« ElőzőTovább »
sings, the former dealt in argument. While Natty Bumppo nursed the solitude, Horse-Shoe was eminently social; and while the one inclined to melancholy, the other was the very personification of bonhommie. Both are manly, honest, generous; above meanness; self-sacrificing always, and abounding in loyalty. Both are eminently adhesive. The character of Horse-Shoe was one that seizes immediately upon the sympathies of the reader, as well from its truthfulness as its buoyancy. It is just such a character as every man will recognize, who has seen any thing of the world in the region where the scene is laid. Manly, joyous, bold; ready equally for fight and good-fellowship, and engaging in both, seemingly, with equal good humour, he wins you by a conduct which is equally pleasant and piquant. True to his friend, in all reverses, you have the most perfect reliance upon his faith. Your confidence is equally great in his individual resources. You know that, if he flies at this moment from your side, it is only because he can do you no present service ; but you feel sure that he will return, before it is too late, and when you most need, to succour; that he has only disappeared in order to procure the means of help, and that he will be sure to find them. If he economizes himself at all, it is only through policy, not fear, for he rather inclines to go out of his way, when the chance is that he will encounter hard blows and a tough opponent by doing
You cannot daunt him. You can never take him by surprise. He is always warm enough for action-always cool enough to see how to play his game, and where to plant his blows. Altogether, a more perfect and perfectly drawn study, of its class, you will hardly find anywhere in American fiction, and the felicity of the portrait was at once established, by the popularity of the character.
Mr. Kennedy acknowledges that the portrait is that of a real personage. It is not a fancy sketch. This does not lessen the merit of the painter; since, to be perfectly truthful, requires a rare capacity of eye and judgmentan eye at once large enough for the tout ensemble, and microscopic enough for the most insignificant of its details; and a judgment that never suffers the undue preponderance of any one attribute, which may lessen the virtue and effect of any of the rest.
He happened upon the character-the original of Horse
Shoe—in 1819, while travelling in South-Carolina-of which State the latter was a native. Robinson was the proper name, Horse-Shoe the nom de guerre, of our hero. It came from his vocation, which, before the war, was that of a blacksmith. Our author, struck with his appearance, was easily persuaded to listen to his adventures. These are truthfully set forth. The rose tints of the story—the love passages-are wholly fictitious. These, Horse Shoe, in subsequent years, when the book was shown him, was not prepared to remember ; but he was willing to swear and sign for all the rest. This book is, accordingly, one that, as conspicuously as any other, illustrates the importance of truthful and salient characterization, in a work, without regard to its simple incidents. Not that the incidents in the novel are not full of life and interest ; but, as they serve only for the development of the characters they are, necessarily to be held subordinate. Without Horse-Shoe, the story would be flat; with him in the foreground, full of genuine hearty humour, great courage, excellent sense, and a calm, deliberate judgment, there are few purely American stories which can be assigned the superiority over it.
Such, in general terins, is the sufficient estimate which may be made of this production. It is too late in the day to enter now upon an analysis of its details, or to scrutinize very closely the manner in which they are put together. The publication of the new and beautiful edition before us, after an interval of twenty years, sufficiently shows that the story is regarded as an American classic, and must take its place, without question, in the national library. This being the case, it is matter of regret that the author has not been a little more severe in his revision of its pages. We note sundry little particulars which needed the file and burnisher, and a scrupulous care would have pruned away many luxuriances, which impair the effect of the better portions of the picture. In some of his dialogues, our author has not possessed himself of the right idiom of the country; and, in others, he sometimes forgets to make his speaker consistent in the patois which
Let the author or reader compare, for example, the style of speech employed by the ruffian, Wat Adair, on page 165, with that which the same person employs, addressing the same parties, on page 182. In the one
case, he speaks very good English, without twang or vulgarity; in the other, his language is the commonest of the ignorant backwoodsman. And the like contrast occurs in other pages and other characters. Horse-Shoe himself is occasionalty guilty of similar slips. We note, too, that he sometimes employs the vulgarisms of the country in a sense very different from that in which they are commonly used. For example, our author makes him use "scrumptious in the sense of scrupulous. But, in vulgar parlance, this is not its meaning. Our author has been misled by the four first letters of the word. "Scrumptious” conveys the idea of consequence, swagger, importance, hauteur, conceit. One is scrumptious-he is excruciating, he carries a high head, he is on his p's and q's—or, to use another vulgarism, in this case that of the negro, he
swangers !". The matter might be held a small one, but for the fact that Mr. Webster is so evidently resolved to make the negro and Yankee brogue equally classical. To pass to other natters.
Horse-Shoe is made to say “ You was with us, Major, when Prevost served (sarved ?) us that trick in Georgia, last year—kept us, you remember, on the look-out for him, t'other side of the Savannah, whilst, all the time, he was whisking it down to Charleston."
