« AnteriorContinuar »
tial is now summoned to try the unfortunate term velitatin, as being an intruder end low fellow. 'Why, your worship,' exclaims the luckless velitatio, 'I am not, I assur you, quite so bad a person as you take me to be. I am employed by Gessner in his version of Lucian, which version, you know, was revised by the great Tib. Hemsterhuys; I am employed by Bergler in his version of Herodian ; by Reiske in his edition of Plutarch; by Schweighaueser in his Polybius; by Schneider in his Xenophon; and by Stewecchius in his Commentary on Vegetius. Besides, I am found in Plautus ; and, as you yourself think that, if we had the lost comedies of this dramatic writer, the vocabulary of the Latin, and its compass of expression, would be greatly enlarged, how do you know but what I may be snugly ensconced in one of those same lost plays of the honest old Umbrian? Velitatio, notwithstanding this eloquent and touching appeal, is driven off in disgrace.
The reviewer then turns about and scolds Glass for using reportare in the passive voice, with' ab,' as indicating the agent. Our western Erasmus is indignant at this. • Why, my friend,' he exclaims, ‘you have found all your examples about reporto, in Ainsworth's Dictionary, where I found them years ago. Do have a little charity, and consider whether' ab,' in my sentence, has not the meaning, on the side of, and before you again expose your ignorance about passive verbs, and ' ab' denoting the agent, do read what Perizonius has written on the subject in his edition of Sanctius. All learning, believe me, is not contained in Ainsworth. So, again, you find fault with my phraseology, 'commeatus a civitatibus eois intercludere,' where the luckless preposition is again employed in the same sense as I have just now mentioned. And when I talk of Westchester, and use the term exponere, with an ellipsis, to denote a disembarkation, you tell me the geography of the passage is not clear. Perhaps it is not clear to you, but every school-boy certainly understands it. You tell me, also, that Cæsar could not understand my use of recipiendi, with an ellipsis of the reflexive pronoun. Why, my learned sir, Cæsar uses it himself.' We rather think that Glass has the better of his critic here, and will only add, that the faults found with his book are about as puerile, and as unworthy of true scholarship, as any thing that can well be imagined.
But the best part of the story remains to be told. It seems, that when Glass's Life of Washington was passing through the press, the editor being in want of a motto for the title-page, applied to a gentleman in New-York, Professor Anthon, of Columbia College, who promised to furnish him with one. The professor, not being able to find a quotation to his liking, manufactured the following, in imitation of Cicero's style, in which mention is made of an old Sibylline prediction, darkly shadowing forth the discovery of America, the foundation of the United States' government, and other events of modern times!
'Longê trans Oceanum, si Libris Sybillinis credamus, patebit post multa sæcula tellus ingens atque opulenta, et in eâ exorietur vir fortis ac sapiens, qui patriam servitute oppressam consilio et armis liberabit, remque public amnostræ et origine cæterâque historiâ simillimam, felicibus auspiciis condet, Bruto et Camillo, Di boni? multum et merito anteferendus. Quod nostrum illum non fugit Accium, qui, in Nyctegresiâ suâ, velus hoc oraculum numeris poeticis adornavit.'--Ciceronis fragm. xv. ed. Maii, p. 52.
Will it be believed, that this learned reviewer has certainly swallowed the whole for a genuine quotation from Cicero, and that he who is so profoundly versed in modern Latin as to detect the least error, and to have his finely-attuned feelings shocked by the least deviation from the melody of pure and elegant Latin, actually mistook a piece of modern Latin for a passage from Cicero? And yet this critic professes to sit in judgment on a modern Latin work!
THE ADVANTAGES AND DANGERS OF THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR. A Discourse delivered
on the day preceding the Annual Commencement of Union College, July 26, 1836. By Gulian C. VERPLANCK, one of the Regents of the University of the State of NewYork. New-York : WILEY AND LONG.
