Page images
PDF
EPUB

The "biglow Papers". They (Barte's daleen The great beart of the The heart of the Wi

ended all question of Mr. puenis) are the unique world thobs warmly over beats 10 warm sympr Lowell's originality. They aluot on which Dissenin

are a wasterwork, 1u woich uus stumped the spirit of the struggleg of our kind; with the work of its gr the imagination of the world uen; the charity of

bis ripe genius 1astened the ho period and place tast

its region and gave tuew birch. dwells upot and enlarges worlu would be blind toi spirit or

wels

lies the glory and the ebaine 01 petty faults an imper, period. Their streugth iics power

զս: ես։

in qualities waich, as here wuich, as here grouped buman action in the past, tiousof its beroes. Year after year the heart

Day by day

combined, were no man's were entirely new Wit Di beats are more warm, theljudgments grow more bu

bave his own. They declare they boho the opinions of

the faith of a sincere aud an aoute-and in some ses conception grows more dis-i ue utterances are more intelligent party with re-slichtly buvbbish - ik hier tinot with ligut and shade. ored win eulo:y or spect to war-a sentiment with regard to sucia oe The persou that was is made demnation. The thre the framework of an image ihut trst snared attent called out by the invasion 0.8w8; tuby are satire at to which the tender, the ro- are made the

warp throu but
now seen to be a mis public

opiniou was moukiva

of Mexico, unjust in ilsuf, out at tue way inued mantio, the thuugitful, the whion the sympathetic, simple and the wise ado wise, the thougotlese,

torical factor in the world's sy lhe ignorant, the viv,

progress. each bis own folly or wis-roolish weaves each bis o

Tuis was a mi-aud the suoduy. The er. row' and utterwost yearn- lolly or desire. Tuns, voldu as 'in declaring it. was not the popular vies dom, his own joy and sor- passion or coldness. uis Dority faith, he.d in vulgar osm was just, but often

contempt, and there was on the Cowese question-it ing Thus not only true only real workers and beroes and poeto, but many ors, but many who Again, the Biglow

Papers” aud required sume decalon who have been conspicuous brun merely apt in strit

Were tue tirol, anu are tue io avalce it. Again 0.05€ torough force or circum- . popular chord, attaius best, metrical presentation dialect poems are the best

of Yankee character in its metrical exposition of Weststances, become idealizou as distinction of genius in time goes by. The critic's popular wind. In jud. thought, dialect, manuers, eru cuaracter iu 1.8 acuions, first labor often is the task an anthor the first cao, and singular wix ure oi speech, doportment and of distinguisuing botween commonly to separate

coarreness and surowupessodu wingling of crudness n en as history and taeir conception of him as big itu the fundamental sense and wickudi 88, wica the works display tnem, and the and writings show it, try of beauty and rigut. Never real virtude at uelicacy and ideals woich one and an-cue idealized image of

sprang the flower of art|uoror. Never was there other have conspired to that has come to exist in from a more un promising more unpromising poetes urge upon his acceptance. Ipopular taste.

soil; yeu these are eclogues iield; but tuese pastorala sume analysis of Por's Passing

irom these ske as true as those of the are as true to Calitri 10 general equipment will not es, a woru us to B t Har ooritus or Burns. Fra ly, sue "Blylow Papers to be uut or place. Only in the general equipment will they are not merely oujccYankee life and minera most per.eet tales can hits be out of order. On u tive studies, but chargeu Lastly, they are thoro ALS English style be called on. Ja emal group of his sts and bearing the marks or a un picuously than in olla

with the poet's own passion, ac istie, aud exhibit celleut, however significant can be be said to be ir bis thought. His manner individual, however fr scholar's hand.

uaes a firni touch of 18 isms-coustant employment and new his thou<ht.

