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My life had been apart, my home was placed by quiet ways,
And solitary, opposite, my neighbor passed her days. I had a servant, Diffidence, who long with me had stayed,
And Bashfulness was what they called my timid neighbor's maid.
Now I often to the lady, dainty delicacies sent, -A tender word, a message sweet, or pretty compliment.
But my provoking servant was sure to spoil them all, He crushed them, or he lost them, or else he let them fall,
And in the dust did roll them, while I in shame would wait,
And long to call him back with them, but ever was too late.
And when, with thanks, her Bashfulness came tripping o'er the way,
All mute she stood, forgetting quite what she was sent to say,
While my clumsy Diffidence, of course, ne'er came to her relief;
So our poor servants nearly brought our friendliness to grief.
Once when a costly present to my neighbor I would give,
I felt that, were it broken, 'twould be sad indeed to live.
And so I sent the blunderer away forever more, And boldly went, myself, and knocked upon my neighbor's door.
'Twas Bashfulness that oped to me, a very little
But I pressed in and soon I met my lady, face to face. "Fair lady," said I simply, "I have brought my heart to you,
I hope you will accept it, for 'tis loving, warm, and true."
Then the lady whose dull servant had affrighted fled away,
Thanked me herself and promised me to cherish it for aye.
The love and joy she gave to me has gladdened all my life,
For my gentle little neighbor has become my own true wife. I. N. K.
Life of Thomas Benton.
It is doubtless to Mr. Roosevelt's ambition to attain such a place in the political history of the country that, as the series of biographies upon American statesmen progresses, it may not end without including one of himself, that we are indebted for this life of Mr. Benton. A study of the political history of the country is necessary to the education of the political aspirant and that must include the public life of its eminent men. For more than thirty years Mr Benton was the most eminent, as he was by far the ablest, person in politics from that part of the country lying west of the Mississippi river. He was born March 14th, 1782. This is the only date noted in the volume with reference to Mr. Benton, excepting April 10th, 1858, the day on which he died. These seem to be the most important dates in any one's life; but we have become so accustomed in reading other biographies to being more liberally dealt with in the matter of
The Life of Thomas Hart Benton. By Theodore Roosevelt. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. 1887. For sale in San Francisco, by Chilion Beach.
dates, that we have long ago come to think that their insertion at the important events of life indicated accuracy in the writer and were quite helpful in comparative biography and history. If any reader of this volume has a prejudice in favor of such things, he had better overcome it, or, in case his enjoyment depends upon them, he will have moments of dissatisfaction as he progresses through the book. It may be he will see other reasons to find fault also.
Mr. Roosevelt is not without considerable ability. He has studiously and patiently, we judge, availed himself of Mr. Benton's "Thirty Years' View," and "The Abridgment of the Debates of Congress from 1789 to 1856," by Mr. Benton, in sixteen volumes, bringing the debates down to 1850, which were the basis of most of this biography. According to the custom of the series, he has considered the life of his subject as made up of eras in the political history of the country, and has not allowed his readers' attention to be distracted from the fact that he was writing of Mr. Benton as a statesman, and not as an individual, whose personal life was of any par
ticular consequence. The biography of a statesman need not be marred by over many details of private life; but the study of any man's character is not to be known simply from his public appearances and his views upon public questions. The teaching of his life, which we suppose is the chief object in reading it, must lack completeness in the absence of all details of personal traits, from which is developed the aggregate of character that is seen in the public man. The author of this book has made first a little study of Western life and character, as a setting for the picture of Mr. Benton's public career. Then he initiates Mr. Benton into early life, and does not finish his first chapter thereof before he has his subject in the United States Senate. A chapter lets him get comfortably seated, and then to each of the questions that occupy the public interest of the day-the election of Jackson, the struggle with the Nullifiers, the war on the United States Bank, the distribution of the Surplus, the slave question in its various aspects, the boundary troubles with England-single chapters are devoted; and with a few closing remarks the task of authorship is completed.
