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For, unless we are greatly mistaken, this is the work of a man who has something, both in heart and brain, of different stuff than belongs to the graceful faint echoers of the masters' tones. It is the bungling work of an apprentice who bids fair to be a craftsman one day. Just now he is engaged in a threefold wrestle, with his ideas, his form, and his expression; when he has mastered them, we shall see what he can do.
We give an extract, which will illustrate our meaning.
Two or three shorter poems follow, and in these we find higher finish, and more developed power. We append an extract or two from one of these, which seems to us to be poetry of no mean order.
O! purple, gorgeous Love, what hast thou which
I know not, Love, what first thou found'st in me
Should I have deemed the prophecies of truth,
And yet, methinks, thou comest not to us
All darkened, chill, and lone, I floated on
Johannes Olaf. A Novel By Elizabeth de Wille. Translated from
the German by F. E. Bunnett. Boston : Roberts Brothers. 1873. We are not sufficiently familiar with contemporary German literature to say whether there has arisen a school of imitators of Spielhagen. A priori, the thing would seem likely ; for there were not only remarkable originality and power in the author last mentioned, but a firm grasp of essentials, and an insight into the very heart of the agitating questions of the time which could not fail powerfully to influence younger minds. But be this as it may, there can be no doubt of the discipleship of the author of this story. The idea of “problematical characters," caught by Spielhagen from Goethe, she has seized, and more truly than her predecessor. Spielhagen has drawn us characters of this kind whose lives are confused and frustrated by impotence of will: this author, more truly seizing Goethe's idea, shows us a character of noble physical and spiritual gifts, whose life is strangely perverted and made enigmatical by intense overmastering power of will.
There is, in persons and incidents, a singular resemblance between this story and Hammer and Anvil; so remarkable indeed that it has the effect of a child's picture-puzzle confusedly put together. The
chief characters in that remarkable novel have here their counterparts, but with a difference in their spheres of action; and the principal events are imitated, but adjusted in a different relation to the persons and circumstances.
Were we however to consider this work only as an imitation, we should do it great injustice. The principal character is a very striking conception. Sprung on the one side from the descendant of a line of old Vikings, and on the other from an artist whose genius could not blossom in the cold northern climate and amid the rugged realities of a life of poverty on a Friesland island, the hero combines the adamantine will, the deep elemental passions and stern self-restraint of the one, with the love of beauty, the depths of unspoken feeling and the undemonstrative tenderness of the other. From the conflict of these forces come all his trials, and yet this conflicting action makes him the man he is – a strange, deep, disturbing force that draws out of their ordinary channels all with whom he comes into contact.
The story is indeed too much subordinated to the hero. The other characters seem scarcely to exist, except so far as they are influenced by him; and he moves among them, strange, sad, fulfilling his own destiny and perturbing theirs. The whole book is pervaded by that singuiar and profound melancholy which seems at present to tinge the whole German mind, perhaps as a reaction from that irrational elation which possessed them two years ago, when in accomplishing “German unity” they seemed to have realised the chief desire of life. Such illusions are not parted with without a sore pang.
W. H. B.
THE GREEN TABLE.
R. CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS has delivered his promised pane
gyric upon Mr. Seward, before that pure and philosophic body, the Legislature of New York. The discourse is quite worthy of the subject and the audience, though we could have wished, for the sake of the country and the orator, that the latter had made it more worthy of his own reputation and character. Mr. Adams is one of the best representatives of the section to which he belongs. He is not altogether an agreeable one to outside barbarians, for he is arrogant, cold, intolerant, and hard, and has in him that mixture of the prig and the Puritan which is not regarded as a pleasant combination, except in the favored region where it is indigenous. Coming, too, from a wrong-headed and not very right-hearted family, he has traits, both intellectual and moral, which are more characteristic than attractive. It is needless to add that he has inherited what doubtless he believes to be a just appreciation of Southern inferiority, but what in reality is only a bitter remembrance and resentment of Southern opposition to the Presidents whose name he bears. On the other hand, Mr. Adams has many and just claims to consideration. He is a gentleman beyond all doubt – a man of ability, culture, and refinement, without a stain upon his personal or political integrity. There is no public man of either party who is less a demagogue, or, in the vulgar sense, a politician ; and but for the levity of some trifling letters which he wrote last summer, when he was talked of for the Presidency, there was nothing to lower the dignity of his position before the country until he consented to become the eulogist of Mr. Seward. If not a statesman in the highest acceptation of the word, he is full of the knowledge and has carefully studied the lessons which make statesmen, so that it he had not been a Massachusetts man and an Adams, and had never heard of a negro, he would worthily have been among the foremost of those who fill the places of great men to-day in the Republic. As contradistinguished from, and as compared with the people for and with whom he acts, he is a statesman, undoubtedly, with all his drawbacks, and it was the popular conviction of this, and the public respect for his purity of character, which were so near securing his nomination at Cincinnati, notwithstanding the little hold which he has on the affections or even the sympathies of his countrymen. It would be unjust not to add that as a member of Congress, in 1860-61, he manifested a praiseworthy disposition to avert by compromise the horrors which were impending; and although the concessions which he was disposed to offer were neither large nor gracious, they were nevertheless real and honest, and prompted by motives which a man like Mr. Seward was wholly incapable of understanding.
