Page images
PDF
EPUB

SCOTT.-LODGE. LOCKHART.-MATHER. 269 many points of national feeling, and of the relations of parties, were defective; and, what was perhaps, the greatest fault of the book, it extended beyond the space which is convenient for the greater proportion of modern readers. Hence, while the animation of the narrative was such as might have been expected from this wonderful writer, the work was generally considered as a failure. The Lives of the Novelists, contributed by the same author to an edition of their works, and since published separately, are much superior to the Life of Napoleon, and show that he was very highly qualified for this department of literature.

The memoirs attached by Mr. Edmund Lodge to a splendid collection of the Portraits of Illustrious Persons, are distinguished by great research, and no less dignity and elegance. Out of many minor contributions to biography, it may suffice to mention the admirable Life of Burns, by Mr. John Gibson Lockhart; the Life of George Buchanan, by Dr. David Irving; the Life of Alexander the Great, by the Rev. Mr. John Williams ; and the Life of Frederick the Great, by Lord Dover. It must not be overlooked, that, besides numerous memoirs of literary men, written for periodicals, and in connexion with editions of their works, England has produced, during the period under notice, two General Biographical Dictionaries of high merit; one in ten volumes quarto, published between the years 1799 and 1815, by Dr. John Aikin ; and another, in thirty-two volumes octavo, re-edited with great ad ditions, between 1812 and 1816, by Mr. Alexander Chalmers.

In America, few biographical works were written previously to the Revolution. Cotton Mather, in his Magnalia, has given the lives of several worthies of the earlier times; and occasionally pamphlets appeared, in which the character and virtues of eminent individuals were commemorated. Since the Revolution, many biographies or memoirs of single individuals, and several biographical dictionaries have been published. Within a short period, there has been a great increase of books of this description. Our limits will allow only a succinct account of this portion of American literature.

The Life of Washington has been written by David Ramsay, John Marshall, Aaron Bancroft, and others. Judge MARSHALL's work was published in 1805, in five large volumes. The History of the American Colonies, which constituted an introductory part, was published in a separate form in 1824. It is a production of great merit, as to a detail of facts and delineation of character, although the style is less finished than that of some biographies since executed in the United States. There is room, perhaps, for a life of Washington, of a more elaborate and philosophical character than any hitherto written-such an one, as might be produced by an author, who should fully understand human nature, and the free institutions of his country; and whose classical taste and moral endowments, might enable him to do justice to exalted merit of every kind. The Life of James Otis, by WILLIAM TUDOR, who died in 1830, is an able and interesting work, and throws much light on the state of things preceding and attending the American Revolution. A very meritorious biographical work is a Life of Patrick Henry by WILLIAM WIRT. Mr. Wirt, who died in 1834, was also author of The British Spy, and The Old Bachelor, the one a series of letters, and the other a series of essays, which originally appeared in newspaper prints, but were afterwards collected, each into a volume. They have both been very popular, having passed through many editions. *

The Life of Gouverneur Morris has been written by JARED SPARKS, in three volumes. In this work, are included selections from Morris's correspondence and miscellaneous papers, detailing events in the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and in the political history of the United States. The Washington papers having been put into the hands of Mr. Sparks, a few years since, have been published with notes and illustrations, in separate volumes from time to time. In connection with his Library of American Biography, which is soon to be noticed more particularly, his diligent pen has produced other biographies, and is understood to be still employed in this entertaining department of literature. In these several publications, the judgment, candour, and impartiality displayed by Mr. Sparks, are

*Ax. ED.

er.

BROWN.DUNLAP-JAY.-HAMILTON. 271 only equalled by his indefatigable spirit of research. The Life of John B. Linn was written by his friend CHARLES B. Brown the novelist, in a style of uncommon excellence. The Life of Brown himself was pub. lished some years since by WILLIAM DUNLAP, the paint

Mr. Dunlap has since put to the press (1834), a great amount of biography in his History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States. It consists, in part, of a series of biographical notices of a large number of American artists. These several works are written in an easy and clear style, and are replete with entertainment. The Life of John Jay, by his son WILLIAM Jay, in two volumes octavo, deserves the attention of the student of political history. It is a fair and manly memorial of the talents and virtues of a justly celebrated relative. The Life of Alexander Hamilton, by his son John C. HAMILTON, is another affectionate tribute to the memory of a great man.