We have had occasion heretofore to speak of one or two public performand of Mr. VERPLANCK, similar to the one before us; but the present has impressed us as superior, in many respects, to any previous effort of the writer's mind. This Address is, indeed, an admirable specimen of what such collegiate performances should be — direct, eloquent, and profound, and in its tendency most salutary. We trespass upon space that we regret is so limited, for a few extracts which, better than any comments we could make, will show the character of the discourse under notice.
A comparison between our advantages as a nation, and the situation of those countries where 'talent is chilled and withered by penury, and profound learning wasted on the drudgery of elementary instruction, or else ‘lost in a convent's solitary gloom," affords occasion for the following just and felicitous passage:
"Excepting those melancholy cases, where some unavoidable calamity has weighed down the spirits and extinguished joy and hope for ever, knowledge and ability cannot well run here to waste without their voluntary degradation by gross vice or the maddest imprudence. But I do not now speak of the varied opportunities for the successful exertion of matured, cultivated talent, or the substantial rewards that its exercise may win, so much as of the still greater advantage which that talent may derive to itself from the prevailing activity and energy that animate the whole community. Under that strong and contagious stimulus, the faculties are awakened, the capacity enlarged, the genins roused, excited, inspired. The mind is not suffered to brood undisturbed over its own little stock of favorite thoughts, treading the same unceasing round of habitual associations, until it becomes quite incapable of fixing its attention upon any new object, and its whole existence is but a dull, drowsy dream. On the contrary, it is forced to sympathize with the living world around, to enter into the concerns of others and of the public, and to partake, more or less, of the cares and the hopes of men. Thus every hour it imbibes, unconsciously, new and strange knowledge, quite out of the sphere of its own personal experience. Thus it receives, and in its turn spontaneously communicates, that bright electric current that darts its rapid course throughout our whole body politic, removing every sluggish obstruction, and bracing every languid muscle to vigorous toil. As compared with the more torpid state of society exhibited elsewhere, to live in one such as this, is like emerging from the fogs of the lowland fens, heavy with chilling pestilence,
the dull pacific air Where mountain zephyr never blew, The marshy level dank and bare,
That Pan, that Ceres never knewand ascending to inhale the exhilarating mountain atmosphere, where the breeze is keen and pure, and the springs gush bright from their native rock, bestowing on the children of the hills the bounding step, the strong arm, the far-seeing eye, and the stout heart. It is much then to breathe such a mental air from earliest youth. It is much to be educated and formed under such potent and perpetual stimulants to intellectual development. But for a mind thus formed and framed for vigorous and effective action, it is not less necessary that fitting occupations may be found for its nobler qualities and powers. This is much for worldly success. It is every thing for honor, for conscience, for content, for beneficence. Let genius, however brilliant, however gifted with rare, or copious, or varied acquirements, be but doomed to labor for selfish objects, for personal necessities and sensual gratifications, and for those only - and its aspirations too will become low, its desires sordid, and its powers, (adroit doubtless, and very effective as to their accustomed occupations,) will dwindle and become enfeebled, until they are quite incapable of any generous and magnanimous undertaking.
“But with us, the man of intellectual endowment is not so 'cabined, cribbed, bound in' to his own puny cares. Far otherwise ; his generous ambition, his large philanthropy, his zeal for the service of his God of his country, may spread themselves abroad as wide and general as the casing air,' without finding any check or barrier to their farthest range.
