« ZurückWeiter »
What shall we say, too, of the honesty of a writer, who does not scruple to speak of American “ bad faith in the business of the Boundary question,” when he must have known, from documents published to the world when that sentence was penned, from the declarations of the British Ministry to both Houses of Parliament, and from the welldrawn conclusions of the intelligent men of all parties, that the course of the American negotiator was guided by the strictest integrity, as well as by the most enlightened desire to avert the horrors of war between two great kindred nations ? An allusion in this spirit to that illustrious man, to whom the world is mainly indebted for the inestimable blessings of the Treaty of Washington, is much worse than unbecoming. Its true nature we shall not attempt to characterize ; but the only effect it can have will be to stamp the author as an unjust, prejudiced, and narrow-minded man.
We have taken the trouble to point out some of the defects of this author's works, not because they deserve, for any intrinsic merit, a moment's attention, but because they are pretty widely read in both countries, and are used for the ungenerous purpose of exciting ill-will between them. The other book, whose title is placed at the head of the present article, stands nearly on the same low level as to truth and honesty of purpose. On its very title-page, the author, in effect, abandons all claim to the character of a truthtelling witness. The express object of the work is to retort on England the treatment which America is imagined to have received from Mr. Dickens. Of course, a purpose so onesided and polemical, and so openly declared, is a warning to the reader not to take the statements of the book in absolute faith. So far, there is a sort of honesty in the proceeding, which is commendable, because the reader, thus forewarned, is not easily deceived. But what sense of literary duty could the writer have had, in adopting a plan which would make partial statements, discolored and perverted facts, rash generalizations of individual instances, hasty conclusions drawn from narrow or ill-understood premises, quite necessary ingredients in the work? It purports to consist of familiar letters, written by an American lady, who had occasion to reside some time in England. Whether this be fact or fiction, we are unable to say. We have heard it asserted, that this American Lady is wholly an imaginary personage ; No. 122.
and it were better if she were. These letters are not destitute of sprightliness and point; but they are written, for the most part, in an incorrect, careless, slip-shod style, which throws much doubt upon the author's pretensions to the character of a lady. They are loose, rambling, and incoherent; full of gossiping episodes and trivial remarks. Common things, the little incidents of daily life, careless expressions in conversation, the forms and modes of applying charities to the relief of the poor, are studiously made to take an unfavorable construction, on which monstrous generalizations are built, which the author would have us accept as traits of character in the British nation. We reject it all, as in bad taste, bad temper, bad reasoning, and bad writing. The American name needs no such defences or defenders. It is no help to our character, to prove our neighbour worse than ourselves ; it is an injury to our character to attempt to disparage our neighbour, and fail in the attempt ; for that is calumny.
The wonderful reasoning powers of this author are fairly represented in the following paragraph.
66 We saw Prince Albert set forth on horseback. I consider him eminently handsome, and every one speaks of his amiability. A gentleman near us pronounced him the most fortunate youth in existence. • Yes,' added a minor-theatre-looking personage, and he is now, thanks to us, richer than all his tribe.' In England, the first of virtues is wealth. The Americans may struggle as much or more to attain it, but its mere possession is less worshipped with us than in Great Britain."
That is to say, because a " minor-theatre-looking personage” was overheard to remark, that Prince Albert" is now, thanks to us, richer than all his tribe," therefore, “in England, the first of virtues is wealth," and the Americans may struggle as much or more to attain it, but its mere possession is less worshipped with us than in Great Britain.” How imperfectly must this letter-writer have remembered the tone of conversation, not among the “minor-theatre " people, but in the most luxurious and refined circles of the commercial cities in the United States, to venture upon a remark like this, to draw a sweeping conclusion as to national character from the casual exclamation of a fellow in the street! We wish to treat this book with fairness, and
having stated our objections to it, we commend portions of it to our readers, as evincing a talent for lively and humorous description, and a command of an idiomatic and pleasing epistolary style.
7. Bowen, Art. VIII. - A Catalogue of the Library of Brown Uni
versity, in Providence, Rhode Island. With an Index of Subjects. Providence. 1843. 8vo.
