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In every by-way left
How were the earth of glory shorn

Were it of flowers bereft !

And wheresoever the weary heart

Turns in its dim despair,
The meek-eyed blossom upward looks,

Inviting it to prayer.

The very winds were hushed to peace

Within the quiet dell,
Or murmured through the rustling bough

Like breathings of a shell.
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Elizabeth Oakes Smith



The mystery of life ;
Its many hopes, its many fears,

Its sorrow and its strife
A spirit to behold in all

To guide, admonish, cheer,
Forever, in all time and place,

To feel an angel near.

I may not scorn the spirit's rights

For I have seen it rise,
All written o'er with thought, thought, thought,

As with a thousand eyes.

And there are things that blight the soul

As with a mildew blight,
And in the temple of the Lord

Put out the blessed light.

It is in the point of passages such as these, in their
vigor, terseness, and novelty, combined with exquisite
delicacy, that the more obvious merit of the poem con
sists. A thousand such quotable paragraphs are in
terspersed through the work, and of themselves would
be sufficient to insure its popularity. But we repeat
that a far loftier excellence lies perdu amid the minor
deficiencies of The Sinless Child.

The other poems of the volume are, as entire com
positions, nearer perfection, but, in general, have less
of the true poetical element. The Acorn is perfect
as regards its construction; although, to be sure, the
design is so simple that it could scarcely be marred in
its execution. The idea is the old one of detailing the

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Elizabeth Oakes Smith



progress of a plant from its germ to its maturity, with
the uses and general vicissitudes to which it is sub
jected. In this case of the acorn the vicissitudes are
well imagined, and the execution is more skilfully
managed, is more definite, vigorous, and pronounced,
than in the longer poem. The chief of the minor
objections is to the rhythm, which is imperfect, vacil
lating awkwardly between iambuses and anapaests,
after such fashion that it is impossible to decide
whether the rhythm in itself, that is, whether the gen
eral intention, is anapsestical or iambic. Anapaests
introduced, for the relief of monotone, into an iambic
rhythm, are not only admissible but commendable,
if not absolutely demanded ; but in this case they pre
vail to such an extent as to overpower the iambic
intention, thus rendering the whole versification diffi
cult of comprehension. We give, by way of example,
a stanza with the scanning divisions and quantities :

They came | with gifts | that should life | bestow; |

The dew | and the li | ving air |
The bane | that should work | its dead | iy woe, |

The fit | tie men | had there; |
In the gray | moss cup | was the mil | dew brought, |

The worm | in a rose- | leaf rolled, |
And ma | ny things | with destruc | tion fraught |

That its doom | were quick | ly told. |

Here iambuses and anapaests are so nearly balanced
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Elizabeth Oakes Smith



that the ear hesitates to receive the rhythm as either
anapaestic or iambic ; that is, it hesitates to receive it
as anything at all. A rhythm should always be dis
tinctly marked by its first foot; that is to say, if the
design is iambic, we should commence with an un
mistakable iambus, and proceed with this foot until
the ear gets fairly accustomed to it before we attempt
variation; for which, indeed, there is no necessity
unless for the relief of monotone. When the rhythm
is in this manner thoroughly recognized, we may
sparingly vary with anapaests (or if the rhythm be
trochaic, with dactyls). Spondees, still more spar
ingly, as absolute discords, may be also introduced
either in an iambic or trochaic rhythm. In common
with a very large majority of American, and, indeed,
of European poets, Mrs. Smith seems to be totally un
acquainted with the principles of versification by
which, of course, we mean its rationale. Of technical
rules on the subject there are rather more than enough
in our prosodies, and from these abundant rules are
deduced the abundant blunders of our poets. There
is not a prosody in existence which is worth the paper
on which it is printed.

Of the miscellaneous poems included in the volume
before us, we greatly prefer The Summons Answered
It has more of power, more of genuine imagination
than anything written by its author. It is the story
of three " bacchanals," who, on their way from the

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Elizabeth Oakes Smith



scene of their revelry, are arrested by the beckoning of
a white hand from the partially unclosing door of a
tomb. One of the party obeys the summons. It is the
tomb of his wife. We quote the two concluding stanzas :

This restless life with its little fears,

Its hopes that fade so soon,
With its yearning tenderness and tears,
And the burning agony that sears

The sun gone down at noon
The spirit crushed to its prison wall,

Mindless of all beside,
This young Richard saw, and felt it all

Well might the dead abide !

