Joseph Lyon Miller.

American monthly review online

. (page 17 of 54)
Online LibraryJoseph Lyon MillerAmerican monthly review → online text (page 17 of 54)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


odd ends of cider-mugs ; — their chance of being again served
up as vinegar is sadly lessened in these days of refined discov-
eries.

From tbe bake-house we are next introduced to the brew-
ery ; all the secrets of the trade are revealed. We hope our
brewers wiH learn now, how to correct the vile fermentation
of water, without the addition of deleterious articles.



Digitized by



Google



1832.] Timht'i Knowledge for the People. 145

'' Why is Muscovia glass used hy brewers in Jining and car*
recting stale beer ?

" Because it is a mineral product containing magnesia, and
affording, by boiling, a considprabfe portion of gelatine ! The
magnesia neutralizes or destroys a portion of the acetous acid
in the stale beer, and the gelatine carries down with it all thp
suspended impurities. A pound is said to go as far in fining
beer as two pounds of isinglass.^' P&rt I. p. 24.

Now the rationale of the operation is very good ; but who
ever before heard of mineral gelatine ? Lands flowing with
milk end honey, and out of whose hills we *' may dig brass,"
we know are common enough ; but here we have the addition
of calfs-foot jelly; so that with our salt-mountains, and hills
of rich jelly, we may bid defiance to famine. The truth
is, Mr. Timbs knows nothing about these matters. He mis«
takes the mineral called mica, or isinglass, or Muscovy
glass, for that animal product called glue, or gelatine, or isin^
glass, and which has always been supposed to be peculiar to
the animal kingdom. The mineral isinglass is perfectly
insoluble in water, contains not a trace of gelatine, and its
addition to beer therefore is worse than useless. The whole
account is so perfectly ridiculous, that we began to think that
the types themselves had committed this egregious blunder,
till we came to this question.

** Why does carbonate of soda restore sour and fat beer f

" Because carbonic acid is thus introduced." Part I. p. S4.

This is perfect mystery. Indeed what little notions we
bad on the subjects of neutralization and fermentation are
wholly upset by plain " Why and Because." We profess
not to understand how vinegar added to malt can '' inoculate
wort made from it, with the acetous fermentation." Mr.
Timbs seems to be very partial to carbonic acid. He even
allows that the effect of pearl-ash in softening green pease and
beans, depends on the *' carbonic acid, seizing upon the lime
in the gypsum, and thus freeing the vegetables from its in-
fluence."

It would be insulting the understanding of our readers to tell
them that no such action of the carbonic acid can take place.
If it did, it would only substitute carbonate for sulphate of
lime ; or, in other words, Mr. Timbs says that it is easier to
chew marble than alabaster. These are a few only of the nu-
merous mistakes which meet our eye on every page« We



Digitized by



Google



146 Timbs's Knoivledge for the People. [Feb.

have not been particular in our selections. If we were to point
out one more glaring than others, it would be this.

'' Why does potash, dissolving in spirits of wine, prove it to
he adulterated 1

'* Because so strong is the attraction of the basis of potash
for oxygen, that it thus discovers and decomposes (he smallest
quantity of water in the spirit." Part I. p. 42, 43.

The action of potassium on water is here confounded with
that of the subcarbonate of potash in concentrating alcohol.
If the word potash in the question had been potassium, the
answer would still have been absurd, because the purest
alcohol contains water in its elements, which the potassi-
um would decompose. Hence the test is useless. But who
who ever heard that potassium, as such, exists in potash ? Its
reduction to ihe metallic state marks one of the most splendid
epochs of chemistry, and therefore this mistake is tenfold
more unpardonable than any other.

We can only glance at the other numbers of the work.
That on Quadrupeds has some sound and rational answers to
very interesting questions ; and others which are. no answers
at dl, or very absurd ones.

Some of the '^ Whys and Becauses," in this Part, are little
else than identical propositions, changing from an interrogative
to an affirmative form ; as, to the question ^^ Why is the dog
Attached to roan.^" the answer amounts to nothinc more in
substance than, — because he is naturally attached to man.
(Part II. p. 19.)

" Whi/f are digestion, circulation, and respiration coiled or-
gans of involuntary motion? Part II. p. 10.

" Because " — but the answer would be well enough if it
belonged to the question ; the mistake is in calling the funO'
tions performed by organs, the organs themselves.

