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Subsequent writers, even to our own days, have continued to make it subservient to their designs of illustration or improvement, and if some have prostituted it to purposes of ill, or availed themselves of its aid in the dissemination of corrupt or licentious ideas, the fact affords no better argument against its proper use, than does the malpractice or ignorance of a physician, against the most valuable medicines that he so improperly administers. No doubt, works are to be found in every language, which, assuming the form of one species or another of fiction, have covertly endeavored to insinuate principles adverse to those political, moral, or religious opinions upon which our temporal or eternal welfare depends; but they are descried from the watch-towers of criticism, and men can easily avoid the threatened danger by giving ear to their competent advisers.
. It may be worth our while here to examine some of the most obvious advantages of this species of writing. First, wholesome but unpalatable truths may be given in this mode with less offence than in any other. Much of the uneasiness with which we listen to the exposure of our faults, arises from the unavoidable appearance of assumption in our advisers, and their supposed claim of exemption from the errors which they condemn in us. We are unwilling to be considered inferiors. Pride, self-love, and our feelings of personal respect, revolt against any thing calculated to diminish our esteem of ourselves; we spurn advice thus plainly given, and are ready to impute it to any cause but the true one, an interest in our welfare. The nauseous medicine must be disguised, and this is most tenderly and effectually done by means of fiction. If there we recognise our own character, portrayed under the disguise of another, conscience stands by ready to enforce the application, and without exposure, save to our own hearts, we are fitted for those resolves which a conviction of error must produce in every ingenuous mind.
In the second place, the pleasure that results from the exercise of ingenuity in the detection of the moral, is highly gratifying. Such an exercise gives the mind an idea of its own excellence and the extent of its powers. Hence the pleasure taken in charades, enigmas, or rebuses; hence the subtle art of the rhetorician, who chooses rather to suggest than to declare, and leaves something to the acuteness of his readers. Flattered with their own address and penetration, they grow pleased and attentive, and his words sink deep and are retained in their hearts. Thus is produced a state of feeling peculiarly favorable to the purposes of the writer, and the moral is accepted at the same time with the entertainment.
The third and most important advantage of fiction, is to be found in the peculiar tenacity with which the memory clings to ideas and principles that are associated with persons and events. The fictitious personages and incidents of the fairy tale are generally recollected through life. Read with undisturbed attention and eager delight, at a period when impressions are most easily made, some of the greatest men have found no slight enjoyment in recurring to these recollections; immersed in the cares of the world, in quest of its wealth or its distinctions, a backward and regretful glance is cast toward the days of youth and their innocent enjoyments. Then the pleading of a mother, the advice of a father, or perchance the moral of some dimly-remembered tale, has an effect startling even to the subject of it. That such is the case, we need not inform the student of literature or of literary history. In books, which are the hearts and intellects of great men, preserved to posterity by a magic more wonderful than the petrifying power of the Italian, (Signor Segato,) we often trace the effect of this early reading. Even Locke, in his grave 'Essay on the Human Understanding,' draws many of his illustrations from this too-often despised source.
It would scarcely be candid to omit all notice of those objections which have so often been urged against this species of reading; objections which derive their
value rather from the currency they have obtained, than from any intrinsic worth of their own.
To the assertion, that the imagination in children already preponderates over the judgment, a willing assent is given; but to the conclusion most unphilosophically deduced, that the imagination is therefore to be repressed, it is as promptly denied. This error has sprung from the desire of seeing too quickly the man in the child. An uncontrolled imagination in an adult, called upon to act amid the realities of life, often proves a barrier to his advancement. But that imagination, while kept under the due restraints of reason, can be productive of the slightest detriment, remains to be proved. Who have been the great of the earth-heroes, poets, advocates of human rights, and eloquent ministers of God - but the highly imaginative? Human sciences, human arts, the great moral truths, the progress of law and government, of civilization and knowledge, all owe much to this elevated attribute of man. Cultivate then the imagination and the reason, for the well-being of one is not incompatible with the prosperity of the other. The imagination, if ever cultivated, must be so in early life: then we observe the efforts which nature makes for its improvement; all that can gratify it, all that can enlarge it, is grasped at with an avidity which God has prompted, and for the wisest purposes; then are laid up that curiosity, that enthusiasm, which are to support, to encourage, and urge us on in later life, when reason, calm and serene, would, without its animating influence, convert man into the stoic, or the mere contemplative philosopher.