Puwor's 'aud. of t.e dush for suggest ve oloriessness, the supp

They are in turn hamor ness, and a liabit of iraiiciz- siou of his own judgm

ous, pathetic, abrupt, eboek 1910 maku a point or in that of others, the in

6.10, and profave; auch strengthen au illusion--are fively emotional practice

of chem as soon as public 62m0m, and betray a accepting at second-, &

punced into general popOne of conil lenee in wisskil tueir literary temperam

llarity. touse plain metuous. and deviove, preveni tue

The “Biglow Papers," as AB a whole, they are His prose is inferior to Ha - tablishment of such a cla we uow have them, form a powerfully handled works, thurnu's; but sometimes he His want of iuuiviquant sugl Toportioned work, and make a distinck ada ties of fora una proportion of Dickens; but sometin of the world. They are al- uuiqn- in their way her excels Pawtporne iu quali in ali ong contrast with dadero a 108 tive addition tion to serio could teca

to the serio-cowio literature ture. They are pozitively waicu ale specially at the ue excelled Dickens in Be vice of authors who are sectores and simpliciuy most apart from criticism; is nothing in literature with albo poeta. His description. Hie imagi there is no prototype by which

to test them. Bres imagination was not of tue ou is not of the high which to test them. Lowell Darte has b en comprad higuert order, for nA never oruer, for he never dares bas been compared tu Bul to Lowell; but the big dared to trust to it implic-jurust to it implicitly; o

ler, but "Gudibras, "low Papers," whether à iuly; certuinly not in his albly not in his proge, torical satire, is vastly be- lite and manners, are les

whether as poetry or his-satires or word-pictures 93 poetry, since be could do ecn do sotning m 1

low the masterwork or the purely artistachantiebes notbing witu a measure like I way or continued prodi blank verse.

tion.

New-England idyllist. The work of the Westeru po flis intellectual strength Hie greatest mental pa titles of a ew great books, One thinks twice or and rares imagination are er and rarest imagery are eacu of whicula vo felow, tareness of re 3 orig ball to be found in wie " Tales" be found iu nis prose tul come to mind as we think wefore ven uring all to them, and to literary To tuem, and to bio ime of its possible rank and du- muate of their lank ind og oriticism, he main labors tious and sketches, the bi ration, aud I userve that ration; and I observata were devoted.

or nis uime aas been give Mr.Sanborn does not tear tu Mr. Huwelis puus no wear A with his poems, so with The uates of the prout

mentiou tue uigues. It is liinit ou them. It is not the "Tales,'--tueir dales tion of these tales are point in favor of trans-lin avor of mais judgmen are of little importance. sumali importance.

atlantic judgment that the way tuese di lect poum in estimating Dim as a Mr. Harte's faino in ti Biglow Papers" tirsi gave tilst brough: Mr. La ts thao

Mr. Lowell the Blanulug, rapuation among to poet, the dates of these iyr- quarter resta chietly up

of minor couse is calurorulan poems. To wonth those who make opiowo buvo literary weirut, quence. Tuey make but a wake but a small volun

ion in England, wuic. uisi waich nie mure au vitto tuin volume, sumber than covering about oue-thira chicest puenis or art an efforts, in other lins, ad one which migut hold the we complete editiou of nature had failed to procure raileu io do for him.

. Verse of Collins or Gray. poetical works. Thay : Their range is narrower uotably narrow in 600

Mr. Lowelle proso diver Bret Harte'e dialect diyos still.

wut

luey bear witness blous, so wide in rauge. sious, so cramped iu rauge yond ali question as to t could not have been made could uobave been us

wituout some lapse of fuulty without some supplements From his father he inher- ungiuality of his pow. n. ited Italian, French and From his parents die

to the Muse of song: w rk in the way o logit Irish bioou; the Celtre pride uerited Euglisi, Gorza Mr. Lowell should permit

It is hard to conceive why mate soug.

It is bard to understand of disposition aud certain and debrew ploud.

his editions to recain tue wuy Mr. Larte supul koop weakuesses that were buis

extravganza bane.

of "Ir. hese pir dies in lb edi.

Kuott,' 80 little above the tions when he has deurda rom Mr. Sledman's E88CY OR James Russell L well.

krade of the wackney veree. so mnou toat is bein Tu a neai sens, and in a liberal sense,

Living them a place. somewhat 28 Emerson somewhat 25 Poe stands

His sense never was more stands for American American poetry. he subtie, bis tiste never more His sense never w more thougut, the poet Lowell uecome our representa delicbirul, than in the flaw-subie, bis touch nevormgota bas become our representa story teller.

less glanzas on tue "P..cue." dicatu, than in tue cat tive man of letters.

