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due proportion to our writers of the graver, profounder, and more imaginative classes.
I am disposed to think that however successful Mr. Irving has been in other departments of literature, he will be longest remembered as a humorist. Of his History of New York, humour is the predominating quality, and it would be difficult to find any thing which possesses it in a higher degree. Mr. Irving's humourous writings are different from nearly all others. The governing attribute of his mind is taste, and he presents nothing to the public before it has been polished with the skill and care of a lapidary. In all his works it would be impossible to find a word that shocks the fastidiously refined by its vulgarity, yet there is in them no lack of freshness or freedom. In his vivacity he is never unguarded, in his gayety he is never unchaste. Humour cannot easily be described. As Barrow so well observes, “It is that we all see and know, but which is properly appreciated only by acquaintance. It is so versatile, so multiform : it appears in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, and is so variously understood by different eyes and judgments, that it would be as easy to paint the face of Proteus as to give a clear and certain idea of it.” Yet it may be safely averred that a gentleman had never conception of it which is not illustrated in the works of our author.
Mr. Paulding and Mr. Irving commenced so nearly together that it is difficult to say which had precedence in point of time. The marriage of Paulding's sister to an elder brother of Irving led to the acquaintance of the youthful wits, both of whom had already written some trifles for the gazettes, and it was soon after proposed in a gay conversation that they should establish a periodical, in which to lash and amuse the town. When they next met, each had prepared an introductory paper, and as both had some points too good to be sacrificed they were blended into one, Paulding's serving as the basis. They adopted the title of Salmagundi, and soon after published a small edition of their first number, little thinking of the extraordinary success which awaited it. Upon the completion of two volumes a disagreement with their publisher suddenly caused a suspension of the work, and the sequel to it was written several years afterward while Irving was abroad, exclusively by Paulding. Salmagundi entitles its authors to a very high rank among the comic writers. In this miscellany, The Mirror for Travellers, John Bull and Brother Jonathan, and his other writings, Mr. Paulding has given almost every sort of facetious and satirical composition. He deals more largely than Irving in the whimsical and the burlesque, and he is wanting in the exquisite refinement which lends such a charm to Geoffrey Crayon's humour. The follies of men are often confirmed, rather than cured, by undisguised attacks. Mr. Cooper, by his honest and sensible commentaries upon a class in our American society, gathered the scattered vulgar into a mob. Paulding, who took greater liberties, was perhaps a more efficient reformer, without startling them by an exhibition of their deformities, or attracting their vexed rage to himself. The motley crowds at our watering places, the ridiculous extravagance and ostentation of the suddenly made rich, the ascendency of pocket over brain in the affairs of love, and all the fopperies and follies of our mimic worlds, are described by him in a most diverting manner; while the more serious sins of society are treated with appropriate severity. Besides his occasional coarseness, however, Mr. Paulding has the fault, in common with some others, of labeling his characters, gay, sedate, or cynical, as the case may be, in descriptive names, as if doubtful of their possessing sufficient individuality to be otherwise distinguished. If a hero cannot make himself known in his action and conversation he is not worth bringing upon the boards.
Robert C. Sands exhibited considerable humour in both his poems and prose writings. He excelled in burlesque, of which he produced some admirable specimens. Mr. Sands, Mr. Verplanck and Mr. Bryant formed together a « literary confederacy,” during the existence of which they wrote the three volumes of The Talisman, except a few pieces by Mr. Halleck, and another friend of theirs. Mr. Villecour and his Neighbours, and Scenes in Washington, in this miscellany, are the joint composition of Sands and Verplanck, and are excellent, except that in a few instances they run into ill-natured caricature. The Peregrinations of Petrus Mudd, in The Talisman, (in which is given a true history of a well-known New Yorker,) and other early writings of Mr. Verplanck, show that that gentleman needed but the impulse to rival the finest wits of the reign of Queen Anne.
John Sanderson, to natural abilities of a high order added a calm, chaste scholarship, an intimate acquaintance with men, a singularly amiable disposition, and a frank and highbred courtesy. In his humour were blended happily the characteristics of Rabelais, Sterne and Lamb. To his appreciation of the comic was added a most delicate perception of the beautiful. He knew society, its selfishness, and its want of honour, but looked upon it less in anger than in sadness. Yet he was no cynic, no Heraclitus. He deemed it wisest to laugh at the follies of mankind. Through all his experience he lost none of his natural urbanity, his freshness of feeling, his earnestness and sincerity. He was not less brilliant in his conversation than in his writings; but he never summoned a shadow to any face, or permitted a weight to lie on any heart.
