Edgar Allan Poe.

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favor of "unadulterated Saxon," it is fast leading
us to the language of that region where, as Addison
has it, "they sell the best fish and speak the plainest


The frightfully long money-pouches "like the
Cucumber called the Gigantic" which have come
in vogue among our belles are not of Parisian
origin, as many suppose, but are strictly indigenous
here. The fact is, such a fashion would be quite out
of place in Paris, where it is money only that women
keep in a purse. The purse of an American lady,
however, must be large enough to carry both her
money and the soul of its owner.


I can see no objection to gentlemen "standing for
Congress" provided they stand on one side nor to


their "running for Congress" if they are in a very
great hurry to get there but it would be a blessing
if some of them could be persuaded into sitting still,
for Congress, after they arrive.


If Envy, as Cyprian has it, be "the moth of the
soul," whether shall we regard Content as its Scotch
snuff or its camphor?


M , having been "used up" in the "

Review," goes about town lauding his critic as an
epicure lauds the best London mustard with the
tears in his eyes.


" Con tal que las costumbres de un autor sean pur as
y castas" says the Catholic Don Tomas de las Torres,
in the preface to his "Amatory Poems," "importo
muy poco qui no sean igualmente sever as sus obras;"
meaning, in plain English, that, provided the per
sonal morals of an author are pure, it matters little
what those of his books are.

For so unprincipled an idea, Don Tomas, no doubt,
is still having a hard time of it in Purgatory ; and, by
way of most pointedly manifesting their disgust at
his philosophy on the topic in question, many modern
theologians and divines are now busily squaring
their conduct by his proposition exactly conversed.


Children are never too tender to be whipped : like
tough beef-steaks, the more you beat them the more
tender they become.



Lucian, in describing the statue "with its surface
ci n arian marble and its interior filled with rags,"
m_*st have been looking with a prophetic eye at
some of our great "moneyed institutions."


That poets (using the word comprehensively, as
including artists in general) are a genus irritabile, is
well understood; but the why, seems not to be com
monly seen. An artist is an artist only by dint of
his exquisite sense of Beauty a sense affording
him rapturous enjoyment, but at the same time im
plying, or involving, an equally exquisite sense of
Deformity of disproportion. Thus a wrong an
injustice done a poet who is really a poet* excites
him to a degree which, to ordinary apprehension,
appears disproportionate with the wrong. Poets
see injustice never where it does not exist but
very often where the unpoetical see no injustice
whatever. Thus the poetical irritability has no ref
erence to "temper" in the vulgar sense, but merely
to a more than usual clear-sightedness in respect to
wrong this clear-sightedness being nothing more
than a corollary from the vivid perception of right
of justice of proportion in a word, of /taXo*.
But one thing is clear that the man who is not "ir
ritable," (to the ordinary apprehension,) is no poet.


Let a man succeed ever so evidently ever so
demonstrably in many different displays of genius,
the envy of criticism will agree with the popular
voice in denying him more than talent in any. Thus
a poet who has achieved a great (by which I mean an


effective) poem, should be cautious not to distin
guish himself in any other walk of Letters. In
especial let him make no effort in Science
unless anonymously, or with the view of waiting pa
tiently the judgment of posterity. Because univer
sal or even versatile geniuses have rarely or never
been known, therefore, thinks the world, none such
can ever be. A "therefore" of this kind is, with
the world, conclusive. But what is the fact, as
taught us by analysis of mental power? Simply,
that the highest genius that the genius which all
men instantaneously acknowledge as such which
acts upon individuals, as well as upon the mass, by
a species of magnetism incomprehensible but irre
sistible and never resisted that this genius w r hich
demonstrates itself in the simplest gesture or even
by the absence of all this genius which speaks with
out a voice and flashes from the unopened eye is
but the result of generally large mental power ex
isting in a state of absolute proportion so that no
one faculty has undue predominance. That facti
tious "genius" that "genius" in the popular
sense which is but the manifestation of the abnor
mal predominance of some one faculty over all the
others and, of course, at the expense and to the
detriment, of all the others is a result of mental
disease or rather, of organic malformation of mind:
it is this and nothing more. Not only will such
"genius" fail, if turned aside from the path indicated
by its predominant faculty; but, even when pursuing
this path when producing those works in which,
certainly, it is best calculated to succeed will give
unmistakable indications of unsoundness, in respect
to general intellect. Hence, indeed, arises the just
idea that

" Great wit to madness nearly is allied."