To the objection, that tales of fairies, enchantments, and magical incantations, are apt to affect the mind injuriously in after life, by introducing a host of unphilosophical associations, a short and summary answer must suffice. Those superstitions that are not supported and kept alive by popular credulity, are sure to decline with the growth of knowledge, and an intercourse with the world. The danger from stories of ghosts, and other supernatural visitations, arises from the vague sort of belief which many repose in them, and even at this day, there are some who believe in their existence. Imagination, diseased upon such a subject, requires but little food for its support; the tales of the olden tinie, with the still remaining faith of the vulgar, are more than enough for its sustenance. It is otherwise with exploded superstitions. They become matters of curious inquiry, philosophical analysis, or antiquarian research; they leave no other impression on the mind than wonder at their strange grotesqueness, or admiration of the poetical imagination that first conceived them. The last objection is the waste of time! This is a respectable scruple, and must be tenderly dealt with. If the young dears are bound by the week to a spinning-jenny, no one would counsel their parents, (however much he might pity the condition of these innocents,) to cancel their indentures, and set them to fairy tales as a task; but as Henry IV. kindly wished that each peasant might have a pullet in his pot of a Sunday, so it may honestly be wished that after his day's work, each wearied little child might find time and opportunity to enjoy himself over these pleasant stories. But it is not the children of the poor who are too busy to be amused; it is the children of the rich! History, geography, grammar, arithmetic, logic, metaphysics, chemistry, and mechanics, all made suitable to the meanest (the polite word now is the 'youngest') capacities, so entirely engross their attention, as to leave no time for the fairy tale. This is a respectable, a very respectable scruple. It is not for us to say a word against it-only we congratulate ourselves that we lived some twenty years ago, when babes pretended no rivalship with professors.
ADDRESS ON THE SUBJECT OF A SURVEYING AND EXPLORING EXPEDITION TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND SOUTH SEAS. Delivered in the Hall of Representatives, April 3d, 1836, by J. N. REYNOLDS. With Correspondence and Documents. pp. 300. NewYork: HARPER and Brothers.
In the Address which occupies the first hundred pages of this book, the author has embodied a concise yet graphic epitome of the origin, progress, and present state of our fishery and commerce, in those immense, wealth-teeming fields of enterprise, the Pacific and South Seas. A strong array of important and interesting facts, stated to be either wholly gathered from personal observation, or transcribed from the memoranda and verbal relations of intelligent mariners, is adduced to prove the necessity for an accurate survey of the waters alluded to, and a more efficient protection of the large amount of individual capital constantly afloat there. The details of the perils amidst which the traffic of those regions has hitherto been prosecuted, are truly appalling; and when to the hazards of an almost chartless navigation, are superadded the prospective horrors of captivity or massacre at the hands of vindictive savages, it seems marvellous that men can be found daring enough to brave such complicated dangers. Surely, if indomitable courage and untiring perseverance ever deserved legislative succor, our gallant whalemen, sealers, and traders, in the Pacific Ocean and South Sea, have an emphatic claim on government. That claim has been eloquently and successfully advocated in the appeal before us; and the navigator who in future years shall traverse that mighty expanse of waters, and thread the mazy channels of its countless Archipelagos, secure in the guides with which science shall have furnished him, will owe a large debt of gratitude to Mr. Reynolds for giving to the spirit of national liberality so benevolent a direction. That gentleman could not have employed the years which he here tells us he has devoted to the subject, in a more noble pursuit; and it cannot but be a source of pride and gratification to him, that the Executive has shown its appreciation of his philanthropic exertions, by assigning him an important post in the expedition he has mainly contributed to originate. The appropriation by Congress for the undertaking is munificent; the views of the President, as regards its scope and scale, are known to be liberal, so that there is every reason to hope that this, our maiden advent in maritime discoveries, will be creditable to the nation. We have too long profited by the labors of others in this department, while we have withheld our quota of information from the general stock let the amende honorable be made worthily and well. In a matter which involves the interests of science and the cause of humanity, let it not be said that the Republic of the United States yields the palm of superiority to any monarchy upon earth.