"In the eternal order of Providence, minds act and rëact, and become the transcripts and reflections of each other, thus multiplying and perpetuating the evils or the excellence of our short being upon this globe. It is not the exclusive prerogative of the
great, the eloquent, the chosen sons of genius or of power, who can speak trumpettongued to millions of their fellow creatures, from the high summits of fame or authority, thus to be able to extend themselves in the production of good or evil far around and forward. We are all of us, in some sort, as waves in the shoreless ocean of human existence. Our own petty agitations soon die away, but they can extend themselves far onward and onward, and there are oftentimes circumstances which may cause those billows to swell as they roll forward, until they rise into a majestic vastness which it scarce seems possible that our puny efforts could have ever set in motion. Such favoring circumstances, in other nations comparatively rare, are here the common blessings of our land. We have a population doubling and re-doubling with a steady velocity so unexampled in former history, as to have utterly confounded the speculations of all older political philosophy. We have a territory, which rapidly as that population subdues the forest and covers the desert, has still ample room for coming generations. These things alone are enormous elements in the mighty process of social melioration. Whatever is effected in removing any of the evils that afflict those about us, must, ere long, reach far beyond us and beyond them, to other and more numerous generations, to distant fields, as yet silent and desolate, but destined soon to swarm with a busy multitude. The character, knowledge, and happiness of that future and distant multitude, are now in our hands. They are to be moulded by our benificent labors, our example, our studies, our philanthropic enterprise. Thus the 'spirit of our deeds,' long after those deeds have passed away, will continue to walk the earth, from one oceanbeat shore of our continent to the other, scattering blessings or curses upon after times.”
From an unanswerable argument against the ever-recurring objection of some of the present day, that our gravitation toward the useful, the active, and the practical, is fatal to excellence in elegant art and literature, we make the subjoined extract:
“Whose are the venerated and enduring names whose the volumes that we turn to, with reverent affection, as the oracles of just thought, or the ever fresh springing fountains of delight ? Who were they, from Bacon to our own Franklin – from Spenser and Shakspeare to Walter Scott — but men of those mixed pursuits, that multifarious instruction, that familiar intercourse with actual life, which narrow-minded learning would brand as the bane of philosophy, the destruction of letters. Compare their works with those of men devoted to literature alone, and who looked at nothing beyond its precincts — the plodding compiler, the laborious collector of scientific trifles, valuable only as materials for some wiser mind to use, the herd of dealers in light literature, either the servile imitators of past excellence, or the echoes of the follies of their day, or baser yet, the panders to its vices. How short and fleeting has been their popularity! Here and there one among the number has deserved the gratitude of posterity by moral worth and well directed labor. His works keep an honored place in our libraries, but they rarely exercise a living sway over the opinions and tastes of nations.
A mortal born, he meets the general doom,
But leaves, like Egypt's kings, a lasting tomb. Such is also the experience of the arts of taste and design. The father of the Italian arts, Leonardo da Vinci, was a scholar, a politician, a poet, a musician. Michael Angelo, the sublime and the holy, was still more universal. Sculptor, painter, poet, architect, engineer - we find him now painting his grand frescos, now modeling his gigantic statues, now heaving the dome of St. Peter's into the air, and now fortifying his loved Florence, the city of his affections, with a humble diligence and a patriot's zeal. There are no such artists now in Italy. The painters and sculptors with which it swarms, are devoted to painting and sculpture exclusively; but how do they compare as artists with their great predecessors? Could any authority whatever add weighi to the facts I have just referred to, such would be found in the opinion of Milton himself. In a well known passage of one of those fervid and brilliant prose tracts of his youth, which (to use the noble metaphor of an eloqnent critic) announced the Paradise Lost as plainly as ever the bright purple elonds in the east announced the rising of the sun- - Milton, with a sublime and determined confidence in his own genius, covenanted — for that is his remarkable expression - in some few years thereafter, to produce 'a work not to be raised from the heats of youth or the vapors of wine, like that which flows at will from the of some vulgar amorist, nor by invocation of Memory and her syren sisters, but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit which can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and send out his seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar to touch and purify the lips of whom he pleases. To this,' he subjoins in a lower strain of eloquence, but with the same decision of tone, 'to this must be added industrious and select readings, steady observation, and an insight into all seemly and generous arts and affairs.' Had Milton confined himself to the studies of his library, or the halls of his university - had he not thrown himself into the hottest conflicts of the day - had he not stood forth the
terrible champion of freedom of opinion and of republican liberty, raising on high his spiritstirring voice in their defence in worst extremes, and 'on the perilous verge of battle where it raged;' had he not participated in counsel, in act, and in suffering with Eng. land's boldest spirits — had he not thus felt in limself, and seen in others, the might of the unconquerable will,' the unshaken, unseduced, unterrified constancy of faithful zea! and love; he would not have gained that insight into seemly and generous arts and affairs, that intimate acquaintance with the nobler parts of human nature, that made him the greatest of poets. Had Milton lived always a recluse student, his learned fancy would have undoubiedly enriched his country's literature with Lycidas and Comus, but the world would have wanted the Paradise Lost.