Entertaining these opinions in regard to Mr. Adams, we are very sincere in the expression of our regret that he should have condescended to undertake the canonization of Mr. Lincoln's Secretary of State. The average character of our public men for truthfulness and honesty is now so very low, that the country cannot afford to lose, in whole or in part, the prestige of even one good name. The reputation of Mr. Adams was too valuable in that respect to be parted with, but it is impossible now to say, with candor, that it stands as it stood before he addressed the bribe-mongers at Albany.
If there was ever a man prominent in the government of this country, whom it was difficult for an impartial person, knowing him well, to praise without loss of self-respect, it was William H. Seward. He had a long and large career, and was associated notably with many great events, but it was a conspicuous feature of his public life that no one ever trusted him much or reverenced him at all. The obscurity to which he was finally relegated by the party to which he belonged - and which at one time had almost belonged to him — was in nowise an evidence of the ingratitude of republics, as Mr. Adams would have us to believe, but was simply the natural result of the public acquaintance with his real character and deserts. He was regarded as a schemer who had got to the end of his schemes, and he was accordingly left to his devices. In fact the whole country knew that he had always had but one object in life, which was success. He had cared but for one sort of success, and that was his own. His only criterion of means was their adaptation to his ends. He knew and used men only through their weakness or corruption, and he understood and addressed himself chiefly to those motives which were base. If he appealed to the higher sentiments or nobler impulses, it was but to abuse them. The patriotism and enthusiasm of the masses were but strings for him to play on. They gave him the material for a flourish, a hypocrisy or a clap-trap, which he liked and understood far better than a truth or a reality. Truth was to him, in fact, whatever he could get people to believe, and he stopped at no untruth which audacity and iteration could make current and effective. Whatever he wanted to do and could do, he thought it right to do and did. The highest reach of his
sagacity -- and sometimes it reached marvellously far in this was to find out what tricks and falsehoods would turn the public feeling in the direction that he wished it to pursue. For this, he fathomed the depths of popular credulity and ignorance, and built up, systematically, what he called the opinion of the nation, upon a wretched foundation of lies. Pope Pius used to describe the first Napoleon as “a great comedian,” and an equally just criticism might ascribe to Mr. Seward the honors of a great juggler or mountebank, for he always played to the pit, and his art went no higher than to know what his groundlings were fond of and would applaud. This peculiar gift of his Mr. Adams admiringly magnifies and pleasantly calls “his power to direct the popular sense.” One of the most conspicuous instances of the mode in which he exercised it, before the war, was the monstrous and impudent falsehood — now everywhere conceded to have been such — which he deliberately uttered in the Senate in a written speech, imputing to President Buchanan and Chief Justice Taney a corrupt bargain for the judgment in the Dred Scott case. He knew it to be a libel when he uttered it for it was a sheer invention of his own — and every Senator who heard it and every public man (including Mr. Adams) who read it, likewise knew it to be a shameless and wicked fabrication. Yet he knew that there were fools and fanatics who would believe it, and unprincipled partisans who would scatter it abroad and assert it to be true on his authority. He therefore not only uttered it, but caused the speech which contained it to be circulated far and wide. He knew it would produce its effect, and that was all he cared for. To be conscious of the falsehood and to know that all whose good opinion was worth having despised him for it, did not affect him in the least. He was what is called " a live man,” and results were his sufficient compensation.
In saying all this we are not using the language or speaking in the spirit of partisanship, nor do we merely repeat the judgment of Mr. Seward's opponents or his enemies. We say what his own party associates knew of him, and what the New York politicians who listened to Mr. Adams at Albany knew as well as he, all the while that he was painting Mr. Seward for their admiration as a “philosopher statesman," whose prototype was Pericles, Gregory the First, or Cardinal Richelieu, but especially Pericles ! And it is because Mr. Adams, knowing this and knowing Mr. Seward, has gone deliberately to work to make a great and noble career out of a life which was a perpetual and mere imposture from beginning to end, that we think he has abused the public confidence and painfully damaged his own reputation. If he could make history out of no better stuff than the philosophical statesmanship and "moral superiority” of William H. Seward, and the “singularly disinterested labor" of Thurlow Weed, he had better have confined himself to the more authentic annals of Miles Standish and Sinbad the Sailor. It is bad enough surely that men like Mr. Seward should debauch the country by their practices and their example, but the evil is tenfold more hopeless and demoralizing when respectable men like Mr. Adams can be induced to become their panegyrists.
We should be less disposed to speak thus harshly, if there were any signs in Mr. Adams' discourse of the blindness which comes from enthusiasm or affection. But whatever be his faults, he certainly does not err in the direction of impulsiveness. His speech is an elaborate effort to make out his own case by making out Mr. Seward's— nay, to establish his father's case as well as his own. It is a sort of apotheosis of political abolitionism glorification of the few far-seeing patriots and statesmen who began early to wrestle with “ the slave-holding power,” and through whose influence and teachings that hated “oligarchy” was so grandly and nobly disposed of at last. One would think, from reading it - if he knew no better - that all the Presidents, from Washington to Lincoln inclusive, had been dolts and imbeciles, except two whose name begins with the first letter of the alpha