The crimson light in the east is high,

The hoar-frost coldly gleams,
And Richard, chilled to the heart well-nigh,
Hath raised his wildered and bloodshot eye

From that long night of dreams,
He shudders to think of the reckless band

And the fearful oath he swore
But most he thinks of the clay-cold hand,

That opened the old tomb door.

With the quotation of these really noble passages
noble, because full of the truest poetic energy we
take leave of the fair authoress. She is entitled, be
yond doubt, to all, and perhaps to much more than,
the commendation she has received. Her faults are
among the peccadilloes, and her merits among the
sterling excellencies of the Muse.

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William Gilmore Simms 1




R. SIMMS, we believe, made his first, or
nearly his first, appearance before an Ameri-
can audience with a small volume entitled
Martin Faber f an amplification of a much shorter fic
tion. He had some difficulty in getting it published,
but the Harpers finally undertook it, and it did credit
to their judgment. It was well received, both by the
public and the more discriminative few, although some
of the critics objected that the story was an imitation
of Miserrimus, a very powerful fiction by the author of
Pickwick Abroad. The original tale, however, the
germ of Martin Faber t was written long before the
publication of Miserrimus. But independently of this
fact, there is not the slightest ground for the charge
of imitation. The thesis and incidents of the two
works are totally dissimilar; the idea of resemblance
arises only from the absolute identity of effect wrought
by both.

1 Wiley & Putnam's Library of American Books, No. IV. The Wigwam
and the Cabin, By William Gilmore Simms. First Series,

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William Gilmore Simms



Martin Faber was succeeded, at short intervals, by
a great number and variety of fictions, some brief, but
many of the ordinary novel size. Among these we
may notice Guy Rivers, The Partisan, The Yemassee,
Mellichatnpe, Beauchampe, and Richard Hurdis, The
last two were issued anonymously, the author wishing
to ascertain whether the success of his books (which
was great) had anything to do with his mere name as
the writer of previous works. The result proved that
popularity, in Mr. Simms's case, arose solely from in
trinsic merit, for Beauchampe and Richard Hurdis
were the most popular of his fictions, and excited very
general attention and curiosity. Border Beagles was
another of his anonymous novels, published with the
same end in view, and, although disfigured by some
instances of bad taste, was even more successful than
Richard Hurdis.

The " bad taste " of the Border Beagles was more
particularly apparent in The Partisan, The Yemassee t
and one or two other of the author's earlier works,
and displayed itself most offensively in a certain fond
ness for the purely disgusting or repulsive, where the
intention was or should have been merely the horrible.
The writer evinced a strange propensity for minute
details of human and brute suffering, and even in
dulged at times in more unequivocal obscenities. His
English, too, was, in his efforts, exceedingly objec
tionable, verbose, involute, and not unfrequently un-

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William Gilmore Simms



grammatical. He was especially given to pet words,
of which we remember at present only " hug,"
" coil," and the compound " old-time," and introduced
them upon all occasions. Neither was he at this
period particularly dexterous in the conduct of his
stories. His improvement, however, was rapid at all
these points, although, on the two first counts of our
indictment, there is still abundant room for improve
ment. But whatever may have been his early defects,
or whatever are his present errors, there can be no
doubt that from the very beginning he gave evidence
of genius, and that of no common order. His Martm
Faber, in our opinion, is a more forcible story than its
supposed prototype, Miserrimus. The difference in the
American reception of the two is to be referred to the
fact (we blush while recording it) that Miserrimus was
understood to be the work of an Englishman, and
Martin Faber was known to be the composition of an
American, as yet unaccredited in our Republic of
Letters. The fiction of Mr. Simms gave indication,
we repeat, of genius, and that of no common order.
Had he been even a Yankee, this genius would have
been rendered immediately manifest to his country
men, but unhappily (perhaps) he was a Southerner,
and united the Southern pride, the Southern dislike to
the making of bargains, with the Southern supine-
ness and general want of tact in all matters relating to
the making of money. His book, therefore, depended

VOL. VIII. 1 9 .



