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A light and highly decorated tower, surmounted by a plain, naked, and heavy spire, without any crocketting, foliated bands, or canopied windows in its sides, would have appeared so distressing a deformity, that we should infinitely have preferred, that the first stone of the structure had never been laid. If a diminution of expense were the object, it would be far better that the spire should remain unfinished ten, twenty, or even fifty years, rather than be completed in a slovenly and inappropriate manner.
In expressing the opinions which have now been given to our readers, a choice seemed to be presented us between the mere assertion of general principles, with observations upon their general manifestation, and an explicit statement of real and tangible facts, illustrated by direct references to well known examples. We have adopted the latter course, as being more pointed and forcible, and therefore more likely to create the intended impression. We think it a subject, not only of private interest, but of great public importance. We have not yet advanced to that length in architecture, that a treatise upon the metaphysics of the art is so much called for, as a little searching and vigorous criticism upon existing faults. But whenever we have found it possible to connect general principles with the illustration of our positions, it will be observed, that we have not scrupled to do so; and if these should be found, in some degree, a repetition of the arguments of others, it will, at least, be recollected, that it is impossible to originate a new grammar of the arts, and that, upon this subject, we shall always prefer the merit of sound and acknowledged opinions, to the poor praise of originality. And if it should appear to some, that we have been harsh in our strictures upon the prevailing system of the day, we may hope for pardon from every one who wishes to see the character of our architecture elevated, and its professors raised from the level of mere mercenary draughtsmen, to be honored as members of an elegant and liberal profession, and taking their stand, side by side, with the highest artists of the country. So long, however, as the present system of building continues to be followed, there is little hope of so desirable a consummation. But when an architect shall arise, gifted with a real love for his art, and with a true perception of whatever in it is beautiful and noble, who shall add to the advantages of thorough education the
sound and delicate sense of propriety that is only to be acquired from habits of careful observation, with too much regard for the excellences of classic art to feel any wish to degrade them, and too just an appreciation of what is suited to the uses of his own time to leave it any longer in total neglect, we may begin to cherish a hope for the revival of a true taste in the community, and may look forward with an increased confidence to a brighter period in the history of American Architecture.
J. R. Lowell,
ART. VII.1. The Bodmaid, by FREDRIKA BREMER. Translated from the Swedish, by M. L. PUTNAM. Boston James Munroe & Co. 16mo. pp. 112.
2. New Sketches of Every-day Life: A Diary; together with Strife and Peace. By FREDRIKA BREMER. Translated by MARY HOWITT. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1844. Price One Shilling.
3. Strife and Peace, or Scenes in Norway. By FREDrika Bremer. Translated from the Swedish. Boston James Munroe & Co. 1843.
EVER since, in our childhood, we caught some faint echoes of those wild sagas, which seemed to clang with the thunders of Thor's hammer, or of the scarcely less terrible swords of the Berserkirs; since we heard in fancy the prows of the Vikings grating upon the strands of Western and Southern Europe, from Britain to Byzantium, or ploughing through the hitherto untracked waters of our own Massachusetts Bay to the forest-crowned shores of Vinland; since our young hearts throbbed exultingly over the story of the exploits of the heroic and wise Gustavus Wasa; since we hung with breathless delight over the narrative of the achievements of that Great Captain," the lion of the North," made yet more dear to us as the companion in arms of the stalwart Dalgetty; or followed with admiring interest the bloody footsteps of Charles the Twelfth, in whom the classic marauder and the Viking seem to have mingled to produce a rarer and more murderous madman, we have felt a kind of vague awe of that mysterious Scandinavia, to which we
can yet trace back much of the spirit, and many of the characteristics, of the race to which we belong. Not less deserving the praise of boldness, and hardly more certain of reaching a happy haven, were the adventurous sailors of the Mayflower, than was Bjärne himself; and where can we find so meet a compeer for the Viking as the New England skipper, the flapping of whose sail breaks the silence of the most remote and sequestered inlets of every sea, hitherto the haunt only of the penguin and the seal, or of tribes hardly more human than they, and who makes war upon the natives with his civilized equivalents for the sword and spear, an intelligence and shrewdness so remarkable as to have become proverbial, and which other nations of more sluggish wits have had the defensive sagacity to turn into a reproach? Nay, it asks a stouter and more self-sustained heart, to burst through the silent gates of unknown seas, as the New England mariner has often done, and, with a handful of comrades, to cope with cold and hunger, or, more than all, with that shapeless and mysterious doubt which broods gloomily over those moaning waters, than to descend, as did the Vikings of old, upon the green shores of England or France, secure, at least, that Saga would chant their deeds in all high festivals and in the van of battle for