recently printed in this ful" Newporu Legeu For Further Particulars, Address

magazine, SAMUEL CARSON & CO. Publishers and Wholesale Bookseller's,

120 SUTTER STREET, SAN FRANCISCO.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

coldness, his own folly or desire. Thus, a true literary genius. Of his claim to this not only real workers and writers, but many distinction there can be small dispute; and who have been merely apt in striking a pop- it must also be accorded that his style ular chord, attain the distinction of genius has much that is original, however it may in the popular mind. In judging an author, want in scope. In a liberal sense, and the first task is commonly to separate the somewhat as Poe stands for American poeconception of him as his life and writings try, he has become our representative storyshow it, from the idealized image of him teller. He must have had genius to attract that has come to exist in the popular taste. the attention that has grown to such wide

The solution is simplified, however, when, spread and continued interest. But the as in the case of Harte, a single ideal exists, narrowness of his scope, and the way in in which most who write of him appear to which a few characterizations are made to coincide. He has suffered but little from repeat themselves through the entire body reflections upon his private character, and of his works, should stand as danger-signals literary criticism of his work has been di- to those who seek to rate him in the forerected against his moral rather than his most rank. Mr. Harte has understood himartistic soundness. Most of his reviewers self so well as not to attempt the handling speak of him as a brilliant, fertile genius, of certain things, and the negative side of who can force the heart with the sway of his his work is equally interesting with the posiwit and pathos, and who has created in a tive in that it clearly limits the possibility of new field a distinctive, American literature. his powers. Stedman says of Poe, that “he Others, still more indiscriminate in their was another of those poets, outside of the praise, would accord him the place of high- New England school, of whom each has est honor on the roll of American authors. made his mark in a separate way--among As time has gone on, and he has added new them all, none more decisively than Poe”; matter to his previous literary work, these and, in his own field, this criticism applies opinions have happily become modified. literally to Bret Harte. Rejecting the ideal The chorus is yet too loud for the full de- point of view, the judgment of cautious and tection of this more quiet undertone; but, careful critics, both in America and abroad, after all, the strictures influence in but small decides that he is entitled to honest recogdegree the interest taken in his work all nition. The public taste is so capricious and over the civilized world. It is the quantity unreasoning that when it devotes to favor and not the quality of his ability that is in something that is really good, the reflecting question.

mind straightway suspects it of not knowing I feel confident of my ground, however, that it is good. So far as dispassionate suron two points at least. First, and admitting vey can estimate, however, Popularity bids that his field has been one which is entirely fair to hand Mr. Harte over to her less fickle novel and unique, he has, after all, been a sister, Fame. worker in it only according to well-recog- It is said that a man's genius can be exnized English methods--a worker who, plained by the circumstances of his parentwhile he has been more original in his origi- age, education, habits, and environments in nality and more artistic in his art than life. Within a few years this method has many, has as yet produced no method that fallen into disrepute. The heart of the can be marked as distinctively American. world beats in warm sympathy with the Scores of other men have wrought with the work of its great men; the charity of the same tools and attained no fame. With world would be blind to the petty faults and Mr. Harte it was the gift of genius only imperfections of its heroes. They may have that gave foundation for the claim. And been weak in their weaknesses; but what so, it also seems to me, it is certain in judg- matters it, so long as they were stronger in ing of Bret Harte that we are dealing with their strength? In many cases such discus

a

sions have degenerated into mere chapters blood. His father, a man of some culture of social gossip, or, at best, a rambling fund and ability, was a professor at the Albany of anecdote. And further: many ingenious Female College. Some years after his birth people have convinced themselves that in his father died, and in 1854 the family reknowing all about the mountain ranges, moved to California. Living in the rude climate, streams, and crops of a country, they mining settlements of the interior, and minhave accounted for the genius displayed by gling with the rough characters that peopled its literary men.

them, the boy absorbed from actual experiBut, aside from these objections, there is ence many of the incidents which afterwards much to commend in this personal method grew under his magic touch into the now of criticism. Humanity has a justifiable familiar idyls of the embattled diggings, the curiosity to know of an author so far as his lawless flat, and the immoral bar. The first life is in harmony with his works. It is the three years of his life in California he had innate friendliness and sense of gratitude all the mixed fortunes of a pioneer, and tried felt toward those who have given us great his hand at many means of livelihood. For thoughts or pleasures. And then, too, a a time he was a compositor in a newspaper man's environment does plainly affect that office at Eureka; then he mined for himself, which he produces. There is no better without largely increasing his fortune. As instance of this than Mr. Harte. His broad a school-teacher, he was able to indulge dialect and humor would not be what they more liberally the literary taste awakened are if he had not absorbed them through by his work as a printer. These latter exactual residence in the West; and his stories periences afterwards grew, with all their nateverywhere speak the impressions of one who ural color and textures, into the delicate has really known the picturesque barbarity, study entitled, “M’liss.” A year's work as the tropic heats, the pine-spiced breezes of express messenger gave him the clear-cut the early Californian days. His local com- pictures of Yuba Bill, and other knights of plexion outweighs the discourtesy there the stage. would be in discussing him while living. I In 1857 Mr. Harte came to San Franfirmly believe that the spirit of a man cancisco, taking his place as a compositor in the be determined by a knowledge of the stock office of the “Golden Era.” A few bohemian from which he sprung. The facts concern-. sketches written as copy brought him under ing Mr. Harte's parentage and life confirm the favorable notice of the editor, and he was me in this opinion. Without giving too at once translated from the case to the desk. much time to the matter, I shall relate the Those were busy days, and much of the matmore salient points in the history of this ter ground out in that time of probation is Western poet, romancer, critic, humorist. as pregnant with genius and bright with wit Their nature and substance, gleaned from as any that he has seen fit to retain in his the rough field of newspaper paragraphs, complete edition. and bits of autobiography made here and It was in 1863 that his first sketch there by the man himself-gathered from appeared in the East. Jessie Benton Frepersonal conversation of his kinsfolk, and mont, in those days one of the most cultithe rambling recollections of those who vated women in California, took a great knew him personally-the outline, at least, interest in the young author, and it was on I say, may in all delicacy be given.

her recommendation that the “Atlantic” pub

lished the “Legend of Monte Diablo”II.

piece of work that shows what Bret Harte

might have accomplished as a reporter if his Francis Bret Harte was born in Albany, tastes had not carried him into fiction. New York, in 1839. From his parents he Throughout his whole career, Mr. Harte inherited English, German, and Hebrew seems to have been one of those fortunate

[ocr errors]

literateurs who always fall on their feet. ner,” “Miggles,” and “The Idyl of Red He has always been blessed with friends who Gulch,” and the score of others that have delight to push him forward, and pay him answered for his fame. The culminating the full homage that his genius demands. point was reached with the production of Starr King, who, by the way, acted as gen- the “Heathen Chinee.” eral adviser and mentor for all of the bright In 1871 Mr. Harte returned to the East. young bohemians who were struggling for Here he remained for a time, the lion among fame and recognition in those days, took a literary rather than social circles; and later special interest in Bret Harte, and it was accepted a foreign mission. At present he through his influence that he obtained a is consular representative at Glasgow; but pleasant desk as secretary in the United the greater portion of his time is said to States branch mint, then under the control be spent in London. His later career does of Robert B. Swain. The position left time not possess the wholly pleasant side that for study and critical work, and Mr. Harte marks his first rise of popularity. He seems improved the opportunity, even to the detri- to have exhausted the pocket-mine from ment of his business, in editing that bright which his first sketches were drawn, and to little weekly, the early “Californian." There find no field in which to work with equal was little pecuniary gain for any concerned advantage. His dramas—and it is on them in this venture, but the desire for keeping that he is now at work--have proved a up a standard of good literature on the failure; but in this he has fared no worse coast animated their breasts, and the enter- than Tennyson and other men of higher prise was pluckily carried on under the most genius. The stories produced from beyond discouraging and adverse circumstances. the sea are not as good as those of earlier To it Bret Harte contributed “The Con- date, and the literary lethargy into which he densed Novels,” his first work that attracted has fallen bodes ill for the continuance of attention beyond the ocean; besides many his fame. bohemian papers, bits of verse, and idyllic

III. sketches. The publication of the OVERLAND MONTHLY, begun by Anton Roman In letters as well as in government, somein 1868, gave Mr. Harte the turn that sent thing must always be sacrificed. Ability, him up with the tide. An examination of like law, does not always work justice to all his earlier work shows how he rambled over alike. Whatever restriction a people may the whole field of literature in his effort to adopt, some men will always be found dishit on something that should be original. satisfied; whatever genius an author has, The lack of anything distinctively Califor- some line of work will always be the weaker. nian in the first number of the new magą. Two attitudes cannot be preserved at once. zine, the effort of the editor to supply the To bring to the production of poetry the want, the reception of the unfortunate spirit of the novel is to mar it; and the poet “Luck of Roaring Camp,” its abjuration by who, like Bret Harte, makes the highest aim the religious press, the apathy of local secu- of the poem to move, does so at the exlar patrons, and the final wider verdict of pense of perfect art, his strength as a novelthe whole country, are neatly told by Mr. ist becoming his weakness as a poet. Harte in the preface to his late American Mr. Harte's fame in this quarter rests edition; and are further discussed in the chiefly upon his Californian poems. They opening pages of this magazine.

