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aster to the shipping, with loss of lives and property. All this might be obviated by the construction of a breakwater, from a point that seems by nature to have been designed for that purpose. Of the city of Valparaiso, a few words will suffice ; for, notwithstanding its notoriety as a place of trade, there is nothing in or about it deserving of much notice — though it bears the attractive name of the · Vale of Paradise. One would suppose from this title, that its situation is one of peculiar beauty. The reverse of this, however, comes nearer the truth ; and there is no way to account for the Spaniards' bestowing the title on a spot so barren, but by believing this harbor to have been the first they visited after their tedious passage around Cape Horn, when the sight of the few shrubs and flowers, which were visible in the vallies, was so delightful to their exhausted senses as to call forth the extravagant title of Val-paraiso. The city is built at the foot of a high hill bordering the bay ; in fact, it may be said, its location is on the beach ; and so narrow is that part where the business is done, as to allow of but one street and this scarce deserves the name ; nor is there a street in the place that has any pretensions to regularity or beauty. The buildings are scattered in all directions ; a large proportion are on the sides of the hills and in the ravines between them. Their general appearance is rather ordinary, though with an indication of comfort. A few among them are large and handsome. One peculiarity attending some, I must tell you. They are built of wood, with timber frames. These are considered earthquakeproof, and are, of course, most desirable habitations in a place so subject to those terrible convulsions of nature. They have been erected since the city was so nearly destroyed by the great earthquake in 1822. The lumber, requisite for such buildings, is chiefly imported from Valdivio and the island of Chiloe, which renders them so expensive, that they will ever be confined to the rich residents. Of public edifices, this place is almost destitute, and quite so of any worthy of note. I shall mention but two — a church and a convent. The last has been converted into military quarters, for which it answers admirably, from its situation and spacious accommodation. The church is altogether a miserable concern, and quite a reproach upon the wealthy Catholics, who celebrate mass within its walls — showing, very conclusively, the low state of religion and the prostrate power of the priesthood. There are various buildings attached to the customhouse department, and others connected with the administration of justice; but they are not of a class to merit notice. In short, this place is exclusively devoted to commercial pursuits ; and little is done by its inhabitants to improve its external appearance. Conveniences and facilities for business operations, alone cominand their attention. Many improvements of this nature
have been made in a very liberal manner. Valparaiso has a population of about twenty thousand, among which, it is said there are about two thousand foreigners, chiefly English and American; by whom the principal part of the trade is carried on. In consequence of this, the English language is spoken by many of the natives, whose avocations bring them in contact with the former. The whole place seems like an English city, especially among the best society – promising, before many years, to become the most important as well as the most pleasant seaport on the west coast of the American continent.
This being my second visit to this country, everything appears quite familiar, and I shall have it in my power to give you all the information you desire. My next will be from Lima, where I expect soon to be located, unless something unforeseen happens to detain me here.
DEAR maiden, if this world were mine,
And I, from all its richest treasure,
Some hoard of never-failing pleasure,
To fill the soul with soft delight -
Beneath the moonbeam's silvery light ;
Bathed in the hue of sunset fountains,
Where glory rests o'er vales and mountains ;
Like thine own glance, to their first springing,
Rainbows, like gemm'd tiaras, flinging
Which, wandering over beds of flowers,
So that life's many lingering hours
And make Earth Paradise to me —
Unblessed, uncheered by thee!
Specimens of the Table-Talk of the late Samuel Taylor Coler
idge. Two vols. in one. It is hardly possible that a work like the above should answer all the expectations raised by its announcement. The written record of the conversation of great talkers, from obvious reasons, is apt to disappoint us. Dr. Johnson is almost the only man whose social reputation is amply supported by written memorials ; and this arises partly from the terse and epigrammatic character of his conversation, which made it easily remembered — and partly from the admiring mediocrity of his biographer, who had no higher ambition than to be a faithful chronicler of the good things which fell from the lips of his idol. Coleridge has, for a long time, enjoyed a most brilliant reputation as a talker, or rather as a discourser – for his conversation was a succession of dissertations, and had nothing of the sententious and compact form of common dialogue. This diffuseness and flow of discourse, while they the more impressed his hearers with a sense of his boundless affluence of mind, made it the more difficult to retain and record the winged words,' to which they had listened with such rapt attention. A terse aphorism clings to the memory, in spite of ourselves ; but who can carry away a long monologue, in which the most profound reflections, illustrated by the most various knowledge, are connected together by links of association too subtle to be perceived, except by minds at once meditative and acute? The effect of Coleridge's conversation was also heightened by his remarkable appearance; the dreamy inspiration of his face, in his latter days, made more impressive by his apostolic and flowing white locks, and the mysterious music of his voice, which is described, by those who have heard it, as resembling rather tones from some far-off spirit-land, than any sound of earth. These things, of course, die with the man. Looks and tones cannot be printed'; and painting itself cannot embody the illumination of the countenance of a gifted man, when he feels the god stirring within him, which, of all things vouchsafed to mortal eyes, is the brightest effluence of the essence increate.
It is no wonder then, that most persons were somewhat disappointed in these Specimens of the Table-Talk' of Coleridge - and as might easily be anticipated, in the reaction of feeling, they have not given to it its due meed of praise. Their expectations have not been gratified ; but they have not stopped to ask themselves the question, whether they were not too extravagant to be gratified by the silent pages of any book? But, looking at the work alone and by itself, as a critic should always do, we find in it a great deal to approve and a great deal to admire, and hail it as a good book, largely imbued with the spirit of truth and beauty. It is open to some objections — and, as we like to get through with our fault-finding at first, and leave ourselves ample sea-room for praising afterwards, we will stateVOL. IX.
some that occur to us, and, we trust, in that respectful spirit with which the errors of so gifted and amiable a man should be treated.
