Text: Burton R. Pollin, “The Broadway Journal: Text (February 1845),” The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe — Vol. III: Broadway Journal (Text) (1986), pp. 18-24 (This material is protected by copyright)


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[page 18, continued:]

[[BJ, February 8, 1845 - 1:81-83]]

REVIEWS.

POEMS BY SIR EDWARD LYTTON BULWER.(18/11) Edited by C. Donald Macleod. New York: Farmer & Daggers; 1845.(18/12)

MR. C. DONALD MACLEOD,(18/13) whose name is no doubt familiar to the readers of the “Lady’s Book” and “Graham’s Magazine,” has favored the public with a collection of poems by Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer.

“The work here offered,” says the compiler, “contains, I believe, the first general collection. . . . He has published two or three volumes of verse, none of which were well received. ‘The Rebel’ and the ’Siamese Twins’ met quick oblivion, and indeed deserved no better fate. In his last publication, ‘Eva and Other Poems,’ there were many pieces of exquisite beauty; but there was heaviness enough in the book to sink all. . . . This collection, made from Novel, Drama, and Poems, embraces nearly all that is worthy of his reputation.”(18/26)

These words, from Mr. Macleod’s Preface, affect us as an ill omen of the book. We fancy that we see in them a singular deficiency of straight thinking. We profess little faith in the discrimination of a compiler who begins with calling his compilation a ” general” one, and proceeds in the same breath to state that he has omitted every thing from this general compilation that has been considered worth publishing at all by the author whose writings he has compiled.(18/34)

Frankly, Mr. Macleod is young in letters,(18/35) has given no special evidence of even what is called general ability — none at all of critical ability. We shall be pardoned, therefore, for accepting only cum grano salis, his mere dicta that the “Rebel” and the “Siamese Twins” “deserved no better fate than quick oblivion” — that there “was heaviness enough to sink all” in Eva and other Poems — or that “this collection, made from Novel, Drama, and Poems, embraces nearly all that is worthy of the reputation” of Bulwer. What is here so roundly asserted, may or may not be true. We have no reference either to its truth or its fallacy. What we wish to insinuate is, that Mr. Macleod, being Mr. Macleod and no more, should, in common justice, have either given us all the poems of the author, or something that should have worn at least the semblance of an argument in objection to the poems omitted.(18/50) Mr. Macleod we say, should have done one of these two things, for the sake of the commonest common sense — for the sake of Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer — for the sake of the public — for the sake of himself (Mr. Macleod) — and for the sake of that hope with which he so happily makes an end of his Preface — the hope “that a ray from the Glory which surrounds the Master may wander toward the Acolyte.”(18/57)

As a common rule, to be sure, rays are about the only things in the world which never wander at all. By way of showing, however, that it is not to any particular dogma of Mr. M. that we object, nor to any particular set of his dogmas, but to the principle of dogmatizing in general, we are willing to admit that we coincide with him in one half of his [page 19:] opinion about the poems of Bulwer. We think as he does, (Mr. Macleod,) that the omitted compositions were scarcely worth including in a book; but we go even a few steps farther, and maintain that the effusions so cavalierly treated deserved the treatment much less than those which have been honored with a niche in the temple of the American compiler. The matter, indeed, seems to stand thus. What Bulwer thought worth collecting, he collected.(19/8) What he collected Mr. Macleod has pronounced unworthy collection. The author, in our opinion, knew better the state of the case than the editor; but neither appears aware of the fact, that Sir Edward is more estimable as a judge of poetry than as a poet, and that, to come at once to the point, he has never written a poem at all.

