Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

state with him, and observe the curious phenomena which it describes, and we are sure he would return to his home a wiser and better man for this exercise of his faculties.

We cannot close this imperfect notice of Professor Hitchcock's great work, without referring the reader to some very interesting memoirs, which this author has published in the Biblical Repository for 1835, on “ the Connexion between Geology and Natural Religion,” and on “the Connexion between Geology and the Mosaic History of the Creation." These articles, in a literary and scientific point of view, are to be classed among the happiest efforts of the author, and cannot fail to be read with delight by every man of intelligence.

pp.

Art. VI.History of Concord. 1. A History of the Town of Concord, from its earliest Set

tlement, to 1832; and of the adjoining Towns, Bedford, Acton, Lincoln and Carlisle; containing various Notices of County and State History, not before published. By LEMUEL SHATTUCK, Member of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Boston. Russell, Odiorne & Co. 1835.

8vo. pp. 400. 2. An Historical Discourse, delivered before the Citizens

of Concord, 12th September, 1835, on the Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town. By Ralph WALDO EMERSON. Published by request.

Concord. 1835. 8vo. 52. The author of this long-expected History has done well, in the outset, to commend his work to the respect of the public, by proving, in his Preface, that he appreciates the value of accurate annals of a town. The qualification may seem quite indispensable to one who underiakes to record them, whether for the benefit of the district described, in particular, or of the world at large. It may seem quite easy also of attainment; so much so as to make the lack of it considerably more remarkable than the possession. Yet, how rarely do we meet with it. How few are the works of this class wbich may be depended on even for their accuracy; and we are speaking now of their value in that l'egard alone. We say nothing of the virtue of completeness in detail, or of comprehensiveness in design. We pass over the matter of judgment and tact in

the plan of arranging, and the matter of taste and energy in the style of expressing, and enforcing, what is to be told. All these may be of great consideration in local histories, as they must be in every composition. Accuracy, however, is the sine-qua-non. A history, not accurate, is, in other words, no history. The portions of il which are correct, are correct only by accident. It will not be used, therefore, as all local chronicles are mostly designed to be used, for the elements of history at large. These do not deserve to be classed with bistories, which are good so far as they go; the praise sometines bestowed upon crude medleys of this sort. If believed, they deceive. If distrusted, they will still, almost always, stand in the way of their betters. Few town histories will ever be written a second time. The pains are too great, and the praise is too little. A bad book of this description, or a poor one, lodges, like a stuinbling-block in the paih of coming generations.

Such works, we remarked, cannot be made use of as the elements of history at large. On the other hand, it is a rare recommendation of one, like this before us, that it may be so used. The author appreciated the importance of bis lahor in this respect. He knew, with the laborious George Dyer, that to his toil and perseverance, the chronologist, the biographer, the poet even, as well as the general historian, may stand eminently indebted ; and that “works the most splendid in form, and wbich are constructed for the admiration of posterity,” may rise out of documents and researches, apparently the most repulsive or trifling. “Who can calculate," asks honest George, "on the consequence of a single date, sometimes to an individual, sometimes to a family, and sometimes even to the public.” This is enthusiasm, but it is the enthusiasın of common sense. We want such a spirit in our town histories. We must have such men to write them. We must bave men that are capable, in the first place, of discerning between truth and falsehood, probability and improbability, matters of more or less interest, and matters of no interest at all; and who, in the second place, knowing what is desirable, and seeing what is necessary to accomplish it, are never to be dismayed by a dull prospect, or discouraged by a failure, or disappointed by a small return. There is, and should be, no such thing as a dull prospect, or a failure, or a small return, to such men. There is no such thing as dismay - NO. 91.

57

VOL. XLII.

or disappointment. Half a page of some old illegible and unintelligible manuscript, wherein the moths have bad their will undisturbed perhaps for a century, found in the attic or the cellar, may reward him generously for months of plodding toil and aching eyes. It supplies bim, perchance, with a christian name, the surname appertaining to which, was no better to him before, than Franklin's half of a pair of shears; or, with “ a single date," which completes some nice little congeries of genealogy, wrought out of the rubbish of buried records, like a statue restored from the ruins of Pompeii. It is a discovery to him. He smiles at the sight, and rushes from his dusty laboratory into the open air of the wide world, and cries out "eureka." And so, point by point, he brings out bis “minute facts," as Mr. Shairuck calls them. Some may be missing ; or may amount, even in bis own estimation, to little or nothing ; but others, enough to counter-balance these short-comings, reveal themselves before him by surprise. As he gropes after one thing, he stumbles upon another. Where but a single precious particle of golden truth or glittering tradition was looked for, he finds clusters of gems. He climbs the steep precipice of the mountain wall, like the Indian of Potosi, and under the roots of the dryest shrub to which he clings, he may find such treasures as only a conscientious, indefatigable, enthusiastic spirit, can appreciate with a genuine relish. Such things, he knows, have been, and may be again. He walks over rich ground. He digs in a dust, which is dearer than “all the ore of rich Peru.” As an elegant writer has expressed it, - himself no ordinary specimen of the character he describes, — " the enchanted delver sighs and strikes on, in the glimmering mine of hope.”

