Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

day, whose policy is to hold the key to every commercial highway, and who uses the great inventions of the times to consolidate an empire which stretches round the world. From the England which then listened impatiently to Clark. son, Wilberforce, Buxton, and the rest, who insisted that the slave-trade and African slavery must cease, we are led along the course of history to see anti-slavery become popular, to see the emancipation of the West Indies, and then to see that re-action which made it possible for England to descend to be the willing tool of the aristocratic, slave-holding rebellion in America.

Such changes as are thus described required the patient work, prayer, and sacrifice of nearly two generations of men. The chief merit of this historian is, that she tries to do justice to those poor wise men on whom God so often throws the saving of their city. It is astonishing to see how many such men there are, each of whom has, in his day, fixed lis pivot for the wheel-work of the great machine of history; a pivot on which, to this hour, the whole is playing and must play, but which we to-day forget in the clangor of success. It may be that so many new additions have been made since their time, that, through the very reticulations of the improvements, we cannot see the essential work which they did for us, not so very long ago. To rescue such forgotten heroes from entire oblivion is a very noble and peculiarly interesting duty undertaken by Miss Martineau. There are no parts of her work where she appears to so much advantage as in the biographical sketches which close her successive chapters.

For the forty years of peace, the history of England was, to a considerable extent, the history of the world. If we may believe the English statesmen of to-day, this is not to be so again. England is to be indifferent, it seems, in case any other Greece breaks loose from any other Turkey. England may excite Italy to rebellion perhaps; but she means but little, and it is far from her to give any help after the sword is drawn. England may encourage Denmark to resistance perhaps ; but every one but Denmark knows what such encouragement is worth. Indeed, England has bound herself over to keep the peace by her new doctrine of .maritime law.

Though her enemy were San Marino or Costa Rica, — the meanest States in the world, — that enemy may, by English law, give commissions to any corsair who chooses to run down an English merchantman, plunder her passengers, and give her to the flames. With such a theory on her record, England will long be slow to war with States which have no commerce at risk for retaliation. But, in the forty years of the peace, England had not accepted this position of a second Holland. She was still a first-class power, and she dealt in every man's affairs. This history, therefore, leads the reader to Greece, to India, to Canada, to South America, to France, to Algiers, to Syria, and to China; and becomes a key to the history for that part of this century — of all the world. Into all the excursions necessary for such study, Miss Martineau plunges with her own alacrity; and the reader follows with surprise and interest, even where he asks for more detail and incident than he is apt to find.

The sequel to the history which covers the ten years in which the American title differs from the English, is less than a hundred pages; and is necessarily, perhaps, only a brief compendium of the years, not curiously eventful or dramatic, which passed between 1845 and 1855. There is just enough narrative to keep along the calendar. In the passage of these ten years, many of the heroes of modern England died, who were on the stage when the volumes closed in their first issue. Sir Robert Peel died, — the Duke of Wellington, Rogers, Wordsworth, Moore, and Maria Edgeworth, George Stephenson, Turner, and many others, who, in one walk or another, had done much for England during the peace, and the war before it. Here are so many points of biography to be added to the sketches in the volumes as they were, or to be enlarged from the pictures then presented of persons still upon the stage.

The peroration is transferred from the end of the old edi. tion to the end of the new. The book is, on the whole, the history of victory. It is no wonder, then, that it closes with congratulations for success. Still it has to confess, that in that great central duty for which States exist, the training of men and women, England is hardly more successful after forty years of peace, than she was when those years began. “The tremendous labor-question remains untouched,” says the author. A mother, unconscious of wrong, poisons eight infants in succession ; ... hardly half the middle class marry before they are elderly ;” and men see “ their children sinking in body for want of food.” Ah ! all the telegraphs in the world do not make compensation for this. Shall we compass sea and land, when at our doors is such misery? Is it true, as one of the wisest Englishmen of our day declares, that the pyramid of English order is curiously compact, but that it is standing on its apex? Is it true, as he says, that, when the laboring men of the North of England find out their power, this pyramid will topple over ?

ART. VII. — THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF DESIGN.