It is but fair to mention, nevertheless, that this opinion of ours, honestly entertained and deliberately expressed, is in direct opposition to that of a somewhat celebrated man who is quoted in the Introduction of Mr. Macleod. “The author of Tremaine says of him,” writes Mr. M— “ ‘He is the most accomplished writer of the most accomplished era of English letters: — practising all styles and classes of composition, and eminent in all — Novelist, Dramatist, Poet, Historian, Moral Philosopher, Essayist, Critic, Political Pamphleteer; in each superior to all others, and only rivalled in each by himself” — that is to say, we presume, that

“None but himself can be his parallel.”(19/26)

But if Mr. Macleod is serious in thinking that the author of Tremaine(19/28) (which may be considered as the quintessence of prose) did not intend to be bitterly satirical when he penned all this about the author of the “Siamese Twins,” we have only to regret that a gentleman who edits a respectable looking book should labor under so painful an hallucination. We mean to say that Mr. Ward, (who although he did write De Vere(19/34) is by no means a fool,) could never have put to paper, in his sober senses, anything half so absurd as the paragraph above quoted, without stopping at every third word to hold his sides or thrust his pocket-handkerchief in his mouth.

If Mr. Macleod, however, will insist upon the serious intention, we have to remark that the opinion is the mere opinion of a writer remarkable for no other good trait than that of putting his readers decorously to sleep according to rules Addisonian, and with the least possible loss of labor and time. But as the mere opinion of even a Jeffrey, a Gifford, or a Macaulay, we have an inalienable right to meet it with another. As a novelist, then, Bulwer is far more than respectable(19/46-58) — although he has produced few novels equal and none superior to ” Robinson Crusoe” — to one or two of Smollet’s — to one or two of Fielding’s — to Miss Burney’s “Evelina” — to two or three of the Misses Porter’s(19/50) — to five or six of Miss Edgeworth’s — to three or four of Godwin’s — to the majority of Scott’s — to one or two of D’Israeli’s(19/52) — to three or four of Dickens’ — to the “Ellen Wareham” of Mrs. Sullivan, or to the — Ellen Middleton” of Lady Georgiana Fullerton. From the list of foreign novels we could readily select a hundred which he could neither have written nor conceived for his life. As a dramatist he deserves more credit, although he receives less. His “Richelieu,” “Money,” and — Duchesse [page 20:] de la Valiere,” have done much in the way of opening the public eyes to the true value of what is superciliously termed ” stage-effect” in the hands of one able to manage it. But if commendable at this point, his dramas fail egregiously at others: so that, upon the whole, he can be said to have written a good play only when we think of him in connexion with the still more contemptible “old-dramatist” imitators who are his contemporaries and friends. As historian he is sufficiently dignified, sufficiently ornate, and more than sufficiently self-sufficient and ill-informed. His “Athens”(20/10) would have received an Etonian prize, and it has all the happy air of an Etonian prize essay revamped. His political pamphlets are very good as political pamphlets, and very disreputable as any thing else. His essays leave no doubt upon any body’s mind that with the writer they have been essays indeed. His criticism is really beneath contempt. His moral philosophy is the most ridiculous of all the moral philosophies that ever have been imagined upon earth.

“The men of sense,” says Helvetius,(20/19) “those idols of the unthinking, are very far inferior to the men of passions. It is the strong passions which, rescuing us from Sloth, can alone impart to us that continuous and earnest attention necessary to great intellectual efforts.”

When the Swiss philosopher here speaks of inferiority, he has reference to inferiority in worldly success. By his “men of sense,” he intends indolent men of genius. And Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer is emphatically one of the “men of passions” contemplated in the apopthegm. His passions, with opportunities, have alone made him what he is. Urged by a rabid ambition to do much, in doing nothing he would assuredly have proved himself an idiot. Something he has done. While aiming at Crichton,(20/32) he has hit the target an inch or two above Harrison Ainsworth.(20/33) Not to such intellects belong the honors of universality. His works bear about them the unmistakeable indications of mere talent — talent, we grant, of an unusual order, and nurtured to its extreme of development with a very tender and elaborate care. Nevertheless it is talent still. Genius it is not. And the proof is, that while we often fancy ourselves about to be enkindled beneath its influence, fairly enkindled we never are. That Bulwer is no poet, follows as a corollary from what has already been said. To speak of a poet without genius is merely to put forth a contradiction in terms.(20/1-45)

In taking up Mr. Macleod’s volume, of course we had no intention to be elaborate. We have nothing to prove or to disprove. The matter has been long since thoroughly settled to our hands by that strong popular instinct which, when absolutely untrammeled in its development, is as unerring as the sun. What few words we have farther to say it will be unnecessary to say otherwise than at random.

