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pot emancipation, for that we do not wish, from hearty love, and . grave, thoughtful admiration, both which the Americans do feel now, and must continue to feel, exactly in proportion to their own progress in literature and scholarship, for the scholars and writers af Great Britain.
Let a few of those youthful knights, over sea, who are now flashing their bright swords, with so much waste of power-giving a slap, five times out of six, where they should give a cut, or a stab-the flat of their blade, where they should give edge, or point -like all new beginners, who do little, with much effort, where, after a while, they do much, with little effort; a few of those, who are now slashing away at one particular period of their strange history-cutting up characters, who have been cut up already, five or six times over-bruising people to death, after they have been brayed in a mortar; working up that, over and over again, which had been worked up, over and over again before, till there was nothing left of it; and a few of those--a multitude, in truth-who are now ransacking heaps of earth-common earth, in a common highway, for a material more precious than gold--a stuff more coveted, by genius-while the rough, unvisited regions, over which, or near which, they walk every hour, in the daily transactions of a * stupid life, abound with treasure-a little way below the rude surface:-of the many, who are thus employed, now; a part, with swords, a part, with ploughshares, on the broad highway of North American history, at one particular spot, which was broken up, years and years ago; rummaged, raked, and sifted, over and over again; of these, let a few gird up their loins for a worthier trial; go farther back into the woods of their country-among the shadows and rocks thereof_dig deep into the everlasting hills there, when, if they are not easily discouraged, nor too prodigal of power, they will assuredly meet with a reward, which they will never find where they are now looking for it.
But enough-Let us now go to these “late American books,”: the titles of which are given above.
1. The “PEEP AT THE PILGRIMS,”* --God forgive the peeper, who has been peeping at large men, through the wrong end of a spy-glass,-we are afraid, is a tale got up to please the North American reviewer. It is a book-what shall we say of it? what can we say of it? a book, in three stout volumes we hardly know how to describe it-full of good sense, which we have no sort of patience with; surcharged with historical truth, which nobody cares for; crowded with sober stuff, the insupportable accuracy of which were enough to damp the poetical ardour of a whole nation. All the dates are true-true as death; true to an hour; all the chief incidents, all the names--true to a letter. It is well got up; well written the work of a thorough-paced, grave, cautious writer. There is hardly a bad page in it,-or a good one; or a
PEEP AT THE PILGRIMS, 3 vols, 12 mo. Geo. B. Whitaker, London, 1825.
bad phrase, or a foolish one; or a coarse thought, or a crazy one; or a thing to weep at, or laugh at, for nearly fifty score pages. In short, we never did see such a tiresome, good-for-nothing, sensible book.
The author, who is a native American, (we say that, positively, spite of the shape in which the work has come out here,) the author of this PEEP, to say all in a breath, has the faculty of being absurd, without being ridiculous; absurd and respectable, at the same time. So well behaved is he, that you cannot laugh at him; yet so very judicious, that if another would make him appear like a fool-you would be gratified beyond measure.
Wishing to escape the severity of English, and very much afraid of Scotch criticism, he has put forth a work-as if all the eyes of all the earth were upon him-a work, which, though it has been republished here, will never be read, by either English or Scotch critics. Having heard the literature of his country charged with " coarseness”-that other name for great vigour, wild power, and courageous peculiarity, every where, in every age, with people, who have refined away all their own chief, distinguishing attributes, the author of this book has begotten his babe to a model; shaped his offspring to a mould, we fear,-lopping the giants and stretching the dwarfs, by a stop-watch, and a foot-rule-or a yard-stick; and spoiling their shape with stays-worn before birth, we dare say, half the time-till they are neither one thing nor another; but half British, half American, half savage, half civilized, so that we are reminded, at every step, while they go by us, of Hunter himself, the shrewd, light-haired North American savage, wearing white kid gloves, at a patrician party here; and going to court, in breeches, with hair powdered--a bag, a lace frill, and a small sword, of which he was in greater peril, by far, than he ever had been, or ever will be, of a tomahawk, or a scalping-knife.
