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ever, there is a world of rich allusion -a vein of sober caricature-the merit of which is little understood here: Take an example-"Von Poffenburg" is a portrait-outrageously distorted, on some accounts, but nevertheless a portrait, of General Wilkinson-a "bellipotent" officer, who sent in a bill, to Congress, for sugar plums, or segars, or both, after " throwing up" -in disgust we dare say, as " he could not stomach it," his military command upon the Florida frontier : So too-in the three Dutch governors, we could point out a multitude of laughable secret allusions to three of the American chief magistrates (Adams, Jefferson, Madison)-which have not always been well understood, anywhere by anybody-save those who are familiar with American history.
By nine readers out of ten, perhaps, Knickerbocker is read, as a piece of generous drollery-nothing more. Be it so. It will wear the better-The design of Irving himself is not always clear nor was he always undeviating, in his course. Truth or fable, fact or falsehood-it was all the same to him, if a bit of material came in his way.
In a word, we look upon this volume of Knickerbocker; though it is tiresome, though there are some wretched failures in it; a little overdoing of the humorous-and a little confusion of purpose, throughout-as a work, honourable to English literature-manly-bold-and so altogether original, without being extravagant, as to stand alone, among the labours of men.
weeks, more testimonials of public favour-than have ever been bestowed upon all the public men of America
from the time of Washington, up to this hour.-The consequence was natural. The commanders of their little navy adventured everywhere, with a preternatural ardour; fought nobly, desperately-and were the talk of a whole country. Battle after battle was fought; victory after victory followed-before the tide was turned, by the capture of their Chesapeake.
The Analectic Magazine took fire with an eye to profit: hunted up materials: employed Irving to write a Biography of these naval captains, one after the other; and gave it out, with portrait after portrait, month after month, to the overheated public.
4. NAVAL BIOGRAPHY. Irving had now grown so popular, in America, that he was consulted with, or pestered about, almost every undertaking of the day, in matters of literature.
The war with us had become serious. The navy had grown popular, with everybody. The pride of the people was up; their passions; they were almost ready to launch their houses upon the water.-When Hall took the Guerriere; and broke, as they say, there, the charm of our invincibility (they never say how, by the way; or with what force)-the whole country broke out, into acclamation. They loaded him down with honour. They lavished upon him, within a few
Some of these papers are bravely done: In general, they are eloquent, simple, clear, and beautiful: Among the LIVES, that of poor PERRY, the young fresh-water Nelson, who swept Lake Erie of our fleet, in such a gallant, seaman-like style, is quite remarkable-as containing within itself, proof, that Irving has the heart of a poet. We do not say this, lightlywe say it as a fact-we shall prove it. -We had seen him try hard, before, in that paltry, boyish piece of description-the passage through Hell Gate*
which has been so be-praised: we had really dozed over his laboured embellishments-they were affronting to our natural sense of poetry-we had no suspicion of the truth.-It is only a word or two, that we speak of. It is not where he tries, that Irving is poetical: it is only where he is transported, suddenly, by some beautiful thought-carried away, without knowing why-by inward music--his heart beating; his respiration hurried.
He is never the man to call up the anointed, before him, at will: to imagine spectacles; or people the air earth, and sea-like a wizard-by the waving of his hand. He has only the heart of a poet: He has not-he never will have-the power of one. is too late, now. Power comes of perpetual warfare-trial-hardship: He has grown up, in perpetual quietsunshine-a sort of genteel repose.He may continue, therefore, to feel poetry; to think poetry-to utter po
etry, by chance-but he will never be able to do poetry, now, as he might have done it, before this, if he had been worthily tempered, year after year, by wind, or fire-rain-or storm. He, who has grown up in the courtly tournament: He, whose warlike discipline has come only of the tiltingground-blunted weapons-or silken armour-may have the heart of a true knight-may feel bravely-may think chivalry-but will he be able to do chivalry, for more than a little time, together?
of the Edinburgh critics.-He was right.
6. SKETCH-BOOK-Irving had now come to be regarded as a professional author: to think of his pen for a livelihood. His mercantile speculations were disastrous. We are glad of it. It is all the better for him-his countryour literature-us. But for that lucky misfortune, he would never have been half what he now is: But for his present humiliation, he would never be half what he will now be, if we rightly understand his character.