It is a proverbial saying, that a dog's nose is always cold.
But Mr. Timbs tells us of the cat, that ^^ its nose is always
cold, except on the day cf the summer solstice, and then it
becomes lukewarm."

" Why is the deer as strong as he isfieet 1
** Because of the peculiar hardness of the bone of his foot."
Part II. p. 38.

Alas, for our ossified understandings 1
Of the horse, we are informed, that when brought to the



Digitized by



Google



1832.J Cooper's Bravo. . 14T

stable^door, he expands the pupil of his eye to keep otU the
extra light, which would he injurious to vision. (Part II.
p. 44.)

We respectfully suggest to the publishers of this work,
whether the word expend had not better be changed to cofi-
tract, in their second edition ; it is probably an oversight in
this. We cannot believe that any man with eyes to see,
would open them to shut out the light. It is quite unnatural,
to say the least.

The account of ^^ Origins and Antiquities ^' is amusing ; but
after the sample we have given of Mr. Timbs's correctness,
we have very little faith in the accuracy of his researches.
We have room only for one specimen from this part.

" Why are buns so called ?

** Because of the origin of the term from a specips of sacred
bread, which used to be offered to the gods, and was called
Boun. The Greeks, who changed the nu final into a sigma,
expressed it in the nominative, Bous, but in the accusative more
truly Bow, Boun. Heyschius [Hesychius] speaks of this Boun^
and describes it as a kind of cake, with a representation of two
horns. Julius Pollux mentions it after the same manner as a sort
of cake with horns. Diogenes Laertius, 6lc." Part III. p. 15.

Be it remembered that this is knowledge for the people.
We presume that it is meant for the rising generation. It
is beyond and above the comprehension of those, whose
earliest recollections of Hot Cross Buns are associated with
Mother Goose. We should lament to learn that ^^ One a
penny, two a penny," is no longer sung ; and therefore we
hope that no nursing mother of our infant schools will reduce
the ^' plain Why and Because " of Buns to rhyme. Such
profound knowledge must be taught by some severer process.

Art; IX. — The Bravo ; a Tale. By the Author of ^ The
Spy," " The Red Rover," " The Water- Witch," &c.
2 vols. 12mo. Philadelphia. Carey & Lea. 1831.

Mr. Cooper has managed with unrivaNed success the
various scenes of the ocean, and the characters and manners
of the wayfarers of the great deep; with almost equal skill
has he depicted some of the incidents of our frontier settle*
ments and the likenesses of their adventurous inhabitants.
To the natives of these regions his pencil has also len its



Digitized by



Google



143 Cooper's Bravo. [Feb.

gidwhig colors ; and though an ardent imaeination and a re-
ooiling from the harsh portraiture of other days and unkindly
hands have, to our view, led him too far, and made him dye
to them more than justice could possibly require, and than
truth can admit, yet the painting shows in its execution much
of the skill of a master ; and though not to be relied on as a
true likeness, is yet perhaps equally to be prized as a work
of art.

These subjects however were becoming too familiar in his
bands, and he has now presented to us scenes and characters
widely different from any to be found in our happy country.
In his selection however of a subject for the employment of
his pen, be seems to have been guided by a higher motive,
than the mere advantage to be derived from a change of
place and jjprsons ; and even, from this motive, to have made
that change less conducive to his own reputation, as a skilful
and successful writer of fiction, than it might otherwise have
been rendered. This motive was, to present a contrast to
the truly republican institutions of our country in one of the
self-styled republics of the old world ; and by unfolding,
through the incidents of his narrative, the character and poli*
cy of the government of Venice, to show how ill-founded
were her pretensions to the title, and how widely different
the principles that ruled and decided her fate ; so that she
may no more be mentioned as an illustration of the conse*
quences and effects of that kind of government, nor have the
records of ber destiny idly and maliciously employed to
divine or predict the occurrences or fate of our own.