In the Ollapodiana of Willis Gaylord Clarke are many of the characteristics of Sanderson ; but Clarke lived in a more quiet atmosphere; or perhaps it were better to say, he had a less independent expression. Born and educated in a rural village, and passing his maturer years in a metropolis, he was familiar with almost every variety of life and manners existing in our own country. His perception of the ludicrous was quick, and his taste rejected all that was coarse or depraving. We find in few works such a pleasing combination of elegant comedy and fine sentiment as in the quaint essays above referred to, and in none, perhaps, a truer index to an author's own habits and feelings.
The Charcoal Sketches, and other humorous writings of Joseph C. Neal, are elaborate, but wanting in the grace and spirit which distinguish many productions of their class. Mr. Neal writes as if he had little or no sympathy with his creations, and as if he were a calm spectator of acts and actors, whimsical or comical,—an observer rather by accident than from desire. It is not always so, however, since in some of his sketches he exhibits not only a happy faculty for the burlesque, and singular skill in depicting character, but a geniality and heartiness of appreciation which carry the reader's feelings along with his fancy.
I shall but allude here to Judge Breckenridge's Modern Chivalry, Dr. Gilman's Village Choir, Major McClintock's Yankee Sleigh Ride, Wedding, and other stories, the Jack Downing Letters, (through which runs a very genuine humour of a certain sort,) Mrs. Kirkland's New Home, and other works of a like description written in the northern and eastern states of the Union.
The comic literature of the United States must be looked for chiefly in those parts of the country which have yet furnished little or nothing of a different sort. There is an originality and riant boldness in some of the productions of the South and West which give abundant promise for the future. And what we have, however coarsely stamped, is of the truest metal. It is necessary only to refer to Judge Longstreet's Georgia Scenes, Thompson's Major Jones's Courtship and Chronicles of Pineville, Mr. Thorpe's Mysteries of the Backwoods and Big Bear of Arkansas, Mr. Hooper's Simon Suggs, Morgan Neville's Mike Fink, and to other characteristic productions of southern and western men, to justify expectations of an original and indigenous literature of this kind from the cotton region and the valley of the Mississippi.
Of humorous and satirical poetry we have no lack of quantity, and there are some good specimens. Trumbull's Progress of Dulness and McFingal, Cliffton's Group and Epistle to Gifford, some of the ballads, etc. of Francis Honkinson, Fessenden's Terrible Tractoration, and Democracy Unveiled,
Verplanck's Bucktail Bards and Dick Shift, Halleck's Fanny, Pierpont's Portrait, Osborne's Vision of Rubeta, The Echo, The Political Greenhouse, and the writings of Sands, Sprague, Holmes, Ward, Benjamin, and others, furnish many passages of humour and caustic wit.
The Essays of a people are among the best indexes to their condition and character. They are often produced by minds transiently released from public affairs, when reflection and speculation employ powers that have been schooled for action. To write just treatises, says Bacon, requireth leisure in the writer and leisure in the reader. The essay is more fit for the nation whose energies and sympathies are lively and diffused. It flourishes most where some degree of cultivation is universal. Like the lecture, it is addressed to those who are familiar with first principles. An era in essay writing was commenced by Steele and Addison, in their periodical papers suggested by the follies of contemporary society. This era closed with the production in America of the Salmagundi of Irving and Paulding, the Old Bachelor of Wirt and his associates, and the Lay Preacher of Dennie. Another era was begun with the Quarterly Reviews,* which, with the magazines, have absorbed so large a proportion of
* It is now more than a century since the first American Monthly Magazine was established in Boston, by Jeremy Gridley. It was continued about three years, and was more successful than any work of its sort commenced before the Revolution. The Massachusetts Magazine, to which Drs. Freeman and Howe and Mrs. Morton were contributors, lasted from 1784 to 1795. In 1803 the Anthology Club was formed, to conduct the Monthly Anthology, which had been established by Phineas Adams. Among its members were Professor Ticknor, Alexander H. Everett, William Tudor, Drs. Bigelow and Gardner, and Rev. Messrs. Buckminster, Thatcher and Emerson, (father of Ralph Waldo Emerson.) The Anthology was discontinued in 1811. In 1812 and 1813 four volumes of the General Repertory and Review—the first American quarterly-were issued at Cambridge, under the editor. ship of Andrews Norton. It was literary and theological, and contained some very able papers. The North American Review was commenced in 1815 by William Tudor. It was transferred in 1817 to Willard Phillips, and in the same year to The North American Club, the most active members of which were Edward T. Channing, Richard H. Dana, and Jared Sparks, then a tutor in Harvard College. In 1819 Edward Everett became editor, and its circulation increased so rapidly that three editions were printed of some of the numbers. Some of Mr. Everett's articles relating to