead of being fraught with sighs from the depths of a soul travailing in the greatness of its strength. He sings, and we listen as to one who has a pleasant voice, and can play well upon an instrument; and having heard him, we pass on, and forget the melody, though we do not forget what manner of man he was. Speaking of a lyrical minstrel-some say, the eminent N. P. Willis himself-Emerson describes his head as a music-box of delicate tunes and rhythms, and his skill and command of language as never to be sufficiently praised. To whomsoever this may refer, what follows will apply to his Eminence: “But when the question arose, whether he were not only a lyrist, but a poet, we were obliged to confess that he is plainly a contemporary, not an eternal man." Yes; that is unmistakably true of N. P. Willis. Plainly a contemporary-a nineteenth-century being-coeval with Gore House synchronous with the fashion of “Hurrygraphs." Not at all an eternal man—although the North American Review, in its pride and pleasure, did dub him the American Euripides, and thereby gave the cue to a thousand wittols to exclaim, A very American one indeed! Emerson goes on to say of his lyrist, that he does not stand out of our low limitations, like a Chimborazo under the line, running up from the torrid base through all the climates of the globe, with belts of the herbage of every latitude on its high and mottled sides ; but is rather the landscape garden of a modern house, adorned with fountains and statues, with wellbred men and women standing and sitting in the walks and terraces. “ We hear, through all the varied music, the ground-tone of conventional life. Our poets are men of talents who sing, and not the children of music. The argument is secondary, the finish of the verses is primary”-in disregard of the truth that it is not metres, but a metremaking argument, that makes a poem—that in the order of genesis the thought is prior to the form—"a thought so passionate and alive, that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing." How plainly Mr. Willis is thought a contemporary, not an eternal man, * by the scribe of the Biglow Papers, Miss Bremer's Apollo's Head, let these lines testify:
• In appraising himself, by-the-by, Mr. Willis has characteristically said, “I
There is Willis, so natty and jaunty and gav,
Just conceive of a muse with a ring in her nose ! Conception is a blessing, is Hamlet's general proposition, But here the poet will think its quality strained, not blessing him that gives and him that takes. Rather he will quote Hamlet's subsequent words, Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says things
All which, interpose we old folks, we most powerfully and potently believe. Under protest, however, from a few missy admirers of the Penciller's flourishes—to whom his patron Muse would be in shabby déshabille without the nasal circlet ut suprà.
But it is to his prose that N. P. Willis owes, after all, the epigraph of Eminent. Who has not whiled away an hour in pleasant light reading of his purveying? Who has not heard of the amusement and eke the bad blood excited by his “Pencillings by the Way ?” That “ famous and clever N. P. Willis," as Mr. Titmarsh calls him, “whose reminiscences have delighted so many of us, and in whose company one is always sure to find amusement of some sort or the other. Sometimes it is amusement at the writer's wit and smartness, his brilliant descriptions, and wondrous flow and rattle of spirits ; sometimes it is wicked amusement, and, it must be confessed, at Willis's own expense-amusement at the immensity of N. P.'s blunders—amusement at the prodigiousness of his self-esteem.” “ There would be no keeping our wives and daughters in their senses," adds Mr. Titmarsh (in the sixth number of The Proser), “were such fascinators to make frequent apparitions amongst us; but it is comfortable that there should have been a Willis; and (since the appearance of the Proser) a literary man myself, and anxious for the honour of the profession, I am proud to think that a man of our calling should have come, should have seen, should have conquered, as Willis has done.” The illustrious stranger's resumés of the table-talk and drawing-room doings of his illustrious hosts and hostesses, were amazingly relished, notwithstanding the outcry elicited. Indeed it is curious to observe, to this day, how reviewers and critics, big, little, and middle-sized, after indignantly crying shame on those imitators of Mr. Willis, who jot down in their journals and books of travel personal anecdotes and descriptions touching the notables they may have dined withal,-proceed forthwith to select, for quotation, the raciest bits of domestic gossip, the very essential oil of the personality just denounced. This should never have been seen in print, they swear, in their first column. In their second, they give it, whole and entire, the benefit of their own extended circulation.
Not that we are pleading for Mr. Willis's achievements as Gossipry's “Own Correspondent" and envoy to the privacies of literary and fashionable life. On the contrary, in reading his reports of what he heard and
would willingly take a chance for immortality sandwiched between Cooper and Campbell.” This was said apropos of his going to reside between Cooper's abode and poetic Wyoming.