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learned in the construction of the human body ; in all its
functions, and these both healthful and morbid; — learned
too in all the consequences of injuries, and in all the changes,
the morbid changes, which poisonous substances may pro-
duce, and in the best received methods of detecting such
poisons, — finally, acquainted with the appearances discov-
erable after death, let the circumstances which have pro-
duced, or preceded death, have been what they may ; — it is
in the character of a physician, prepared by this various
knowledge, that he is a witness, and w/e welcome every
attempt on the part of the medical profession to make this
preparation complete. In closing our remarks on the volume
before us, let it be understood that any objections we have
entertained towards it, have been principally founded in
the unnecessary length of what we regard as extraneous
matter, in this and all similar works. This has taken
up room which might, we think, have been much better
filled. Dr. Griffith's additions, with the exceptions we have
made, are very valuable, and give bis edition a claim to the
patronage of the profession in America. We could have
wished that greater care had been bestowed on the more
strictly mechanical execution of the volume. With our
publishers the vulgar matters of paper, type, &c., are but
small afilairs it would seem, and expedition with them is more
important than accuracy. A paragraph, however, would
hardly remedy all this evil, and we have too little space, and
too little time, to throw even the shortest one away.

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1832.] Owen FclUham'i Works. 451

Abt. III. — The Lihrafy of the Old English Prose Wru
ters. Vol. IV. Resolves, Divine, Moral, Political. By
Owen Felltham. With some Account of the Author
and his Writings. Cambridge. Hilliard & Brown. 1832.
16mo. pp. 316.

Scarcely any thing is known of the life of this old Chris-
tian moralist. We have his folio of wit and wisdom, but the
man is invisible. We do not say that he is withdrawn from
the world, for there is hardly a hint of a world. He has left
a few letters, and these are generally addressed to some ini-
tials, or to fancy names, to " a friend," or " a doctor of phy-
sic," without dates and almost without a fact that can serve
any biographical purpose. A Dedication to the Countess
Dowager of Thomond apprises us that most of his '' Re-
solves" were " composed under the coverture of her roof";
and for the author's sake we should rejoice to know some-
thing of the patroness. Among his '' Occasional Pieces " he
has preserved a Latin epitaph upon bis father's tomb in
Cambridgeshire ; and it is an invaluable memorial, for it tells
us nearly all that is known with certainty of the family ; —
that the excellent man, Thomas Felltham, was bom in Suf-
folk ; that he left three sons and three daughters ; that he
died in 1631, at the age of sixty-two, and that Owen was
the youngest of the sons. From his epitaph on himself we
learn that he was alive at the Restoration. His '^ Three
Weeks' Observation of the Low Countries," published in
1661, is said, in the title-page, to have been written long
since, and that is the nearest approach to a date of the
Travels ; there is not a word of himself, but all is about the
country and the people. We have looked over page after
page of his writings in vain, for a modem name that might
enable us to associate him with his great contemporaries at
home. His essay entitled, *' Of Reading Authors," pro-
mised something ; but for Bacon, Jonson, Selden, &c., there
were ^' the Senecas and Plutarch, the crisped Sallust, the
politic Tacitus, the well-breathed Cicero " ; — not one more
modem. A later name from the Continent, as Galileo or
Montaigne, may be found in his works ; but why this silence
as to his countrymen ? Is it peculiar to our author, or was
there generally less sympathy among literary men than now,
or more delicacy towards each other ?

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452 Owen Fetttham's flPbrftt.* [Jund,

If Felhham never speaks of his neighbours, none that we
can recall ever speak of him. We know not when he wis
born, whether he ever followed or studied a profession, where
he was educated, to whom he was married, where he lived,
or at what time he died. In this dearth of facts one learns to
value so small a thing as a hint in a letter to Sir C. P. that
he is in the country and soon going to London ; and a note
to the Lord C. J. R. about a trial he was engaged in touch-
ing " the ancient inheritance of his family." Even the little
anecdote of his going to a play at Salisbury Court, is some-
thing (p. 109) ; and also his note of the Earl of Dorset's
reply to one who was superstitiously frightened at the salt's
being thrown upon him (p. 18L) We do not offer these
remarks as if we supposed that every literary life must
abound in well-known outward facts, or that we cannot get
along with a good book, because the author's history is just
nothing at all. But we have felt a little surprise that a roan
who lived in a season of great public excitement and most
probably to an advanced age ; who, if a maii of letters, was
yet not wholly out of the world nor lukewarm in his religious
and political opinions ; who was acquainted with persons of
note, and moreover a popular writer, if we may judge from
the many editions his principal work went through in his life-
time ; should have so little known about him either from re-
cord or tradition.

