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covery; master Cyril growing tipsy and striking up a questionable ditty,
"Of Moll and Meg, and strange experiences Unmeet for ladies;"
and the Prince "pitching in" to him.
Benson. Can you suggest any better mode of bringing about the discovery?
The General. If no better can be devised, that only throws the objection upon the choice of such a subject.
Peters. That brings us to the point. Come, General, don't be nibbling all around the poem, like a mouse about a big cheese, but tell us what you think of it as a whole.
The General. As a whole, then, let me ask Benson if he considers it to add much to Tennyson's poetic reputation?
Benson. Is it perfectly fair to expect that each successive work of an author shall equal or surpass his former masterpieces?
The General. Somewhat of a Quaker answer, that, but it involves an admission which I accept as a satisfactory reply.
Peters. I have heard it objected to the Princess, that it was too evidently written with a moral and for a moral, and therefore could not be a really great poem.
Benson. That is really too bad, Fred. According to that rule, no allegorical picture can be a great painting. To go no further, what would such a critic say to Cole's Voyage of Life?
The General. It certainly is not the objection / should make either. The idea that a great poem cannot have a moral, seems to me as one-sided and untenable as the theory of the extreme Words worthians, that a great poem must have a moral. My animadversion would be just of the opposite kind—that the subject of the Princess is too slight. It would be well enough for a semi-ludicrous trifle; it is not sufficient for an elaborate poem, the work of years. While reading this production, the suspicion has crossed my mind—a mere suspicion which it is perhaps uncharitable to utter—that Tennyson has intended and striven to be eminently Shakspearian in it. Hence his peculiar phraseology, his changes from grave to gay and from gay to grave, his rigorous artistic propriety combined with his almost systematic chronological discrepancy, his
introduction of comic characters, (though he must have seen by this time that humo: is not his forte ;) even the very reference U> the Winter's Tale is not without meaning. But Tennyson is said to be a modest man. and it is hardly fair to tax him with sucii impudence. But at any rate the PrinceKgoes far to confirm me in the opinion I held before, that long poems are not Tennyson's line, so to speak. And he must hav an inkling of this himself, else why does he not finish Morted'Arthur?—which is surely worth finishing, though it might no: perhaps be "one of the epics of the world," as Carl thinks. There are many exquisite little gems in the Princess—many of "those jewels five-words long," this the author speaks of; but as a whole. 1 should be slow to call it a great work of an.
Benson. There are certainly also maty things in it to which the General has taken exception, and which I am not prepared to defend. The thought has struck me thai for some or all of these occasional lapses, we may have to thank the so-called '" Water Cure" which the author underwe-r between his former volumes and this.
Peters. Not a bad idea that, Cat". The result was exceedingly likely.
The General. So then the same escwill account for the difference betw.:r. "Evangeline" and "The Voices of li* Night,' and that between the Princes* a— Locksley Hall.
Benson. Well, we are agreed on copoint at any rate. And having settled =■ much satisfactorily, let us refresh our inr man. Lift up the top of that oak wind- ■* seat, Fred; you are the nearest to — What do you find there?
Peters. Something that looks Terr fc* a. pate defoie gras reposing upon sosteoU music; and a little basket with an ass-^r
ment of soda buscuit and wafers, and
is there a Bologna in this roll of yello«^paper?
Benson. Precisely. 'Where's the General? Oh, one naturally looks U> ih other window-seat for the liquids. Q—: right. You will find some jolly old Can* there, and a bottle of the real "ItemS' Maraschino, if you are not above so ladylike a vanity. Help rue to clear (be tah>. Fred. Put Dr. Arnold on the lop <rf Vanity Fair, and pitch those Boston r«views into the chiffonier basket.
this Literary World out: it will do for an extempore table-cloth. There, we have the edibles and potables arranged: let us give a good account of them.
The General. We will endeavor to do them justice, as we have been trying to do justice to the Princess.
HUDSON'S LECTURES ON SHAKSPEARE.
la reading Mr. Hudson's assurance in his ledication, that he has, "in writing these ectures, rather studied to avoid originality han to be original," we know not, to use i part of one of his characteristic sentences, 'whether it be more incredible, that he hould say what he did not believe, or that ie should believe what he said." For it
I of the very essence of his mind to be riginal, and to allow it to be seen that he ■ies to be so. His very avowal is original; ie thought, it is true, is not new, but the ght in which it is presented is colored itli a peculiar personal shade. It was leant to tell in a particular direction, and does so. How it must startle the drowsy mses of those who have fallen into that ate of morbid conceit, which it is the shion of the soi-disant transcendentalists 'develop and nourish, to read a sentient so directly in opposition to one of eir cardinal dogmas, as the following:—
"He who is always striving to utter himself,
II of course be original enough; but he who shes to teach will first try to learn; and as, do this, he will have to study the same obits, so, unless his eye be a good deal better or food deal worse than others, he will be apt to ;, think, and say very much the same things have been seen, thought, and said before.