With a higher moral tone, it would deserve an emphatic eulogium, as it is written with good taste, and in pure English. B. B. THATCHER's Indian Biography is an attractive work, and shows much impartiality and skill in treating a difficult subject. A Memoir of Roger Williams the Founder of the State of Rhode Island, has been given by Prof. James D. KNOWLES. It is a work of research, accuracy, impartiality, and fulness of detail. The Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, by John SANDERSON and Robert WALN, JR., is a valuable work. It is an extended account of these celebrated men, being embodied in no less than nine volumes. The Life of Jehudi Ashmun, by RALPH R. GURLEY, is a merited tribute to the memory of a good man.

Ashmun was devoted to the cause of African Colonization, and through the whole course of his important enterprise, manifested a wonderful energy of character.*

Much excellent religious biography has been produced in the United States, within a short period. Both the matter and manner of books of this kind commend them to the lovers of good sense, taste, and piety. We may name among these works, in addition to such as have been already spoken of, partaking more or less of a religious character, the following memoirs, viz. one of Elias Cornelius by B. B. EDWARDS, that of John H. Rice by William MAXWELL, one of Gregory T. Bedell by STEPHEN H. TYNG, another of Samuel Green by RICHARD S. Storrs. The above remark applies with much force to those biographical volumes in which the labours and virtues of deceased American missionaries have been commemorated. They are beginning to constitute a most valuable portion of the literature of the country. What a host,' says a literary journalist,

*AN ED.

• of biographies of holy men, and devout and heroic women—who have laboured and suffered and perished, in extending the limits of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and who have left behind them that example which the good in all coming ages shall love to admire and imitate, and that memory which is, in the language of Scripture, “blessed!" Could these biographies be collected and published in a series, what an amount of the most valuable and spirit-stirring matter would thus be presented to the public !+ The observation here quoted applies in a great measure to American biographical works of this class. The Memoirs of David Brainerd, Samuel J. Mills, Gordon Hall, George D. Boardman, and several others, written by men well qualified for their task, may serve to show the character of this species of American literature. Among other interesting biographies of various kinds during the present period, are the Lives of Richard Henry Lee and Arthur Lee by one of their descendants R. H. LEE; The Life of Columbus by W. Irving, already noticed ; Dr. Hosack's Memoir of De Witt Clinton; Biography of Self-Taught Men by B. B. Edwards ; Memoir of the Life of Daniel Webster by Samuel L. KNAPP.*

Several valuable biographical dictionaries have been published within the current period, as the Biographical Dictionary of John ELLIOT, which gives an account of the distinguished characters of New England, The American Biographical Dictionary of William ALLEN, and The American Biographical Dictionary of T. J. Ro

*AM. ED. + North American Review, No. 87.

GERS.

SPARKS.CHILD-STEWART.

273 The last named work is confined to an account of the heroes, sages, and statesmen of the American Revolution. An extended publication entitled Library of American Biography conducted by JARED SPARKS, has already furnished the reading public with several well written, able memoirs. The names of several contributors to the work besides Mr. Sparks, are Edward EvERETT, JOHN ARMSTRONG, WILLIAM H. PRESCOTT, C. W. UPHAM, WM. B. 0. PEABODY, and GEORGE S. HILLARD. A work projected by Mrs. D. L. Child, entitled The Lady's Family Library, affords excellent specimens of biographical writing. It consists of a series of volumes, which the author intends to give to the public from time to time. The varied and sprightly powers of this lady furnish a sufficient pledge, that this publication will be a valuable addition to the stock of biographical reading. It may be remarked in the conclusion of this article, that the style of some of the earlier biographical works in the United States, is certainly exceptionable. Many words are employed which, they who thoroughly understand the language, would not for a moment tolerate. Within a few years, however, a great improvement has been effected in the style of American biography.*

METAPHYSICAL WRITERS.

The science of the human mind has not been so favourite an object of study during the last, as in the immediately preceding age. The so-called common sense views of Reid, which proceeded upon the assumption that there are certain native powers in the mind, such as perception, memory, conception, abstraction, judgment, reason, taste, moral perception, and consciousness; and which expounded these faculties, without asserting that they formed the whole of our mental constitution; were adopted with zeal by his pupil, Mr. DuGALD STEWART (1753-1828), Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh. This gentleman published, in 1792, the first volume of an elaborate work, entitled Elements of the Philosophy of the Hu

* AM. ED.

« EelmineJätka »