Imágenes de páginas

The calmness of the utmost sphere—

Where angels, on eternal thrones, All silent rest, serene, severe—

With Night full near communion owns.

Pure bliss the empyreal air instills;

Not raised from flushed emotion's deep, That now with after-sorrow fills,

But like to thine, 0 sacred Sleep!

On sapphire thrones, eternal they ;—
Informing suns, or through the whole,

Glide viewless, in ethereal play,

Through beauteous earth, and weightless soul.

They know the secret of the vast,—
Nor time, nor force their will denies;

No future dread they, grieve no past,—
Theirs are the twin eternities.

Great Sons of Eld! ye hear our voices.
Outcries of woe, and bursts of mirth,

That, mingled with insensate noises,
Thrill in the trembling veil of Earth.

Though piteously we strive and cry,
Like plumeless birds; alike to you,

The flickering light of mortal joy,
The quivering flame of mortal woe!


Alone, above the war of things,
Her aimless way the spirit wings;
So flies the sea-bird o'er the foam,
Nor knows what shore may be her home.


The name of Brockden Brown had acquired an attractive sound to our ear, before ever we read a line of his writings. The honorable distinction which was awarded to him, as a novelist, by the British press, at a period when it was almost certain that every book with an American imprint would only be mentioned to be carped at, and which, perhaps, more than any other single circumstance, prepared the way for the Transatlantic fame which Irving and others of our countrymen have since so abundantly enjoyed, contributed not a little to impress our boyish imagination with reverence for this remarkable man. As a nation, we have been accused, by the great critics across the water, of an insensibility to the genius of this writer, and the sole glory of duly appreciating his merits has been strongly claimed in the same quarters. We suspect, however, that this charge, and the pretensions with which it is coupled, are somewhat groundless— that the chief fault of our ancestors was, that, while they appreciated and liberally patronized one of the most brilliant of the men of letters in their day, they would persist that Barlow's Columbiad and Dwight's Conquest of Canaan were true poems, and might very properly be placed on the same shelf with, at least, the "Last Judgment," and " Leonidas." Brown was eagerly read in his time; obtained a considerable income from his novels; and received flattering attentions from the learned and the influential of our land. But that since his death he should have fallen into comparative neglect, was nearly unavoidable, from the very character of his writings.

We do not mean to be understood that *uch works are useless or trivial. We will not go so far as to say, with some whose judgment we respect, that, from its own nature, it is impossible for a novel to live; but we do say that, in the main, every generation will have its own favorites, and that one novelist will, in ordinary cases, succeed to another with a tolerably rapid movement. The Vicar of Wakefield has,

perhaps, fixed itself permanently a hearts of many ages; but this b a composition, far above the rank of ■* land." \

It is plain that the novel has a | provided for it among the literary i of man. Little intervals of busim odd ends and fragments of timeas would otherwise almost inevitahi given to idle musing, or still won melancholy self-reflection, are, by tb of these products of the fancy, a* give an agreeable relaxation and ref ment to the mind, with a secret im onward and upward in spiritual cultn be found nowhere else. Neither is together foolishly, we think, that persons make these books the com pa of a tedious voyage, or of a tempi stay at an inn, seeking from them a » oblivious exhilaration, that shall for I ment stifle all the vexations of the pr circumstances, and remove every an and disquietude of life: just as out1 s times takes an opiate before submitti a painful surgical operation, or inhale sulphuric, ether when about to take vengeance on a mutinous tooth. In we may easily discover a thousand ent ways, in which this species of ture becomes an important proTiskn the human mind. Among all thest cumstances, however, we find no occ for admitting "Pelham" to the brai a miss at school, nor the "Sorrof Werter" to the meditations of a; desperately in love—with himself, suppose that nobody under the sun t; tided in reading, or blessed in being sal to read, a romance of any kind, who I fully competent to understand that a ty story is not a history of th<.- » world, and that a fine piece of son tun philosophy is not the sum of human dom and genius.

This department of literature has i tinct character, and a plainly ml boundary, that divides it from all o| The author of a novel, no less tha atist, is required by the nature of his to observe certain "proprieties." that any critical Frenchman, within nowledge, has ever gone so far as to ;own exact "rules," to which every ig of this kind must be conformed; ?r has any Quintilian applied the irrele power of analysis to the best models ■> species of ideal creation. But there r>rt of critical common sense, nevertherespecting these matters, which we esteem, for all practical purposes, at infallible. A novel is universally ■stood to be a story of passion; of iture; of events intricately involved marvellously extricated; of insuritable obstacles swept away by the of heroism, by the violence of love, r the frenzy of gloomier passions; ips of supernatural occurrences and ■vine or angelic interpositions; and inlv of experiences passing through rbole range from the depths of grief inijuish to the full rapture of realized t* and hopes. We generally expect m. *unny beginning, among the ardent truKjuil thoughts of dreamy youth, e abodes of childish years, and amidst fce delights of nature; a series of i* i*.«uing from this point, thickening confusedly mingling as they proceed t?r and loved playing at cross purK thrown into seemingly inextricable *4oo, every incident increasing their irrassment, and proportionally increash*"ir affection, as the impossibility of ■ratification becomes more and more rr>-nt. until they come into a state of aright despair; and lastly, an entire triumphant unravelling of all the inrisied threads, and the completion of rf-cl web of golden felicity. All this, »y. L* generally expected; and that or may, in most cases, be safely said ussess either very insignificant, or else confident, powers, who ventures to ppoint this common anticipation. It Is some courage, even, to give the chief ninence to any other passion than love. author of "Caleb Williams " was ali the first who dared, in a decided roer, to transgress the general custom it* respect; and it was not altogether Lout reason that Brown was, by some, >oned to be of the school of Godwin— semblance in a tingle particular is a