This is a plain common-sense thought t into a Johnsonian wrapper and fired t of the Hudsonian rifle at a particular ject, viz., the worshippers of certain jvved Self-Utterers in New England and ewhere; which object this thought is :uliarly adapted to hitting, (as silver bul; are for witches,) and which, in this innce, it hits, in the very point aimed at.
The writer intimates that he could have been original, in the transcendental sense, i. e. unique, outre, odd, absurd, nonsensical or ridiculous, had he chosen, but that being a man of honesty, and having some reverence for the learning of thinking, he has endeavored to study his subject with the assistance of other students, and then to travel on with them in the great highway of wisdom. It is the false originality then which he has studied to avoid, that which mistakes Deviation for Progress, and selfillumination for general enlightenment. In this sense only can he say of himself with truth that he has studied to avoid originality.
But if going ahead in the right path of thought, that which runs parallel with what men understand by common sense, in a peculiar characteristic fashion, be true originality, then Mr. Hudson has tried to be original, and has succeeded. He is consciously peculiar in his thought and expression, more from a natural idiosyncrasy than because he intends to be strange. He writes antitheses, and makes points, and scatters shot here and there, because he is a wit. He is full of individuality both in style and thought; but in the general, though many of his traits as author are against good usage, he is on the right side, the old, true side, the side of honesty and sincerity. He is neither a Weeper nor a Seeker. He does not bear his candle aloft and cry, " Behold the sun I" he merely lets it so shine that men may see his good works.
With our Progressing friends Mr. Hudson is not a particular favorite; they do not consider him a "perfect person." This question respecting his originality, which they were the first to raise, affords a curious instance by which to observe a characteristic motion of the advancing Mind. Mr. Hudson has made a free and generally a fair use of the thoughts of other writers on Shakspeare; in a few instances, one of which we shall extract, it seems that he has, instead of quoting, given the thoughts of others in his own language. This could not have been intended for plagiarism, since those thoughts have now become so common that there could have been no felonious intent; still it was unnecessary, and is a blemish.
Lectures ou Shakspearc. By H. N. Hudson. 2 vole. New-York: Baker & Scribner, 1848.
Not relishing, when these lectures were delivered, the blunt sense and pointed sarcasm which characterize almost every paragraph of Mr. Hudson's writing, and make it very original—the advancing Mind, or rather some of those nameless persons to whom he frequently alludes as "some people," fastened upon these instances, and pronounced him a mere laborious compiler. We did not hear the lectures, but remember seeing them spoken of in that wise in sundry newspapers, by individuals as inferior to him in wit, good taste, scholarship, and industry, as superior to him in the wisdom which is born of conceit, and is engendered by fanning the inward light.
Now, since his book has appeared, and it has been seen that he professed to have studied to be un-original, in their sense only, they have been rather taken aback; they have been obliged at least to commend his prudence. They imply (we have read thus in a newspaper notice) that as he was accused of wanting originality, he has now very adroitly met that objection by confessing it was intentional.
All this while the progressing Mind, "some people," must be as perfectly aware as he is himself, that he is truly one of the most original writers that has for a long while come before the public. His style is quite peculiar; no one else has ever written it. His course of thought is like that of no other mind which had contributed to enrich our literature; it is a beautiful spray of innumerable little jets of wit. As for what he has borrowed from other writers, he has so remodelled it in the mould of his fancy that he has a right to pass it
as his own. Except in the instances alluded to, which though in bad taste could not have been written to mislead, there is no charge which could be brought again?: these lectures with less foundation in truth than that of wanting originality.