I say "fust idea;" for by "great wit," in this case,
the poet intends precisely the pseudo-genius to which
I refer. The true genius, on the other hand, is neces
sarily, if not universal in its manifestations, at least
capable of universality; and if, attempting all things,
it succeeds in one rather better than in another,
this is merely on account of a certain bias by which
Taste leads it with more earnestness in the one
direction than in the other. With equal zeal, it
would succeed equally in all.

To sum up our results in respect to this very simple
but much vexata questio:

What the world calls "genius" is the state of
mental disease arising from the undue predominance
of some one of the faculties. The works of such
genius are never sound in themselves, and, in es
pecial, always betray the general mental insanity.

The proportion of the mental faculties, in a case
where the general mental power is not inordinate,
gives that result which we distinguish as talent:
and the latent is greater or less, first, as the general
mental power is greater or less ; and, secondly, as the
proportion of the faculties is more or less absolute.

The proportion of the faculties, in a case where
the mental power is inordinately great, gives that
result which is the true genius (but which, on ac
count of the proportion and seeming simplicity of
its works, is seldom acknowledged to be so;) and
the genius is greater or less, first, as the general men
tal power is more or less inordinately great; and,
secondly, as the proportion of the faculties is more
or less absolute.

An objection will be made: that the greatest
excess of mental power, however proportionate,
does not seem to satisfy our idea of genius, unless
we have, in addition, sensibility, passion, energy.


The reply is, that the "absolute proportion" spoken
of, when applied to inordinate mental power, gives,
as a result, the appreciation of Beauty and horror
of Deformity which we call sensibility, together
with that intense vitality, which is implied when we
speak of "Energy" or "Passion."


"And Beauty draws us by a single hair." Capil
lary attraction, of course.


It is by no means clear, as regards the present
revolutionary spirit of Europe, that it is a spirit
which "moveth altogether if it move at all." In
Great Britain it may be kept quiet for half a century
yet, by placing at the head of affairs an experienced
medical man. He should keep his forefinger con
stantly on the pulse of the patient, and exhibit panem
in gentle doses, with as much cir censes as the stomach
can be made to retain.


The taste manifested by our Transcendental poets,
is to be treated "reverentially," beyond doubt, as
one of Mr. Emerson s friends suggests for the fact
is, it is Taste, on her death-bed Taste kicking in
articulo mortis.


I should not say, of Taglioni, exactly that she
dances, but that she laughs with her arms and legs,
and that if she takes vengeance on her present
oppressors, she will be amply justified by the lex



The world is infested, just now, by a new sect of
philosophers, who have not yet suspected themselves
of forming a sect, and who, consequently, have
adopted no name. They are the Believers in every
thing Old. Their High Priest in the East, is Charles
Fourier in the West, Horace Greely; and high
priests they are to some purpose. The only common
bond among the sect, is Credulity: let us call it
Insanity at once, and be done with it. Ask any
one of them why he believes this or that, and,
if he be conscientious, (ignorant people usually are,)
he will make you very much such a reply as Talley
rand made when asked why he believed in the Bible.
"I believe in it first," said he, "because I am Bishop
of Autun; and, secondly, because I know nothing
about it at all." What these philosophers call
"argument," is a way they have ll de nier ce qui
est et d expliquer ce qui riest pas."*


K , the publisher, trying to be critical, talks

about books pretty much as a washerwoman would
about Niagara falls or a poulterer about a phoenix.