sufficient ground for predicating the relation of master and disciple. That Brown was, in the highest sense, original, is nevertheless true. And we do not think it too much to add, that many of the later and more celebrated novelists of Great Britain have many incidents and scenes, not to say characters, which seem to have been rather more than suggested by passages in the fictions of our own countryman. Charles Brockden Brown was born at Philadelphia, in the year 1771. His family was highly respectable, though involved in the heresy of George Fox. He was always studious, and, in some particulars, he was considerably precocious. After a pupilage of five years with a Mr. Proud, from whom he learnt Latin and Greek, he began to devote his attention, at sixteen, to poetical composition; sketched no less than three epics—of the "six weeks" kind—and made some progress towards their completion. Fortunately, no Joseph Cottle standing ready to publish, the manuscripts soon after fell, by design doubtless, into the fire. In addition to these more magnificent endeavors, it is known that he now and then gratified the vanity, incident to boyish years, of gracing the Poet's Corner of a respectable country newspaper. Subsequently, he studied law—mainly, it is evident, to gratify the wishes of his friends, and without any definite purpose of his own. He never entered on the duties of that profession. He always had one favorite purpose, manifestly, however at times he may have suffered it to lie dormant. From the time of relinquishing his law studies, his attention was turned to literary pursuits; and henceforward he continued to write more or less assiduously until the time of his death. He published no work, of any pretensions, before "Wieland," which appeared in 1798. This was followed, in the next year, by " Ormond," "Arthur Mervyn," and " Edgar Huntley." In 1801, he published "Clara Howard," and in 1804, "Jane Talbot," which was first issued in England. During the same year of the latter publication, he was married to a lady of New York—where he had spent a considerable portion of his time since he first became known as an author—and was, the rest of his life, permanently settled at Philadelphia. He died in February, 1810.

The main incidents in the life of an author, almost always, are the conception and birth of his books, and their progress in the world. It is in these, therefore, that we are to look for his character, and for the sum of his life. It was, at least, the fortune of Brown to make no very decided and abiding impression on those about him, aside from that which was left on their minds by his writings. We are told, indeed, that he was of a gentle nature; that his manners were, in general, pleasing; that he conversed with ease and effect, and that he was at one time rather skeptical in matters pertaining to religious faith. To the many, he appeared to be only a man much given to reveries and moods of abstraction; and perhaps his absent manner sometimes so unconsciously possessed him, when in society, as to call forth a smile on the countenances of some of the less polite and less intelligent of the circle in which he moved. But all these little incidents, that go to make up an extended biography, after all concern us but little. It is not in circumstances like these, that the real man is exhibited. We are forced to recur to the only sure index and representative—his work—in order to gain any correct knowledge, or to form any true judgment.

The first work which finds its way into the world, from the pen of whatsoever writer, has probably within it some true tokens of the power in which it originates. The best qualities of such a mind may indeed be altogether concealed. Its defects may here assume their worst form. The work itself is by no means the measure of what this mind may hereafter create. But a book earnestly written, deliberately put into the hands of a publisher, and willingly exposed in the literary shambles, may be esteemed a rare book indeed, if it contains no certain intimations of the quality of the mind from whence it proceeds.

We do not hesitate to pronounce " Wieland" to be the product of an extraordinary mind—such a work as could proceed from no other than a gifted spirit. We are quite sure that we detect in it the lineaments of a genius fully as original, and profound, and comprehensive, as that of Irving or Bryant. But then we are compelled to add, that Brown never lived to reach that maturity of experience and cul

ture, to which these two have atua The author of "Wieland" was oal youth—his life never passed thai & Schiller, and Byron, and Shelley, a.-said to have died young; but their jn was manhood compared with hk years, to be sure, there was not tb_ference—but youth knows no exact U dary of time. And he lived, too, dened with an almost constant melai and gloom, which he never could wb overcome, and under the thraldom of * a none of the security and peace, es=«s to the highest achievements, could eve his. But for physical inabilities, he mi doubtless, have risen above his menu firmities, and accomplished results of a he has now left behind only some promise; but he was himself destine be overcome, and he perished in the o of the conflict.