In the first place, there are a good many things in the book, which are in nowise remarkable, and which might have been said by any well-educated man, without his wits' suffering bankruptcy, in consequence of any lavish expenditure. But this is but a trifle, and it adds to the authenticity and honesty of the record, since every man who talks a great deal, must say many commonplace things ; and if every passage had been brilliant and striking, we should have felt convinced that many things had been suppressed, and the value of the book, as a literal transcript of the speaker's mind, would thus have been impaired. In the next place, the book contains many instances of self-repetition ; that is to say, there are many remarks and observations, which are old acquaintances to those who have been familiar with Coleridge's prose works. But this does not arise from any poverty of invention, but from the fact that his mind was wedded to certain great principles, which he lost no opportunity of illustrating and asserting, both in writing and conversation ; and he cared as little about repeating himself, provided he called the attention of the public thereby to his doctrines, as a lawyer does about saying the same thing over and over again to a jury, provided he thereby gains a verdict. No man ever had a more single-hearted love of truth for its own sake - and his own literary reputation was a thing of comparatively little value in his eyes. Again : the reader will now and then come to one of those passages, (which are sometimes supposed, but unjustly, to be the distinguishing characteristics of Coleridge's writings) in which the meaning is so shadowy in itself, or so involved in a cloud of metaphysics, as quite to elude the grasp of a plain man. But there are are few - the greater part being entirely and immediately intelligible.
A volume of table-talk will, of course, contain the free and unqualified sentiments of the speaker ; and about them, there will be as many opinions as there are individuals. Coleridge, as every body knows, held the high tory doctrines in politics, and was the earnest defender of the church — hating all its foes with the true odium theologicum; and the reader will find his views upon these subjects coloring almost every page in the book. He speaks of those who differ from him on these vital points — or rather of their principles, for he very seldom stoops to personality — with the bitterness which belongs to the losing party. We need hardly say that, in common with nine out of ten of his readers on this side of the Atlantic, we differ from him, toto cælo, on all these topics. We believe that he exaggerated the extent of the reforming or radical spirit in England ; and we also believe that there are many things susceptible of improvement, which he would have wished to remain unaltered. But we would not, on this account, suffer our eyes to be blinded to the merit of the good things in the book - nor admire him with any less good-will where we think he is right. Indeed, his opinions result necessarily from the very character of his mind. He was a man of imagination all compact ;' and this quality made him exaggerate the value of existing institutions, as well as the amount of the danger which menaced them. (Poets belong to the conservative party, all the world over.) He could not conceive of a radical change which was an improvement. For the established church, in particular, he had the most unqualified reverence. He never seems to have admitted the existence of, or at least never permitted his thoughts to dwell upon its manifold defects and abuses - but contemplated only the favorable side. The church was associated in
his mind with innumerable images of dignity, beauty and usefulness. He idealized and exalted it. His imagination, his taste and his recollections endeared him to it. He regarded those who proposed to lay the rude hand of reform upon the venerable fabric, as impious atheists, who made war upon man's dearest hopes and consolations. When he imagined that he was writing and speaking of the church as a political institution, and defending it on grounds of State expediency, he was, in fact, transcribing his own particular feelings and sentiments. In all this, there was a want of high philosophy and far-looking sagacity. But Coleridge - shocked as his ultra-admirers will doubtless be at the opinion – was not a great philosopher. He was a great poet, and a poetical atmosphere colored everything he looked at. He often listened to his imagination, or his fears, when he thought he was taking counsel of his reason. Greatly gifted as he was, he had not the rare faculty of seeing things as they are.
But there are some opinions expressed in these volumes, which we regret to see, and which, in a degree, diminish our respect for the author. Coleridge shews himself, sometimes, unjust to individuals, particularly to Burke and Sir James Mackintosh. His remarks upon the Malthusian doctrines, in political economy, are coarse and untrue. We will not quarrel with him for his love of the estalished church, and his apparent impossibility of conceiving of the existence of religion separate from a hierarchy. But what shall we say to such sentiments as this : * It would require stronger arguments than any which I have heard, as yet, to prove that men in authority have not a right, involved in an imperative duty, to deter those under their controul from teaching or countenancing doctrines, which they believe to be damnable, and even to punish with death those who violate such prohibition.'*
This is comfortable doctrine for a philosopher of the nineteenth century, and a Christian to boot, to uphold. The fires of Smithfield seem gleaming through that passage. To be sure, he softens the atrocity of the remark, somewhat, in the subsequent sentences, and admits the manifest inexpediency of all persecution ; but the words remain as a monument of the strength of prejudice and the vitality of error.
In another place he says, “You are always talking of the rights of the negroes. As a rhetorical mode of stimulating the people of England here, I do not object ; but I utterly condemn your frantic practice of declaiming about their rights to the blacks themselves. They ought to be forcibly reminded of the state in which their brethren in Africa still are, and taught to be thankful for the providence which has placed them within the reach of the means of grace.'t
This is certainly a new view of the interesting question of slavery. It seems that the world has been in a great mistake, in looking with abhorrence upon the slave-dealer, for he has really been engaged in the great missionary enterprise of Christianizing the earth; and the slave, who writhes under the lash of a savage taskmaster, should feel, not wrath, madness and despair, but joy and gratitude at being placed within the reach of the means of grace.' We recommend this paragraph to Governor M'Duffie's serious consideration, when he writes his next message. But, soberly, (for this is no subject for trifling) this expression of opinion affords a melancholy instance of the extent to which a mind of the highest order
*Vol.2, p. 144.
Vol. 2, p. 98.