William Gilmore Simms



entirely upon its own intrinsic value and resources, but
with these it made its way in the end. The " intrinsic
value" consisted, first, of a very vigorous imagination
in the conception of the story; secondly, in artistic
skill manifested in its conduct; thirdly, in general
vigor, life, movement, the whole resulting in deep
interest on the part of the reader. These high quali
ties Mr. Simms has carried with him in his subsequent
books ; and they are qualities which, above all others,
the fresh and vigorous intellect of America should
and does esteem. It may be said, upon the whole,
that while there are several of our native writers who
excel the author of Martin Faber at particular points,
there is, nevertheless, not one who surpasses him in
the aggregate of the higher excellences of fiction.
We confidently expect him to do much for the lighter
literature of his country.

The volume now before us has a title which may
mislead the reader. The Wigwam and the Cabin is
merely a generic phrase, intended to designate the
subject-matter of a series of short tales, most of which
have first seen the light in the Annuals. " The ma
terial employed," says the author, " will be found to
illustrate, in large degree, the border history of the
South. I can speak with confidence of the general
truthfulness of its treatment. The life of the planter,
the squatter, the Indian, the negro, the bold and
hardy pioneer, and the vigorous yeoman, these are

290



William Gilmore Simms



the subjects. In their delineation I have mostly drawn
from living portraits, and, in frequent instances, from
actual scenes and circumstances within the memories
of men."

All the tales in this collection have merit, and the
first has merit of a very peculiar kind. Grayling/
or Murder Will Out, is the title. The story was well
received in England, but on this fact no opinion can
be safely based. The Athenaeum, we believe, or some
other of the London weekly critical journals, having
its attention called (no doubt through personal in
fluence) to Carey & Hart's beautiful annual, The Giftt
found it convenient, in the course of its notice, to
speak at length of some particular article, and Murder
Will Out probably arrested the attention of the sub
editor who was employed in so trivial a task as the
patting on the head an American book, arrested his
attention first from its title (murder being a taking
theme with the Cockney), and secondly from its details
of southern forest scenery. Large quotations were
made, as a matter of course, and very ample commen
dation bestowed, the whole criticism proving nothing,
in our opinion, but that the critic had not read a single
syllable of the story. The critique, however, had at
least the good effect of calling American attention to
the fact that an American might possibly do a decent
thing (provided the possibility were first admitted by
the British sub-editors), and the result was, first, that

291



William Gilmore Simms



many persons read, and secondly, that all persons
admired, the " excellent story in The Gift that had
actually been called * readable ' by one of the English
newspapers."

Now had Murder Will Out been a much worse story
than was ever written by Professor Ingraham, still,
under the circumstances, we patriotic and independ
ent Americans would have declared it inimitable ; but,
by some species of odd accident, it happened to deserve
all that the British " sub-sub " had condescended to say
of it, on the strength of a guess as to what it was all
about. It is really an admirable tale, nobly conceived,
and skilfully carried into execution, the best ghost-
story ever written by an American, for we presume
that this is the ultimate extent of commendation to
which we, as an humble American, dare go.

The other stories of the volume do credit to the
author's abilities, and display their peculiarities in a
strong light, but there is no one of them so good
as Murder Will Out




292





William Cullen Bryant

L. BRYANT'S position in the poetical world
is, perhaps, better settled than that of any
American. There is less difference of opin
ion about his rank; but, as usual, the agreement is
more decided in private literary circles than in what
appears to be the public expression of sentiment as
gleaned from the press. I may as well observe here,
too, that this coincidence of opinion in private circles
is in all cases very noticeable when compared with
the discrepancy of the apparent public opinion. In
private it is quite a rare thing to find any strongly
marked disagreement ; I mean, of course, about mere
authorial merit. The author accustomed to seclusion,
and mingling for the first time freely with the literary
people about him, is invariably startled and delighted
to find that the decisions of his own unbiassed judg
ment, decisions to which he has refrained from giving
voice on account of their broad contradiction to the
decision of the press, are sustained and considered