True genius, we are confirmed, a blazes forth at once with its noai splendor. Chatterton, indeed, may written remarkable verses at sixteen. Pope may have lisped in numbers; b this we are sure, neither Shakspeare Milton, neither Goethe nor Schiller, ac ed their greatness without a long anc vere process of culture. Re-modei of Titus Andronicus, hard struggles the Two Gentlemen of Verona, and ious pains with Venus and Adonis, inevitably precede Hamlet and the' pest. Lycidas, and Comus, and Saa must appear, as premonitions and exes of a strength, which only years of w ling with "evil tongues and evil tin could nurture up for the realizati< Paradise Lost. Wallenstein and the bers seem scarcely to be products a same mind; and that Wilhelm Mei>uwritten by the author of the Sorro' Werter, seems to require some creduii believe. Yes,—the evolution of g demands a vehement and long-proustruggle. None can be developed wii it, and the more powerful, the greate throe of parturition.

Many persons, doubtless, will qu« whether the species of writing, in t Brown was engaged, was of a char that would tend very much to the motion of the culture he above all t needed. This suspicion is not witho good reason. Of two such nove -morid" and "Edgar Huntley," both ten in one year, the last, perhaps, conrably worse than its predecessor, and i inferior to the first of all, we should linly expect little in the way of iming style or the faculty of invention, hese were all the particulars in which lire is necessary, or in respect to which find the chief necessity, we should

• no hope from such a discipline. But regard the matter far otherwise. The ure we mean is necessarily a hidden k—different in different individuals, and !1 indescribable, yet attainable only by us of constant exertion, vigorous ac

of the mind, in one direction or another. first question to raise is, evidently, •xher there are any true marks of genius bese works already put forth—plain ?cs of the presence of a superior enerthat has not yet worked itself clear of

gross impediments and earthly mixta that surround it. If such a power letected, then the constant and veheat action which we observe, however uv at first appear to us, is doing a good rk. in a manner undefinable and impreipuble. and moving towards results tch we can but imperfectly calculate, foe plot of "Wieland" is not very comated. The predominant passion is reDiB enthusiasm. The interest of the ■rarive is kept up by a constant appeal the aid of mystery and wonder, rather m by the relation of thrilling adventures, bv impressive and dazzling description. •re, indeed, has a considerable place, but k a subordinate one. the scene is laid on the banks of the huvlkill, at only a little distance from aWielphia. The time is the middle of

• last century. The grandfather of V-Land was descended from an ancient d noble family of Germany, but marry5 the daughter of a merchant, he and

• offspring were degraded from their ak, and cut off from their inheritance. Viand's father was apprenticed to a sxJer in London, and served out his full Be.. Through the want of books and teiety, he became a man of melancholy k) morose meditation. Accidentally meetK with a work containing a full account f th«" history and doctrines of a certain maiical sect,"(the Camissards,) he at length ecame deeply interested in its perusal;

Vol. L Mo. m. irxw Series. 18

made it a subject of intense study; and became, in the end, a thorough convert. His religion prompted him to become a missionary among the Indians of our own country. He made a feeble and ineffectual attempt to impart his extravagant notions to the savages along the banks of the Ohio; but soon settled on a farm in the situation already indicated as the scene of the story. Here he married; bought slaves; became wealthy. But in all his pursuits, his peculiar religious notions never left him. He builds a curious chapel, on a height above the river, to which, at noon and at midnight, he constantly repairs, to pay his devotions. Here, at last, at the usual time of his nightly visitation, he is found senseless, with his clothes consumed from his body, and a mysterious cloud of fire overhanging him. He lingers on in the acutest suffering, and dies a horrible death. He had already foretold a terrible retribution for some unperformed duty. His wife soon followed him, overborne by the shock which this astounding and unaccountable occurrence gave to her sensitive mind. Two orphan children are left in possession of their estate, and dependent on the fostering care of a maiden aunt residing in the city. One is the Wieland of our tale, the other is Clara, the narrator. One of the friends of their childhood was Catharine Pleyel, to whom, subsequently, without any very romantic love-making, the former is married. Wieland occupies the paternal mansion, and Clara, from a certain pride of housekeeping, builds a dwelling nearly a mile distant, and settles down with only the immediate society of a female servant.

Wieland inherits the gloomy religious nature of his father. No pains had been taken to impress his mind with precise and rational opinions respecting divine things. His mother was a simple Moravian, devout in her way, but equally careless with her husband about instilling her own peculiar views into the minds of her children. "Our education," says Clara, "had been modelled by no religious standard. We were left to the guidance of our own understanding, and the casual impressions which society might make upon us." At first thought, such a neglect in the religious training of his own children, on the part of one who had been so anxious to convert

« AnteriorContinuar »