Beyond the obvious external form, there is really nothing distinctive between what Mr. Macleod calls the poetry of Bulwer, and what the world has agreed to understand as his prose. “The Ill-omened Marriage,”(20/54) which is the longest composition of the book before us, is only not exactly similar to any one of the author’s novels, because no one of the latter has been done into very indifferent verse. In each we find the same intermingled merit and demerit — a language glowing and sonorous, but inflated and involute — a plot skilfully conceived, but wrought into development with artificiality rather than with art — a mannered epigrammatism of tone that has been termed ” brilliant” for want of a more definite epithet — a general interjectional rhetoricianism such as we might imagine would have delighted Curran(20/64-65) when drunk — an absolutely ludicrous array of metaphor run mad — and a continuous strain of didacticism, always obtrusive, [page 21:] sometimes entertaining, often equivocal, now and then sophistical, frequently preposterous, but at no time failing to wear those habiliments of apparent profundity which were wont so cleverly to disguise the no-meaning of the nonsense-verses of Du Bartas.(21/5)

In his rhythm — in his sole distinctive feature between his poetry and his prose — Bulwer’s generally elaborate art seems to have abandoned or to have misguided him altogether. He has contented himself with the dry est and most insensate technicalities of the schools. Clearly, he has no capacity for the construction of true rhythm, and no ear for its appreciation when constructed. All is hard, stiff, pedantic, common-place, and artificial, without the ars celare artem(21/12) which only the divine instinct of the true Genius can bestow.

It is by no means our intention to accuse Mr. Macleod of having undertaken a task above his powers, but on this topic (of rhythm) there are certain passages of his Introduction which have amazed us in no little degree. What, for example, are we to think of a paragraph such as this?

“In versification he is always happy — in some kinds peculiar, as in ‘Mazarin,’ ‘Andre Chenier,’ the ‘Last Crusader,’(21/21) and others. In these the music is stately and solemn; the music of a march.”

On reading this we turned with some curiosity to “Mazarin” and “Andre Chenier.” The versification in these poems is identical. We give a specimen from the latter:(21/26)

And must I die so soon? sighed forth the young man unresigned,

And leave this pleasant world before a name is left behind?

I feel the Glorious SOMETHING stir within my burning brain,

That tells me what my life would be — a prophet and in vain!(21/30)

The metre here would be called, in the ridiculous Greek prosodies, iambic heptameter acatalectic. In plain English it consists of seven feet, each foot being a short syllable succeeded by a long, and this is one of the very commonest me tree in the world; — the iambic rhythm — that is to say, the mere succession of iambuses, is unquestionably the most usual of all.(21/31-37) But the line employed by Bulwer in the present instance, if we add a single short syllable at the end, is identically that of the ” Oh, Miss Bailey” ballad(21/39) — of which we transcribe the first line:

A captain bold of Halifax who dwelt in country quarters.

Now Mr. Macleod maintains that “Miss Bailey” is peculiar; but if so the only peculiarity about her lies in her tripping and frisky character — the character universally and justly attributed to this metre in the prosodies. Mr. Macleod, however, not satisfied with having it “peculiar,” insists upon making it “stately and solemn — the music of a march.”(21/47)

We might comment, perhaps, on some other niaiseries,(21/48) or at least on some other inadvertences of our compiler, and we might find much fault with many of the individual poems compiled, as well as designate among them a vast number of individual beauties that are truly poetical in themselves, although involved in a medley of mere prose. But in doing all this we should demonstrate only what has long ceased to need any demonstration.

We dismiss the volume, therefore, with a request which will not be complied with — that in any future edition Mr. Macleod will cut out his Introduction, and give us in place of it, the poems of Bulwer which have been, whether rightfully or wrongfully, omitted.

——

WHY A NATIONAL LITERATURE CANNOT FLOURISH IN THE UNITED STATES OF NORTH AMERICA. By Joseph Rocchietti. Turner & Hayden, John street, 1845.(21/63)

THIS is a very imposing title page,(21/64) in more senses than one, for it is a gross imposition upon the reader, since the contents of the book do not offer any reasons why a National [page 22:] Literature cannot flourish in the United States. A work on a purely literary subject should, at least, be tolerably grammatical, but this book sets all conventional rules of composition at defiance. It is not written in English at all, but in broken English, and very badly broken too. Mr. Rocchietti, according to his own statement,(22/7) has been fourteen years in America, and during that time a teacher of languages. Such being the fact, his ignorance of English is very puzzling.

“Out of one hundred American ladies who learned modern languages of me,” says Mr. Rocchietti, “I cannot reckon five gentlemen.”(22/11)

If Mr. Rocchietti had not assured us that he was an Italian we should have taken him for an Irishman, and as it is, we have doubts respecting his country.(22/14) Notwithstanding there are many similar obscurities of expression in the book, it contains on the whole much wholesome counsel, which, if put in passable language, might do good. The author should have written it in his native tongue, and then procured a translation into English: in its present form it would be extremely difficult to render it in any spoken language.

Mr. Rocchietti is fond of eggs, and moreover, a marvellous thing in a foreigner, he defends the American practice of eating them out of tumblers, because he likes them in that way himself.

“It is a pity in seeing writers finding fault with nations, because they do eat with a knife and fork, or because they do not eat three eggs in a tumbler. Knives and forks are convenient, when the meat is hot; and I, who am fond of eggs, like to crack four eggs in a tumbler, provided the present sensible American does not care of the puerile English observation. Besides, if I am pleased in looking at the fine architecture of an Italian palace, I am pleased also in seeing that the small, modest and nearly uniform houses of the United States of North America, have the blessed appearance of a nation, whose rich. est citizens do not outshine the poor. What right has he, the man of talent, or the handsome man, to ridicule he who has no talent, or he who is deformed? He who ridicules a nation shows his perfect ignorance of nations. Can we find a nation without faults?”(22/24-37)

We judge from the following remarks that among the other virtues of the Italians, is a very strict regard for the fifth commandment; Mr. Rocchietti is the first gentleman that we ever knew, who considered it an honor to have an acquaintance with his own mother. It is putting a very literal construction upon ” honor thy father and mother.”

“There are religious people in this world for whom, had I the mind of Voltaire, and obliged to live with them, I have no doubt they would have rendered me the most religious man: and among like blessed religious persons, my mother, and a few others I have the honor to be acquainted with, are of the number. But history, and the very fanaticism of the middle age, which we have witnessed lately in Philadelphia, are enough to make angels, and Sophy weep.”(22/43-50)

Our author is both a politician and a prophet, as appears from the following passages.(22/52)

“How can such a despotical state as Massachusetts, preach abolition against his slave, brother states of the south, it is what a sound mind cannot understand; unless we perceive in it the blind, uncharitable language of the self pocket interest, with which the north holds the tariff, against the interests of the south. The burning of the convent of those innocent Ursulines, and the little knowledge I have of this country, caused me to foretell the last horrors of Philadelphia. It was not a prophecy; it was but a coming event, not different from those we read of in ancient history. If from smoke we argue it must be some fire; from fanaticism we must expect civil wars.”

We keep looking in vain for some reason why a National Literature cannot flourish in the United States, but we find almost everything besides. Mr. Rocchietti is as much vexed with American tourists in Italy, as we with English travellers in America. He takes hold of Mr. Headlev, whom he handles without mittens, for very good reasons, as he states.(22/69)

“No nation has yet reached the civilization for which God created us. As the lover of a little discrimination sees better the faults of the lady whom he loves, than the faults of them he does not love, a man of letters, who has at heart the improvements of society, sees the faults of all the countries, with which he feels an interest. Of the blind lovers of my country, I will say here nothing more, than I would of those, who had no kind feeling for Italy. Besides there are so many, who wrote on Italy, that, were I undertaking to comment [page 23:] on them, it would be a work too long for me, and unfit here. How. ever, as such kind of writers form one of the most extensive branches of our present literature, I will take up ” Italy and the Italians.” by J. T. Headley, for two good reasons. The first, because I find in it, the least to say against, and the second, because it is the most recent I know of on the subject.

