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broken-hearted because Joe was " going to ruin,"
which was undoubtedly the fact



Old dotbea and Cold Victuala.

Now that we have all left the general season of
yearly gift-giving, months behind us, we suggest to
mothers and housekeepers whether it is not too
much their custom to make it only a yearly matter.
On Christmas the poor are suddenly exalted on a
pedestal of woes, which the pulpit and press urge
us to consider ; our sympathies overflow to this or
that hospital or asylum. Like Scrooge, we franti-
cally order home turkeys or barrels of flour to the
nearest pauper, or heap dolls and candies on the
washerwoman's barefoot children. Now all this is
very well, and no doubt we are brouf^t by it, as
we suppose, into closer communion with the spirit
of our Master. But the pauper's children are just
as cold and needy in Febroary as December. You
cannot clothe the naked and feed the hungry by



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HOME AND SOCIETY.



flinging them an alms once a year as you would a
bone to a dog.

There is a pretty story of a French country fem-
Hy, which every mother should read to teach her
the true practiod method of charity. She would
learn how, in the careful pious French woman's
m/nagft no scrap of clothing or food is suffered to
go to waste ; and how the value of old garments is
doubled by their being cut and altered to fit the
poor children to whom they are given. AVc pro-
pose that every housekeeper who reads this shall
begin to make of this year a prolonged Christmas.
Let her first find one or more really needy families
who are willing to work, and therefore deserve such
help as she can give. This is a much safer outlet
for her charity than any agency or benevolent
society. In every household there is a perpetual
stock of articles — clothes, bedding, furniture — too
shabby for use, and which in the great majority of
cases are torn up, thrown away, or become the per-
quisites of greedy servants already overpaid. As
soon as the house-mother has some definite live
objects of charity in her mind, it is astonishing how
quickly these articles accumulate, and how service-
able they become by aid of a patch here, or tuck
there, sewed by her own skilled fingers. Our chil-
dren should each be allowed to give away theur own
half- worn clothes or toys. The shoes or top given
in the fullness of their little hearts to some barefoot
Mary or Bob whom they know, will teach them
more of the spirit and practice of Christian charity
than a dozen missionary boxes full of pennies for
the far-off heathen. The same oversight should be
exercised by the mother of a family in the matter of
food. Enough wholesome provision, it is safe to
say, is wasted in the kitchen of every well-to-do
American family to feed another of half its size.
Very few ladies will tolerate regular back-gate beg-
gars, and the cold meat, bread, etc, go into the
garbage cart, because nobody knows precisely what
to do with them. A woman of society, or one with
dominant ssthetic tastes, will very likely resent the
suggestion that she should give half an hour daily
to the collection and distribution of this food to her
starving neighbors. But if they go unfed, what
apology will it be for her in the time of closing ac-
counts that her weekly receptions were the most
agreeable in town ? If she would establish, for in-
stance, a big soup digester on the back of her range,
and insist that all bones or scraps should go into it,
her own hands could serve out nourishing basins
of broth to many a famishing soul the winter round,
and really it would be as fine a deed as though she
had conquered Chopin on the ivory keys.



Blunders In the Sick-Room.

A MATTER often neglected in a sick-room, and yet
very important, is the dress of the nurse. A patient
is not likely to tell the affectionate relative •'hovering
around his bedside" that her dress is tudi an out-



rage on taste that it makes him mdandioly to look
at it He tries to fix his gaze upoo some other
object, — even Uie medicine bottles are more kivdy
to his view, — ^but his eyes will wander hack afB
to the horrible fascination of that costume. Tie
dingy old dress that has been discardrd aod hvf
in the garret is not a proper one in whidi to lobr
one's self for the ofiioe of nurse. A short flaoDcl
saoque and felt skirt may be an economical f<nfuiw ,
but is not particularly channing. As for the disaai
poverty-stricken shawls, vrith which ladies defig^
to array themselves in side-rooms^ one w cawkit
where diey came from. They are never seen or
heard of at any other time. They appear and &>
appear mysteriously like malevolent spirits. Sane
ladies have a fancy for tym% up their heads at sacfc
times in faded vols, or handkerchief of fiearfol con-
struction. People in health would not rcmamaa
hour in the presence of sudi a si^t, but the hdp-
less patient suffers in silence. The most sntaUe
dress for the side-room in winter is a dark, wash-
able, woolen wnqsper, not flowing loose* b«t belKd
in neatly at the waist, and finished at wrists ad
neck with narrow linen ruffling, and with a fines
necktie. Tasteful white linen aprons are pretty and
serviceable. At night, if necessary, throw anxnd
the shoulders a decent shawL Even in mmwrr,
when calico wrappers are worn throng the day, it
will be found comfortable to change at night to the
woolen fiibric Wear slippers, or warm boots made
of felt, or of any soft material that does not make a
noise.

