« FöregåendeFortsätt »
was, in all respects, one of the remarkable women of her day. These letters present her to us in her natural, unsophisticated character. We here see her just as she was, just as she thought and acted at the different periods of her life, and in the different conditions through which she passed. It was not the fashion of the times in which Mrs. Adams was born for young girls to be as highly educated as they now are. “ Then female education,” as she states in a letter quoted in the memoir prefixed, “ in the best families, went no farther than writing and arithmetic;” and even of this scanty pittance of regular instruction, she was deprived, for she was never sent to school in her youth on account of ill health. But her letters are conclusive evidence that she took care to teach herself every thing essential to the proper cultivation of the female mind, and far more thoroughly too than is usually done in the female colleges and boarding-schools of our own days. These letters spread over her whole life, the earliest being dated when she was scarcely seventeen, and the latest (the one quoted near the close of the memoir) when she was within a few months of her death, and some years over the allotted limit of three score and ten; and they are evidently, at all times, a faithful transcript of her feelings, as well after the knowledge of the world had taught her distrust, as in the days of her youth, when she heard no whispers but those of hope. It will naturally be presumed that this correspondence of an uncommonly sensible woman like Mrs. Adams, who lived in an eventful period of our history, and was personally and for the most part intimately acquainted with the great men of her times, must be full of interest and instruction ; and so in fact it will be found to be by every reader. The letters written during our revolution, and particularly those to her husband while he was on his first mission to Europe, present the most vivid pictures of those times of trial, and they are exceedingly valuable as historical memoirs. Those from abroad, while she was with Mr. Adams on his second mission, abound in fresh and striking remarks upon the usages and manners of the higher ranks of society, to which she was necessarily introduced by her diplomatic station. Those written from New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, during the vice-presidency and presidency of her husband, are filled with the most interesting details of the first efforts of our infant nation to go alone, and interspersed with numerous curious reminiscences of the men and things of that day. We should do no justice to Mrs. Adams were we to attempt to give our readers an idea of her letters by any number we could extract from them. The whole correspondence must be read to enable one to judge of her power as an epistolary writer, and duly to appreciate her exalted character as a woman. The editor of this charming volume deserves great praise for his part in its preparation. The memoir which he has prefixed is among the most beautiful compositions of its kind, and every way worthy of the subject of it.
3. The School District Library. Third Series. New York: 1810.
Harper and Brothers. 50 vols. 18mo.
Two things strike us as particularly worthy of note in this third series of the “School District Library,” the judiciousness of the selection as regards the subjects of the books which compose it, and the agreeable variety of reading which it furnishes in the principal departments of literature — history, biography, voyages and travels, the sciences, poetry, and works of taste, all contribute to the general stock, and each in due proportion. Without pretending to have read all the volumes which make up the collection, we have read enough to authorize us to speak of them generally in terms of strong commendation. A part we have been able to examine more thoroughly; and of these we shall speak individually.
The first book in the order of the series, and the first in the importance of its subject, is the History of the United States by Mr. S. Hale, the author of the prize history on the same subject, which has been in constant favor with the public. This new work, we think, will fully sus. tain his reputation, and be ranked as the best historical compend on our country that has appeared. It embraces the whole period of our history both colonial and independent. In the latter period, which it is particularly difficult for a contemporary historian to treat, on account of the conflicting political questions that continually arise, Mr. Hale has shown great discretion and impartiality. The book is also calculated to please as well as to instruct, being written in a very lively and agreeable manner, and in a smooth and flowing style. In whatever light we consider it, we know of nothing of the kind which we could more cordially recommend for a portion of every school library in the country. There are several other original histories in the series ; but we have not read them with sufficient care to judge of their merits. It contains also several reprints in this department, - all of them well known and approved standard works.
In biography, which, if of the right kind, is excellent reading for young persons, this collection has some real treasures. Mr. Irving's Life of Goldsmith, prefixed to his selection from the works of this delightful writer, is one of the most beautiful biographical sketches ever drawn. It has all the interest and charm of a romance, while it scrupulously preserves the fidelity of history. Lieutenant Mackenzie's Life of Commodore Perry is another fine piece of biography in this collection. It is both a just and true delineation of the character of that gallant and heroic commander, and a noble tribute to his memory.
Besides these, this series of the library contains three other lives; but as they are not original, it would not accord with our present purpose to remark upon them.
To aid in cultivating the imagination and taste of the youth for
whom this library is designed, its publishers have judged wisely, we think, in appropriating some of its volumes to poetical selections, and more wisely still in inviting two of our finest poets to make the selections. Mr. Halleck’s anthology is as choice a one as could be culled from the rich parterre of English poetry. It may, perhaps, be thought that his selections are of too elevated a character for the range of the minds upon which they are to act, and that the subjects of some of them are not precisely suited to the improvement of the young; but such objections, if valid, would seal up, for the same class, the pages of Milton and Shakspeare. If such poetry as this fails to exalt and purify, there is none in our language that can do it. It was at first with somewhat of mortified feelings that we turned from the volumes containing these specimens of the English poets to Mr. Bryant's selections from our own; and we regretted that the occasion should have been presented for this direct comparison of them. But when we considered that it was a comparison of the adult with the infant, we felt less ashamed of our immeasurable inferiority. We must say, however, that Mr. Bryant's volume is far from exhibiting a fair sample of the poetical talent of our country ; and we look to his promised additional one to do it ampler justice.