The mistakes here are historical. Lincoln did not penetrate into Georgia, looking after Prevost. On the contrary, he left Prevost on the sea coast-left Moultrie, with a small force, at Purysburg, to keep an eye on himwhile he (Lincoln) penetrated the interior of Georgia for very different objects—the possession of Augusta, the encouragement of the whigs of the interior, and the overawing of the loyalists. Some of the writers indicate that his further object was to confine the enemy to the sea coast.” How this was to be done, by withdrawing from the sea coast the only forces which could confine him there, is a difficulty which must be left to Yankee generals to understand, and Yankee historians to explain. The movement was a miserably conceived one—the child of utter imbecility. It nearly precipitated the catastrophe. So clearly did it leave the door open to Prevost for a coup de main, that he naturally regarded it as an invitation to attempt one ; and while Lincoln, with the whole continental force, was poking about, on a wild goose chase,
into the interior of Georgia, Prevost turned upon Moultrie's thousand militia, and, with superior numbers, pressed forward for the capture of Charleston, the troops of which had been previously drawn away. Retreating before him, Moultrie saved the city.
When Horse-Shoe speaks of Prevost“ whisking it down to Charleston,” from Savannah, he was rather latitudinarian in his ideas of latitude. His phrase would imply a descent from the interior ; but when Prevost was at Savannah, he was pretty much as far down as he could go, and his course for Charleston lay along the seaboard all the way. He snuffed the Atlantic at every mile in his progress.
Horse-Shoe next, speaking of the fact that the British failed one year, in their attempt on Charleston, yet succeeded the following,—suggests, as a reason for the final result, " that they and the tories were more industrious that year than we were.” Horse Shoe is certainly not an historical authority ; but, as it is difficult to determine, in the present state of morals ani politics in our country, with such historians, and philosophers, and statesmen, as are in the ascendant, what may not become authority, it is just possible that this statement may deceive some innocent and unsuspecting reader. Horse-Shoe should not forget that, in the interval between the two periods, the troops of Carolina had suffered, in the fatal disaster at Savannah-in the attempt to recover that place; that the strength of the country had become diminished, its resources lessened, and that, instead of having four thousand British to contend with, as in Prevost's invasion, the force under Clinton, the year following, was 12,000. There was not a whit less activity in the South, the one year than the other; but the circumstances and relations of the contending parties had undergone the most material changes. The reasons assigned by Horse-Shoe for the event are not only wholly inconclusive, but grossly unjust.
Our next point concerns the escape of Horse-Shoe Robinson from the British, after the surrender of Charleston. Our author has not, probably, attended with sufficient closeness to the details of his hero, or the old man's memory had begun to play cantrips, under the influence of age. He reports himself as having made his escape from the city, over the lines, etc. Does the author suppose
that the British suffered 4,000 prisoners of war to have the free range of the city? Does he suppose that they were confined within the city at all, where it was notorious that so many were disaffected—where, in continual apprehensions of an outbreak, the British seized the principal citizens, and held them in close bonds, as dangerous, or sent them off to remote places, still as prisoners. All this representation, so far as the captured garrison is concerned is a mistake, unless Horse-Shoe can show that there were peculiar reasons operating in his favour, to exempt him from the fate of the rest of the captive garrison. The common soldiers were kept close in the British hulks, the prison ships, or sent to New-York or the West Indies ; while the officers were held under strict surveillance at Haddrill's Point, until sent off also, or exchanged. The entire escape of Horse-Shoe, as reported here, was impossible, unless with the showing of other facts, which do not appear. Our author should have given reasons for making Horse-Shoe's case an exception from that of the rest of the captive garrison. This might have been done very easily, by showing that he had professed a readiness to join the West India recruits, whom the British officers were striving to collect from among the prisoners. To volunteer thus, and play his part judiciously, would have got him out of the “hulks," and secured him, in some degree, the freedom of the city, when he could have bamboozled his Hessian sentinel, as appears now in the history. But this escape leads us to another difficulty, of a topographical nature. The mistake, to which we are now about to invite attention, is not quite so egregious as that of Mr. Edgar A. Poe, who made quite a rocky and mountainous region of Sullivan's Island, where rock is not to be found, in fragments large enough to fill the eye of a bagging needle, and where the heights, like those of Patrick O'Shaughnessy, are all hewed out in the hollows--where, in short, the whole prospect is as level as a pancake. But, in his way, Horse Shoe reports himself as going quite as much out of his way as Mr. Edgar Pee. Thus, escaping over the lines, which ran across the Neck, he reports himself as afraid to keep the Neck road, and so, to go to Orangeburg, he crosses the Ashley! Had our author said the Cooper, he would have used the proper word and water-course. But Orangeburg
NEW SERIES, VOL. VI.-N0. 11.