A want of sympathy on the part of a nurse is like
a perpetual cold bath to a patient. This b not s
very common blunder. But Uie opposite is so com-
mon, that it nuy sometimes become a qnestioa in
the padent*s mind whether he would not prefar
absolute coldness. To be continually dodging aroad
the bed, and pouncing upon every object that is aoc
at right angles, smoothing out the sheet, and dabbing
at the pillows, and saying a dozen times an bos:
** How do you feel ncwf** ^ Don't you want some-
thing to eat?" ''Can I do anything for yon ?'*«Ltf
me bathe your head I *'-^is enough to drive a adt
man wild. He feels that he would like to ask joa
to go away and hold your tongue ; but he knovs
that all this fidgeting is prompted by afiectioo, soke
holds his tongue instead, and bears it all with whit
measure of patience nature has bestowed upon Ub.
In point of fiict, the sick person is generally very
ready to tell his vrants. His food and drink aad
physic are the momentous matters of the day lohiiiw
and will not be forgotten. He is likely to te& ^oa
when he feels better. He b sure to t^ yom whea
he feels worse.

Worse than all these things b the kmg, i
hot in a side-room. It b hard for a tronhied 1
to put on a cheerful countenance, and it b no i
that nurses so often fail in this. But we have Icnofva
persons who thought that a cheerful Gmsc and a
bright smile in a side-room were iwfirattnnf of a
hard heart.



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CULTURE AND PROGRESS.



747



.CULTURE AND PROGRESS.



LoweU*B *' Among lly Books.** (Second Series.)*

All who hav^ at heart the interests of American
literature must rejoice at receiving a new yolume from
Professor Lowell's pen; and the dissatisfied Pro-
fessor Wilkinson himself must admit that it is the
best prose book ever published by this poet. It
contains his keenest and broadest criticism, his best
wit, his most varied knowledge, and his most mature
and harmonious writing. He still lays himself open
to the charge of being sometimes, as a critic, arbi-
trary, whimsical, and over-vehement in censure;
and of being, as a writer, uneven in his finish, and
not quite patient enough of labor to master his own
marvelous wealth. But that all these defects are at
a minimum in this book, and his merits at a maxi-
mum, must be fairly recognized at the outset.

Indeed, the very selection of his present topics
carries us into the purest air of literature, and guar-
antees some immunity firom personalities. Mr.
Lowell, it must be frankly said, can never quite be
trusted to deal with his contemporaries. He came
forward into literary manhood at a time when the
*^ Noctes Ambrosianae " were considered good mod-
els, when Poe wrote criticisms, and the method of
the bowie-knife prevailed strongly in English and
American literature. The young poet came in for
his share of this influence, and it is indelibly stamped
on his " Fable for Critics." Our literature has out-
grown this fiiult, through sheer breadth and compass ;
but Lowell has never quite shed it, and the least
agreeable pages in his volume of «* My Study Win-
dows " are those in which he devotes himself to the
worrying of shy and lonely poets, like Percival and
Thoreau, or to experiments in corpore vili^ like his
dissection of Mr. W. C. Hazlitt With one unfor-
tunate exception, — to be mentioned presently, — this
volume affords no opportunity for such treatment ;
it relates to some of the very highest themes in lit-
erature, and to themes which few men living are bet-
ter qualified to discuss.

We must frankly admit, however, that we find
great inequality in these essays — an inequality not
attributable to the interval of time between the dif-
ferent parts, though this interval covers ten years or
more, but to other causes. And it may be well to
begin, ai%er the fiuhion of reviewers, with the chap-
ter we like least, that on Milton.

