Billeder på siden

In the long tirade against America inspired by Inchiquin, the Jesuit's Letters, the Quarterly says of the Columbiad:20

A dull heartless poem it appeared to us; its versification without melody, its diction abounding with quaint phrases, as the Jesuit admits, 'unusual, technical, and unmusical; without perceptible reason or apology, for their introduction.' But Mr. Barlow is a 'philosophizing poet.' True; and his philosophy, we presume, more than redeemed his poetry when he composed for the drunken American and French citizens, celebrating the 4th July at Hamburgh, a song, in which he prays that God may

'Save the guillotine,

Till England's king and queen

Her power shall prove.'

And that mercy may then only controul this deadly instrument,

'When all the sceptered crew,
Have paid their homage to
The guillotine.'

The philosophy' of a red-hot fanatical republican, who lost his life in an over anxious desire to bend the knee to the foulest usurper that ever 'stole a diadem' and forced himself into the 'sceptered crew!' The philosophy of a man who, at Algiers, was ready to trample on the cross, for the sake of gaining some trading advantage!11

Throughout the later years of the period under consideration, as well as those that followed, the Columbiad was the American work most frequently chosen as an example of illconceived, over-ambitious, and bombastic literary effort.

A Poem Addressed to the Armies of the United States of America22 by Col. David Humphreys, another of the Hartford Wits, was reprinted in London in 1785 in what the poet's recent biographer describes as "a handsome quarto of

20 X: 523 (Jan., 1814).

21 Treaty with the Bey of Tripoli in 1796, Art. II. [Reviewer's note]. In the article cited the Monthly Review gives the title, erroneously, as "A Poem addressed to the United States of America," and repeats the same error when referring to the poem in the review in Vol. LXXV: p. 69.

The Monthly Review23 treated it with

twenty-eight pages.
much consideration, saying:

This American poem having been written before the conclusion of the war, and amidst the "hurly burly" of military toils, the ingenious Author apologizes for the imperfections of his performance (which are not few), and craves the candid Reader's indulgence, on account of his situation, so unfavourable to literary attentions; and on this account he is certainly intitled to great indulgence. Under every disadvantage, however, we perceive, in his conceptions, much of the true spirit of poetry; and there is a considerable degree of melody and harmony in his versification. He is a warm patriot; full of zeal for the prosperity of the American arms; and consequently, to the English reader, some of his expressions respecting the British invasion will seem to have fallen from a pen dipped in gall; but we must remember that he wrote, as well as fought, in America, and for America. He celebrates the principal events of the war, and has many descriptive glances at the scenery, which cannot but afford amusement to even his readers on this side of the Atlantic however they may disapprove the cause which gave birth to the poem.

Another laudatory notice" is said to have appeared in the Critical Review for June, 1785. A later patriotic effusion of the same author, the Poem on the Happiness of America, was less enthusiastically greeted by the Monthly Review, which expressed its preference for the earlier poem, and referred to its review, just cited.

Poems on Several Occasions, by William Moore Smith, of Pennsylvania, had the distinction of eliciting from both the European Magazine and the Gentleman's Magazine the first reviews of purely literary American works that these periodicals published after the close of the war. General comments from both these articles have been quoted in Chapter IV. It is notable that both were kindly in tone and sound in reasoning, though they expressed some truths that Americans might not be inclined to heed, and though they dealt with the state of literature in America rather than with

28 LXXII: 388 (May, 1785).

Smith's poems. says:24

Of the latter, the Gentleman's Magazine

These poems, though they approach not to excellence, are ingenious; the arrangement of the words is sometimes prosaic; but the thoughts are, for the most part, natural, and the language correct. The collection consists of several pieces, of which we best like The Wizard of the Rock.

Quabi, or the Virtues of Nature, a sentimental Indian tale by Mrs. Sarah Wentworth Morton, one of the most notable of American Della Cruscans, became known in England some time after its publication in Boston in 1790. In its comments on this lady and her poem the Monthly Review25 is even more enthusiastic than usual, both in the passages quoted in Chapter IV, and where it says:

Ouabi is an interesting and amusing tale, delivered in varied and harmonious numbers, and, with a few exceptions, in good rhimes... The versification in which this simple tale is delivered, sometimes flows with majesty and pathos.

The easy elegance of the varied measure in the dialogues has considerable merit.

The only adverse comment is on a few rhymes-rhyme being, evidently, a hobby of the editor-and for these lapses he obligingly finds precedents that have already been quoted in Chapter IV.