“How could Mr. Headley entitle his short reflections of six months which he spent in that country,” Italy and the Italians,” I cannot understand. It seems to me, such a title is rattler a too pompous one when we reflect at the same time, that Mr. Headley by this very confession, we learn, that he did not know, at that time, the Italian language.

“It was no more than one or two days had Mr. Headley stepped on a shore of Italy, Genoa, when he found himself offended by two individuals. The first was a mustached officer, who eyed him in askance as he passed; and tire second, a black robed priest, not deigning him even a look, as be went. Here, I find the very logic of the wolf, disposed to eat the lamb at the water spring, — The officer offended the writer, because he looked at him; and the priest because he did not deign to look at him! Next, comes an elegantly drest woman, who, I suppose, having seen Mr. Headley offended, because the priest did not look at him, she lifted her quizzing glass, coolly scanning him from head to foot, and with a smile of self-satisfaction on her face, walked on. — For me I always like to see a lady looking at me: it is a sign of kind feeling, and innocence: and children not spoiled by too fond parents, look at strangers with like pleasing curiosity?’

The following remarks on the study of the dead languages, we have no doubt are very good; the great difficulty is to understand them.(23/29-30)

“Out of one hundred American ladies, who learned modern languages from me, I cannot reckon five gentlemen. I have no doubt there must be good professors of Greek, and Latin, as well as among any other nation in the world; but, a dead language will always be a dead language, even from the mouth of the best professor; and a Buscheron, the deceased professor of the Latin language in Turin, Italy, was one of those rare birds which does not appear on this earth, but during one thousand years, if it does: and when it does, such a bird, I mean such a professor, might be unable to impart his Latin to others.”

We are glad to find an encouraging account of our Theatres, which appear to have been a particular object of study with Mr. Rocchietti.(23/42)

“Ten years ago the theatres in America were thought immoral places: and if Niblo’s theatre was frequented by the best class, it was for no other reason, but because it did pass under Niblo’s garden. Though every.),ear the American theatre is gaining ground, and as it seems, time wall bring it to the consideration which it deserves, it is still in a state of infancy to what it should be; and it is just because it is in a bad repute, that talented American writers did not yet display their genius to such a rich branch of literature.

“Good theatres are so necessary to a civilized country, and such an indisputable branch of literature, that when I met in America persons who did object to them, it seemed as if I had come into a barbarous country, and not in this very country, which can glory to possess the best government of our present century throughout the world.”(23/44-55)

In the following passage Mr. Rocchietti echoes a thought which we have expressed elsewhere; it will appear heterodox to many, no doubt, but it contains more truth, than, at first blush will appear evident.

“If the English Theatre has not yet reached the Italian or French perfection, it is owing to a national religious veneration for everything written by Shakspeare; and when the English critic will not be awed by the great Shakspeare, and, really Shakspeare is great, I do not see why the English Theatre will not be as good as any.”(23/60-64)

The only part of the book which has any pertinence to the subject on which it professes to treat, is a short chapter on International Copyright, wherein we find the main principles of the question simply set forth.(23/67) We have read Mr. Rocchietti’s book on account of its title, which has a very taking look; but the first page of it is enough to show that he has no qualifications for the very serious labor which he has undertaken. If we were disposed to be merry over a well-meant performance, we could pick out fun enough from its pages to fill up our paper.

[[BJ, February 8, 1845 - 1:90]]

(a) WE copy the following poem from the American Review,(23/75) the new Whig Magazine, on account of its unusual beauty. It will have been read by many of our city subscribers, we have no doubt, before it reaches them in our columns, but there are others to whom it will be as welcome as it is new.