“But the American literary man has yet other reasons to be grateful for having been born in this age and country; and they are reasons such as a mind cast in the grand antique mould of Milton's, would prize as most worthy of fervent thanksgiving. Every thing here is propitious to honest independence of thought. Such an independence is the presiding genius of all our institutions; it is the vital spirit that gives life to the whole.
Here there is no apparently general agreement of society to awe the mind from investigation of what claims to be certain and established truth. And when examination on any subject brings conviction, the inquirer is seldom compelled to meet that hardest trial of human fortitude, the renunciation of old associations and long cherished doctrines in the face of universal scorn and indignation, and without the solace of human sympathy. More than this :- that restlessness of enterprise, which alike nerves the frontier settler to the toils and adventures of the wilderness, and kindles the young dreams of the political aspirant; which whitens the ocean with our canvass, drives the rail-road through the desert, and startles the moose at his watering-place, or scares the eagle from his high solitary perch with the sudden beat of the steam-boat's wheels — that one and the same ardent, restless spirit ruling our whole people, can have little communion with that abject prostration of intellect, that makes man crouch before his fellow, submitting his reason and his conscience to another's will. It is thus that the adventurous ardor, so efficient in external and material matters, naturally extends its energies to the moral and intellectual. Here are at once provided facilities for the propagation of truth, and securities for some portion, at least, of respect for conscientious error."
Passing a just and striking picture of the effect of rank and patronage upon literature and the human intellect, we select a few paragraphs from that portion of the address which illustrates the dangers of the American scholar'— reluctantly omitting the forcible comments upon that spirit of individual speculation and accumulation which is ruining so many young men in our country:
"One of the most obvious of the intellectual dangers growing out of the circumstances otherwise thus fruitful in blessings, is the danger of falling into a conceited, smattering superficiality, in consequence of that very universality of occupation and inquiry which seems, in other respects, so propitious to the formation of a sound, comprehensive understanding, so useful to the man of books, so graceful to the man of business. Such superficiality is undeniably
one of the besetting sins of our reading men. It shows itself in the capacity of talking fluently upon all things, and of doing every thing; and in the habit of talking inaccurately upon all things, and of doing every thing badly. It nourishes and sustains itse upon compends, abridgments, extracts, and all the other convenient subsidia of improved education ; excellent things in their way, but like other great improvements of our day, wheeling you to the object of your journey, without permitting you to know much of the country you pass through. You may trace it by the small pedantry that commonly accompanies half knowledge. You may track it in legislative speeches and reports, in public documents and legal arguments, and even in judicial opinions, where facts, and numbers, and grave statements of argument and collations of authorities are all that is wanted; but where their place is filled by puerile rhetoric, by common.place instances of Greek and Roman history, or by mouldy scraps of thumb-worn school-boy Latin - shabby finery at the best, and all of it out of place. Yet the temptation to the commission of such folly is not great, and the remedy is easy. No man can hope to know every thing within the knowledge of his whole race. Let him then study with diligent accuracy that single branch of knowledge which it happens to be most his duty to know well, and he will have time and opportunity left to learn much more. Let him keep his curiosity awake, and his affections alive to whatever concerns the welfare of his neighbor, his country, or his kind. He cannot then fail to learn much, and he will know how to use all he learns well. His understanding
will be tempered by use to that right medium that best brings the scattered and broken rays of light from all quarters, to converge upon any object on which the mind is called to fix its attention."