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William Cullen Bryant

quite as matters of course by almost every person
with whom he converses. The fact is that, when
brought face to face with each other, we are constrained
to a certain amount of honesty by the sheer trouble
it causes us to mould the countenance to a lie. We
put on paper with a grave air what we could not for
our lives assert personally to a friend without either
blushing or laughing outright. That the opinion of
the press is not an honest opinion, that necessarily it
is impossible that it should be an honest opinion, is
never denied by the members of the press themselves.
Individual presses, of course, are now and then honest,
but I speak of the combined effect. Indeed, it would
be difficult for those conversant with the modus oper*
and! of public journals to deny the general falsity of
impression conveyed. Let, in America, a book be pub
lished by an unknown, careless, or uninfluential au
thor ; if he publishes it " on his own account," he
will be confounded at finding that no notice of it is
taken at all. If it has been entrusted to a publisher
of caste, there will appear forthwith in each of the
leading business papers a variously phrased critique
to the extent of three or four lines, and to the effect
that " we have received from the fertile press of So
and So, a volume entitled ' This and That,' which
appears to be well worthy perusal, and which is ' got
up ' in the customary neat style of the enterprising
firm of So and So." On the other hand, let our author

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William Cullen Bryant

quite as matters of course by almost every person
with whom he converses. The fact is that, when
brought face to face with each other, we are constrained
to a certain amount of honesty by the sheer trouble
it causes us to mould the countenance to a lie. We
put on paper with a grave air what we could not for
our lives assert personally to a friend without either
blushing or laughing outright. That the opinion of
the press is not an honest opinion, that necessarily it
is impotfifete that it should be an honest opinion, is
neve? denied by the members of the press themselves.
Individual presses, of course, are now and then honest,

^P feak W^l!ferfi^ffl^ e &^anfe ldeed Jt would
be difficult for those conversant with the modus oper*
**%' of public journals to deny the general falsity of
imprwiion conveyed. Let, in America, a book be pub
lished by an unknown, itftUta, or uninfiuential au
thor; if he publishes it ** oa bis own account," he
will fet confounded at finding that no notice of it is
taken at all. If it has been entrusted to a publisher
of caste, there will appear feftbwitH in each of the
leading business papers a vnruHNijr jfeased critique
to the extent of three or four lines, and to the effect
that " we have received from the fertile press of So
and So, a volume entitled ' This and That,' which
appears to be well worthy perusal, and which is ' got
up ' in the customary neat style of the enterprising
firm of So and So," On the other hand, let our author

294



William Cullen Bryant

have acquired influence, experience, or (what will
stand him in good stead of either) effrontery, on the
issue of his hook he will obtain from his publisher
a hundred copies (or more, as the case may be) " for
distribution among friends connected with the press."
Armed with these, he will call personally either at
the office or (if he understands his game) at the private
residence of every editor within his reach, enter into
conversation, compliment the journalist, interest him,
as if incidentally, in the subject of the book, and
finally, watching an opportunity, beg leave to hand
him " a volume which, quite opportunely, is on the
very matter now under discussion." If the editor
seems sufficiently interested, the rest is left to
fate ; but if there is any lukewarmness (usually indi
cated by a polite regret on the editor's part that he
really has " no time to render the work that justice
which its importance demands "), then our author is
prepared to understand and to sympathize ; has, luckily,
a friend thoroughly conversant with the topic, and
who (perhaps) could be persuaded to write some ac
count of the volume, provided that the editor would
be kind enough just to glance over the critique and
amend it in accordance with his own particular views.
Glad to fill half a column or so of his editorial space,
and still more glad to get rid of his visitor, the journal
ist assents. The author retires, consults the friend,
instructs him concerning the strong points of the

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William Cullen Bryant

volume, and insinuating in some shape a quid pro
quo f gets an elaborate critique written (or, what is more
usual and far more simple, writes it himself), and his
business in this individual quarter is accomplished.
Nothing more than sheer impudence is requisite to
accomplish it in all.

