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hence God prepared a place for this grand experiment in the New World. Far away from the debasing contamination and the blighting, overshadowing influence of colossal, time-mossed despotisms, he planted the germs of this nation. But what were to be its constituent elements ? Was ever an experiment tried before combining such a heterogeneous colluvies of what to the eye would seem discordant materials? The proud cavaliers of Virginia, hunting for gold and earldoms ; the genuine Puritans of Plymouth, and the semi-Puritans of Massachusetts Bay; the French Huguenots of Carolina ; the Spaniards of Florida ; the Dutch of New-Netherlands; the Irish Catholics of Maryland; the exiled Baptists of Rhode Island; the Swedes and Finns of Delaware; the Quakers and Germans of Pennsylvania ; the Scotch of NewJersey and Georgia; and the French Catholics of Louisiana, what a compound must all these ingredients form when melted down in the great alembic of a national unity. Yet has this very diversity in many times and ways proved of the utmost benefit; nor has it failed to impress on the active and improving masses the necessity and desirableness of mutual forbearance, of conciliatory and kind regard for each other's principles, practices, and even prejudices. To learn of each other, also, what each was enabled to teach the rest which was better and wiser than these had known before, seemed so much a matter of course, from this daily proximity, that it has excited no marvel, though in the review it should not fail to awaken gratitude.
Then the political training which each of the colonies in various ways had experienced to fit them for self-government, and for coalescence too; the various exigencies which imperiously required of them mutual concessions, and thus fitted them to combine with one another; the right men, raised up always at the right moment; the results of their endeavors often guided by an unseen hand to accomplishments far beyond their short-sighted aims ;-all these things, in instances almost innumerable, are well adapted to fill the most devout with still more adoring conceptions of that infinite power and wisdom and goodness which have been so largely engaged in making us what we are.
In conclusion, we can most cordially express the hope, that such will be the success of the present publication, as to warrant the author's early fulfilling his promise, “in two more volumes to sketch the story even to the present times."
ART. III.-WASHINGTON IRVING'S WORKS.
Irving's Works. New-York: G. P. Putnam. 1848–9–50. The Crayon Reading Book : Comprising Selections from the various Writings of Washington Irving. Prepared for the
use of Schools. New-York : G. P. Putnam. 1849. A Book of the Hudson, collected from the various Works of
Diedrich Knickerbocker. Edited by GEOFFREY CRAYON. New-York : G. P. Putnam. 1849.
We do not propose to attempt a full review of Mr. Irving's works. The collection is not yet complete. One of the most characteristic parts is still wanting; and it will be both easier and pleasanter to do it when this beautiful mind has been spread before us in all its abundance. Most of the volumes which have appeared thus far are old friends, our daily companions of many years, whom we cordially greet in their new garb. We thank Mr. Putnam heartily for his taste and his enterprise ; he could not have done a more honorable thing for himself, or rendered a more important service to American literature. There is no American writer who awakens such associations as Mr. Irving. Salmagundi carries us back to the very dawn of our literature ; Knickerbocker was like the opening of an exhaustless mine ; the Sketch Book was the first American book which Englishmen read. We shall never forget the first appearance of “Columbus.” Our enthusiasm had been warmed by a recent visit to the great navigator's birth-place. A friend, fresh from Spain, had seen a chapter in manuscript, and told us things about it which haunted us even during the excitement of a first winter in Rome. Soon after the newspapers were filled with the tidings of its approach. Murray had published—Galignani was printing it. There were no railroads in those days, and we were constrained to curb our impatience as best we might. At last, one sunny morning,—we shall never forget it-such mornings as Florence gives you in summer, when the cool shadows fall gratefully from her massive palaces, and the murmur of fountains steals like music on the perfumed air,we had eaten our breakfast of fresh figs and grapes still dripping with dew, and strolled out towards a friend's, with that indefinite anticipation with which you are sometimes made to feel that the day will not pass without bringing you a new pleasure. Our friend's house was a kind of gathering place for loungers like ourselves. That morning they were all there before us, a silent group around the table; and the first sound that struck the ear was that beautiful sentence in the introduction to Columbus, “which seems to bring back by one bold stroke of the pencil, all the darkness of that veil which had so long shrouded the mysteries of the ocean."
Columbus carried us back to the Sketch Book. We had given away our only copy, and when we got back to our quiet home in Sienna, were not a little at a loss where to go for another. At length chance brought home, after many wanderings, a little ofd man by the name of Montucci. He was a dapper little man, scarcely five feet high, with a bright Italian eye and a fluent tongue, over which Italian, English, French, and German rolled with equal volubility; he had lived everywhere, had known Alfieri, had written a Chinese dictionary, and was now returned to purge Italy of Gallicisms, and lay his bones in his native soil. But the great labor of his life had been the publication of a Berlin edition of the Sketch Book, under the very eyes of the author, who had written him a letter beginning with “ Dear Doctor,” and subscribed, “ Truly yours.' He showed us the letter and sola us the book. Blessings on his memory ! how many exquisite hours we owe him.