“There is yet a danger, of quite another sort, that with us sometimes besets and misleads the literary man. Familiarized from youth with the glories and beauties of European literature, his ambition is early fired to imitate or to rival its excellence. He forms to himself grand plans of intellectual exploits, all of them probably incongruous with the state and taste of his country, and most of them doubtless beyond his own ability. The embryo author projects epic poems, and in the meanwhile executes sonnets in quantities; the artist feeds his imagination with ideal historical compositions on the scale and above the excellence of those of Raphael ; the young orator dreams of rivalling the younger Pitt, and of ruling the nation by his eloquence, at the age of four-and-twenty. These enthusiasts enter the living world, and soon find that their expectations are but a dream. They discover either that the world rates their talent very differently from their own estimate of it, or else that the state of society about them is wholly adverse to its exercise in the direction or on the scale their ambitious fancy had anticipated. The coarse matter-of-fact character of our world begins to disgust them. They see duller school-fellows outstrip them in worldly success. They see the honors and profits of public office bestowed upon some whom they know to be unworthy. The profits of trade and speculation are gathered before their eyes by the unlettered.
Disappointed and disgusted, they are now tempted to ascribe their disappointment to the republican institutions of their country; not reflecting that it is impossible to enjoy all kinds of good at the same time; that whatever is administered by men, must be subject to abuse; and that to be happy and successful, every man must some how or other conform himself to the sphere where Providence bas placed him. If the scholar gives way to this temptation, he becomes a discordant, jarring thing in society, harmonizing with nothing near or around him. He dwells with a sort of complacent disgust upon every imperfection of our social state. He gradually becomes a rebel in heart to our glorious institutions. His affections and secret allegiance transfer themselves to some other form of government and state of society, such as he dreams to have formed the illustrious men and admirable things of his favorite studies — forms of government or states of society, such as he knows only by their accidental advantages, without a glimpse of their real and terrible evils.
“When this mental disease, for so it may be called without a metaphor, seizes irrecoverably upon the thoughts of the retiring, the sensitive, and timid lover of books and meditation, his capacity for useful exertion is ended; he is thenceforward doomed 10 lead a life of fretful restlessness alternated with querulous dejection. On the other hand, should he be naturally a man of firmer temperament and sounder discretion, time and experience will sober down his fancies, and make him join in the labors of life with cool submission. Still he is in danger of being a soured and discontented man, occasionally compelled to feign what he does not feel, and always unsustained by that glad confidence, that eager zeal and gay hope, which ever cheer him who loves and honors his country, feels her manifold blessings, and is grateful for all of them."
Beautifully printed upon a large bold type, and paper of the finest texture and color, this excellent Address recommends itself to the eye as well as to the taste and understanding of the reader.
THE PARRICIDE: By the author of 'Miserrimus.' In two volumes, 12mo. Philadel
phia : E. L. CAREY AND A. Hart.
There is a class of men in this world - a class happily small — who love to gloat over the worst passions of the heart to dwell upon the darkest scenes of existence and to represent human nature as utterly revolting and corrupt. A prominent worthy of this unworthy genus, is the author of 'Miserrimus' and 'The Parricide,' the last named of which, it is sufficient to say, is only worthy of the writer of the first. It is a gloomy rifacimento, neither calculated, in any respect or degree, to please the imagination, arrest the judgment, nor win the heart. On the contrary, the Parricide is a human tiger, 'black with malice and revenge, and dipped in blood from head to heel ;' and the only relief which the reader experiences in perusing the revolting details connected with his history, is afforded by diverse metaphysical talkings, and hyperbolical Germanisms, the spawn of a muddy brain. The attempt of the author to answer the objections which his work is so well calculated to incur, is feeble and unsatisfactory. He is a moral maniac, and should be placed in some benevolent asylum for lunatics, until he shall have found time and opportunity to sanify.