While upon the subject, we would express our earnest hope that party feeling may have no influence in making or marring the appointments in any department of the expedition, or in controlling or limiting its design. The field of scientific discovery is, or ought to be, neutral ground-privileged alike from the dictation of personal and political prejudice. The magnanimous conduct of France, on an occasion adverted to by Mr. Reynolds, is a fine illustration of this principle. In the midst of a fierce contest with England, her hereditary enemy, she not only abstained from injuring Captain Cook, when that illustrious discoverer was completely in her power, but even courteously tendered him her aid and assistance in the prosecution of his plans. If the sword could thus be turned aside by the majesty of science, surely party opinion should have no detrimental influence in the election of those best qualified to increase her triumphs.
In his Address, the author has presented the importance of our whale fishery in its proper and legitimate light; and has proved that it is no less called for by the interest,
than imperative on the honor of the nation to foster and protect it. He has shown by arithmetical demonstration, that it comprises shipping to the extent of one-tenth of our whole commercial marine, and that it gives employment, either immediately or dependently, to about 12,000 seamen, together with a capital of 60,000,000 of dollars! He has also pointed out its great utility as a practical naval school, in which the citizen, while contributing to the commercial prosperity of his country, and pouring wealth into her bosom, is receiving the best possible training for her defence. Ought not such a mighty agent of national wealth and power to be amply protected? Should not the treasury which, in no trifling degree, it assists to feed, yield bountifully of its abundance for such a purpose? It will do so; and we doubt not that the distribution of the fund will be governed by the same generous and enlightened policy which directed its appropriation. Men eminent in the walks of science, should be stimulated, by the offer of a liberal recompense, to accompany the expedition; and every individual connected with it, from the cabin-boy to the commander, should be remunerated on the same scale. The hardships inseparable from such enterprises are necessarily severe, and men cannot be expected to peril life and limb without a more than ordinary prospective benefit.
Under the second head, 'Correspondence,' are classed a number of letters addressed to Mr. Reynolds by some of the most distinguished scientific and literary characters in the United States, on the subject of the projected enterprise. These communica tions are full of pertinent hints and observations as to its organization and materiel, which, emanating as they do from enlightened sources, are deserving of deliberate, respectful consideration. The suggestions of such minds as Silliman, Dekay, Anthon, etc., are invaluable in those branches which have been their peculiar respective studies. We have been particularly struck with the sound reasoning and practical good sense displayed in the letter of Captain Jones, the intelligent officer who has been appointed to the command. It relates principally to the naval outfit, plan, and force of the expedition; and the measures adopted by government have been nearly in accordance with the views therein expressed. After some judicious remarks, referring to the manner in which the vessels intended for the service should be constructed, so as to combine durability, strength, and buoyancy, he goes on to state his reasons for preferring a frigate to a ship of any other class, to convoy the smaller craft which he designates. Among other arguments in support of his opinions, he advances the following, which we think conclusive:
"The presence of a frigate among the islands would certainly be more apt to impress the natives with a just idea of our national and naval power than any other description of ships, however much increased in number, if divided into smaller vessels; and her magnitude and force would strike the islanders with such awe, as at once to guarantee their friendship, and perhaps effectually guard against and prevent any of those ever-to-belamented conflicts which have so often interrupted the progress of scientific research, and caused the death of many voyagers as well as natives. The protection, too, which such an expedition would necessarily afford to our whalemen and traders, every where to be found in the South Seas, ought not to be lost sight of; and the statesman whose enlarged and humane conceptions shall furnish the means of procuring such happy results, will well merit, and certainly receive, the lasting gratitude of the philanthropic of every country, and of every age to come.'