The other day we took up Matthew Arnold's “ Essays in Criticism” to look again at what he says about the literary influence of academies. He seems to us to excel all modern writers of English in naturalness and clearness; he is natural, without being either vulgar or condescending; he is clear, without dryness or formality. Whenever we read in his book, we feel that a voice has spoken, out of a modest, manly heart, words of deep meaning and seriousness, which will sink into the minds of our generation, and make us think more justly and soberly on many matters. And yet it is impossible not to feel, that, whatever he may be saying, the writer never forgets the law of restraint that he has laid upon his pen. His genius is playful; perhaps, if it be not counted disparaging, we should think the “vivacity "- of which he sometimes speaks with a deprecatory, appealing tone to be his characteristic trait. But he makes no terms with this besetting sin, as he plainly thinks it; he puts it down with a hand of parental sternness; and it is only by the smile which hides behind the frown, that we perceive this sobriety to be assumed from principle, that no man has a keener eye for the weak points in an adversary's armor, and no man a keener relish for the pleasure there is in giving an adversary the

coup

de

grace. At the same time, there is nothing in Mr. Arnold's humor that savors of malice, or of the spirit which makes a man say sharp things for the mere pleasure of saying them. He is in downright earnest, and so bent on persuading or convincing, that again and again, when you think he is going to strike, he stops; he denies himself and you the pleasure of seeing execution done, - he fears so to jeopard his cause. And, like all earnest Englishmen now-a-days, like Carlyle and Ruskin and Tennyson and Browning and Mrs. Browning and Clough, he is sad in his earnestness. These noble hearts seem to be profoundly discontented. They are the Hamlets of to-day. “The time is out of joint,” they cry; "O cursed spite that ever we were born to set it right !" But Carlyle's discontent makes him surly; Ruskin's makes him peevish; Tennyson and Arnold alone do not wholly despair, nor demand that we should despair. These men keep their eyes fixed too steadily on England and her mortal sickness. They think England is the world, or that all the world is like England. If this were true, their sadness would be most reasonable; but, while all the rest cry out in their pain, and some, like Ruskin, use their grief to feed their rhetoric.and round their periods, Arnold never betrays his trouble by any speech: we know it only by the way in which, insensibly, it colors all his speech. He cannot hide it from us, if he would.

The essay in his volume which we have read with most interest is that on “ The Literary Influences of Academies." Would that we had a writer in this country, master of such a style, to speak to our people in such a spirit! For, surely, if these words of Arnold's are needed in England, they are much more needed here. We too have to be warned against provincialism, against lawlessness; we too need a tribunal, a standard in literature and in art.

Especially do we need this tribunal, this standard in art; for in literature, although we have not the highest models in any department, we have respectable models in several, and excellent models in one or two. Three such writers as Hawthorne, Emerson, and Irving, leave little to be desired in their respective fields. But our poets are all mediocre; we have no great historian; no dramatist, small or great; in politics and law, no great writer of this, or of the last, generation. We do not mean to carp.

This is not fault-finding. To be sure, it is not what we are accustomed to say out loud at public dinners or in the newspapers. In the lectures at lyceums and in the speeches at college “ commencements," we think we have heard a different statement. But is not this what intelligent Americans candidly say to one another in private? Do not the clubs admit it, and the dinner-parties? and is it not true?

Certainly we believe it to be so. Nor do we think it to be wondered at, nor that we should be sneered at for it. As little do we believe, that it is a defect likely to be chronic, or one that is in any way inherent in the nature of a republic. It is partly the result of our youth ; and partly the result of our training, or rather of our want of training. But we may rejoice in this, that we are young, and that, in many ways, our youth has proved itself not ignoble. Life spreads wide and fair before us. If, after a few stormy years, God gave us, for a generation, peace and plenty, we did not wholly abuse his gifts; and when he put before us one of those great issues, which every people worthy to be made a nation has had set before it for its education, we did not shirk it: we accepted it boldly, and settled it, we hope, in spite of the present darkness, for ever. And God will send us other experiences. He will educate us as He has educated other peoples, and make us a nation, as he has made them.

We cannot, therefore, see any reason why we should despair. We know very well that there are those who do despair, and who think that we are only another example of the failure of democratic institutions. And so, we dare say, they would, if we were Athens over again. But we doubt

« ElőzőTovább »