evermore, and seeing already the white arms of the Valkyrior beckoning them to the halls of Odin. New England, too, is not without her sagas. She has carved them in gigantic runes over the face of her whole territory, in rail-roads, canals, factories, and gigantic expedients for comfort, commerce, and education, to have accomplished the hundredth part of which, in a ruder age, would have been "captain jewels in the carcanet" of some Odin's fame. The same niggardly soil, inhospitable climate, and energy of character, which drove forth the old Norsemen to seek for happier seats; the same courage and constancy, which won them a rude welcome in every clime, and compelled fortune everywhere to open her arms to them, have not these, producing results modified only by the progress of events, made the Yankee accent a familiar sound over the whole globe? Have they not led to the pursuit of the seals and whales, alike of arctic and antarctic seas, of the bisons of the prairie, and the wild cattle of California and Brazil? Have they not given a Yankee ship-builder to the Ottoman, a Yankee engineer to the Czar,
a Yankee premier to the Affghaun, a Yankee innkeeper to the great Desert, and, lastly, have they not turned the stubbornness of our soil, and the coldness of our winter, into articles of export? What exploits of the Berserkirs would, at first sight, seem more mad than the enterprises which Massachusetts alone has begun and carried on, through trial and danger, to success and fortune? Were the three dints of Thor's hammer deeper than those made in cliffs and mountain ranges, to admit that huge iron clasp, forged to unite the great West with the Atlantic? To us, the name of Yankee, nickname though it be, is associated with so much of energy, courage, independence, intelligence, and moral genius, as to make it not less poetical than that of Viking, and far more sublime and more worthy of reverence.
But it is not only from the resemblances, which fancy may trace, between the Scandinavian character and that of New England, that the countries of the North are interesting to us. Beside those yellow-haired warriors, whom the North poured from her frozen loins to invigorate again, with a mixture of sturdier blood and more hardy virtues, the races of the South, rendered effeminate by long years of slavery, and by rude mimicry of the luxurious vices of their conquerors, more brutalizing even than those vices themselves; beside having given birth, in more recent times, to a race of kings illustrious, it is true, for pagan virtues rather than for those of the faith they professed, but still illustrious according to the judgment of the age in which they lived, and certainly remarkable for genius, an accomplishment which seems to have been wholly forgotten in the outfit of most kingly races; beside these tokens of more ephemeral greatness, for such all greatness must be, which is not founded on the advancement of humanity, she has also added not a few great names to the wider and more lasting history of the world. The eternal stars, the moon, nay, the all-pervading presence of light itself, will preserve for ever inviolate the memory of the name and the discoveries of Tycho Brahe. The hardly less beautiful, and, if rightly looked at, not less sublime, constellations of the meadow, the upland, and the wood, entwine the thought of Linnæus with the most delightful memories of childhood, and with all the sweetest and purest enjoyments of spring, summer, and autumn. A large
sect * revere the name of Emanuel Swedenborg as that of an inspired teacher, and of those who deny his claims as an interpreter of revelation, some admire him as a philosopher, and some as a poet, the more sublime Dante of the North. Thorwaldsen has added lustre to the annals of modern sculpture. Tegnér has given us one more name to add to the glorious roll of national poets. So delicate and gentle a blossoming we should hardly have looked for from that rugged stock; but nature has given us a parallel in our native cactus, which crowns a succession of rough and prickly shoots with a flower of the rarest and most delicate perfection. May we not hope for buds and blossoms of equal hue and fragrance from our own branch of this sturdy Northern stem?
From reading the works of Miss Bremer, we get an idea of the present Swedish character, in its general features, as not unlike that of the New England people. The customs and superstitions of the rustic population differ, indeed, in detail, but we find many points of resemblance in the outline. Susanna would have found herself quite at home in a Massachusetts farmhouse. What glimpses we obtain of the country life there seem so sunny and joyous, that we are quite persuaded, that the Swedish peasant is the happiest creature on earth, till we read of some other peasant and find him represented as equally happy, and at last discover, that tourists in search of the picturesque, and novelists when they inspire the pastoral pipe, have established happiness as a necessary coexistent with what is picturesque in the condition of peasantry everywhere. Red breeches and banditti hats, or no breeches and hats at all are, to these ladies and gentlemen, sufficient testimonials of prosperity; and a shepherdess of the Tyrol furnishes them with tangible proof of the unimpaired existence of Arcadia. They look upon men as figures disposed with ornamental propriety along the route they travel; and the comparative happiness of Swede, German, or Albanian is only distinguished by the relative brightness of the colors they wear. But our more
practical minds demand, as proofs of the happiness of races, something more than the mere fact that they are picturesque. A nearer and closer examination of Sweden will reveal to
Among whom, from reading her "Morning Watches," we should be inclined to class Miss Bremer.