Yet such is the nature of the menu] progression of the "some people" aforesaid, that they cannot be brought to admit aught which tends to lessen them in their own esteem. Something must be said against Mr. Hudson, because he does not subscribe to the Harbinger; but his piquant sallies are too cutting not to be acknowledged to have some force; the shift then is, to pretend to feel no smart, and assuming a high level of " self-respect," to accuse him of want of originality. This :.especially the modus operandi of "some people," the imitators of Mr. Emerson and Lord Nozoo, who are perpetually "welling out" in our newspapers and magazines. Lacking utterly all basis of good sense, and all respect for study, they are in our lierature the exact counterpart of the Democratic party in our politics—only, thanks to the mighty dead who repose in our libraries, to the nobler qualities of the human soul, and to the chivalry of such valorous knight-errants as Mr. Hudson, they are not quite so formidable. For our ows part, we are so much disposed to trust in the natural vigor of the understanding, tha: we look upon the vagaries of these progressives as mere harmless manifestation of weakness that will always be showing itself in some form or other; we as little think of allowing transcendentalism to disturb our repose as Mormonism; we defy all attempts to be drawn into seriously dispelling any such momentous Nonsense thi'. is always obscuring the air of the soul. It is nothing but fog; though at a distance it looms heavy, and seems to envelop all things in Cimmerian gloom, yet, if we walk boldly on, we have always a clear spa* around us. We believe in Bigotry: the ignorant are to be pitied and benevolently instructed, not contended with. The Pinel method of treating the insane should b>. extended to many other infirmities. Still. when boys have behaved very badly indeed, not studied well, but relied on their effrontery to carry them through, and bet-c altogether vain, assuming and disagreeable. there is a degree of pleasure in beholding them " settled with," not at all incompatible with a kind and forgiving spirit.
The providence of Heaven graciously raises up from time to time men who seem especially commissioned to correct certain special errors. Thus Howard the philanthropist had a "mission" to reform the English prisons, and Father Mathew was lately moved to stay the plague of drunkenness in Ireland. Mr. Hudson, though he has not probably been aware of it, is as signal an instance as either of these. He was sent forth into New England to overthrow and utterly demolish the vanity of that class of speculators, whom he and we, for want of a more specific title, have designated as "some people"—which must be understood as including all that class, whether transcendentalist or orthodox, who think that they know Something when in truth they do not. This is a class so abounding in New England that it has been supposed by many to originate in a sort of aftergrowth or second edition of the ancient puritanical Pride, which made the essence of all piety to consist in a state of mind expressible by the formula, "I am holier than thou!" This pride, now that creeds have changed, develops itself in various shapes, in philanthropy, literature, morals, divinity, and the like; but in essence it is the same old self-adoration. Others, among whom, for the sake of several of the earliest names in the Plymouth colony, kve should desire to be numbered, refer his pride to a source further back than he Puritans, who they think were upon lie whole more sinned against than sinling; they rather consider it only a new nodi6cation of the original Adam, shapen md colored by the peculiarities of New ingland character and education. Be that .3 it may, Mr. Hudson was evidently sent orth against this pride, from whatever ource it sprung. One may see the imiiilse operating upon him from the outset. Vhat else could induce a young man, ithout a literary name, to prepare lectures n Shakspeare, and go about to deliver lem? But the reality of his commission most irrefragably asserted, after the ishion of most, special providences, by hat he has accomplished. We are bound > believe that he was sent forth to puncire pride and let the wind out of preten
sion, because he has done it. "Some People" have fared hardly under his hands; he has shown them tip and made them ridiculous. He has "settled with them." The manner in which he has done this is so delightful, that we cannot refrain from giving a few examples before speaking of his merit as a Shakspeare critic.
"Many think Shakspeare's female characters inferior to his characters of men. Doubtless, in some respects, they are so; they would not be female characters if they were not: but then in other respects they are superior; they are inferior in the same sort as woman is inferior to man; and they are superior in the same sort as she is superior to him. The people in question probably cannot see how woman can equal man, without becoming man, or how she can differ from him without being inferior to him. In other words, equality with them involves identity, and is therefore incompatible with subordination,and runs directly into substitution ; and such, in truth, is the kind of equality which has been of late so frequently and so excruciatingly inculcated upon us. On this ground, woman cannot be made equal with man, except by unsexing and unsphering her; —a thing which Shakspeare was just as far from doing as nature is. To say, then, that Shakspeare's women, according to this view of the matter, are inferior to his men, is merely to say that they are women, 83 they ought to be, and not men, as he meant they should not be, and as we have reason to rejoice that they are not. The truth is, Shakspeare knew very well (and it is a pity some people do not learn the same thing from him or some other source) that equality and diversity do by no means necessarily exclude one another; and that consequently, the sexes can stand or sit on the same level without standing in each other's shoes, or sitting in each other's seats. If, indeed, he had not known this, he could not have given us characters of either sex, but only wretched and disgusting medlies and caricatures of both, such as some people, it is thought, are in danger of becoming.