The documents forming the latter portion of the pamphlet, consist chiefly of memorials, petitions, and statements from different parts of the Union, laid before Congress during the progress of the investigation which resulted in compliance with their prayer. Part of these, especially those from the eastern ports identified with the whale fishery, are written in a style of simple pathos and earnest eloquence, which is at once touching and convincing. There is also added a tabular reference to the reefs, shoals, and islands in part of the region to be explored, (arranged
by Mr. Reynolds,) to obtain the data for which must have been a work of no inconsiderable toil and time.
Mr. Reynolds has discussed, at some length, the probabilities of reaching the South pole, and has advanced some bold and apparently sound arguments to prove that no insurmountable obstacle to its attainment exists. It may be said that the writer is an enthusiast: be it so; enthusiasm is a powerful ally of the discoverer, and has often commanded success, by prostrating and overcoming difficulties at which, without it, he would have quailed.
The author concludes his Address in the following fervid and impressive language:
"We feel that we have discharged our duty, and that the subject is now committed to other hands, to be disposed of by those whose decision will have no connexion with our individual feelings or wishes, nor do we wish that it should. Indeed, we have no unusual share of personal solicitude and feverish anxiety about the result. The time was, when we felt differently-far differently - but that time has gone by. For us there is no disappointment in store. We sought adventure, and have had it without the aid or patronage of government. Still our efforts have not gone unrewarded. The kindness we have so often experienced from our countrymen, and the charitable estimate they have put upon our labors, leave nothing to regret in relation to the past, while they make us independent with respect to the future. We have no narrow and exclusive feelings to be gratified. We wish to see the expedition sail, solely because of the good it may do, and the honor it may confer on the country at large.
"For the same reasons we wish to see it organized on liberal and enlightened principles, which object can be effected only by calling in requisition the known skill of the service, which will be found equal to the discharge of every duty, in any way connected with the naval profession.
"But this should not be all. To complete its efficiency, individuals from other walks of life, we repeat, should be appointed to participate in its labors. No professional pique, no petty jealousies, should be allowed to defeat this object. The enterprise should be national in its object, and sustained by the national means, - belongs of right to no individual, or set of individuals, but to the country and the whole country; and he who does not view it in this light, or could not enter it with this spirit, would not be very likely to meet the public expectations, were he intrusted with the entire control.
"To indulge in jealousies, or feel undue solicitude about the division of honors before they are won, is the appropriate employment of carpet heroes, in whatever walk of life they may be found. The qualifications of such would fit them better to tread the mazes of the dance, or to shine in the saloon, than to venture upon an enterprise requiring men, in the most emphatic sense of the term.
"There are, we know, many, very many, ardent spirits in our navy-many whom we hold among the most valued of our friends- who are tired of inglorious ease, and who would seize the opportunity thus presented to them with avidity, and enter with delight upon this new path to fame.
"Our seamen are hardy and adventurous, especially those who are engaged in the seal trade and the whale fisheries; and inured as they are to the perils of navigation, are inferior to none on earth for such a service. Indeed, the enterprise, courage, and perseverance of American seamen, are, if not unrivalled, at least unsurpassed. man can do, they have always felt ready to attempt what man has done, it is their character to feel able to do- whether it be to grapple with an enemy on the deep, or to pursue their gigantic game under the burning line, with an intelligence and ardor that insure success, or pushing their adventurous barks into the high southern latitudes, to circle the globe within the antarctic circle, and attain the pole itself; yea, to cast anchor on that point where all the meridians terminate, where our eagle and starspangled banner may be unfurled and planted, and left to wave on the axis of the earth itself! where, amid the novelty, grandeur, and sublimity of the scene, the vessels, instead of sweeping a vast circuit by the diurnal movements of the earth, would simply turn round once in twenty-four hours!
"We shall not discuss, at present, the probability of this result, though its possibility might be easily demonstrated. If this should be realized, where is the individual who does not feel that such an achievement would add new lustre to the annals of American philosophy, and crown with a new and imperishable wreath the nautical glories of our country!
"We have done. For the courtesy with which we have been received, and the indulgence with which we have been heard, accept our thanks.
"To the ladies who have so kindly honored us with their attention, our most respectful acknowledgments are due. You are identified with this subject. It was from the sagacity and generosity of one of your sex- the high-minded Isabella, Queen of Spain, that this continent was discovered at the time it was, and by whom it was: