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felicity of these descriptions and the delicacy of observation which they indicate. Yet it may be suggested that they are sometimes interjected with irrelevant and almost irritating minuteness into the flow of passionate dialogue, the participants in which can by no conceivability be supposed to partake of any cognizance of those aspects of nature which the reader is summoned to observe. Mountain dwellers of uncultured types are notoriously not observant of nature's finer phases of beauty in sky, foliage, or flower. It would be a pity to have a gift so rare as Miss Murfree's in the depiction of the changeful aspects of the physical world in which she sets her characters so used as to become a kind of mannerism annoying in its habitual recurrence. Miss Murfree has a future before her to which an already large constituency of readers is looking with increasing interest and confidence.
Geo. Leon Walker. HARTFORD, Conn.
POETS OF AMERICA. By EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN. Pp. xv., 516. Boston and New York : Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1885.
A FEW years ago Professor Edward Dowden, treating of the poetry of Democracy as represented and illustrated by Walt Whitman, thought it worthy of remark that the historical school of criticism, which attempts to connect the history of literature with “the larger history of society and the general movement of civilizations, creeds, forms of national life and feeling,” – that this historical school of criticism had not attempted to apply its method and principles to the literature of America. The reason he offered in explanation of this apparent neglect was, that American literature was only a little inclosed “ paradise of European culture,” quite hedged in from the “ howling wilderness of Yankee democracy ;” that Longfellow, Irving, Bryant, and Lowell were Europeans, except in the accident of citizenship; that, aside from the works of Emerson and Walt Whitman, a chapter upon American literature would be, of necessity, “not a criticism, but a prophecy."
This view of the case, which has been taken by others besides Professor Dowden, is not Mr. Stedman's view. He believes, on the contrary, that “ the literary product of this new people differs from the literary product of the English, or any other people of the Old World,” and his book is intended to make that difference clear, and to apply the methods of the historical school of criticism to the poetry of Professor Dowden's “ paradise” and “ howling wilderness” alike. He enters upon this task, however, with the caution that we are not to expect that our literature “ will exhibit a quality specifically American in the sense that the product of Italy is Italian, or that of France is French." We are not to look for * absolute novelty in structure, language, or theme,” but for an Americanism which is " displayed in quality of tone, and in faithful expression of the dominant popular moods.”
Even with this moderate form of statement there will be differences of opinion as to whether Mr. Stedman has made out his case, just as there will be differences of opinion as to the justice of some of his critical estimates of particular writers; but there can scarcely be any difference of opinion as to the generous spirit, the catholic taste, the fine insight, the sympathetic judgment, and the eloquent expression which give a persuasive charm to his pages. Certainly, if the time has come, as Mr. Stedman
thinks it has, to record the achievements of a true American school of poetry, we could not desire a more competent or a more graceful chronicler than himself ; we have once more, and this time in the peaceful field of letters, the fortunate conjunction of the hour and the man.
The greater part of Mr. Stedman's book, and the better part also, is that which reviews at length the characteristics and the achievements of a select group of our poets, — happily corresponding with the muses in number, — to each of whom a chapter is devoted. Is it necessary to name them? Would all of them enjoy this preëminence by the consenting suffrages of the readers of poetry? The question need not be pressed. It is enough that the master of the feast summons them, for this occasion, to the highest seats. They are Bryant, Whittier, Einerson, Longfellow, Poe, Holmes, Lowell, Whitman, and Taylor. Although the list is not a long one, it contains the names of poets that are not merely dissimilar, but diverse, in the spirit and method of their works. An adequate survey of their writings, involving also, as it must to some extent, an estimate of the men, demands a wide range of critical judgment. It is a strong proof of Mr. Stedman's qualifications for the task that his judgment seems equally steady and unfaltering in every part of his varied theme. He conducts us with the courteous and confident manner of some Great-Heart, especially commissioned from the Interpreter's house to perform this service for us ; and though the way lies over the Hill Difficulty as well as the Delectable Mountains, through Vanity Fair and the Enchanted Ground as well as the Land of Beulah, we follow him with the confidence which a true guide always inspires.
It is not meant, of course, that the author's estimates will always be accepted, or that his treatment of these different poets will be felt to be, in all cases, equally satisfactory; but dissent or disapproval will generally be the result of previously formed judgments which it is not easy to abandon, or of an impatience with uncongenial authors which the reader has not learned to control so completely as has the critic.