In this absence of all anxiety on his own part and that of
his friends to preserve any particulars of what was probably
a very quiet life, we may look to his writings for the truest
picture that an author can leave of himself. Here every
thing is full, clear, and decided His " Resolves " are a
series of essays upon religious, moral, political, add some-
times literary topics. He wrote one hundred of these (the
first Century, as he calls them,) when he was eighteen years
of age ; but, being dissatisfied with their ** many young weak-
nesses," he afterwards gave them " a new frame and various
composition, by altering many, leaving out some, and adding
of others new." These were republished with a new Cen-
tury, in 1628. He says they were all written with the same
object, " not so much to please others as to gratify and profit
himself"; and published, ^^ not in the expectation of great
applause, but to give the world some account how he spent
his vacant hours, and that they might be as boundaries to
hold him within the limits of prudence, honor, iirid virtue."

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188A.] ^OwnFeMam's Works. 458

One might apprehdhdfrom the object he thus distinctly pro-
posed to himself, that these essays would abound with the
tediousness, flippancy, or amusing vanity of egotism. Far
from it. He .aays very little directly about himself. You
have the man's mind as plainly before you as the face of a
friend, but this is seen chiefly as it is exercised and afl^ted
by its subject. Self appears to be regarded by him as a
moral nature to be studied, guarded, and improved ; and his
meditations extending to almost every thing that concems
humanity, are of an exceedingly practical character ; and by
sincerely consecrating them all to the purpose of strict self-
application, he has secured for them the easier access to the
heart of every reader. — There is something besides egotism
to be feared from a writer's proposing to himself so to order
his reflections, that they shall always have some especial
practical bearing upon his mind and actions. It is to be
feared that he will not be enough absorbed by his subject,
will not follow it fully out, will not surrender himself to all
that it would naturally suggest of bordering thouehts and
varied uses. Fancies of all hues may swarm about him, but
be must select what a too narrow purpose has made exclu-
sively pertinent. The mind may long to break forth into
many paths, all as safe and happy as the prescribed one, but
it must be forced to keep in that. His idea of self and of
what is practically useful may be very limited. He who
would make every thing tend to improve this whole moral,
intellectual being, must think of a great deal more than how
to govehi a passion, change a habit, establish a good system
of work, or demean himself prudently and kindly in society.
The Essays of Bacon and Franklin, the Meditations of Au-
relius, all the practical maxims of shrewd observers of life,
however fitted to give one equanimity or fortitude or saga-
city or prudence, may yet leave a great part of the man
untouched. And he, aifter all, may have had a thousand
fold more generous moral nurture, who has exposed his
whole soul to all the power of a well pondered subject, than
he who has ever regulated its influences upon his mind, ad-
mitting some as congenial, and repelling or repressing all
others as alien.

It appears to us that Felltham, without thinking at all
about the possible evil of the plan he proposed to himself,
has wholly escaped it ; that he is thoroughly practical and

VOL. I. NO. VI. 58

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454 Given FeJhham's Wwki. [June,

yet free to contemplate his subject in all its aspects. In
another place he says, that his ^^ Resolves " are ^< written for
the middle sort of people ; that they are not high enough
for the wisest " ; but it is plain that he wrote them without
thinking much of his readers of any class. In his closet, in
" a melancholy study," as he chooses to call a student's re-
tirement, he gave himself up to perfectly unconstrained