The passage, to which we allude, is not, as he might suppose, that, where he goes out of his way, tries, labours to be a poet; by saying, that-while the dying men lay about, upon deck -their eyes were all turned up to the face of Perry: no-the passage to which we allude, is unpremeditatedIt is not a picture, like that, which he, himself, declares to be " above prose -poetry"-it is only one thought, happily uttered-said, as none but a poet ever could have said it. He has been talking about Lake Erie-that solitude of waters-where no battle had ever been heard before: over which no warrior ship had ever gone. He speaks of the barbarian-we do not give the words-looking out from the wood-startled by the "apparition of a sea-fight" upon the waters of a solitary lake, whereon, till that hour, he had never seen a vessel, perhaps, larger than his own birch canoe.
That, we say, is enough. That very phrase the apparition of a sea-fight is enough to prove that Irving is, by nature, a great poet.-We shall say more of this, by and by.
5. INTRODUCTION to Mr Campbell's poetry. A well-written article: but Irving was never made for a critic. He is, to a critic, what a cupper and bleeder is to a resolute surgeon. If he let out any blood-black, or natural-healthy, or pestilential it is by coaxing it out of timid, small punctures-not by draining arteries, with a fearless cut, into the very region of the heart, perhaps-if the case require it. One thought, only, do we remember. He charges Mr C. with having been frightened, by the Edinburgh people, during the time of gestation or delivery:-or, to nearer what he says-he charges Mr C. with having been too much afraid
Strange-but so it was. The accidental association-the fortuitous conjunction, of two or three young men, for the purpose of amusing the town, with a few pages a-month, in Salamagundi, led, straightway, to a total change of all their views in life. Two of them, certainly; perhaps all three, became professional authors, in a country, where only one (poor BROWN) had ever appeared before. Two of them have become greatly distinguished, as writers: the third (Verplanck) somewhat so, by the little that he has writ
Thus it is. A single star, worthy of attention, has hardly ever appeared in the skies of literature. So, in learning: so in science-age after age. It is a constellation-a cluster-a galaxy -or darkness. But for a similar conjunction, we do believe that most of the leading writers in our sturdy old English literature, would never have been greatly distinguished. A man should have a body of iron-a soul of iron-to outlive a long course of solitary trial.-But for strong rivalry— contention-social criticism-jealousy -fear-perpetual effort, no great man would ever have known a tythe of his own power: Nay, but for such a state of intellectual warfare, he would never have had a tythe of that power, which he may have put forth, in his full maturity. Hence, the policy of confederating for mutual improvement, everywhere-among every class of people. The mass of their knowledge becomes a property in common. Trial, exercise, power, self-assurance come of it.-Every year, a man, who is thus urged onward, will do that, which, a year before, he would have thought impossible: see, that as the horizon grows larger about him, at every step of his upward course-which, a year
before, he had never heard of. He may not be so sensible of his progress, after a time, as he was, when he went up, first, from the level of his companions; but his progress will be, nevertheless, real. He, who has had an opportunity of measuring himself, thus, day after day, with men like himself, will come, in a single twelvemonth, to look upon that, of which he was proud, with a feeling of shame, astonishment, or sincere sorrow. Not so, if he hold himself aloof, or be held aloof, by circumstances. He may go into his grave, without advantage to himself, or the world; linger his fourscore years; or die of old age, with a feeling of complacency toward all the labour of his hands. God help such a man!' God help him, who does not see, whatever he may have done-however proud he may be of it-however honest, or, the world say, however boastful, he may be of it-God help him, if he do not see, before the fever of his blood is down, that he might have done it much better.-Let a man be proud of his doing, let him, if he speak at all-speak the truth of his own workmanship-whatever the world may say but let him never be satisfied with himself or his work-never
The American cities are townsthe largest, only towns; the smallest, villages. Altogether they do not contain one half so great a population as that of London.-There was no opportunity, for Irving, in America: no chance of association. Therefore, he came here.
sive publisher has had all the riskwhen, making a bow, perhaps, they step in, with a superb, generous air; overbid all their "less enterprizing brethren;" subscribe off the book, before they publish it; and pass for liberal, adventurous encouragers of literature. -Let authors treat such people, as they deserve: stand by those, who stood by them, in spite of temptation
if they would make themselves or their brethren respectable.-We could point out one of these " patrons❞— one of these "enterprizing publishers" who has rejected manuscripts probably, without reading them-certainly without behaving like a gentleman to the authors-and yet, when these very authors came to be known; he has gone out of his way, to pay them unworthy compliments: to coax and wheedle them-into a new negotiation. We could name one, who, some years ago, thought proper, to refuse the manuscript of a young author-a man of singular talent-with a sort of compassionate-pitying-supercilious air
infinitely provoking, though not enough so to furnish a plausible excuse for knocking him down.-That author has now become one of our authorities-he is a statesman-has_great power, and great reputation.-Lately -not long ago-the publisher was lucky enough to meet him, for a few minutes, in a large company.-He went up to him; spoke to him; said a great many delightful things: reminded him of the time, when he was in such, or such an obscure situation, overlooked of all the world; begging him to believe, by the way, that he had not overlooked him: that he had seen his talents-of which, bowing, the world had now such abundant proof-&c. &c. &c.-"Yes"-was the reply-" Yes, Mr:-so and so-You certainly did shew your estimation of my talents-bowing-once."-This very publisher too, refused Hunter's Narrative. It was published on account of the author. It succeeded. He-the publisher, who had refused it, was cunning enough to give Hunter a hint or two-immediately-concerning his future publications.-A curse on such "enterprize!"
The SKETCH-BOOK was written for America. It was refused here by two or three booksellers-Mr Murray among the number, we believe: was published, on Irving's account, we also believe, by Mr Millar.-It met with unexpected favour: Millar was "unfortunate:" wherefore Mr Murray, whose" enterprize," where there is no sort of risk-we would never question -made a proposal for the SKETCHBook; following it up, with a "munificent" 1000 guineas for BRACEBRIDGE HALL and a L.1500 for the TALES -(Irving had learnt how to deal, in the meantime.)-These" enterprizing publishers," by the way, are a pleasant kind of adventurers, to be surevery desperate-very. They lie by, till a man's reputation is up; till some less "enterprizing," wealthy, or exten
The SKETCH-BOOK-is a timid, beautiful work; with some childish pathos in it; some rich, pure, bold poetry: a little squeamish, puling, lady-like sentimentality: some courage
ous writing-some wit and a world of humour, so happy, so natural-so altogether unlike that of any other man-dead or alive, that we would rather have been the writer of it, fifty times over, than of everything else, that he has ever written.
The touches of poetry are everywhere; but never where one would look for them. Irving has no passion: he fails utterly, in true pathos-cannot speak, as if he were carried away, by anything. He is always thoughtful; and, save when he tries to be fine, or sentimental, always at home, always natural. The dusty splendour" of Westminster Abbey-the "ship staggering" over the precipices of the ocean-the shark "darting, like a spectre, through the blue waters."—All these things are poetry-such poetry as never was never will be surpassed. We could mention fifty more passages-epithets-words of power, which no mere prose writer would have dared, under any circumstances, to use. They are like the "invincible locks” of Milton-revealing the God, in spite of every disguise. They remind us of Leigh Hunt, who, to do him justice-notwithstanding all his "tricksey" prettinesses, does talk more genuine poetry, in his epithets, than any other man, that ever lived. We know well what we say we except nobody.—We hate his affectation; despise-pity his daintiness, trick and foppery, but cannot refuse to say, that in his delicate, fine, exquisite adaptation of descriptive words, to the things described, in his poetry he has no equal. The loosened silver" of the fountain; the "golden ferment" of the sunshine, upon the wet grass; the large rain-drops, that fall upon the dry leaves, like "twangling pearl" -all these, with a thousand others, are in proof.
us; never "go, a-rippling to our finger-ends;" but are always agreeableaffecting us, like the sweet quiet lustre of the stars, or moon. When we come upon the epithets of Hunt, we feel as if we had caught something—a butterfly, or a bug, perhaps, while running with our mouth open; or detected some hidden relationship of things: But when we come upon the epithets of Geoffrey, we feel as if we had found, accidentally, after we had given up all hope-some part or parcel, which had always been missing (as everybody could see, though nobody knew where to look for it), of the very thoughts or words, with which he has now coupled it for ever.-Let us give an illustration.
The epithets of Hunt are picturesportraits-likenesses: those of Geoffrey, shadows. Those of the former frequently take off your attention from the principal object: outshine, overtop, that, of which they should be only the auxiliaries: Those of the latter never do this-they only help the chief thought. The associations of Hunt startle us, like Moore's "unexpected light;" in the cool grass-the trodden velvet of his poetry: those of Irving never startle us; never thrill VOL. XVII.
Who has not felt, as he stood in the solemu, strange light of a great wilderness; of some old, awful ruin—a world of shafts and arches about him, like a druidical wood-illuminated by the sunset-a visible bright atmosphere, coming through coloured glass
who has not felt, as if he would give his right hand for a few simple words
the fewer the better-to describe the appearance of the air about him?Would he call it splendour ?-It isn't splendour: dusty ?-It would be ridiculous. But what if he say, like Irving, " dusty splendour ?"-Will he not have said all that can be said?— Who ever saw those two words associated before? who would ever wish to see them separated again?
The bravest article that Irving ever wrote, is that about our ENGLISH WRITERS ON AMERICA. There is more manhood: more sincerity: more straight-forward, generous plain-dealing in that one paper, than, perhaps, in all his other works.-He felt what he said; every word of it: had nothing to lose; and, of course, wrote intrepidly. Did we like him the worse for it? No, indeed. It was that very paper, which made him respectable, in this country.
RIP VAN WINKLE is well done; but we have no patience with such a man, as Washington Irving.-We cannot keep our temper, when we catch him pilfering the materials of other men; working up old stories. We had as lief see him before the public, for some Bow-street offence.
The WIFE is ridiculous, with some beautiful description: but Irving, as I
VOL. II.-Irving, though he is continually at work, never gives one a good solid notion of the English character. All his pictures want breadth -a sort of bold, bluff humour-without which a man of this country is like the man of every other country. The Stage-Coachman, for example what is it, as a whole?-parts are fine -touches are fine-but, as a whole, it is anything but one of our good-natured, lubberly, powerful coachmen: one of those fellows, who fight without losing their temper: who love their horses more heartily than their wives: touch their own hats, or knock off those of other people, with precisely the same good-humoured air: say -"Coach, your honour ?"-And"Go to the devil!" in the same drowsy, hoarse, peculiar voice.
One of the best papers that Irving ever wrote-if not, in reality, the very best, is JOHN BULL. Yet is it, nevertheless a coloured shadow only-an imaginary portrait; not our John Bull -not he the real, downright John Bull, whom we see every day in the
TRAITS OF INDIAN CHARACTER. Very good-very-so far as they go: Historically true: Irving has done bimself immortal honour, by twice taking the field in favour of the North American savages. He has made it fashionable.
"Of mighty Shakspeare's birth, the room, we see;
That, where he died, in vain to find we try:
Useless the search for all immortal he— And those, who are immortal, never die."
STRATFORD-UPON-AVON.-This brings to our mind a piece of poetryfour lines-by Irving, which he left as an impromptu, on his last visit, a few months ago, we believe, to Shakspeare's room. They are very good; and being, we have a notion, the only poetry of his, actually counted off, to be found, are worth preserving.
We know not if these be his; but we have good reason to believe them At any rate-we shall pass them to his credit, for the present, adding two lines by a countryman of his, (Neal) which really were impromptuthe only impromptu, that he ever wrote in his life.-They were written, after he had forsworn poetry-(on going into the room, where Shakspeare was born)-because, if we are to believe him," he couldn't help himself."
"The ground is holy, here!-the very air!
Ye breathe what Shakspeare breathed -rash men, forbear!"
STOUT GENTLEMAN-very good; and a pretty fair account of a real occurrence ;* STUDENT OF SALAMANCA: beneath contempt: Irving has no idea of genuine romance; or love-or anything else, we believe, that ever seriously troubles the blood of men:-ROOKERY -struck off in a few hours; contrary to what has been said: Irving does not labour as people suppose-he is too indolent-given, too much, we know, to revery DOLPH HEYLIGER; THE HAUNTED HOUSE; STORM SHIP—all in the fashion of his early time: perhaps-we are greatly inclined so to believe-perhaps the remains of what was meant for Salamagundi, or Knickerbocker :-the rest of the two volumes quite unworthy of Irving's reputation.
But, oddly enough, there seems to be another original account of the same occurrence. Look into the HERMIT IN LONDON. We have a mysterious character, and a rainy day, there, too.