We are glad to find that but little prose fiction is admitted into the School District Library. This series has only a single volume of this kind, and a very pleasant one it is,-Stories for Young Persons, from their and the public's universal favorite, Miss Sedgwick. must agree that books of this sort are very attractive; but their influence on young minds is, to say the least, doubtful. At any rate, access to them from other sources is too easy to require that they should be supplied through this medium. Still, the more juvenile readers want something of the kind, and they have not been forgotten in making up the library,—five volumes of Uncle Philip's historical conversations, all excellent books, and of a description well suited to their tastes and capacities. We would like, however, to see a larger portion of the next series especially devoted to them. Of the scientific treatises belonging to this collection,
say but little; the names of their authors is a sufficient guaranty for their correctness and excellence. Professor Renwick's Practical Mechanics is remarkably successful in explaining the principles of this science, in their practical application, to the comprehension even of those who have not made great advances in mathematics, and is far more complete than any existing work on the subject of the like size. For an account of his chemistry, we refer to an article upon it in another part of the present number of our journal, in which its peculiar merits are pointed out. Dr. Potter's Political Economy does not claim but in part the character of an original work; Its particular aim is to consider the science in relation to the condition of our own country, which is so peculiar compared with that of Europe generally that we unquestionably require a system of political economy for ourselves. Dr. Potter has managed this extremely diffi
cult subject as skilfully as any one could have done; but he has been obliged to consider many principles as settled which are not acknowledged as such by the advocates of the systems opposed to his own, and this is unavoidable in treating of all but the exact sciences. The other works of a scientific character in this series have all appeared before, either at home or abroad, and the judgment of the public has been already pronounced in their favor. The introduction of the two volumes on American husbandry, compiled from the two leading agricultural journals in the state, seems to us particularly well judged, as there is no branch of practical knowledge in which it is more important for our young men to have right notions than in this, and no better sources from which instruction in it could be drawn than those here relied upon. The union in one volume of the beautiful discourses of Lord Brougham, Professor Sedgwick and Mr. Verplanck on the "Pleasures and Advantages of Science," was’also a happy thought. A more appropriate companion to the library could not have been introduced.
Having noticed at length in our last number Mr. Dana's admirable book entitled “ Two Years before the Mast," it is unnecessary to speak of it here; but we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of adding a word or two to the commendations we then bestowed upon it. Although it was not originally intended for the School Library, nothing could be more happily calculated for such a collection, or more likely to do good to the class of readers for whose use the library is especially provided. So completely has it established itself in favor with the public, that it may be pronounced the most popular work that has appeared among us for a long time.
We have gone somewhat minutely into an examination of this collection of books, composing the third series of the School District Library, because we consider the whole subject as one of the deepest interest to our country, and one of vital importance to the cause of popular education. The latter is our great reliance for the maintenance of our free institutions; and it can never attain to its full spirit and energy without the aid of the library system. In no other way can that thirst for knowledge be excited in our youth, which alone will prompt them to the necessary exertions for acquiring it. It is therefore with the highest satisfaction that we find ourselves enabled to express our entire approbation of the collection of which we have been speaking. The books of which it is composed are excellent in their kind, and of a kind well adapted to their intended use, with the exception of a single volume, Florian's miscalled History of the Moors of Spain, which is neither history nor romance. We hope that the enterprising publishers may receive that encouragement from the public which will enable them to bring out future editions on finer paper, and improved in exterior appearance generally. Nothing else is wanting to make the collection all that it ought to be.
4. Mercedes of Castile, or the Voyage to Cathay. By the Author
of the Bravo, etc. Philadelphia : 1840. Lea and Blanchard.
2 vols. 12mo.
We do not anticipate any great increase of fame or fortune to Mr. Cooper from his Mercedes of Castile. It is a grasp at the unattainable. The discovery of a new world is too grand an event in man's history to derive additional interest from the aid of romance, and of this the author himself seems to have been aware, if we may judge from the use he has made of it. In all the leading incidents of this great voyage of discovery, the narrative, as related by Mr. Cooper, is in strict accordance with history, without any embellishments of the imagination. Throughout, he has followed Columbus's own journal and other acknowledged authorities. This evinces a highly praiseworthy respect for the integrity of history; but at the same time it shows that he had selected a subject for his romance which is beyond the reach of fiction. And this is a difficulty with which he has to contend through the whole story. All of it that is romance is artificial, incongruous, and feeble; and all that is purely historical is lucid, spirited, and interesting. The voyage of the great discoverer is admirably described, and with such sailorlike accuracy and minuteness of circumstance that the reader almost fancies himself a companion of the first adventurers in their passage across the unknown ocean; but all the rest is dull enough. The long account, in the opening chapter, of Ferdinand's journey to Valladolid, is wholly out of place; the love-tale of the hero and heroine, which is all there is of romance, is a most unworthy appendage to the true story; the dialogues are tedious and unnatural and; with the exception of the touching episode of Ozema, there is not an incident of interest for which the author has drawn
his own invention. If the book were stripped of its pretended romance, it would be a very pleasant one, and it would then be worthy of its distinguished author. He has written nothing in a better style, and for a long time — as long at least as since he began his war with the critics, nothing in a more agreeable vein.
5. The American Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge, for
the year 1841. Boston: 1840. D. H. Williams.
No book, we think, has a fairer claim to the title of “ Repository of Useful Knowledge” than the American Almanac, and we doubt if another can be named which must be so often resorted to for settling questions of fact of every-day occurrence. The series complete from its commencement in 1829 to the present time, forms of