The immediate theme of this essay is a series
of volumes rdating to Milton, and published by
Professor Masson of Edinburgh. Mr. Lowell 8«3rs,
with more or less justice, of this worthy editor : ** I
think he made a mistake hi his very plan, or else was
guilty of a misnomer in his title" (page 266). But
this is exactly the criticism that the reader is dis-
posed to bring against Mr. Lowell's essay. It is
called an essay on Milton ; yet it is, from the begin-

* Among My Books. Second Series. By James RusseU
LowelL Professor of Belles-Lettres in Harvard College. Boston :
J. R. OaffDod & Ca



ning almost to the end, simply a sharp diatribe
against Mr. Masson as a literary workman. And,
by a singular fatahty, the American critic lays himself
open to precisely the most serious charges brought
against the Scottish author. He complains of Pro-
fessor Masson for prolixity, and reiterates the charge
with such laboriousness of statement, page after page,
that not even the play of wit can save the prolonged
arraignment from becoming tedious. He points out
the difficulty of finding Milton among the profuse
details of his biographer, forgetful of the fkct that
Milton plays almost as subordinate a pert in the
pages of the criticism. Finally, he devotes whole
paragraphs to the superfluous task of proving that
the Scottish editor does not always write in good
taste ; and then allows himself to say of Milton :
** A true Attic bee, he made boot on every Up where
there was a taste of truly classic honey " (page 271 )•
The italics are our own.

And even had none of these unlucky parallelisms
occurred, there are still some laws of courtesy which
should prevail, if not between professor and profes-
sor, at least between authors of established position.
Professor Masson is not a literary poacher or petti-
fogger ; he belongs to the community of scholars,
and has performed much literary labor, as honest and
honorable as that of Mr. Lowell himself. Evidence
of this may be found in his many books, and in his
editorship of " Macmillan's Magazine." He has
also done a noble woric in.his Professorship at Edin-
burgh, where he has accomplished what the united
Faculty of Harvard College have thus far failed in
doing, for he has created among his own students
an ardent love for the study of Belles-Lettres.
This afibrds, of course, no reason for withholding
fisdr criticism ; but it afibrds a reason for surround-
ing that critidsm with all the courtesy that literary
skill can command. Professor Lowell has abso-
lutely no right to deal with Professor Masson as the
" Saturday Review " might deal vrith an American
poet, or <^ The Nation " with a Sophomore.

Passing to the other essays, we find that on
Wordsworth one of the very best ever written on
that difficult theme ; incomparably more penetrating
and thoughtful than that of Mr. Whipple, with
which it has been compared; and only liable to
criticism in some points where the generalization
teems hasty, and particular poems appear to have
been overlooked or ignored. When he compares
Wordsworth ^o ** those saints of Dante who gather
brightness by revolving on their own axis " (p. 250) ;
when' he says, " groping in the dark passages of
life, we come upon some axiom of his, as it were a
wall that gives us our bearings and enables us to
find an outlet" (p.- 250); when he says of "The
Excursion," that "Wordsworth had his epic mold
to fill, and, like Benvenuto Cellini in casting his
Perseus, was forced to throw in everything, debasing
the metal, lest it should run short " (p. 238) ; when
he speaks of " the historian of Wordsworthshire "



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CULTURE AND PROGRESS,



(p. 240) ; when he describes the double life of the
poet,'as of Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch (p. 245 ) ;
—he says things that could not be bettered, and there
are many such things in the essay. There are also
very many delicious ohiUr dicia^ as, where he says
of Goethe's UeberaUen Gipfeln ist Ruhy that "the
lines, as if shaken down by a momentary breeze of
emotion, drop lingeringly one after another like
blossoms upon turf" (p. 214) ; or, where he de-
scribes the German poet Klopstock, whom Words-
worth visited, as •* the respectable old poet, who was
passing the evening of his days by the chimney-
comer, Darby and Joan-like, with his respectable
Muse" (p. 22a). But, when Mr. Lowell sajrs dog-
matically of Wordsworth that " he had no dramatic
power" (p. 240), we would take leave to recall to
the critic's memory that extraordinary poem, "The
Affliction of Margaret," than which nothing of
Browning's is more absolutely real in its intensity,
more utterly detached from all the individuality of
Wordswordi, and all his actual or supposable ex-
periences; than which not one of Mr. Lowell's
favorite Scottish ballads has traits of more simple
and picturesque vigor. Again, when he sa3rs that
Wordsworth "never attained" to '-severe dignity
and reserved force" in his blank verse, we would
venture to remind him of that ^orious fragment :
"There is a yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale" — a
poem which, for imagination and rhythm, is, to our
thinking, far beyond Keats, bejrond Landor, and
finds no parallel this side of Milton. And what sur-
prises u6 most is, that throughout Mr. Lowell's
criticisms he wholly ignores that profoundly emo-
tional side of Wordsworth's nature which is revealed
in two poems only, " The Complaint," and the son-
net, "Why art thou Silent ? "—poems without which
we should have forever missed knowing the deep
human sensibility which must, after all, have marked
this grave poet; poems, which no critic has cited in
this connection, we believe, except Mr. LoweU's
old antagonist, Margaret Fuller OssolL— (" Papers
on Literature and Art," p. 167.)