We think that he has succeeded in the attainment of this
object, and has given us an insight into the heartless and tor*
tuous policy of that once renowned state, strikingly at vari*
ance with the open and liberal polity of our own republic.
The distinguishing points between the features of Venetian
aristocracy or oligarchy (for we are in doubt which title
would most properly be bestowed upon that government),
and those of institutions purely republican, are briefly and
cursorily touched upon in various places, and with consider-
able discrimination and force of remark ; we doubt, however »
whether these passages will serve greatly to increase the favor
of the work in the eyes of the generality of readers, who take
up a book of this description for amusement and excitement
maiely, and not for instruction ; and who are extremely apt



Digitized by



Google



1889.] Cooper's Bravo. 149

to fancy every thing conducive only to the latter an imperfec-
tion in the work, a hindrance or a drawback to the progress
or amount of their gratification.

With all this, however, the title of the work has little to
do, and we look upon it as a grievous misnomer. '^ The
City of St. Mark," or something of similar import, would, in
our view of the subject, have been far more appropriate than
'' The Bravo." It is true, that one of the conspicuous person*
ages of the tale, and the one whose fate forms its conclusion,
b by common repute a distinguished member of that unholy
fraternity^ little known out ol the cities of Italy, where the
violence of passion, and the mingled impotence, inequality,
and subservient yielding of the laws to the great and pow-
erful, often occasion acts of private revenge for injuries. Yet
the person in question enjoys his evil reputation very unde-
servedly, being in reality but a secret agent of the police, a
tool of the cruel, mysterious, despotic, and irresponsible
Counsel of Three ; ensnared in their toils by his devotion to his
father ; who was secretly and uniustly detained in the prisons
of the state for a crime of which his innocence had been prov-
ed, and to obtain whose liberation the son consented to be-
come the minister of their secret will, and for the furtherance
of their designs, to be esteemed a bravo. This is all well
enough for the real purposes of the tale ; but to those readers
(and they are very many), in whose minds the name of bravo
is linked with a thousand fearful tales, and more fearful
imaginations, of foul, daring, and secret murder, of deadly
cunning and diabolical revenge, it will seem pitiably tame
and uninteresting. They will greatly miss the pleasurable
excitement, after reading it, of not being able to pass a dark
Gomer or a lonely aftd shaded portico without looking back
and starting at the fancied swift and silent approach of a
muffled figure with the half unsheathed dagger gleaming in
bis hand. So far from making victims of others, this sup-
posed murderous hero is but the victim of his own ill fame,
and the unfeeling and unprincipled policy of those he served,
by whom he is made to perish on the block, as the murderer
of a man secretly put to death by the police. The death of
this man had caused an alarming popular commotion, and
the Bravo was accused of having committed the murder. To
appease the popular fury, his death was determined on, with
the leas reluctance perhaps on the part of his masters, that

VOL. I. NO. II. 20



Digitized by



Google



150 Cooper^s Bravo, [Feb.



>►•



be had, in one or two instances, just before, suffered the bet*
ter feelings of his nature to prevail in opposition to the known
wishes of the senate, and to the thwarting of their views in
other matters. Feeling, conscience, and humanity were
things too dangerous to be tolerated by the councils of St.
Mark.

In the earlier part of the work, the Bravo, or more pro-
perly speaking, Jacopo Frontoni, appears but casually, and
rather as an object of wonder and detestation to the other
characters, than as having any prominent share in the tale,
if we except that which he bore in the regatta or rowipg
match. Towards the middle of the second volume Jacopo
becomes an object of more interest, and the latter part of it
is devoted to the explanation of his character and services,
and the untimely doom that is their reward.

The rest of the story is devoted mainly to the love of
Don Camillo Monforte for the Donna Violetta of Tiepolo,
the last of a wealthy and powerful Venetian family, in whom
centered the riches of the race, making her, in addition to
her owii charms, a prize well worth the seeking, and there-
fore, according to the selfish and aggrandizing policy of the
Venetian Senate, a prize not lightly to be yielded but in sub-
servience to their own views ; more especially to a foreigner,
for such Don Camillo was by birth, though in virtue of his
descent entitled to much wealth and even senatorial rank in
Venice itself. To claim these was the object of his residence
in Venice ; and the manner in which his claims were thwart-
ed, and the acknowledgment of them delayed, and the mo-
tives for so doing, as well as for attempting to prevent his
success with the lady, as gradually developed in the progress
of the story, afford a fine illustration of the mean ana tyran-
nical character of the government.

By the assistance of Jacopo, zealously grateful for a little
compassionate kindness on the part of Don Camillo, the lat-
ter is at length successful in foiling the watchful cunning of
the police with their own weapons, and, relinquishing all
hopes of his Venetian lands and lordship, flies to bis own
patrimony at a safe distance from the leap of the winged lion
of St. Mark.