make but a small volume, covering about Mr. Harte is not a quick producer. It one-third of the complete edition of his was six months before the “Outcasts of poetical works. They are notably narrow Poker Flat" appeared to the satisfaction of in scope, but they bear witness beyond all the desire for new fiction created by his first question to the originality of his powers. attempt. Then came “Tennessee's Part- They are the unique product on which his

[ocr errors]

ners.

[ocr errors]

genius has stamped the spirit of the period impossible conditions it presents. It is less and place that gave them birth. Their generally relishable, and appeals for appreciapower lies in qualities which, as here tion chiefly to the learned class. There is a grouped, were entirely new with him. They peculiarly felicitous lesson to scientists, howecho the opinions of an acute--and in some

ever, in the lines: cases slightly snobbish-thinker with regard

“ It is not a proper plan to social solecisms; they are satires that cut For any scientific gent to whale his fellow-man; at the way in which public opinion was And if a member don't agree with his peculiar whim molded by the ignorant, the vulgar, and the To lay for that same member for to 'put a head' on

him." shoddy. The criticism was just, but often

-as on the Chinese question—it was not Truthful James has been quite garrulous the popular view, and required some deci- since the success that followed his first effort sion to advance it. Again, these dialect “to explain,” but none of his after remarks poems are the best metrical exposition of have been pitched in the same high key as western character in its actions, speech, the above. The nearest approach lies in deportment, and odd mingling of crudeness “His Answer to Her Letter”; but “The and wickedness, with the real virtues of Latest Chinese Outrage," "Truthful James delicacy and honor. Never was there a to the Editor,” and others that are purely more unpromising poetical field; but these satirical, are too strained and commonplace pastorals are as true to Californian as the to excite real pleasure. They display mere“Biglow Papers” are to Yankee lise and man- ly the dangerous desire of the author to

Lastly, they are thoroughly artistic, repeat his first success. and exhibit more conspicuously than in “Penelope," "Jim,” “Chiquita,” “Dow's other lines a firm touch of the author's Flat,” and “Cicely” are in a different vein. hand.

They aim to depict real characters and They are in turn humorous, pathetic, actual states, and it is only secondarily that abrupt, eccentric, and profane; and each of they become satirical. They have a finer them as soon as published passed into gen- sense of finish than the others. Their poseral popularity. The most widely known, sible truthfulness of incident gives a better without doubt, is “The Heathen Chinee”. basis for artistic work. The character lines so widely, indeed, that I pass it here with no are remarkably clear cut and vigorous, and criticism beyond an expression of doubt as everywhere there is an undercurrent of to whether the majority of those who know pathos and quiet feeling; and they are all it by heart or speak familiarly of its terms in monologue, which, in the light of their really feel the delicious humor, the exquisite polished finish, adds largely to the value. sarcasm, the subtle force of characterization For the monologue hedges an author within that animate it. In art it is inferior, both rigid limits. The speaker must be prevented in conception and execution, to others that from transcending himself either in method that have been less popular. Purists-es- or material of speech. He must be conpecially in New England-have found an sistent and keep within the bounds of possiimpassable stumbling block in the misuse of bility. But, on the other hand, he must not the pronoun “which.” Now “which” is hug his facts so close as seriously to interperfectly good Pike, and that goes for much; fere with his art. It requires genius to but the dialectic spirit is carried so success- strike the happy medium where the thing fully into other poems without the use of probable shall be artistic and the thing the offending pronoun, that its presence at artistic yet be probable. It seems to me, all must be considered as a blemish.

however, that "Jim" and "Penelope" an“The Society upon the Stanislaus" is free swer all conditions. They are crisp and from this fault, but is equally dependent for dramatic. There is scarcely a word in its humor upon the grotesqueness of the either that could be omitted. They are

« PreviousContinue »