With the essay upon Keats, we can find no fault,
.xcept for its shortness, and, perhaps, for a little
undue censure attached to an innocent remark by
Lord Houghton. The essay on Dante is the long-
est in the book, and is in part — ^thirty-four pages — a
reprint of Mr. Lowell's memoir of the ItaUaa poet
in Appleton's " Cydopsedia." The tiorobination of
this with the rest involves some repetition, but the
whole is too valuable to admit of complaint. Most
attractive of all is the pi^)er on Spenser, reprinted
from " The North American Review ; " in tiiis, Mr.
Lowell is delightful throughout, and only micro-
scopic critidsms can be made, as upon his first
apologizing (p. 171) for SpensCT's occasional gross-
ness as being a vice of the tidies, and then saying
in condnsion that "Spenser needs no such extenu-
ations," though others may (p. 200).

Thus much for the matter of this book; and,
looking now at its style, we must repeat that, to our
thinking, Mr. Lowell is here seen at his best The
whole nation has an interest in the style of its
prose writers, and^ even in pointing out their weak



points, so long as this only holds them to their own
highest standard. Mr. Lowell, while an unwearied
reader, has sometimes seemed rather indolent
in dealing with the details of his own literarj
execution. Surdy a careful revision would have
retouched such a sentence as this, " John Keats, the
second of four children, like Chaucer and Spenser,
was a Londoner" (p. 304); where we are left a
moment in doubt whether the two other poets re-
sembled Keats in birthplace or in the statistics of
brothers and sisters. Nor would such revision have
excused " a startling personal appeal to our hi^est
consdousness and our noblest aspiration, such as
we wait for in vain from any other poet" (p. 240) ;
where the " such," referring grammatically to " aspi-
ration," was plainly intended by the author to refer
to "appeaL" Nor should we have Mr. Lowell's
indorsement (p. 231) of the opinion that Words-
worth's prose sentences were " long and involved,"
accompanied by such a sentence on the critic's
part as this, widiout even a beneficent semicolon to
hdp us through it :

" But now we must admit the shortcomings, the
fiiUures, the defects, as no less essential elements in
forming a sound judgment as to whether the seer and
artist were so united in him as to justify the claim first
put in by himself and afterward maintained by his sect
to a place beside the few great poets who exalt men's
minds, and give a right direction and safe outlet to
their passions through the imagination, while insen-
sibly helping them towavd balance of character and
serenity of judgment by stismlating their sense of
propeition, form, and^e nice adjustment of means
to ends." (P. 202.)

It is fisur to say that this is by far the worst sen-
ence in the bool^ and is an instance of the " sur-
vival" of that early habit of involved writing
which was so conspicuous in Mr. Lowell's first
prose book, the " Conversations." We may almost
rejoice that such an example is preserved, like a
sdioolboy's first bad autograph, to throw out in
bolder relief a superb sentence like this, where he
compares Wordsworth to Milton :

"His mind had not that readi and demental
movement of Milton's, whichy like the trade-wind,
gathered to itself thoughts and images like stately
fiects from every quarter; some deep with silks
and spicery, some brooding over the silent thun-
ders of their battailous armaments, but all swqit
forward in thdr destined track, over the long bil-
lows of his verse, every indi of canvas strained
by the unifying breath of their conmon epic im-
pulse." (P. 24X.)

We may demur, if we please, at single words in
this sentence — as "battailous," "unifying," — but
for nobleness of swdl and rhythm, it might be the
work of Milton himself. The book contains many
shorter phrases which are marked by a simi-
lar beauty of execution. The wonder is not
that there should be frequent irregularities in Mr.
Lowdl's prose writing, but that he should ever
write so admirably, when he appears to have so little



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CULTURE AND PROGRESS.



749



abstract reverence for the art. He always seems to
define prose, — as on pages 138, 226, 326, — as if it
were merely poetry that had fiEuled of its duty and
got into disgrace. And in the mere mechanism of
prose structure, we must point out one habit in
which he falls far below the literary standard of
Emerson, — the practice, namely, of allowing part of
his thought to straggle into foot-notes, instead of
working it all into the main text, and leaving the
notes to contain only references and citations.