Greece, British travellers in Ainerica, and belles lettres, attracted very general attention abroad as well as in the United States. In 1823 the work was placed under the direction of Mr. Sparks, who conducted it until 1830, when it was purchased by Alexander H. Everett, then just returned from his mission to Spain. Mr. Everett surrendered it to Dr. Palfrey, in 1835, and I believe it passed into the hands of its present editor, Mr. Bowen, in 1842. The Christian Examiner, a very able literary and theological review, in 1818 took the place of The Christian Disciple, which had been published six years under the direction of Noah Worcester. The Examiner has contained some of the best essays of Dr. Channing, Dr. Dewey, the Wares, and other eminent Unitarian clergymen. The Christian Review, also quarterly, and devoted both to literature and religion, was established in 1835, and has contained
the best writing of the present age, and the custom of delivering addresses on festival occasions and before societies, which obtains principally in the United States. These last are chiefly historical and moral, are in many instances by
articles by Dr. Wayland, Dr. Williams, Dr. Sears, and other leading clergymen of the Baptist churches. The Boston Quarterly Review was commenced in 1837, and its contents have been principally written by its editor, Mr. Brownson. The New England Magazine was established by J. T. Buckingham, the veteran and able editor of the Boston Courier, in 1833, and was discontinued on the close of the sixth volume, principally I believe on account of the death of the editor's son and associate, Mr. Edwin Buckingham. The Dial, a magazine of Literature, Philosophy and Religion, was published from 1841 to 1843 under the direction of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The New York Magazine and Literary Repository was published from 1787 to 1792. literary periodical of much merit existed in New York until 1822 and 1823, when The Literary Review was published and Robert C. Sands was among its leading contributors. In the early part of 1824 The Atlantic Magazine was commenced, and Sands became its editor. It was afterwards called The New York Monthly Review, and edited by Sands, and Mr. Bryant, who removed to New York in 1825. The Knickerbocker Magazine was started in December, 1832, by C. F. Hoffman, who in 1833 yielded the editorship to Timothy Flint, who was in turn succeeded in the following year by its present editor, Lewis Gaylord Clark. The Knickerbocker has been one of the most successful and brilliant periodicals of the day. Among its contributors have been Irving, Paulding, Bryant, Longfellow, and nearly all the younger writers of much note in the country. The Democratic Review was commenced in Washington, in 1837, by Mr. O'Sullivan, one of its present editors, and Mr. Langtree, his brother-in-law, since deceased. It was removed to New York in 1841. It has been the most successful magazine of a political character in the United States, and has been conducted with ability, dignity, and good taste. The American Monthly Magazine, which had been published several years under Mr. Herbert, Mr. Hoffman, and Mr. Benjamin, was discontinued in 1838. Arcturus, a Journal of Books and Opinion, was continued about two years by Mr. E. A. Duyckinck and Cornelius Mathews, who wrote its principal contents. The American Review, a Whig Journal, was established by Mr. George H. Colton, in 1844. The American Biblical Repository, devoted to biblical and general literature, theological discussion, the history of theological opinions, etc., was founded in 1831 by Edward Robinson, the distinguished orientalist, who conducted it until 1838. Its present editor is Mr. J. H. Agnew. The New York Review (quarterly) was published from 1837 to 1842, during which time its principal writers were the Rev. Drs. Hawks, Henry and Coggswell, and Messrs. Legare, Henry Reed, and Duyckinck.
In Philadelphia Aitkin's Pennsylvania Magazine was the most popular literary periodical before the Revolution. Thomas Paine and Francis Hopkinson were contributors. It was suspended on the approach of the war. Mathew Carey published the American Museum from 1787 to 1792. In 1805 Charles Brockden Brown began the Literary Magazine and American Register, which he continued five years. In 1809, The Portfolio which had been established eight years before, by Joseph Dennie, was changed from a weekly gazette to a monthly magazine. After the death of Dennie, early in 1812, it was edited for a considerable period by the late celebrated and unfortunate Nicholas Biddle, and in 1816 passed into the hands of Mr. J. E. Hall, who conducted it until it was discontinued in 1821. The Analectic Magazine was established by Moses Thomas in 1813, and I believe was published until 1820. Many of the cleverest men in the country, including Mr. Irving, Mr. Paulding, and Wilson (the ornithologist) wrote for these works, which were more widely and generally read than any periodicals which had been or were then published in this country. They were in royal octavo, each number containing from seventy to one hundred pages, and were embellished with engravings scarcely inferior to the best now produced, from original pictures. In 1827 the American Quarterly Review was established, under the direction of Mr. Robert Walsh, and it was continued ten years. The Lady's Book and Graham's Magazine were in the first place monthly selections of periodical litera