Mr. Willis copies it into the Mirror with the following remarks. “In our opinion it is the most effective single example of fugitive poetry ever published to this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification and consistent sustaining of imaginative lift. It is one of those ‘dainties bred in a book,’(23/81-82) which we feed on. It will stick to the memory of everybody who reads it.”

THE RAVEN.

BY EDGAR A. POE.

(Followed by the poem.) [page 24:]

[[BJ, February 22, 1845 - 1:127]]

[Not by Poe]

NOTICES TO READERS AND CORRESPONDENTS.(24/1)We have the pleasure of announcing to our readers, that hereafter, EDGAR A. POE and HENRY C. WATSON, will be associated with the Editorial department of our Journal. MR. WATSON, will have entire control of the Musical department of the paper, and will give to it the full benefit of his well known abilities.

The illustration which we had intended for this week’s paper, a highly popular subject, which would have pleased all, and offended none, unfortunately was spoiled in the cutting, and we have none other to take the place which we had intended it should occupy. We shall guard against such accidents in future.

A very good natured gentleman, an editor himself, called at our office to tell Mr. Bisco, that he thought we had faults. We have not heard of a more sensible thing since we commenced our editorial career. To relieve this gentleman’s mind from any anxious doubts that he may entertain in regard to our perfections, we hasten to assure him that we have faults, very great ones too, which he has probably never discovered, though we endeavor to hide them, so that others shall not see them. This may be hypocrisy, but we are not aware that any body has laid this fault at our door. However, we believe that this gentleman considered it a fault in us, that we find fault with others. This would be a very serious fault if it were done in mere wantonness, or from ill nature, but when fault is found professionally, there should be no more blame attached to the finder, than to a physician who informs a patient that his liver is diseased. We have never troubled ourselves to hunt up mistakes, but aimed solely to point out errors of principle in the works which we have noticed, and by this rule we shall always be guided. Personalities will always be avoided in our columns, but the perpetrator of a false principle in literature or art, must, of course, be made the object at which the battering-ram of criticism is directed. But this can be done with a sole view to demolish the principle, without any intent of injuring the person.

We published, a month ago, an account of a new discovery in the art of reproducing engravings,(24/31) and called attention to a specimen produced by the new process, which we had received from London, and hung up in our office. The Mirror of Tuesday evening, reprints the article, and gives credit for it to the Britannia, and at the same time states that a specimen had been published by the Art-Union of this city. The article in the Mirror appeared first in the Art. Union, a monthly Magazine, published in London, in which Magazine the specimen alluded to first appeared. The American Art-Union of this city has not published any specimen, as a matter of course. We make this explanation simply because the American Art-Union has some twenty-five hundred subscribers, who might be looking for their copy of the “specimen,” and attach blame to the officers of the institution for neglecting to send it to them. The Art-Union, the London Art-Union,(24/44) and the American Art-Union, are three very distinct affairs, but a similarity of names leads to very frequent mistakes by our press, when alluding to them.

The “Crossing’s Sweeper,” is very much to our mind, and creditable to the author’s heart and talents; but parts of it are so marred by mere neglect, that we cannot publish it in its present state, although strongly tempted to do so.

The editor of the Philadelphia Sun has misunderstood our remarks on the Magazines;(24/51) we certainly bear them no ill will, and do not see how they can possibly interfere with our own circulation. We thought that ue paid them a very high compliment in saying that they were the best, almost the only patrons of our native writers. We are extremely happy to learn that GRAHAM paid COOPER fifteen hundred dollars in seventeen months, and that GODEY keeps almost as many ladies in his pay as the Grand Turk; but we have heard of writers, whose articles are certainly equal to any thing of COOPERS(24/59) that we have seen in Graham, to whom that munificent publisher pays nothing.(24/60)

 


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


Notes:

None.


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:0 - BRP3J, 1986] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Editions - The Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (B. R. Pollin) (February 1845)