The ingenuity of critical malice would often be
laughable but for the disgust which, even in the most
perverted spirits, injustice never fails to excite. A
common trick is that of decrying, impliedly, the
higher, by insisting upon the lower, merits of an
author. Macaulay, for example, deeply feeling how
much critical acumen is enforced by cautious atten
tion to the mere "rhetoric" which is its vehicle, has

* Nouvelle Hfloise.


at length become the best of modern rhetoricians.
His brother reviewers anonymous, of course, and
likely to remain so forever -extol "the acumen of
Carlyle, the analysis of Schlegel, and the style of
Macaulay." Bancroft is a philosophical historian;
but no amount of philosophy has yet taught him to
despise a minute accuracy in point of fact. His
brother historians talk of "the grace of Prescott, the
erudition of Gibbon, and the painstaking precision
of Bancroft." Tennyson, perceiving how vividly
an imaginative effect is aided, now and then, by a
certain quaintness judiciously introduced, brings
this latter, at times, in support of his most glorious
and most delicate imagination: whereupon his
brother poets hasten to laud the imagination of Mr.
Somebody, whom nobody imagined to have any,
t( and the somewhat affected quaintness of Tennyson.
Let the noblest poet add to his other excel
lences if he dares that of faultless versification and
scrupulous attention to grammar. He is damned
at once. His rivals have it in their power to dis
course of "A. the true poet, and B. the versifier and
disciple of Lindley Murray."


The goddess Laverna, who is a head without a
body, could not do better, perhaps, than make ad
vances to "La Jeune France," which, for some years
to come, at least, must otherwise remain a body
without a head.


H calls his verse a "poem" very much as

Francis the First bestowed the title, mes deserts,
upon his snug little deer-park at Fontainebleau.



Mr. A is frequently spoken of as "one of our

most industrious writers;" and, in fact, when we
consider how much he has written, we perceive, at
once, that he must have been industrious, or he
could never (like an honest woman as he is) have so
thoroughly succeeded in keeping himself from
being "talked about."


That a cause leads to an effect, is scarcely more
certain than that, so far as Morals are concerned, a
repetition of effect tends to the generation of cause.
Herein lies the principle of what we so vaguely term


With the exception of Tennyson s Locksley Hall,"
I have never read a poem combining so much of the
fiercest passion with so much of the most delicate
imagination, as the "Lady Geraldine s Courtship" of
Miss Barrett. I am forced to admit, however, that
the latter work is a palpable imitation of the former,
which it surpasses in thesis, as much as it falls be
low it in a certain calm energy, lustrous and indomi
table such as we might imagine in a broad river of
molten gold.


What has become of the inferior planet which
Decuppis, about nine years ago, declared he saw
traversing the disc of the sun?



"Ignorance is bliss" but, that the bliss be
real the ignorance must be so profound as not to
suspect itself ignorant. With this understanding,
Boileau s line may be read thus:

Le plus fou toujours est le plus satisfait,"
"toujours" in place of "souvent."


Bryant and Street are both, essentially, descrip
tive poets ; and descriptive poetry, even in its happiest
manifestation, is not of the highest order. But the
distinction between Bryant and Street is very
broad. While the former, in reproducing the sensible
images of Nature, reproduces the sentiments with
which he regards them, the latter gives us the images
and nothing beyond. He never forces us to feel
what we feel he must have felt.


In lauding Beauty, Genius merely evinces a filial
affection. To Genius Beauty gives life reaping
often a reward in Immortality.


And this is the "American Drama" of
Well ! that Conscience which makes cowards of us
all" will permit me to say, in praise of the perform
ance, only that it is not quite so bad as I expected
it to be. But then I always expect too much.


What we feel to be Fancy will be found fanciful
still, whatever be the theme which engages it. No
subject exalts it into Imagination. When Moore is


termed "a fanciful poet," the epithet is applied
with precision. He is. He is fanciful in "Lalla
Rookh," and had he written the "Inferno," in the
"Inferno" he would have contrived to be still fanci
ful and nothing beyond.


When we speak of "a suspicious man," we may
mean either one who suspects, or one to be sus
pected. Our language needs either the adjective
"suspectful," or the adjective "suspectable."


"To love," says Spencer, "is

To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run,
To speed, to give, to want, to be undone.

The philosophy, here, might be rendered more
profound, by the mere omission of a comma. We
all know the willing blindness the voluntary mad
ness of Love. We express this in thus punctuating
the last line:

To speed, to give to want to be undone.