In conclusion, we perceivewith joy that Mr. Lowell
shows no trace in this book of that cynicism which
has been, perhaps, too hastily suspected in him, as
the growth of advancing years. There are here no
sneers at the proposition that Teague should have a
note, nor is there any visible evidence of a reactionary
mood. He does, indeed, say what would have come
strangely from the Lowell of thirty years ago, that,
**• like all great artistic minds, Dante was essentially
conservative" (p. 36). But, inasmuch as Professor
Lowell's own period of poetic production coincided
pretty closely with his period of radicalism; and as
the one great pRoem of his matnrer yearsy-^-the ^ Com-
memoration Ode,'' — was I a psean over a completed
reform, — we may safely leave his artistic theory, in
this respect, to be corrected by his personal example.

John Borrouffha'a "Wiatmr Smnsliliio.*' *
How many of us can boast an acquaintance wlio
speaks of all the pretty and melodious creatures of
woods and fields with the sure tone of an intimate
friend? Not many, it is to be feared. Yet the
largest public has in Mr. Burroughs a near approach
to such a charming companion, and one, moreover,
who, for our delight, has condensed many hours of
keen out-door enjoyment, many days of loving
scrutiny of woody things, into the compass of a small
book. His gentle muse is fresh, alert, and out of
doors ; less booky, as well as less literary, than that
of Ixaak Walton, for instance; but all the freer and
breezier for that. Read in this hurried and over-
worked atmosphere of the United States, "Wake
Robin" and ••Winter Sunshine" give one the
same deep-lunged delight that a cramped dweller in
dtiei fecis when he steps out from wholesome pine
groves upon the windy summit of a mountain. This
is real air, blood-quickening ; these are real pages
of nature, delighting the mind.

Indeed, is it not a little privilege to listen to a man
who talks about foxes, we will say, as Mr. Burroughs
can ? How many persons speak of pretty Reynard
and suflfer from his craft, who in all their lives have
never seen him running wikL Even the hunter needs
a dog to get sight of him.

** I go out in the morning after a fresh fiUl of snow
and see at all pointe where he has crossed the road.
Here he has leisurely passed within rifle-range of
the house, evidently reconnoitering the premises
with an eye to the hen-roost That clear, sharp
track, — there is no mistaking it for the climisy foot-
print of a little dog. All his wildness and agility

* Winter Sunshine. By John Burroughs, Author of «* Wake
Rohm." New York: Hurd ft HoughtML 187&



are photographed in it. Here he has taken fright,
or suddenly recollected an engagement, and in long,
graceful leaps, barely touching the fence, he has
gone careering up the hill as fleet as the wind.

**The wild, buoyant creature, how beautiful he
is ! • • • TTiis is thoroughly a winter sound,— ^
this voice of the hound upon the mountain, — and
one that is music to many ears. The long, trumpet-
like bay, heard for a mile or more, — ^now faintly
back to the deep recesses of the mountain, — ^now
distinct, but still faint, as the hound comes over
some prominent ridge, and the wind favors. * *

" The fox usually keeps half a mile ahead, regu-
lating his speed by that of the hound, occasionally
pausing a moment to divert himself with & mouse,
or to contemplate the landscape, or to listen for his
pursuer. If the hound press him too closely, he
leads off from mountain to moimtain, and so gen-
erally escapes the hunter; but if the pursuit be
slow, he plays about some ridge or peak, and falls a
prey, though not an easy one, to the experienced
sportsman."

About apples, there is a chapter which invests
that cheap and overlooked fruit with something of
the divinity which is bred of enthusiasm. Listen to
this outburst over apples, this thanksgiving fitted
for the whole year, and realize how well Mr. Bur-
roughs has done to name the whole book " Winter
Sunshine :"

•• I love to stroke its polished rondure with my
hand, to carry it in my pocket on my tramp over the
winter hills, or through the early spring woods.
You are company, you red-cheeked spitz, or you,
salmon-fleshed greening! I toy with you, press
your face to mine, toss you in the air, roll you on
the ground, see you shine out where you lie amid
the moss and dry leaves and sticks. You are so
alive ! You g^ow like a ruddy flower. You look
so animated, I almost expect you to move ! I post-
pone the eating of you, you are so beautiful. How
compact ! How exquisitely tinted ! Stained by the
sun, and varnished against the rains."

Of birds, Mr. Burroughs earned long ago the



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 132 of 163)