As a history of the discussions of the public questions and their final solutions, it is clearly and well told. Mr Roosevelt's admiration for Mr. Benton as one of the greatest statesmen of America is genuine, clearly expressed, and undoubtedly well founded. But his praise and admiration are not indiscriminate. He has been mindful that a part of the duty of the biographer is to heed the imperfections, of his subject, and to occupy towards him a quasi-judicial position. Indeed, in this umpirical attitude Mr. Roosevelt views a good many public events and cotemporaneous personages, and gives his decisions with an air of superiority and conclusiveness that sometimes surprises one into the suspicion that a new Daniel has come to judgment. The phrases perplex us as to whether the author, or this statesmen of the past generation, be the greater. There appears to be no phase of affairs that he does not feel called upon to criticise or approve--usually to criticise.
He adjudges the question of the tariff by remarking sententiously that "in a federal Union it is most unwise to pass laws which shall benefit one part of the community to the hurt of another part, when the latter receives no compensation." He quietly wipes out the name of Jefferson from the list of honest men by attributing to him the quality of "being constitutionally unable to put a proper value on untruthfulness." He closes the argument of the abolitionist, who preferred separation to slavery in the Union, by asserting that "it was self-evident that by no possibility could slavery be abolished unless the Union was preserved." He
settles all question of dispute as to intellectual precedence, by adjudging that Mr. Lincoln "was not only the greatest American, but also the greatest man of the nineteenth century." Of Mr. Calhoun he says, that "it may well be that he has received far more credit for purity of motive in his public conduct than his actions fairly entitle him to." In discussing the question of slavery extension, he somewhat startles one by declaring that“ the greed for the conquest of new lands which characterized the Western people had nothing whatever to do with the fact that some of them owned slaves." Of General Robert E. Lee he says, "he will undoubtedly rank as without any exception the very greatest of all the great captains that the English-speaking peoples have brought forth "--and adds, with as much audacity as good taste, "and this, although the last and chief of his antagonists may himself claim to stand as the full equal of Marlborough and Wellington." He patronizes his subject and laments that Mr. Benton's great talents were “exercised on behalf of such a piece of foolishness as, for example, the expunging resolution." He warns our cousins that "The English rule in India, while it may last for decades or even for centuries, must eventually come to an end and leave little trace of its existence; on the other hand our conquests from Mexico determined for all time the blood, speech, and law of the men who should fill the lands we won." He concludes that Mr. Webster made rather a poor piece of work of the Ashburton treaty, which determined the boundary with Great Britain, for he says, ex cathedra, concerning it, that "no foot of soil to which we had any title in the Northwest should have been given up; we were the people who could use it best, and we ought to have taken it all." A stranger, at all familiar with the history of our country, and the great men who have figured in its history, might upon reading such samples of arbitrament, somewhat too curiously enquire concerning the author. These specimens seem to us, however, to indicate considerable self-reliance—a quality which in the sphere of politics may be more safely depended upon for success than in that of history or biography. This proneness to pass a final judgment upon eminent people, and legislative and judicial and diplomatic events, is very frequent throughout this biography, and has the deplorable tendency to divert the reader's attention from the subject of the volume to the author of it, which latter person, we are wont to believe, should not obtrude his opinions as of much consequence.
Barring the over-much mixture of Mr. Roosevelt's superior judgments, the volume gives a lucid account of Thomas H. Benton's political career, and will aid to a just knowledge of the life of one of the most eminent statesmen of America.
Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit.'
It is announced upon the title page and in the introduction of this volume, that it was "revised in part by Mr. Beecher, and under revision by him at the time of his death," and that "when his ministry came to a glorious close, he had gone patiently over about one-third of it." The volume contains characteristic sayings by the Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, selected from sermons, speeches, and writings. It is a duodecimo of 229 pages, and the selections, of from one to five lines each, are placed under thirty-eight different heads, such as Nature, Man, Business, Character, The World, Success, Human Life, Liberty, Wealth, The Press, and Education, besides religious and theological topics.