It is a case, in short, where we gain a point by omit
ting it.


Miss Edgeworth seems to have had only an ap
proximate comprehension of "Fashion," for she
says: "If it was the fashion to burn me, and I at
the stake, I hardly know ten persons of my acquaint
ance who would refuse to throw on a fagot." There
are many who, in such a case, would "refuse to throw
on a fagot" for fear of smothering out the fire.



I am beginning to think with Horsely that "the
People have nothing to do with the laws but to obey


"It is not fair to review my book without reading
it," says Mr. Mathews, talking at the critics, and,
as usual, expecting impossibilities. The man who is
clever enough to write such a work, is clever enough
to read it, no doubt; but we should not look for so
much talent in the world at large. Mr. Mathews
will not imagine that I mean to blame him. The
book alone is in fault, after all. The fact is that,
"er lasst sick nicht lesen" it will not permit itself
to be read. Being a hobby of Mr. Mathew s, and
brimful of spirit, it will let nobody mount it but
Mr. Mathews.


It is only to teach his children Geography, that

G wears a boot the picture of Italy upon the



In his great Dictionary, Webster seems to have
had an idea of being more English than the English
"plus Arabe qu en Arabie."*


That there were once "seven wise men" is by no
means, strictly speaking, an historical fact; and I
am rather inclined to rank the idea among the

* Count Anthony Hamilton.



Painting their faces to look like Macaulay, some of
our critics manage to resemble him, at length, as a
Massaccian does a Raeffaellian Virgin ; and, except that
the former is feebler and thinner than the other
suggesting the idea of its being the ghost of the
other not one connoisseur in ten can perceive any
difference. But then, unhappily, even the street
lazzaroni can feel the distinction.


IT should not be doubted that at least one-third
of the affection with which we regard the older
poets of Great Britain should be attributed to
what is, in itself, a thing apart from poetry we
mean to the simple love of the antique and that,
again, a third of even the proper poetic sentiment in
spired by their writings should be ascribed to a fact
which, while it has strict connection with poetry in
the abstract, and with the old British poems them
selves, should not be looked upon as a merit apper
taining to the authors of the poems. Almost every
devout admirer of the old bards, if demanded his
opinion of their productions, would mention vaguely,
yet with perfect sincerity, a sense of dreamy, wild,
indefinite, and he would perhaps say, indefinable de
light; on being required to point out the source of this
so shadowy pleasure, he would be apt to speak of the
quaint in phraseology and in general handling. This
quaintness is, in fact, a very powerful adjunct to
ideality, but in the case in question it arises inde
pendently of the author s will, and is altogether apart
from his intention. Words and their rhythm have
varied. Verses which affect us to-day with a vivid
delight, and which delight, in many instances, may
be traced to the one source, quaintness, must have
worn in the days of their construction, a very com
monplace air. This is, of course, no argument
against the poems now we mean it only as against
the poets then. There is a growing desire to over-
*The Book of Gems. Edited by S. C. Hall,


rate them. The old English muse was frank, guile
less, sincere, and although very learned, still learned
without art. No general error evinces a more thorough
confusion of ideas than thj error of supposing Donne
and Cowley metaphysical in the sense wherein Words
worth and Coleridge are so. With the two former
ethics were the end with the two latter the means.
The poet of the "Creation" wished, by highly arti
ficial verse, to inculcate what he supposed to be moral
truth the poet of the "Ancient Mariner" to infuse
the Poetic Sentiment through channels suggested by
analysis. The one finished by complete failure
what he commenced in the grossest misconception;
the other, by a path which could not possibly lead
him astray, arrived at a triumph which is not the
less glorious because hidden from the profane eyes of
the multitude. But in this view even the "meta
physical verse" of Cowley is but evidence of the sim
plicity and single-heartedness of the man. And he
was in this but a type of his school for we may as
well designate in this way the entire class of writers
whose poems are bound up in the volume before us,
and throughout all ot whom there runs a very per
ceptible general character. They used little art in
composition. Their writings sprang immediately
from the soul and partook intensely of that soul s
nature. Nor is it difficult to perceive the tendency
of this abandon to elevate immeasurably all the en
ergies of mind but, again, so to mingle the greatest
possible fire, force, delicacy, and all good things,
with the lowest possible bathos, baldness, and im
becility, as to render it not a matter of doubt that
the average results of mind in such a school will be
found inferior to those results in one (ceteris paribus)
more artificial.

We cannot bring ourselves to believe that the


selections of the "Book of Gems" are such as will
impart to a poetical reader the clearest possible idea
of the beauty of the school but if the intention had
been merely to show the school s character, the
attempt might have been considered successful in
the highest degree. There are long passages now
before us of the most despicable trash, with no merit
whatever beyond that of their antiquity. The
criticisms of the editor do not particularly please us.
His enthusiasm is too general and too vivid not to be
false. His opinion, for example, of Sir Henry
Wotton s "Verses on the Queen of Bohemia" that
there are few finer things in our language," is unten
able and absurd.

In such lines we can perceive not one of those
higher attributes of Poesy which belong to her in all
circumstances and throughout all time. Here every*
thing is art, nakedly, or but awkwardly concealed.
No prepossession for the mere antique (and in this
case we can imagine no other prepossession) should
induce us to dignify with the sacred name of poetry
a series, such as this, of elaborate and threadbare
compliments, stitched, apparently, together, without
fancy, without plausibility, and without even an
attempt at adaptation.

In common with all the world, we have been much
delighted with "The Shepherd s Hunting" by
Withers a poem partaking, in a remarkable degree,
of the peculiarities of II Penseroso. Speaking of
Poesy, the author says :

M By the murmur of a spring,
Or the least boughs rustling,
By a daisy whose leaves spread
Shut when Titan goes to bed,
Or a shady bush or tree,
She could more infuse in me


Than all Nature s beauties can

In some other wiser man.

By her help I also now

Make this churlish place allow

Something that may sweeten gladneas

In the very gall of sadness

The dull loneness, the black shade,

That these hanging vaults have made,

The strange music of the waves

Beating on these hollow caves,

This 1 ack den which rocks emboss.

Over;.; iwn with eldest moss,

The rude portals that give light

More to terror than delight,

This my chamber of neglect

Walled about with disrespect,

From all these and this dull air

A fit object for despair,

She hath taught me by her might

To draw comfort and delight."

But these lines, however good, do not bear with
them much of the general character of the English
antique. Something more of this will be found in
Corbet s " Rewards and Fairies ! We copy a portion
of Marvell s "Maiden lamenting for her Fawn"
which we prefer, not only as a specimen of the elder
poets, but in itself as a beautiful poem, abounding
in pathos, exquisitely delicate imagination and
truthfulness, to anything of its species :

** It is a wondrous thing how fleet
Twas on those little silver feet,
With what a pretty skipping grace
It oft would challenge me the race,
And when t had left me far away
Twould stay, and run again, and stay
For it was nimbler much than hinds.
And trod as if on the four wind?
I have a garden of my own,
But so with roses overgrown,


And lilies, that you would it guess

To be a little wilderness;

And all the spring-time of the year

It only loved to be there.

Among the beds of lilies I

Have sought it oft, where it should lie,

Yet could not, till itself would rise

Find it, although before mine eyes.

For in the flaxen lilies shade

It like a bank of lilies laid;

Upon the roses it would feed

Until its lips even seemed to bleed,

And then to me twould boldly trip,

And print those roses on my lip;

But all its chief delight was still

With roses thus itself to fill,

And its pure virgin limbs to fold

In whitest sheets of lilies cold.

Had it lived long it would have bee

Lilies without, roses within."

How truthful an air of lamentation hangc here
upon every syllable! It pervades all. It comes
over the sweet melody of the words over the
gentleness and grace which we fancy in the little
maiden herself even over the half-playful, half-
petulant air with which she lingers on the beauties
and good qualities of her favourite like the cool
shadow of a summer cloud over a bed of lilies and
violets, "and all sweet flowers." The whole is
redolent of poetry of a very lofty order. Every line
is an idea conveying either the beauty and playful
ness of the fawn, or the artlessness of the maiden, or

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