We have said that Mr. Putnam has rendered a very important service to American literature. We can use this term now, and use it boldly, for we have a literature whose claims none but a snarling critic in his most snarling mood can deny. The past is sure. It was of the future that we were thinking when we made our assertion. Men in this bookmaking age of ours read everything, and the new crowds upon us so thickly, that we are in constant danger of forgetting the old. Then every new invention brings in new words; with every new incident, whether great or little, comes some new phrase; our daily wants, enlarged by a thousand sources, give rise to new forms of speech every day ;) and while the great current sweeps us onward, all those old landmarks which guided our fathers so surely are sinking one after the other in the receding horizon. We would not wish to be misunderstood. We know that progress requires movement, and that language like everything else must change, to meet the wants of those that use it. King can never mean again what it meant a hundred years ago, any more than the virtue of the heroic age could express the virtue of Socrates. And we rejoice that it is so, and we thank Heaven for this law of
progress, which we accept freely with all its requisitions and all its consequences. But progress is development, not destruction. It respects the labors of others. It rejects nothing because it is old. It casts off dry branches, but never tears up a living root. There is nothing with promise in it to which it does not hold fast, and not a seed that it does not treasure up with grateful acknowledgment. We are no conservatists of dried bones. Away with what has no life in it, be it new or old. But we would dig an honorable grave for it and bury it respectfully, and set a tablet there to tell future ages that this too was useful in its day and generation.
Now the tendency of the present day is to forget this useful past, and to make the fertility of our current literature an excuse for neglecting those classic periods in which our language received its definitive form. Look upon the centre table. That antique binding, with its silver clasps and rich embossing, must surely betoken some father of our literature. No, it is only a Book of Beauty, Go to the library. What a superb copy of Macaulay's Miscellanies and Emerson ! But is there no Swift, no Dryden there? No little nook for the Spectator, that used once to lie well-thumbed upon every table? Yes; take the ladder and climb up to the top of the book-case and you will find them on the upper shelf, but with such a shroud of dust about them, that it will well nigh cost you both eyes and lungs to get them into a readable shape. We once met a graduate of one of our oldest Universities, a man of much general culture, and remarkable for his refined and elegant tastes, who had never read "Alexander's Feast;": and it was not more than a month ago that we put the “ Tale of a Tub” into the hands of a man whose whole nature was formed to enjoy it, and yet who had passed twenty years in the midst of books without ever seeing this boldest and most vigorous of all satires. And our school-books, our Readers, our Elegant Extracts, those collections which
first into the scholar's hand and stay there longest, which give him his first notions of language and taste, and, so to speak, the key-note to his mind, which are so full of “ taste and morals” in the preface, and so classic on the title-page,—what are they but conservatories of magazine poetry, newspaper wit, and Congressional eloquence ? One would think that English literature was just born, or at the best but just escaped its swaddling clothes. And is it not a crying shame to do so heedlessly what might be done so well, and waste the embalmer's art on what has hardly form enough to make a shrivelled mummy? But we have Webster and Bryant and Longfellow,
you that if
and other great names there too. True, and strange enough they look in such sorry company. But Webster would send you to Pitt and Burke, and to a daily and nightly thumbing of Demosthenes ; and Bryant would tell would feel all the delicacy of his language and his exquisite modulation, you must go back to his masters and study them, as he did and does. When a sculptor wants a cast of some master-piece of his art, he has a mould made upon the original, and draws from his mould an exact fac-simile in form, feature, and expression. But every time you use the mould you take something from its perfection. There will be some slight, almost indefinite change in the expression, something wanting to the finish of the surface and the exactness of the outline ; and if you want a fresh and faithful copy you must go back again to the original and form your mould anew.
We have touched unawares upon a difficult question, and now we must say a few words ‘more before we turn back. Every man must live in the present. It is his true field, the · only one in which he can be truly or happily useful. He
must submit, too, to the influence of his contemporaries, enter into the great questions of the day, and move with the world that is moving around him. How silly would it be to know Demosthenes or Cicero by heart, and not be able to give a sentence from Clay or Webster! Would you understand Thucydides? Would you fathom the depths of that vast mind of Tacitus ? Read the newspapers, watch the polls, squeeze into the living history of a mass meeting. For history is life, and can only be understood by those who have read the living page. But on that page even how dead the letter, how imperfect the lesson without the comment of the past. You may watch the shadow as it slowly moves across the dial, and read the numbers on which it successively falls
, but the numbers will be an enigma, and the shadow itself a mystery.
Now what is the time for laying this foundation of serious study, -in the age of preparation, or when the mind is engrossed by the active duties of life? Will the man who did not learn from his daily exercises to admire the natural grace and ingenuous simplicity of classic literature, find time or taste for the study when his eye has been dazzled and his ear vitiated by the extravagance of transient fashion? There can be but one answer. We read in old legends of rings of such virtue that they change their color at the touch of poison. Arm yourself with this ring. It is within the reach of all.