The title of the volume is ambitious, and one would believe beyond the vanity of living man concerning anything he might produce as original, were it not that the editor announces that "the work was begun nearly ten years ago, at Mr. Beecher's suggestion and under his guidance." It is only charitable to his memory to conjecture that the editor alone is responsible for the title, and to believe that that part of the book was never, not even a third part, revised by Mr. Beecher. It challenges the test of a criticism that few authors are ambitious to have applied to their productions. Proverbs are, to the minds of most people, the concentration and consummation of wisdom. As learned and witty as many men are, few hold themselves equal to the utterance of such wise sayings. An unusual inspiration sometimes gives a man the rare chance of a happy hit in language, which his best admirers may claim as a genuine utterance of wisdom. That in the long life of the world, men have from time to time been thus genuinely wise as well as felicitous, is evidenced in the proverbs that the world has accepted and hands down as heirlooms to each new generation. But they are not in any man's every-day speech. They are not produced in given quantities, nor are they subject to production under contract. We do not doubt that there are a good many people who are ready for a given price to agree to originate them, and to bring us fresh for every day's breakfast, ready for the day's application, pure maxims that they will warrant will pass for proverbs. But the contract could never be filled, if the performance were to be put to the tests which determine the wisdom of all speech--time and the truth, which wait upon their application to human affairs. "Proverbs," it is said, "embody the current and practical phil
Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit. Selected from the writings and sayings of Henry Ward Beccher. By William Drysdale. New York: D. Appleton & Company.
Either Mr. Drysdale has some other understanding of what proverbs are, or he has not attained to the limited wisdom which can weigh the worth of words. There are in this volume, we estimated, more than two thousand "proverbs." In our judgment this collection shows in a very marked way the danger which may come to one's reputation from the over-great admiration of not very critical people. As simple selections, of more or less value, from the writings of a preacher of unusual force, brilliancy, and eloquence, they must prove acceptable enough to Mr. Beecher's friends and admirers. But every word is not pure gold; every sentence is not a nugget; and although by some curious fate, very commonplace sayings occasionally get to be quoted as utterances of wisdom, very few of these are likely ever to be repeated as proverbs. An unusual way of putting a very usual truth will sometimes impress that truth upon the ordinary man, who is not much given to thinking. But its single utterance has fulfilled its purpose, and the phrase is not worth saving as a proverb, any more than a common fly is worth saving in amber. Much of Mr. Beecher's speech was of this character. A part of the admiration which was bestowed upon him was by reason of his fearlessness, a part by reason of his freshness of phrase, a part by reason of his genuine humor and broad, human, and generous manner, his attractive and persuasive personality. These are qualities that win hearers, but do not make a strong armor against the sharp edge of criticism. We do not say that Mr. Beecher never said a wise thing, nor uttered a proverb; but we say that he never uttered two thousand proverbs, or, if he did, that they are not among the two thousand and more selections in this volume.
It would be ungracious not to make good this criticism by a few instances:
Under the sub-title "Nature," he says: "Flowers are the sweetest things that God ever made and forgot to put a soul into." If that, in its wisdom, is true and was uttered to the glory of God, we fail to know the meaning of words or to recognize a proverb when we see it. The phrase is pretty enough, if it means nothing, and seems to us an inspiration worthy a choice place in a young lady's album. He says on the same page: "The monkey is an organized sarcasm upon the human race, with variations multitudinous." We leave the value of that to be discussed between the evolutionists and the friends of the departed preacher.