Take, for example, the review of Walt Whitman. Not a few readers, probably the majority, are so repelled by the manner, and by much of the matter, of Mr. Whitman's books that they would deny him the title of poet. One easily sees, too, and indeed would know beforehand, that there is much in Whitman's work that is distasteful and annoying to Mr. Stedman; yet he does not hesitate, while condemning clearly and eloquently the trivial and the repulsive in Whitman's poetry, to declare that “both instinct and judgment, with our Greek choruses in mind, and Pindar, and the Hebrew bards, long since led me to number him among the foremost lyric and idyllic poets.” It is probably safe to say that a good many, who also have the Hebrew bards in mind if not the Greek choruses and Pindar, will decline to adopt this estimate, and yet, at the same time, will recognize its value as the opinion of a judge who is superior to the prejudice or the impatience that not infrequently determines the literary judgments of others.
Did the limits of this notice permit, it would be a pleasure to quote passages from these chapters on the greater poets, in illustration of the author's delicacy of insight and felicity of expression. A remark that he makes concerning Emerson may be applied with equal truth to himself: " His prose is that of a wise man, plus a poet.” With the candor of a wise man, and the quick sympathy of a poet, he has passed in patient review the varied productions of our American poets, and this is
an item of his general verdict: “A reverent feeling, emancipated from dogma and imbued with grace, underlies the wholesome morality of our national poets. No country has possessed a group, equal in talent, that has presented more willingly whatsoever things are pure, lovely, and of good report.” And again, speaking of the “very few whom we now recognize as the true founders of an American literature,” he says : “No successors, with more original art and higher imagination, can labor to more purpose. If the arrow hits its mark, the aim was at the bowstring; the river strengthens and broadens, but the sands of gold wash down from near its source."
The opening chapter of the book, on Early and Recent Conditions, is of great interest and value for its thoughtful enumeration of the unfavorable conditions that delayed for a long time the production of a high order of poetry in this country, — of the special restrictions that have been laid upon the American Muse, together with some counterbalancing advantages, — and of the prominent traits of American verse. The second chapter, entitled Growth of the American School, contains a rapid and comprehensive sketch of the progress of poetry among us, in which, if there is felt to be some lack of proportion, there is still graphic and just characterization, as well as artistic grouping. These two chapters admirably prepare the way for the special reviews of the leading poets, to which reference has already been made.
The final chapter, entitled The Outlook, has for its distinct purpose “to glance at the existing condition of our poetry, and to speculate concerning the near future." The author wisely disclaims any intention to prophesy, but, “in the cautious mood of a weather-sage,” forecasts the probabilities. He closes with these hopeful words, all the more grateful because they are not the utterance of hasty enthusiasm :
“Concerning the dawn which may soon break upon us unawares, as we make conjecture of the future of American song it is difficult to keep the level of restraint — to avoid rising on the wings of prophecy.' Who can doubt that it will correspond to the future of the land itself, — of America now wholly free and interblending, with not one but a score of civic capitals, each an emulative centre of taste and invention, a focus of energetic life, ceaseless in action, radiant with the glow of beauty and creative power.”
Henry L. Chapman. BOWDOIN COLLEGE.
THE GREEK PREPOSITIONS, studied from their original meanings as designa
tions of space. By F. A. ADAMS, Ph. D. New York : D. Appleton & Co. 1885.
This is an exceedingly readable book. It is written in a style at once thoughtful and vivacious, and exhibiting at times a quaint terseness of expression which is as pointed as it is pleasing
The author has conducted his investigations rather in the spirit of the German metaphysical tendencies of a former generation than according to the scientific methods of more recent philological study. In his own words, “ The store-house of facts used in the present study is the language of the Greek Literature, — the Greek Language at its best. As the work is Psychological, not Etymological, it does not discuss the origins of words. It is not the form of the words, but the thought that underlies them, that is here the object of search; not the changing fortunes through which a written word has passed till it comes to the form in which we
have it in our hands; but what the word means now that it is in our hands, and how it comes to mean what we know it does mean.”
But while it may be true that the etymological method often makes havoc of exegesis by attaching undue importance to the mechanism of the sentence, to the neglect of the logic of the context, it is no less true that the psychological method has frequently led to the discovery of hidden meanings which no Greek ever dreamed of” as well as to “ the invention of nice distinctions between similar or precisely equivalent expressions." Hence it would seem that neither method should be exclusively followed. It was to be expected, therefore, that Dr. Adams, following as he has done but one method of inquiry, should often reach conclusions from which the use of the other method would have withheld him. Yet his book enters a hitherto much neglected field, where the student has always found more or less perplexity, and, for many reasons, deserves the hospitable reception which the author craves for it.
Edward G. Coy.
Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston. Husband and Wife, or The Theory of Marriage and its Consequences. By George Zabriskie Gray, D. D., Dean of the Espicopal Theological School in Cambridge. With an Introduction by the Rt. Rev. F. D. Huntington, D. D., Bishop of Central New York. Second Edition. Pp. ix., 142. 1886. $1.00.
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