Now the effect of this system (for it has really
grown to be such) is obvious. In ninety-nine cases
out of a hundred, men of genius, too indolent and
careless about worldly concerns to bestir themselves
after this fashion, have also that pride of intellect
which would prevent them, under any circumstances,
from even insinuating, by the presentation of a book
to a member of the press, a desire to have that book
reviewed. They, consequently, and their works, are
utterly overwhelmed and extinguished in the flood of
the apparent public adulation upon which, in gilded
barges, are borne triumphant the ingenious toady
and the diligent quack.

In general, the books of the toadies and quacks, not
being read at all, are safe from any contradiction of
this self -bestowed praise ; but now and then it happens
that the excess of the laudation works out in part its
own remedy. Men of leisure, hearing one of the
toady works commended, look at it, read its preface
and a few pages of its body, and throw it aside with
disgust, wondering at the ill taste of the editors who
extol it. But there is an iteration and a continuous

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William Cullen Bryant

reiteration of the panegyric, till these men of leisure
begin to suspect themselves in the wrong, to fancy
that there may really be something good lying perdu
in the volume. In a fit of desperate curiosity they
read it through critically, their indignation growing
hotter at each succeeding page till it gets the better
even of contempt. The result is that reviews now ap
pear in various quarters entirely at variance with the
opinions so generally expressed, and which, but for
these indignation reviews, would have passed univer
sally current as the opinion of the public. It is in
this manner that those gross seeming discrepancies
arise which so often astonish us, but which vanish
instantaneously in private society.

But although it may be said in general that Mr.
Bryant's position is comparatively well settled, still, for
some time past, there has been a growing tendency to
underestimate him, the new licentious " schools " of
poetry (I do not now speak of the transcendentalists,
who are the merest nobodies, fatiguing even them
selves, but the Tennysonian and Barrettian schools)
having, in their rashness of spirit, much in accordance
with the whole spirit of the age, thrown into the
shade necessarily all that seems akin to the conserva
tism of half a century ago. The conventionalities,
even the most justifiable decora, of composition, are
regarded, pet se f with a suspicious eye. When I say
pet se t I mean that, from finding them so long in

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William Cullen Bryant

connection with conservatism of thought, we have
come at last to dislike them, not merely as the outward
visible signs of that conservatism, but as things evil
in themselves. It is very clear that those accuracies
and elegancies of style and of general manner, which,
in the time of Pope, were considered as prima facie
and indispensable indications of genius, are now con
versely regarded. How few are willing to admit the
possibility of reconciling genius with artistic skill!
Yet this reconciliation is not only possible, but an
absolute necessity. It is a mere prejudice which has
hitherto prevented the union, by studiously insisting
upon a natural repulsion which not only does not
exist, but which is at war with all the analogies of
nature. The greatest poems will not be written until
this prejudice is annihilated ; and I mean to express a
very exalted opinion of Mr. Bryant when I say that his
works in time to come will do much toward the anni
hilation.

I have never disbelieved in the perfect consistency,
and even congeniality, of the highest genius and the
prof oundest art ; but in the case of the author of The
Ages I have fallen into the general error of under
valuing his poetic ability on account of the mere
" elegancies and accuracies " to which allusion has
already been made. I confess that, with an absolute
abstraction from all personal feelings, and with the
most sincere intention to do justice, I was at one

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William Cullen Bryant

period beguiled into this popular error; there can be
no difficulty, therefore, on my part, in excusing the
inadvertence in others.

It will never do to claim for Bryant a genius of the
loftiest order, but there has been latterly, since the
days of Mr. Longfellow and Mr. Lowell, a growing
disposition to deny him genius in any respect. He is
now commonly spoken of as " a man of high poetical
talent, very * correct,' with a warm appreciation of
the beauty of nature and great descriptive powers,
but rather too much of the old-school manner of
Cowper, Goldsmith, and Young." This is the truth,
but not the whole truth. Mr. Bryant has genius,
and that of a marked character, but it has been over
looked by modern schools, because deficient in those
externals which have become in a measure symbolical
of those schools.


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