« ZurückWeiter »
Of these volumes three have long since taken their place in the letters of America, and in the hearts of all who know and love the purest, the truest, and the best that poesy can offer. To them in their secure position will now be added "Flower-deLuce," Mr. Longfellow's latest volume, which, containing indeed for the most part only such lyrics as he has already contributed for desultory publication, is yet rich with the fruit of the deep insight, wise thought, earnest feeling, and ripe scholarship of his full maturity.
But it is not our purpose to pause in criticism over works that may fairly be said to have passed beyond the province of contemporary criticism. Rather is it our desire to welcome them as they are tendered to us in a new form, and to commend the artistic character of their presentation. For these books indicate that out of the many attempts which have been made in this country-some of them most creditable, too, and nearly approaching thorough excellence to produce illustrative and mechanical effects equal to those of England and continental Europe, there has at last come an absolute accomplishment, from which we hope and are ready to believe there will be no recession.
One book of great beauty would hardly raise our faith so far. It might be the result of a fortunate combination of propitious circumstances, an accident of which the best intent in the world could not cause a deliberate repetition,- for chance can work well as easily as ill, may make a plan as simply as mar it, and none need be told how often the best-devised schemes "gang a-gley" by reason of some fortuity for which no allowance had been made.
But when from the same press there emanate in a single season several books, prepared at different times by different
hands, although, of course, under the same general direction and supervision, the natural inference is, that something positive has been attained, either in the principle of manufacture, or in a better understanding of the elements which must enter into the. composition of a really elegant book, and a juster estimate of the manner in which these elements are to be combined.
In the four books under consideration, all the necessary conditions appear to have been recognized and fulfilled. It is, of course, too much to say that they are perfect, and many who are versed in the particulars of lineal art will perhaps find things which they might wish otherwise. But with all such qualification, these volumes show indisputably that in the matter of illustration and typography the New World is now quite the equal of the Old.
The artists engaged — to whose names, as mentioned above, should be added those of H. Fenn, G. Perkins, S. Colman, Jr., and W. Waud, as illustrators of Flowerde-Luce" are all men well known, and most of them are eminent in their profession. Each has had a subject which suited closely his capacity and taste, together, evidently, with the liberty of treating his theme according to his own discretion, and as amply as he pleased, the brief poem, "Maud Muller," for instance, having been supplied by Mr. Hennessy with thirteen illustrations, while in the other volumes equal liberality is manifest.
We have not the space to make, as we should like to do, an exact analysis of these volumes, comparing each artist's series of drawings, one by one, with his chosen passages of the text; but a careful examination convinces us that as a whole these designs are remarkably appreciative and apt. Every person will not expect his own ideal Evangeline or Sir Launfal to appear before him on the page, but every reflective mind will find, we think, such a parallelism between poetry and picture as is not only consistent with exactness, but will further serve to illuminate and beautify the text.
Intelligent or even inspired drawing is vain, if to it be not added faithfulness and fervor on the part of those whose handiwork follows that of the draughtsman, and upon whom his fate and fame greatly depend, — the engraver and the printer. Heretofore it has seemed almost impossible for American representatives of these three arts to work together for good. The drawing might be faultless as it lay intact upon the
wood, but the graver in a heedless hand or the manipulation of an injudicious pressman left little except the broad, indestructible characteristics in the impression which was eventually made public.
At last, let us be thankful, a new era has dawned, and we have here woodcuts which may confidently invite comparison with any as examples of the highest excellence which has yet been reached in this department. The thorough and intelligent workmanship of the University Press has preserved to us every line and shade which was intrusted to its care, and the prints are free alike from fade indistinctness and from ruinous weight of color. The engraving which is so admirably represented is thoroughly good, and, to our thinking, it is of a better school than that which largely obtains in England at this time, and the degeneracy and slovenliness of which have been of late so much criticised and deplored by the best judges. The most of the designs have been engraved by Mr. A. V. S. Anthony, who ranks probably at the head of American engravers, and whose delicacy of feeling and touch, beautifully exemplified in the eighth and twelfth pictures of "Maud Muller," entitle much of his work to an estimation not far below that accorded to Linton or Thompson. The few remaining blocks were cut by Mr. J. P. Davis and Mr. Henry Marsh, who emulate most praiseworthily the excellence, skill, and fidelity of Mr. Anthony.
IF the author of this amusing book had been less devoted to his purpose of making fun, we think he could have made us a pic ture of German life which we should have been very glad to have in the absence of much honest information on the subject and the presence of a great deal of flimsy idealizing. As it is, we fear that his work, for the most part a truthful portraiture, will present itself only as a caricature to those unacquainted with the original, and that, for all Mr. Browne says to the contrary, many worthy people must go on thinking German life a romantic, Christmas-tree affair, full of pretty amenity, and tender ballads, and bon-bons. But some day, the truth will avenge itself, and without the least air of burlesque show us that often narrow and sordid existence, abounding
in sensual appetites, coarse or childish pleasures, and paltry aims, and varnished with a weak and extravagant sentimentality, - that social order still so feudally aristocratic and feudally plebeian, in which the poor are little better than vassals, and their women toil in the fields like beasts of burden, and the women of all classes are treated with rude and clumsy disesteem.
Mr. Browne's book is devotedly funny, as we hinted, but, in spite of this, is really very amusing. A Californian, rich from the subiti guadagni of his shares in the Washoe mines, is carried to Frankfort by his enthusiastic wife, who is persuaded that Germany is the proper place to bring up American children. They live there in the German fashion, Mrs. Butterfield charmed and emulous of German civilization, Mr. Butterfield willing, but incorrigibly Californian to the last, and retaining throughout that amazing local pride in the institutions, productions, and scenery of his adopted State which Americans so swiftly acquire in drifting from one section of the Union to another. The invention of this family is not the least truthful thing in the book, which in many respects is full of droll good-sense and good humor.
Charles Lamb. A Memoir. By BARRY CORNWALL. Boston: Roberts Brothers.
It is not to any very definable cause that this charming book owes the interest with which it holds the reader throughout. It can scarcely be said to present the life or character of Lamb in a novel aspect, and even the anecdotic material in which it abounds does not appear altogether fresh. The very manner in which the subject is treated is that to which we are accustomed : for who has ever been able to write of Charles Lamb but in a tone of tender and compassionate admiration?
Something, however, better than novelty of matter or method appears in this Memoir, and makes it the best ever written concerning the fine poet, exquisite humorist, and noble man, whom it brings nearer than ever to our hearts. Much was to be expected of Mr. Proctor in such a work, though much would have been forgiven him if he had indulged himself far more than he has done in an old man's privilege to be garrulous upon old times and old friends, and had confined himself less strictly to the life and character illustrative of Lamb's.