We will not undertake to say, that there are no inaccuracies in the ample and elaborate volume of Mr. Shattuck, the perusal of wbich has suggested these remarks. It would be no very difficult thing, on the contrary, to point out a few statements of considerable general interest, evidently understood by the writer, and meant to be received by his readers, for representations of established facts, which can be pretty plausibly shewn to be either incorrect, or doubtsul. Some of these cases we may have occasion to indicate. * Nost, if not all of them, have probably been noticed by the author himself, with others, perhaps, which are likely to escape any revision less diligent and anxious than his own. We allude to these the more freely, inasmuch as there can be no more doubt of his having the opportunity, than of his baving the inclination, hereafter, of making good some little deficiencies in evidence or in explanation, and of abating or qualifying a few basty assertions, which he has allowed bimself to make in bis eager pursuit of the subject.

* But, lest we should not, we may as well say here, that we refer chiefly to the chapter on the Battle of Concord. The author has looked up an amazing amount of interesting matter upon this subject, and the statements are generally made with great caution. We should like, however, to have qua. lified several of them. For example, on page 112, he says three British soldiers were killed" in the skirmish at the bridge. Dr. Ripley states, in his “ History of the Fight," that there were two killed. He states also that the Rev. Mr. Emerson witnessed the whole affair from his window, and now, Mr. Emerson's account of it is published in the Appendix to the Oration, and that also says two. We hope for another opportunity of resu.

But let us do the author justice. Nothing but inveterate industry and unshrinking perseverance, nothing but the professional enthusiasm by which they are sustained, could have enabled our annalist to undertake, or to undergo, the years and years of dismal drudgery of wbich his book bears evidence upon every page. No other literary labor, we apprehend, can convey so vivid a notion of a "Slough of Des

pond.”

a

The laborious and faitbful local historian, rarely has justice done him. The result of his researches may or may not be applauded, and admired. He may build bimself, as the reviewer of Surtee's Durbam History rightly expresses it, more durable monument in perishable paper than could be constructed of marble or brass."* This may be a monument known and seen only by the coming generations of dwellers on the narrow soil of the subject described; or, he may gain himself a reputation as wide even as the borders of his native land, and as lasting as its language. And yet, justice will not be done bim. The result only will be known, or cared for; and perhaps not a tithe of that. Little allowance is made for the various degrees of difficulty with which the several results in literature are produced, and little discrimination shown in the allotment of the various degrees and kinds of honor, which are due to the toil and skill of those who produce them. A good local history is more or less popular very much as is a judicious arithmetic, or an elegant oration. No matter where the materials came from, or what they cost. No matter whether the work was necessarily, the tedious, loney, laborious, exhausting and acbing labor of a life-time; or whether it was the adroit appropriation of such labor of other men, stealthily varnished over, and seasonably brought to the public notice by surprise ; or, even a few pages of sensible declamation, thrown out, under the spur of some occasional engagement. It is all the same, substantially, with the reputation. It can not be expected to be otherwise. The pains-takers, - the undertakers of tasks, that, although indispensable to be done by somebody, yet nobody but themselves would ever undertake or could accomplish if they would — these are the very men who best understand, and are the least disposed to complain of the limited character of the applause or admiration which they meet with. This very want of the stimulus of immediate and considerable approbation, which the frotbiest speech at a noisy caucus shall secure; the dusty drudgery encountered, the health wasted, the delights of society given up, with the consciousness that the sacrifice is all for the benefit of the reputation of other men ; these things entitle them to the admiration of their country and their race. We do not now reser to the worthless, and perhaps worse than worthless, prodigies of senseless labor, wbich some men live and die to produce. We refer to the practical workmen, the collectors of the raw materials out of which all history is made ; the pioneers in the wilderness of details and reports; the levellers of the land, and the diggers of the ditches, for the canals and the railroads, of which other men and after generations enjoy the benefit. It matters but little, at all events, so that the work be done. It is fortunate for the world that they are willing to do it. They may complain, and may bave reason to do so. They may cry out “piteously," now and then, as D'Israeli says of some of the poorer poets in their obscurity, making themselves known only by their noise. They may avail themselves of a breathing moment, to rail at the world, or the compilers. They may even consider those worthy people, the booksellers, as poor old Drayton hesitates not to call them in most intelligible terms, "a company of base knaves, whom I scorn and kick at." Still, however, it matters not much, so they will work on; and that is just what they always do, — they work on.

the subject of the “ Buttle" by itself. Quarterly Review of 1829.

* Speaking of his Polyolbion.

« НазадПродовжити »