If one of the tenets of the faith in which all sound orthodox New Englanders are educated, be true in proportion to the hearty and frequent zeal with which it is inculcated from the pulpits of country churches—if it be actually to be believed a principal ingredient in the perfect bliss of heaven, that the saints shall behold and enjoy the just punishment of the finally impenitent—hen we, and, if we mistake not, a large majority of our readers, may derive great comfort from this quotation. The lively relish with which we contem.
plate the fate of "some people," cannot arise from a sinful malice, for we are conscious of the kindest feelings towards them, and hope this will do them good; we are at liberty to consider it, therefore, a faint foretaste of the eternal fruition which is to reward the good hereafter. Let us then enjoy it in a proper manner, with gratefulness to our author for his truth, and thankfulness to Heaven for raising up so doughty a defender of common sense.
"Polonius is virtuous inasmuch as he keeps below vice, (for there is a place down there and some people in it;) is honest, because he thinks honesty to be the best policy,—a maxim which, by the way, is far from being universally true: for honesty sometimes carries people to the stake, (queer policy that;) and perhaps it would carry more of us to the stake, if we had it; if it did not carry us to the stake, it might carry us to poverty, and that, some people think, is the next thing to the stake."
"The reason, therefore, why some men see nothing valuable in nature but cornfields and cotton-plantations, is, they have none but corneating and cotton-wearing faculties to view her with. To such men nature is, properly speaking, no nature at all, but only a sort of huge machine, put in motion by some omnipotent diagram, to manufacture useful articles and agreeable sensations for them."
In the following instance the phrase is a little varied, but it is sufficiently plain who are intended :—
"The fashions of that age may seem foolish and affected enough to us, and ours may seem equally so two hundred years hence. Perhaps it is for this reason that those people who look no deeper than dress, either of body or mind, and who make it their being's end and aim to wear clothes, and look sleek, and be fashionable, are always thinking that human improvement is now in its quickest march, and that the present has first exemplified the perfection of human reason."
In the following no people are alluded to but sentimentalists; yet they are included under the generic "some people," and form a very considerable class. What is said will apply admirably to the ideal transcendental Poet:—
"Of all men, therefore, Shakspeare was perhaps the least a sentimentalist; strove not at all "vreveal the truth and beauty of his feelings, ^nly to reveal the truth and beauty which
he felt. For the sentimentalist is one who thinks he has very fine feelings, and means everybody shall know it; he therefore puts his feelings on the outside, dresses himself in them, and so goes about calling on all to observe and admire them; all of which, by the way, is among the very lowest and meanest forms of conceit and selfishness."
But in the following our author gives one of the surest proofs of the authenticity of his mission. He is not here depicting "some people" from a fancied vision in his mind, but is evidently drawing from life.
Great novelists have sometimes been accused of putting actual living characters into their tales, and clergymen often expound the sacred text, without being aware of it, in so forcible and applicable a manner that conscience-burdened hearers construe it as a personal insult: it would not be at all surprising if Mr. Hudson was accused of having had in his eye when writing what is below, certain particular individuals—men and women—especially women, resident not more than five hundred and fifty-five thousand miles from the capiui of Massachusetts. We say it would not be surprising if he were to be thus accused —not that the reader is at liberty to understand that such is our own opinion, for there are " beautiful spirits" in New York as well as Boston, and we do not know any of them; only this we say, and say n boldly: we should not wonder if Mr. Hudson were accused of having had individiuiX living somewhere or other, distinctly pres«L'. in his mind while he was putting this paragraph on paper:—
"It is by gilding or varnishing over impur ry with the superficial graces of style and st>-> ment, by wrapping up poison in an enve'v honey, so that it may steal a passage into •.'-• mind without offending the taste or alarm :r the moral sentinels of the heart,—it is in f- ■ way that death is conveyed into the systen; :— a thing which no man was ever farther fr-a doing than Shakspeare: if we wish to »er done in perfection, we had better go to tt pages of Byron and Bulwer; who do in«ie"< discover no little fondness for delineating nc: *. generous, magnanimous villains; gentle,airible, sentimental cut-throats,—in a word, <fei" * sugared over. Yet it is questionable wfceu-" even these, bad as they are, are so bad m* :late importations from France, so much io U •■ with the more 'beautiful spirits' of the te: * where the laws of morality are not so ir