We welcome the indications, which are now crowding upon us from every quarter, that the people of this country are beginning to feel the importance of taking active measures for the establishment and increase of great public libraries. Large collections of books, open for common use, are at once the storehouses and the manufactories of learning and science ; they bring together the accumulated fruits of the experience, the research, and the genius of other ages and distant nations, as well as of our own time and land ; and they create the taste and furnish the indispensable aids for the prosecution of literary and scientific effort in every department. In great cities, they qualify the exclusive spirit of commercial and professional avocations, and encourage men to steal an hour from the pursuit of gain and devote it to the attempt to satisfy a rational curiosity and to cultivate an elegant taste. Connected with literary and academical institutions, they supply the means and multiply the objects of study, and keep alive that enthusiasm in the cause of letters, without which nothing great or permanent can ever be accomplished. They are necessarily of slow growth, but every year adds to their value and efficiency, and diffuses more widely a sense of the benefits to be derived from them, and a knowledge of the mode of using them to the best advantage.
The cost of books has been much diminished of late years, and the facilities for making large collections of them much increased. The recent improvements in the arts of printing and paper-making, and the great increase in the number of readers and purchasers, enabling the trade to count upon extensive sales, cause new works to be offered
at very low prices; while the frequent dispersion of private libraries, after the death of the person whose taste and liberality collected them, and, in the Old World, the multiplication of book-fairs and reprints, and the formation of large repositories of old books on sale, place nearly all the old and standard publications within the reach of very moderate
The judicious use of a few thousand dollars will now furnish the nuclèus of a very respectable collection of books.
Under these circumstances, it is not surprising, that public libraries have multiplied, of late, in the United States with considerable rapidity. They are yet small; they do not admit of comparison with the vast accumulations in the great capitals and universities of Europe. But they show, that the public are aware of the importance of such institutions, and that the course of private munificence is already, to some extent, turned in this direction ; and they form centres for slow but continued accretions, with a law of progress as sure as that which changes the sapling into an oak. Philadelphia owes to the public spirit and foresight of Dr. Franklin the establishment of a library, which has long been one of the largest in the country, and now contains nearly 50,000 volumes. But its increase has been slow of late years, and we believe there is but small provision made for its regular and continued enlargement. New York has two societies, of quite recent origin, each having a library of more than thirty thousand volumes, and both being in the way of rapid in
And when the munificent plan which was formed some years since by her wealthiest citizen shall be carried into effect, she will be able to boast of a collection that may well be compared with the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and which, like that noble institution, will immortalize the name of its founder. In Boston, the libraries of the Athenæum and the American Academy are as much distinguished for the choice selection as for the number of the books, and they have the means of regular, if not of rapid growth.
The numerous colleges in this country have their several libraries, of which, considering the urgent necessity, nay, the absolute indispensableness, of large collections of books, for carrying out the proper designs of such institutions, we can only say, that the largest is nothing more than respectable, while by far the greater number of them hardly deserve
The name. The great obstacle to their increase is the absurd multiplication of academical institutions in this country, by which the stream of public and private munificence, that might be collected into one broad and deep channel, is divided into a thousand petty rills, and lost. We have one hundred and seventy-three colleges, when twenty would better answer the purpose, and ten would not be too few; and there is no cause for wonder, therefore, that the largest college library hardly contains the sixth part of the intellectual wealth which it should possess, in order that the pupils, the instructers, and the alumni might do their work to the best advantage.
Our own Harvard has much the largest and best collection of books belonging to any college in the country, and, especially in the department of American history, its stores are unequalled and invaluable.
The library already contains about 50,000 volumes, and is on the point of receiving a large increase. The noble bequest of Mr. Gore, and the untiring liberality of the merchants of Boston and the vicinity, have recently placed in the hands of the Corporation a princely sum for the improvement of this library, the right arm of the institution to which it belongs. But it must ever be a cause of regret with the friends of the college, that, of the large sum thus obtained, more than $ 73,000 were devoted to the erection of a building, and only about $ 21,000 to the purchase of books. If the money had been equally divided between the two purposes, it might have been said, that the interests of science and letters, and the increase of the reputation, influence, and active usefulness of the college by doubling the number of volumes on its shelves, were considered as objects of at least equal importance with the construction even of the best specimen of American Gothic architecture. The three essential points to be considered in the erection of an edifice for a public library, whether attached to a college or not, are convenience, security, and ample room for the books. When these ends are obtained, to expend a single dollar for the mere purpose
of ornament is to rob the immortal mind for the sake of pampering the senses, — to gratify an ostentatious spirit at the expense of the higher interests of humanity. And when the want of large collections of books is as pressing as it now is in this country, such an application of the funds designed to supply