But why do such things? Of what avail are they, to the half, or the whole savage; to the eater of men, or the writer of books, from abroad? Why go forth at all, if you may not go forth, in your own shape? Why throw off your own character, whatever it may be, when all eyes are upon you? Why undertake another—a new part, a serious one too, if you know what a serious part is—when you are playing for your life? In short, why become ridiculous? why make a fool of yourself to gratify another, who, if he be gratified by the sacrifice, must be, for that very reason, quite unworthy of it? Will the native North American please, or can he hope to please, a great people, or distinguish himself, by dressing after their fasirion; by bowing, as they bow; talking, as they talk; writing, as they write? by aping their behaviour, look, and carriage? by adopting their habits, only to make himself and them, ha. bits and people both, ridiculous? by throwing off that, which places him altogether aloof, and away from the multitude-his natural air; his national air; his brave, strong, decided individuality? by foregoing his privilege, prerogative, birth-right, and country will they like him the better for it? Will they like to see a coarse awkward fellow-a giant, if you please, in his own shape--caricaturing the pomp of high life; and all the parade of courtly bearing, by his absurd imitation thereof? We believe not.
For convenience; for comfort, perhaps, it may be well enough, to do as other people do; but no man will ever be distinguished, by doing as other people do. Were Tecumseh himself, the great Indian warrior and prophet; were he alive now, we should say to him this,- If you are going to the city of London, to the Royal Exchange, or to Exeter Change, “ by particular desire,” off with your barbarian robes; away with all that smacks of dominion or authority; hide your face; cover your heart; walk humbly; do as they do; go there, like other people--the very mob-no matter how awkward you are. But if your aim be far above that; if you are not so much a man of business or thrift, as you are a disciple of Ambition; if you are heedless of comfort; and care only for that, which is worthily cared for, by the brave and wise; if you would appear, like yourself, in the courts of royalty-at home there even there; if you would bear up, face to face with it, like a man; or, if you are going to the West End, where the better sort of lions go-away with alí imitation, with all awkward restraint; away with your white kid gloves, and every other badge of servitude(for, to you, every such thing is a badge of servitude)-on with all the rude pomp of your office, with all the barbarous dignity thereof:-Do all this, or keep away. Let your carriage be natural: Bear upon your very forehead, if you may, the sign of power, strange, though it be; the name of your country, savage, though it be-do all this, and, my word for it, Chief, they like you the better. They are courageous; they love courage. They are men; they love manhood: At any rate, if you go in your natural shape, in the true garb of your nation, you will never be laughed at. Grotesque, you may be; but, whether grotesque, or not, you will be respectable. If you are wise, you will not undertake the part of a fine gentleman, at your age. You may spend half your life before a looking-glass, with a drill-serjeant or a dancing-master,-half your life; and yet, if you are made of real North American stuff, you will be no match, in well-bred ease, for an English footman. You will not go into a room, or out of it; or approach a beautiful woman, with half so much graceful, smooth, self possession; or a tithe of his courtly air. All this we would have urged, if we had come in the way
of such a noble creature as Tecumseh; a part of it, we did urge, to Hunter; and all of it, we now urge to the writers of America, who are coming out, one after another, in a vile masquerade-putting away their chief properties, and aping the style of another people.
If they are satisfied with comfort, or security from the critics; or with insignificance; or a tolerable share of business, or profit; or with a few weeks' notoriety, on t'other side of Temple-bar; or a few months of undisputed --sober-price-current immortality
any where, they have only to imitate, or copy, the chief scribes of this empire; to bow as they bow; talk as they talk; and write as they write-no disparagement, however, to the said chief scribes, who are capital, in their way; but whom it will never do, for American authors to imitate; authors, we should say, who hope to be cared for.
But if the writers of America be what we believe them to be; if their aim is higher, nobler, more courageous; if they would rather perish of cold, far up in the sky, than live to a good old age, among the fires of earth; if they would rather die, on the steep, rocky path to immortality, with one great hope clinging to their exhausted hearts, above the reach of sympathy and succour, than live, or flourish, ever so long, as other men live, and flourish, on the common high-ways of our earth; if this be their temper, they will
go abroad-each for himself, in the real costume of his tribe the men of the everlasting woods; the giants of another world.
What have they to fear, who do this? Nothing-nothing-while they preserve their natural carriage; their natural freedom; their natural armour; their natural integrity: Every thing-every thing—if they are foolish enough to put off their distinguishing attributes; or simple enough to put on those of another peoplewhether of style, or manner.
It is American books that are wanted of America; not English books;-nor books, made in America, by Englishmen, or by writers, who are a sort of bastard English. The people here do not want copies, or parodies, or abridgments, or variations, or imitations-good or bad of their great originals, either in prose or poetry. . They would have something, which they have not; something, which does not grow here; something, which cannot be made here, nor counterfeited here. They want, in a word, from the people of North America, books, which, whatever may be their faults, are decidedly, if not altogether, American. Why have they no such book now? Why is there nothing of the sort, up to this hour; nothing, we should say, save a small part of two or three stories, by Brown, by Irving, by Neal, and by Cooper? And why is it, pray, that, even there, in those two or three, by such men, there is in truth not a single page decidedly, and properly American, either in character, language, or peculiarity?
If we go to another world, say the men here; if we go to ano ther world, for precious things; for plants, or flowers--in God's name, let us not come back loaded with Irish diamonds; or mica dust; or exotics, which are only the spurious, or degenerate issue of our own soil; or mistake, as others have, the superfluous leafing, or distempered richness of plethora, for beauty and great value inflammation, for the splendour of health. Let us have poison rather, for poison itself were more precious, than herbs of degenerate virtue. Give us that which is able to be mischievous, if unrighteously, or unworthily administered; for drugs of no power beget a habit of carelessness; and, whatever is incapable of doing mischief, is incapable of doing good. Every poison is the natural antidote of some other poison. Power is virtue. Hence do we require of the American people, great power; stout, original power; productions, whatever else they may be, indigenous to the country; preferring those, which are decidedly vicious, to those which are of a neutral character-or of adulterated, or doubtful, or degenerate virtue. Give us a bad original, they would say, to every American writer, if they had any hope of him; keep your good copy: No great man was ever able to copy. Come forth naked, absolutely naked, we should say, to every real North American-savage, or not; wild, or tame; though your muscles be rather too large, and your toes are turned the wrong way for Almack’s; but, in mercy to your country, to yourself, do not come forth, in a court equipage, with fine lace over your broad knuckles, and your strong rough hair powdered. We had rather see the Belvidere Apollo in breeches; or, if that be much too “coarse,” in “shorts," or "tights," or "inexpressibles.” Why turn out your toes now, if all your life long, hitherto, you have turned your toes in? If you do it ever so well here, nobody sees it; nobody knows it; but if you do it awkwardly, or, if you are caught rehearsing, with one heel at a time, it is all up with you. Do as you have done all your life--in such matters, if you wish to be respectable. Stick to your own habit. So long as you do, there is no standard for the genteel here, to try your gentility by. Throw it off, or take theirs; and you thereby acknowledge their jurisdiction, their power and authority, for trial and for punishment. Such would be our advice to every one, who, like the author of this book, is afraid of being stared at, for his originality, or laughed at, for his awkwardness, if he go among the polite, in his true shape-a rude, coarse man.
We had our eye for a while, we thought, upon the author. We were going to swear it upon a lad, who has been romping, for several years, off and on, with a couple of North American Muses; but, after getting through some forty or fifty pages, we gave up that idea--with pleasure. The lad, of whom we speak, has too much mettle, we know; too much genius, we believe; with forty times too much poetry; and too little good sense, we are quite sure, for such a work. We hope so; and yet, how came a bit of his poetry on the top of the opening chapter, with his name to it, in small capitals? That looks rather queer; rather suspicious-rather; because, with all the boy's talent, he is very lazy; and has done so little, in the shape of either prose or poetry, as to be wholly unknown out of his immediate neighbourhood. Wherefore, we are rather puzzled--for once; but, wherefore, we venture to say that, if he (his name, by the way, is Mellen ; Grenville Mallen---son of Prentess Mellen, Chief Justice of Maine)--that if he did not furnish a part of the work, some very, very particular friend of his did, (as we have said before, while speaking of his insufferable precision,) for nobody else would have thought of citing his poetry, as if it were known to all our earth. By the by, some years ago Vol. VII. No. 4).-Museum.