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Thursday, February 28, 2008
Circular File ... Critical Slam Dunks
Do we admire him? Is he a great author? but .... but .... Do we like him ....???? And where ever does Mr. Carlyle find those peculiar words?
History of Frederick the Second, Called Frederick the Great. by Thomas Carlyle. In four volumes. Harper & Brothers, N.Y. ($1.25 per volume) This is the start of a review of Volumes 1 & 2 contained in an issue of The Ladies Repository from 1859. We have followed Mr. Carlyle, "maker of books", as he discourseth in quaint style and with novel use of words, concerning Frederick the Great. The first two volumes will whet the appetite of the reader for what is to come. Mr. Carlyle -- we make humble but sincere confession of the fact -- is not a writer we admire. He is a great thinker -- a great writer. When he speaks the world will listen. But whether it will be wiser or or better for listening, is, with us at least, an unsolved problem. He is perpetually sending off sky-rockets, no matter how grave or how dull the subject; but what they signify is not so apparent. But we must do justice to Mr. Carlyle, even if it be at the expense of seeming inconsistent ourself. Frederick the Great is debtor to Carlyle. Great as he was in his own times, greater has he has grown since he came to "the finis", as his biographer would say, of life; his huge proportions will not be lessened by the manipulations of Mr. Carlyle ....
The tables turned, vengeance is sweet - and poor Poe not even around to reply! From an 1859 Ladies Repository, the words of one Rev. Mr. Clark: "Edgar Allan Poe was incontestably one of the most worthless persons of whom we have any record in the world of Letters. Many authors have been as idle; many as improvident; some as drunken and dissipated; and a few, perhaps, as treacherous and ungrateful; yet he seems to have succeeded in attracting and combining, in his own person, all the floating vices which genius had hitherto shown itself capable of grasping in its widest and most eccentric orbit......" Fie, Reverend Clark, fie!
The following is from a review printed in Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine, December 1844. Essays. Second Series by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston. James Monroe & Co. 1 Vol. 12mo. "This elegantly printed volume will probably have a more extended circulation than any previous publication of Mr. Emerson. His reputation has now passed from notoriety to fame. It was the fashion once to class him among the wildest class of those mystics whom much transcendentalism had made mad; but his claim to be considered one of the most original and most individual thinkers that the country has produced, is now beginning to be generally acknowledged. "The number of his readers is constantly increasing; and men seem willing to like him for what he is, instead of hating him for what he is not. "Indeed, Mr. Emerson's writings have a charm altogether disconnected from the truth or the error of his opinions. He is a poet, and takes the licenses of the poet. Even if he occasionally flies above our comprehension or apprehension, few would desire to clip his wings. His wit, his fancy, his sharp insight, his terse expression, the extreme subtlety of his conception of beauty, the oddity of many of his illustrations, the quiet fearlessness of his defiances of conventionalism, and the individuality which pervaades all, gives an interest to his compositions, apart from the questionable notions of theology, or metaphysics, society or government, which they appear to convey." Haw! In other words, Heavens to Betsy, we don't understand what he is saying, but we sure do like how Mr. Emerson says it!
An Old Review -- If there had been such .... Circular File -- Slam-Dunk! : Arrah Neil, or Times of Old. by G. P. R. James. New York. Harper & Brothers. "We suppose that this novel will be read, admired, praised and forgotten, like the preceding fictions of the same writer. The usual cant of eulogy will be lavished upon it, and it will then pass into oblivion, to be succeeded in three months by another equally valuable. "In our opinion there is hardly an instance on record, of an author who has contrived to win an extensive reputation, as a writer of works of imagination, with such slender intellectual materials as Mr. James. No one has ever written so many books, purporting to be novels, with so small a stock of heart, brain and invention. He is continually infringing his own copyright, by reproducing his own novels. Far from being surprised that he has written so much, we are astonished that he has not written more. From his first novel, all the rest can be logically deduced; and the reason they have not appeared faster, may be found in the fact that he has been economical in the employment of amanuenses."~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From the Atlantic Monthly September 1881: "In A ROMANCE OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (GP Putnam's Sons) Mr. W.H. Mallock does a great deal to prove that he is not so clever as we thought him." Harrumph. No sense wasting valuable editorial space
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~A Quack by any other name is still a Quack ... Six Weeks in Fauquier. Being the Substance of a Series of Familiar Letters, Illustrating the Scenery, Localities, Medicinal Virtues, and General Characteristics of the White Sulphur Springs at Warrenton, Fauquier County, Virginia. Written in 1838 to a Gentleman in New England by a Visiter. Published by Samuel Colman, New York. Says the reviewer (Who may well have been E. A. Poe): "This is a long title to a rather small affair - a thin duodecimo of sixty-seven pages. The truth is that the whole work has very much the air of a quack advertisement; and, but for those incontrovertible words, "By a Visiter", one might suspect that the proprietors of the White Sulphur Springs had themselves turned authors for the nonce. Be this as it may, the writer should not be accused of a lack of zeal for these waters. Indeed, he sometimes carries it to the verge of a blunder -- In the preface, for instance, he first abuses Saratoga on account of that facility of access which renders its company "promiscuous", and proceeds to expatiate in praise of the 'immense crowds which have hitherto resorted to the White Sulphur'. Amid a collection of recommendatory letters, also, there occurs from one B. Watkins Leigh, in which the Senator somewhat equivocally asserts that the dropsical symptoms with which he went to Fauquier have been continually declining 'ever since he got home'. "There can be no doubt, however, that the springs in question have high medicinal , and higher fashionable virtues. The scenery is beautiful, the charges are moderate, the accommodations are good. In fact everything concerning them is good - with the exception of this stupid little book -- which is very bad indeed --- very."
The following pieces, which three bring the moment's historical rummaging to a close were not quite in the same vituperative vein.
Again from the venerable Ladies' Repository : Adam Bede. by George Eliott [sic], author of Scenes of Clerical Life. N.Y. Harper & Brothers. 12 mo. This is said to be a well-written story ... .... We have not read it. Sigh ...Fanny and Other Poems. One Volume. Harper and Brothers. ... an Hagiographical review: "Mr. Halleck's muse but seldom condescends to flap her wings in the Parnassian atmosphere; the publishers, therefore, with due consideration of the wants of the devotees of Apollo, kindly furnish us with a repetition of the former flutterings of her graceful pinions. We should rejoice to welcome a novelty from the pen of Halleck; there are so few real poets now extant, that we cannot allow one of the highest of the craft to waste his days 'in ease in glorious", without a word of reproach - and this new edition of our favorite "Fanny" is a mouthful of sweets that makes us wish for a larger feast." Harrummph. Rather hagiographical if y'ask me. One wouldn't be surprised if this critic had kept a swooning couch handy ....
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The Sin of Omission . Were the souls of these critics in peril? ...... 'twas only a venial sin ... Once again, from the Ladies Repository, 1859. The New Testament. N.Y. Collins & Bros. 12mo. "This work reached us too late for notice ...." View BOOKS FOR SALE