The third prominent division of the story, for there are
' three, (whether any or which of them is properly to be call-
^ an episode is a matter of little consequence) comprises



Digitized by



Google



1838.] Cooper't Bravo. 151

the adventures and fate of the fisherman Antonio ; the tumult
or insurrection of his brethren of the Lagunes, consequent
upon the discovery of his body ; and the manner in which
that tumult was allayed by turning the rage of the populace
upon an innocent person, the reputed Bravo, Jacopo, and
causing him to die, as the scape-goat of the government, in
defiance of the earnest wishes and entreaties of the Doge,
who had been convinced of his innocence by the pathetic
intercession of Jacopo's betrothed and a pious Carmelite
friar, who had performed the last offices of the Catholic reli-
gion to the ' fisherman when living, and who had witness-
ed his death by the authorized agents of the Council of
Three. These three divisions are interwoven with each
other with sufiicient, if not always with great skill, and all
tend in their different events to elucidate the character and
conduct of the government with regard to as many different
classes of society, that is, the nobility, the laboring classes,
and its own immediate agents and dependents. Various char-
acters of less importance are introduced to fill up the picture,
and give it the necessary grouping and animation, while they
contribute in some appropriate measure to the great end of
the work.

The plot of the story, as we have thus detailed its compo-
nent parts, is well calculated to fulfill what we consider to
have been the author's great design in the selection of his sub-
lect, and in the execution of his work, though it may possi-
►ly be deemed defective by those who are disposed to criti-
cize such things by the rules of art. We are not ourselves
such tenacious adherents of the laws of the Epopceia, as to
refuse to be satisfied with a work of this kind, that pleases
and interests us, because the author might make it better by
making it otherwise than it is, or by submitting his own con-
ceptions to the plans that suited the conceptions of others
who wrote before him with success.

In the characters and events of the story we recognise
much of Mr. Cooper's usual excellence. Jacopo, and Anto-
nio, the old fisherman, are well conceived and delineated, and
ably supported. Antonio, in. particular, we think one of our au-
thor's best creations, and from his first appearance to his last
he invariably commands our respect and admiration ; though
we should not have expected to find such a character in his
situation, yet nothing in him that we recall, seems overstrain^



is



Digitized by



Google



168 Cooper's Bravo. [FeK

ed or unnatural. Jacopo is almost equally well drawn, and
we become much interested in his fate towards the conclu*
aioQ of his tale, and feel much commiseration for his tortures
of hope deferred and life made unavoidably loathsome, a3
well as for the pitiless cruelty with which his career is termi-
nated.

The senators Gradenigo and Soranzo form a fine contrast,
and exhibit well the corrupting effects of ambition and arbi-
trary power upon .the nobler feelings of mau ; the one exem-
plifying the advanced stages, and the other the commenoe-
ment of a similar career.

Gelsomina, the betrothed of the Bravo, unknown to her
in that relation, is a beautiful and beautifully drawn character,
and must, we think, be admitted as a strong negative to the
sweeping assertion that Mr. Cooper does not seem capable
of conceiving or delineating with effect his female personages.

The other characters, without any thing particular to dis-
tinguish them, are good iq their respective places, and are
depicted with sufficient ability and accuracy.

Our first impressions on taking up the book were, that we
should miss much of Mr. Cooper's peculiar excellence, bis
powerful and glowing description of the scenes of nature, and
of those where human beings are congregated under motives of
excitement, and laboring to some particular individual or
common end. We were however agreeably disappointed ;
the Regatta (or, in plain English, the rowing-match) is
highly animated and picturesque, and well worthy of the
author's reputation. He seems as much at home in the
midst of the canals and in the Lagunes of Venice as in the
Hurlgate and the broad Atlantic, or the pathless woods and
prairies of our western country ; and manages bis gondolas
with as much grace and effect as he does his favorite Baltir
more schooners.

There is one scene that perplexed us as to its merits ; we
mean that in the secret sitting of the Council of Three,
wherein the old senators, laying by their habitual craft and
policy, indulge for a few moments in recalling the festivities
and dissipations of their youthful days, and give loose to a
merriment httle suited to their years and habitual pursuits,
and least of all to the purposes for which they had then come
together.