He says: "In things pertaining to enthusiasm, no man is sane who does not know how to be insane on proper occasions." The application of this proverb will be found frequently among revivalists in religion. But as an utterance of a truth it will scarcely endure analysis. And there is no page of the volume on which may not be found even weaker sentences, that less justify by felicity of phrase any attempt to consecrate them as proverbs. The editor seems unfortunately, as not infrequently happens to devoted admirers of other men, to select with singular fatality, as the wisest things his hero uttered, and to prove his greatness, what one can scarcely help thinking must have been his most foolish sayings-certainly, apart from their context, what seem really very weak. Mr. Drysdale's critical faculty was a little dull when he printed these as proverbs. Four hundred thousand angels blowing trumpets for a fool would not give him a right to preach." There never was so happy a man as Jesus Christ." "The theatre is the door to all kinds of iniquity." The following seem to us among the best of the sayings, and yet may to many seem not very extraordinary: "Debt is an inexhaustible fountain of dishonesty."- -"The ability to convert ideas to things is the secret of outward success."- -"A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."- "No office can make a worthless man respectable. A tallow candle does not become wax by being put in a golden candle-stick.". -"Mountains of gold would not seduce some men, yet flattery would break them down."
The best that we could be justified in saying by way of fair appraisal of the volume is that perhaps one in twenty of the selections is readable beyond the sentences of ordinary men, and that of those upon the themes touching man perhaps a twentieth, again, are worth reading for some peculiarity of beauty, wit, or wisdom. What the author has to say upon the subjects The Nature and Spirit of God, Theology, Death, and the other themes upon which man's ignorance is immeasurable, and which Mr. Beecher's wisdom is unable to elucidate, belongs to that great mass of imaginative literature that has been devoted to conjecture and hope, and gives no further hint of truth than the visionary angels of Jacob's dream.
'Dr. Channing's Note-book.'
These notes of Channing, we are told by the editor, “have been gathered with careful study, and
'Dr. Channing's Note-book. Passages from the unpublished manuscripts of William Ellery Channing. Selected by his granddaughter, Grace Ellery Channing. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1887.
are here reproduced, without change or revision of any kind." Conscious of the abrupt construction of many of them, she believes that what is lost in elegance is more than compensated in vigor and freedom of expression. They were the expressions of his current thoughts, as he was reading, or musing, and were written with lack of restraint, be cause intended for personal and immediate reference only. Excepted from this are the last ten pages of the volume, which are from chapters of his unfinished work on Man. The notes include thoughts upon a large range of topics, such as came most frequently within consideration of this eminent man, and they show the lofty tone of thought, and the strong and pure heart of one who was among the most highly esteemed thinkers of the early part of this century. Such themes as Freedom, Man, Society, The State, Self-culture, Friendship, Love, Faith, Conversation, Education, Life, Joy, Happiness, The Soul, God, Religion, Sensation, Reflection, Memory, are the occasion of some of his highest thoughts.
His conception of true freedom is expressed thus: "Forego everything rather than invest another with the power of determining your actions, or transfer to him the empire which belongs only to your own minds." His idea of the proper dignity of man, thus: "I am never to lose the consciousness of my own importance as an intellectual and moral being. Whoever respects it is my friend. I deserve this respect."- —“How far are men kept in wickedness by being taught that it is their natural state?"-"The misery of mankind is not this, or that calamity, but ignorance of the true resources from all calamity." Of Society he says: "A bad sovereign makes an unhappy country. Does this rule change when the people are soveriegn? Can the people govern any farther than they are enlightened and selfgoverned? The people swayed by demagogues do not rule."
On other themes: "Studied conversation is most tedious, and defeats all its ends. We want in conversation that the heart should flow out. We cannot every moment pronounce a maxim.""He who converses without the idea of displaying himself has made great progress in humility." "Fear makes children false."- -"Injudicious restraint is the parent of self-will."—"Shakespeare is as a prophet whose writings are fulfilled by all which takes place.”—“There is no religion in being unhappy."- "Men have labored for
churches more than for religion."
These are but a few specimens of the thoughts of a man, all whose thoughts were devoted to further the development, liberty, and elevation of human society.
A Club of One.'
The contents of this volume purport to have come from a pretty good-sized drawer, locked and padlocked, and found filled with manuscripts. The editor presumes "to give them the title they bear, the author of them having departed this life." We are asked to think that they were written not for the public, but purely for occupation; that "their author, a reader and thinker, though an invalid, could not be idle," that "he has said some things that have not been said before, and has said them in his own way." The preface thus invites the reader's criticism; for all the world awaits the writer who can fulfill the expectation that must attend such an announcement. Reader, we readily confess the writer has been; thinker, not so much as reader and re-narrator. The "things that have not been said before," we have patiently sought, and have to confess that our seeking is without its promised reward.
About all of originality that readers have any right to hope for, is not in the thought, but in the way of putting things. And there is here and there throughout this volume a freshness and quaintness of expression that saves the reader from otherwise inevitable ennui. If the editor is the veritable author of the book, he apparently seeks immunity from a too critical review by standing in the shadow of a presumed invalid, who finds consolation in the constant seclusion of his rooms, in his books, which give him the best companionship, and in his pen, which he takes up to utter the thoughts that seem to prelude his reading. His thoughts, however, keep always close company with his books, so close, indeed, that the reader is impressed with the idea that they are only the result of his reading. The book seems to be the product of many notes taken while reading. They are upon a multitude and variety of subjects. The books read were mostly the standard books of English literature. His thinking was not very deep nor continuous, for on almost every topic he graciously yields the greater space to excerpts and anecdotes, which his books kindly and richly furnish. As the final result, one finds that it may be true that the book was composed by one "who might have been sociable", for he is often held most sociable and most entertaining who, if he converses, does not afflict us with thoughts too deep nor too long in expression, and fortifies himself against the charge of wearying us by a plentiful supply of anecdotes of people more illustrious than himself. The volume is not without interest, but rather as
A Club of One. Passages from the note-book of a man who might have been sociable. With marginal summary by the editor. Boston and New York. Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1887.
reminding the reader of pleasant things that he likes to be reminded of, than as suggesting to him much of anything "that has not been said before." Briefer Notice.
Messrs. Lee & Shepard have issued in their "Handbook Series" two magazine articles by Thos. Wentworth Higginson, here entitled Hints on Writing and Speech-making. The author is a master of both accomplishments, and what he says is well worth reading by young writers and speakers. He lays down six specific rules for success in speechmaking, and gives much excellent advice to contributors to literature. Among other requisites, he insists upon clearness of expression; but when the labor to acquire this fails, we can try," he says, "to believe it only that inevitable obscurity which Coleridge calls a compliment to the reader." But by what sarcasm of fate does he, in impressing the lesson offer to his readers the following unhappy sentence? "If, therefore, in writing, you find your theme to be abstruse, labor to render your statement clear and attractive, as if your life depended on it: your literary life does depend on it, and if you fail, relapses into a dead language, and becomes like that of Coleridge only a Biographia Literaria." If Mr. Higginson were dead, the commentators, like worms, would be "e'en at him." But, living, he may rise and explain.We also receive a new edition of English Synonyms Discriminated," by Archbishop Whately, edited by Richard Dublin, who has revised the work throughout. The book, which has helped educate several generations of scholars, needs no special words of commendation.- -The last issue of the series of volumes devoted to "Epochs of Modern History" is that entitled "The Early Tudors, Henry VII, Henry VIII." They are reprints from English publications, and are rightly commended as epitomes that are worth a place in every one's library. Without pretending to be derived first hand from the original sources, they are all written by authors selected by the editor for their special qualifications for writing the separate periods to which the volumes are devoted. The present is the seventeenth volume of the series, and with the previous volumes makes complete an excellent history from the earliest English history to the death of Henry VII.-Obiter Dicta3 is a
Hints on Writing and Speech-making. By Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Boston: Lee & Shepard. 1887. For sale in San Francisco by Samuel Carson & Co. 3Synonyms Discriminated. By Archbishop Whately. edited by Richard Dublin.
The Early Tudors. Henry VII: VIII. By the Rev. C. E. Moberly, M. A., late a Master of Rugby School. New York Charles Scribner's Sons. 1887.
5Obiter Dicta. Second Series. By Augustine Birrell. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1887. For sale in San Francisco by A. L. Bancroft & Co.