His distinguishing quality is good sound sense, the very
plainest sense, and sometimes the very coarsest ; but yet far
from being arid or cold ; a degree of unction, warmth, or
pleasantry always shows how closely opinion and feeling
were joined in his mind. What he conceived vigorously he
was willing, according to the taste of the age, and it is often
the taste of Burke, to tell in any way that seemed most for-
cible. He has recourse to illustrations from all quarters ;
the merest pedantry comes as heartily from him as the
erowths of his ever active fancy. All antiquity b ransacked
fi>r parallels and enforcements, and with these is mingled the
most delicate or the strongest painting of what he has him-
self beheld or imagined. Thought is heaped on thought,
conceit upon conceit. There is little of modem finish in the
^' composure," little of the rhetorician's completeness, or of
the artist's detail and assemblage. He tells all he has to say
just as the ideas come to his mind, with no lingering upon
one pleasant image or thought, and no artful transition to
another. His particularity is the result of plenty, and not
of a desire to be minute or complete. There are few pic-
tures ready made for us, but materials for a thousand, and
we may make them for ourselves. It is worth while to read
him if but to see how well it is to stop and meditate upon a
briefly despatched thought, instead of always following out
dilated thoughts with a pleasing sense of something still to
come, which we are to reach wholly by the aid of another.

It must be allowed that he is sometimes very ordinary and
tedious, and with apparently as little consciousness of it as of
bis eminent beauties. The amount of common-place, we sup-
pose, is large in all writings ; to disguise it is pretty easy in
verse, but one of the triumphs of prose. Felltham cares no
more about a poor thing of his own than a good one. He would
disdain to concentrate all he knew or thought in one flame
or sparkle ; — and after breaking forth in mild or full splendcNTi

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1682.] Owen Felttham's Works. 45S

he is perfectly ready <o pass again into the cloud, and with-
out even irradiating it. A pretty fair estimate of his powers
and peculiarities might be made from reading a few of his
essays ; but we are not content with this ; we become en-
gaged with the character of our tranquil adviser, and the
charm of intimacy makes us desire more and more of his
writings, with all their inequalities and de6ciencies ; and we
read them again and again with the same equable satisfaction.
The serenity or apparent indifference to fame in these old
writers seems to be a pledge that they will never utterly per-
ish. Their long obscurity is a sort of proof of their disinter-
estedness. They had something to say for our good, and
were willing to wait for the season when we could perceive
their merit, and value their intentions, and make a fair allow-
ance for their defects.

Felltham lived when parties in religion and politics were
most strongly marked and in deadly hostility ; but we do not
remember that he ever loses a liberal spirit. He could tri-
umph at the Restoration, and so could Evelyn, but not in
the temper of a slave or madman. He was a decided Protest-
ant ; but in his letter to Johnson the Jesuit, he says, ** I am
neither Zuinglian, nor Lutheran, nor Calvinist, nor Papist,
but Christian." And again,

*' I shall take it for a favor if you please to let me enjoy my
religion in peace. Then I shall so far go along with your
wishes, as to pray for direction in the right ; making it further
my petition to God that he will vouchsafe to build up his church
in truth and unity, and to make us both so members of it here^
as we may avoid the errors which exclude from that above,
where I shall not despair but that you may be met by me."

The remarks we have offered have proceeded chiefly from
the view which the "Resolves" present us of Felltham's
mind and character. We could not select half a page from
any of his one hundred and eighty-five chapters, which
would not give the reader some tolerably distinct idea of him.
We will quote the closing remarks of that entitled, " Of
Preparing against Death."

" Lastly, I will endeavour to be prepared. Neither surprise
nor strangeness can hurt me, if I be ready for both. He de»
feats the tyrant of his feast, that is so prepared as not to shrink
at torment. The way to die undauntedly is to do that before^
which we ought to do when dying. He that always waits upon

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486 Owm FelUhm's Wark$. [Jimei

Ood IB ready whensoever he calls. I will labor to set my ac<-
counts even, and endeavour to find God such to me in my life,
as I would in death be should appear. If I cannot put off
humanity wholly, let me put off as much as I can ; and that
which I must wear let me but loosely carry. When the affec-
tions are glued to the world, death makes not a dissolution, but
a fraction, and not Qnly separates the soul, but tears it away.
So the pain and the hazard is more. He is a happy man that
lives so, as death at all times may find at leisure to die. And
if we consider that we are always in Qod's hand, that our lease
is but during pleasure, and that we are necessitated once to
die, as we shall appear infidels not to trust a Deity, so we must
be fools to struggle where we can neither conquer nor defend.
What do wo do living, if we be afraid of travelling that high-
way which hath been passed through by all that have lived,
and must be by all that shall live 1 We pray, undress, and pre-
pare for sleep that is not one night long ; and shall we do less
for death, in whose arms we must rest prisoners till the angel
with his trumpet summons him forth to resign us ? This will
not make life more troublesome, but more comfortable. He
may play that hath done his task. No steward need fear a just
lord, when his accounts are even and always ready drawn up.
If I get the son and heir to be mine, the father will never hold
off. Thus living I may die at any time, and be afraid at no
time. Who dies death over every day, if he does not kill death
outright, at least he makes him tame with watching him."
pp. 48, 49.

Our author appears in somewhat a different light in his
other works. Among these are his two Lay Sermons, as we
may call them. The second is full of satire and humor, of
learning and gallantry, bestowed upon the power and excel-
lences of woman. Mr. Young has omitted them, and he
could not well have published them entire. We give one
passage from the first, which is on Solomon's yiew of the
vanity of all things.

" What then shall we do, or whither turn to find a repose
for the soul ? All the mass of creatures put together is too nar-
row a palace to contain the soul of man. It flies in a moment
to thei deeps and ocean's springs, not only to the roots of moun-
tains, but in a moment pierces quite through the earth's con-
densed globe, to the stars and highest convex of the bounding
sky. So far as the creature reaches, it goes and finds no rest.
God only is capacious ; in him do all its vast extensions rest.

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1882.] (hom FeU^an^i JVMti. 4&7

Unlimited tbonghts ia bim a limit find ; and when we do lose
the creature, still we do find him. He is farther off than the
soul can reach, yet never than it can avoid." .

The second of these discourses is on the passage in Luke,
'< And another said, I have married a wife^ and therefore I
cannot come." The following extract may give us his idea
of the power of beauty, which he calls '^ the wit of nature
put into a firontispiece, the spiritual soul in figure ; and in
It'*, he says, " are the influences of the stars."

*^ Beauty is an empire without a militia ; for needing neither
guard nor arms, it imposes whatever does please. Experience
can tell us that it has flatted all the strengths of the world. It
is mistress of all that is not God ; and when it rises to be of
holiness, it amounts to be enthroned with him. In woman
placed alone, it has done wonders, and taking the world's con-
querors by the casque, has rifled them of all their hard earned
wreaths and laurels. Adam's original innocence was not ar-
mour sufficient to resist her forces. Samson's giant strength by
her was cheated into bondage and servility. David's right-
heartedness became inflexed and crooked. And the grave
incomparable Solomon, though he could precept the erring
world against all the seducing crafts of women, yet we see he
could not save himself from being entangled by their demulcea-
tions. With this man the devil went his old politic way ; for
his plot being to gain the man, he sets upon him by his mis-
tress first. No doubt but he which bought the farm had a
team, and the other had five yoke of oxen ; yet could not all
these draw so much as a wife ; she is a perpetual enchantment
that hangs upon all the retirements of man."

Mr. Young's excellently prepared yolume includes over
fifty of the " Resolves," and the " Observations of the Low
Countries." The latter work was also published nearly thirty
years a^o in the Cambridge ^^ Literary Miscellany," one of
our earhest and, alas, now forgotten journals. The remarks
on the Dutch, their country, pursuits, and manners, are in a
style of the broadest humor, and at the same time are often dis-
tinguished for severe, sententious wisdom. We have already
alluded to Felltham's letters, which are nineteen in number.
His forty-one pieces in verse, or " Lusoria," as he calls
them, are of very little value. They are inferior to his trans-
lations of lines from Latin authors quoted in the '^ Resolves."
We find in them, however, what we had not observed in

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458 . Oitm F^Mtham'i Works. [Jane,

his more important writings, the mention of a few learned
names among his countrymen. The death of Sir R. Cotton
is commemorated in a distinct poem, tad a couplet from the
lines on the Lady E. M. introduces a still higher name :

" A sheet of Bacon's catch'd at more, we know.
Than all sad Fox, long Holingshed, or Stow."

And here the list of his writings closes.

We had occasion before to mention some of the qualities
of his style. For the most part, he expresses himself clearly
and in short sentences, with very little grace, but still with
much that is picturesque in the diction. Sometimes, as if
by accident, he gives us a passage of surpassing beauty, that
might satisfy the most fastidious modem ear. Sometimes he
falls into the most puerile inversions and a most vicious kind
of rhythm. Would any one take what follows for prose ?

''When after sin a Christian once considers,
He finds a shadow drawn upon his light.
The steps of night stay printed in his soul.
His shine grows lean within him, and makes him like
The moon in her declining wane."

What we have thus marked off as verse, is taken from
what stands as a prose paragraph in the *' Resolves," (p.
256.) There is more in the same strain ; but such a speci-
men might not be found elsewhere in many pages.

Felltham*s use of language is often as strange and offensive
as these singularities of style. Like his contemporary, Sir
Thomas Browne, he delights in the manufacture of most hide-
ous words from the Latin. This abominable license in many
writers of the age, is a remarkable fact in its literary history.
A novel use of the settled, popular speech is sometimes a
sign of originality and invention ; and differences among wri-
ters in this particular, may have the stamp of intellectual
differences. But in the case we have alluded to, there is
a downright, wilful, barefaced departure from current lan-
guage, and, as we believe, in a spirit of sheer affectation and
pedantry. Really, the language seems to have had a more
settled, domestic character in the reign of Elizabeth, than in
the two or three following. It must have had the principle
of life and health strong indeed, to have been able to sustain
itself and preserve in a good degree its old form and look.
The truth is, after all, that the learned barbarisms of the

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1889.] JUbKory of Select Noiidt. 4S9

writers in question, are always such distinct blembhes, that
they increase rather than impair the force and beauty of our
mother English, and (bu» increase our fondness for what is
wholly our own.

Art. IV.— The Library of Select Novels. New York. '
J. & J. Harper. 1832.

" The Library of Useful Knowledge " has been a fruitful
prototype in this publishing age ; and the reading world of
Endand and America is inundated with << Libraries " of one
kind or another, not issued like the great original, so much
for the purpose of improving the knowledge of the many, by
putting useful publications within the reach of their means,
as for improving the finances of the publishers, by procuring
under an imposing title and seeming cheapness, a sale for
editions of works, many of which are dear at any price.

To all the ^' Libraries," so styled, these remarks are not
applicable, as some are certainly valuable publications ; to
others the fullest force of them may be deservedly applied,
and to none more than to that, the title of which is placed at
the head of this article.

When its publication was first announced, we supposed
its object would be to select firom the literature of this class
those works, the merits of which, as exhibiting the stamp of
genius and portraying the spirit and manner of the times,
seemed to make them deserving of being rescued from that
oblivion, to which the multitude of them rapidly and un-
avoidably hasten ; and, by embodying them into one uniform
whole, to give them a more enduring vitality and reputation,
and preserve them for a succeeding age as fit and worthy
memorials of the imaginative literature of the past and the
present. In short, we fancied that Messrs. J. &z; J. Harper
were to be with regard to works of fiction, like the two swans
of Ariosto,** the ministers of at least temporary reputation
to those works which should prove fortunate enough to at-
tract their favorable regard.

In this anticipation we have been sadly disappointed.
Though the works they have republished have doubtless

* Canto zzzv.

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46» Liirary of Select N!99el9. [Jiuie^

been sdected, yet it has been done tdth no little discietioiif
and judgment, that in our understanding of the word thej
can by no means be deemed select. Two or three among
them are indeed nothing but reprints of works just published
in England, and having no well ascertained character before
they were put into the " Library," in which indeed was
their first appearance in print on this side of the Atlantic

Ten or twelve works have been published, making some
twenty or twenty-four numbers of the " Library " ; on some
of these we shall now make a few particular remarks, in con-
firmation of our general observations.

" The Young Duke, by the Author of ' Vivian Grey.' "

Online LibraryJoseph Lyon MillerAmerican monthly review → online text (page 47 of 54)