The work indeed has its faults, and they are those of



Digitized by



Google



1892*] Cooper's Bravo. 163

which Mr. Cooper has been reminded before, and which we
should be heartily glad if he would amend. He might indeed
do so by a little attention to revising and polishing his manu-
script before it was committed to the printer ; and the in-
creased favorable effect upon his readers would amply com-
pensate him for the additional labor. There is occasionally
unnecessary earnestness of description and preparation, with-
out any consequent end worthy of them, and needless repe-
titions of peculiarities of description, or particular illustrations
of circumstances ; thus, two or three times the Giant's Stair-
case is mentioned as being the steps down which the head of
Faliero rolled, and we are told more than as many times, that
the " leap of the winged lion is shortened," in the same or
some similar phrase. There is also in the present work, what
we consider to be a great blemish running through the charac-
ter of the dialogue between the humbler personages of the
Jtory. We do not know indeed from personal observation bow
the lower class of Italians talk, but so far as we can judge
from some little acquaintance with Italian writers, particu-
larly some of their favorite comic dramatists, we should
doubt if Mr. Cooper had given to their conversation exactly
the right tone. They are sententious and fond of using
proverbs in discourse ; but we think they do not use the
enigmatical, far-fetched, and figurative language attributed to
the North American Indians; yet such appears to us, at
times, the resemblance between some of the responses in ^^ The
Bravo," and the style of dialogue in some of our author's pre-
ceding works, that by substituting the '^ Master of Life " for
*< St. Mark," and making one or two slight corresponding
changes, we could fancy ourselves again among the Daco<-
tabs, the Pawnee Loups, or the Delawares of the hills.

On the whole, we have perused " The Bravo " with much
pleasure, and esteem it such a production, as, if it do not add
to the author's reputation, in the eyes of candid judges will
not be considered as impairing k, and as containing, in addi-
tion to the fair amount of amusement and interest looked for
in works of this class, much in elucidation of the author's
particular design, that renders it far more valuable than most
works of the kind.



Digitized by



Google



154 Annuahfor 1832. [Feb.



Art. X. — Annuahfor 1832.

1. The Token, — The present is the fifth volume of this
popular annual. It surpasses all its predecessors, in beauty
of execution and in the variety and excellence of its contents.
It has indeed the usual ingredients of good, bad, and indif-
ferent. It has some prose, with little meaning, and more
f)oetry with less. Many of the pieces, however, are excel-
ent in their kind. " My Wife's Novel " is written in a vein
of the happiest humor, and is of itself enough to fix the repu-
tation of the volume. *^ The Blue Stocking " is a pleasant
specimen of Miss Sedge wick's powers of close observation
and witty remark. It is adorned by her usual purity and
grace of style. No American writer surpasses this lady in
the unbidden and indescribable proprieties of language, ex-
quisite truth of sentiment, and in short all the fine qualities
of mental and moral taste, so to speak, which form the basis
of elegant literature. In general, the prose of " The To-
ken " is vastly superior to the poetry. " The Theology of
Nature," by Mr. Dewey, has a high moral tone, and is elo-
quently written. It augurs well for the public taste, that
such writers find acceptance, amidst the gaiety and sentiment
of a fashionable Annual. " The Bashful Man" is a feeble
imitation of a fine piece, with the same title, in one of our
school books. The attempts at wit are afflicting failures. It
is matter of surprise that an editor, who usually displays so
much taste, could admit a story, at once so weak and coarse.
The engravings are generally excellent. We were particu-
larly pleased with « Will he Bite ? " « The Freshet," and
" The Fairy Isle." " Byron at the Age of 19" is remark-
able only for being accompanied by a set of verses which are
remarkable for nothing. This stanza,
'* Thy many hours of deep unrest

From wounded love and wounded pride ;
Thy years, ttnblessing and vnblest
^nlifted mists and shadows hide,"

ought to have been, like Mr. Willis's " Music " and " Phi-
losophy," unwritten.
I. The



2. The Atlantic Souvenir, — This is also got up, as the
phrase is, in exquisite taste. Some of the writers are the
same who contributed to " The Token." <* Berkely Jail,"



Digitized by



Google



1839i.] Annuals for 1832. 155

by the author of '' Hope Leslie," is an interesting story, told



Online LibraryJoseph Lyon MillerAmerican monthly review → online text (page 17 of 54)