On this poetical tale, which made an appeal both through the introduction of the noble red man and through its moral sentiments, James Bacon, a student at Lincoln's Inn, founded his play, The American Indian, or the Virtues of Nature. This was reviewed, with due credit to Mrs. Morton, in The Monthly Mirror,26 The Gentleman's Magazine, and the Monthly Review. 28 The Scot's Magazine for October, 179329 reprinted the "Death Song" from Ouabi; and the Gentle

4LVI: 1064 (Dec., 1786).

25 Mo. Rev. Enlgd., XII: 72 (Sept., 1793).

29 I: 107 (Dec., 1795).

LXVI: 46 (Jan., 1796).

2 Mo. Rev. Enigd., XIX: 466 (April, 1796).

2 LV: 503.


man's Magazine for October, 179530 included under "Select Poetry" an occasional Hymn written by Mrs. Morton for the Massachusetts Humane Society.

Thomas Green Fessenden, a humorous and versatile Yankee who tried to promote various investment schemes in England, attracted his full share of attention, both in his proper person and as Christopher Caustic, M. D. His Hudibrastic attack on the medical profession and defense of "Perkins's Metallic Tractors," a patent cure-all, was published in London under the latter nom-de-plume, first as A Poetical Petition against Galvanizing Trumpery and the Perkinsistic Institution, and later, much enlarged, as Terrible Tractoration. These were not known to be the work of an American, and it is amusing to compare the criticisms which they elicited with those bestowed on the author's acknowledged Original Poems published soon afterward. The Anti-Jacobin Reviews speaks most favorably of the Poetical Petition, quoting and praising the strictures on naturalists for their "indecent experiments." The next year it gives a longer review of Terrible Tractoration, which it characterizes as "this ingenious and truly humorous poem.'

The Gentleman's Magazine is also favorably impressed by the Terrible Tractoration, which it praises for its humor, and pronounces "far superior to the ephemeral productions of ordinary dealers in rhyme," and continues "The notes, which constitute more than half the book, are not behind the verse in spirit. Who the author can be, we have not the least conception" but he was supposed to be "some jolly son of Galen."

The Monthly Review, innocently supposing Dr. Caustic to be a Scotchman, is most severe.** It characterizes the poem


LXV: 864.

31 XIV: 416 (April, 1803).

32 XVIII: 390 (May, 1804).

LXXIV: 55 (Jan., 1804).

Mo. Rev. Enigd., XLII: 217 (Oct., 1803).

Hudibrastic Verse, which resembles that of Butler only in the jingle. From some of the rhymes, we should suspect the author to come "frae the North;" for example,

'Just so the ancient poets learn us

That crows, which flew o'er lake Avernus',

To learn, instead of teach, is a rank Scotticism; as well as just so. In another couplet the Satirist has sinned against quantity;

The hundred-handed Briarēus.'

as terrible to see as

With this consummate knowledge of English and Latin, Dr. Caustic sets up as a reformer of the whole Faculty in England.

For the Original Poems, known to be the work of Fessenden, the same journal35 has a more kindly feeling:

A vein of pleasantry and sportive humour is manifested by this American writer, which cannot fail to amuse and conciliate the reader, when he is disposed to quit his serious studies, and to welcome a playful guest-Some of the poems allude to political events in the western hemisphere; others describe the manners of the people in some parts of the United States; and wherever a proper opportunity occurs, the author takes care to inculcate on the minds of his countrymen a spirit of manly independence, and a rational love of liberty.

[Quotation, "The Eagle of Freedom, with rapture behold," etc.] We recommend these patriotic lines to the attention of our own countrymen, as worthy of a great and independent nation. In the mean time, we are happy to observe that this author expresses his wishes to preserve and perpetuate harmony between his country and England.

The bombastic quality of the lines chosen for quotation and approval causes the reader of to-day to look twice for concealed irony; but apparently none was intended.

A somewhat cheap vein of pleasantry which the more popular magazines occasionally adopted when speaking of American subjects is illustrated in a note on the Original Poems in the Monthly Mirror.36

A contemporary critic presumes this writer to be an American, and observes that, "considering the state of literature in that

XLVII: 103 (May, 1805); A selection from this article is quoted in the Lady's Monthly Museum, XV: 59 (July, 1805).

26 XIX: 177 (March, 1805).

« ForrigeFortsæt »