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the sciences have been greatly advanced within the last thirty years—that useful inventions have been prodigiously multiplied; and that something has been done for the furtherance of enduring literature. But while in this department, there is more than enough of polishing and tricking out-of love, and hate, and piracy—of frowning castles, and border conflicts, and sleeping moonbeams, and star-reflecting waters--of sketching, rhyming, stately poetical marching, and graceful limping on every leg of break, and guise, and conceit it must be acknowledged that of deep, and patient, and productive thinking, this is not the age. The race of literary giants, who in the olden time' used to bring up such masses of shining ore from the many-fathomed mine, and to melt it down in their own furnaces, seems to be nearly extinct; or if a goodly number, approaching to the same stature and might, still remain, how few of them are willing to go down and labor in the depths, so long as they can find full and more lucrative employment in the sunshine? It is not because those rich veins are exhausted, which were once wrought by Milton, and Shakspeare, and Spenser; by Johnson, Addison, and Goldsmith, that the writers of our times so generally content themselves with what they can beg, and borrow, and pilfer at second or third hand, from the mighty dead; but because they will not take the trouble of carrying down the lamp, and using the drill and pick-axe with their own hands. It is truly humiliating to think, that while acres and leagues of the richest virgin ore might so easily be procured, by the present race of literary adventurers, they should so generally rest satisfied with the few shining particles they can pick up on the surface, and so laboriously keep their little kaleidoscopes in motion, to excite and prolong the marvelling
of the multitude! But such in point of fact, is the daily and nightly vocation, not only of a host of shallow pretenders, but of much real talent, which might, if industriously and skilfully directed, leave its own bright image upon the enduring monuments of taste and genius.
The unbappy influence of this superficial and fictitious literature, is beginning to be seriously felt on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of the ancient and venerable landmarks, between regions which ought ever to be kept separate, have within these few years been thrown down and swept away by the highland torrents of Scotland, and the swelling surges on the south of the Tweed. Among certain classes of readers, novels, and romances, and amorous poetry, have long been in high and quick demand; but happily, the more sober and thinking of every class, have in time past, discouraged their circulation ; while the religious of all denominations, have affixed to them the seal of a determined prohibition. Till lately, it was well settled, in most pious families, what books were, and what books were not admissible. Fiction, in nearly all its forms, was prohibited, not merely on account of its moral blemishes, and unreal pictures of human life, but as tending in its very nature to enervate the youthful mind, and give it a disrelish for substantial and profitable reading
Such were the barriers against licentiousness and frivolity, which the wisdom and piety of former times set up, and which turned off a thousand cart-loads of deleterious trash into other channels. But how many of these barriers have, alas! been undermined and melted away, since the Bard of the North first struck his lyre, and the • Noble Exile' laid open the heavings and throbbings of his own dark bosom, to the public gaze. The general
effect, which these writers have been so eminently instrumental in producing upon the public opinion and taste is prodigious. The rage for novelty, the demand for excitement, the call for historical fiction, and I may add, for the wildest extravagance, is truly astonishing. All the
eyes and ears of the most wakeful curiosity are now on the alert, for some fresh intelligence from the masters of song, and the retailers of fiction. "Give, give,' is now the never-ceasing cry froin a thousand tongues.
Verily, this is, in Europe and America, the true Athenian age ; not the age of her arts and literature, but the age of her frivolous and insatiable curiosity. The grand object of most who pride themselves in the extent of their reading, and in their taste for elegant literature, is to tell or hear some new thing; or as it is in my motto, something newer, that is, something a little newer than the newest that has come to the knowledge of any body else. The following will, I trust, be recognised by the intelligent reader, as a fair representation of what daily passes in book-stores, circulating libraries and other resorts of idleness and fashion. – Have you
seen Lord Byron's last tragedy? What a prodigious genius! Iordered the copy from London, and believe that it was the first that reached America. W
W however, is printing it, and his edition will be out on Friday. Shall we hear from him again, think you, while he stays in Italy ?'-'0 yes, such a mind can never slumber. The Noble Bard will not disappoint the thousands who he knows are listening for some newer and deeper tone from his lyre.' Scene changes. How do you like the last of the Waverly novels ? For my part I think it superlative. So true to nature, so bewitching from beginning to end !
When yoo have once taken it up, you wil ind I mus sible to lay i down, till the whole is inisiet. Zaw isLizhe foll! It is said that this mighty mag.c:an las maitier series in great forwardness.' - Well, the nare tie iete. But I have something suill never from Esfingur. to brott is writing a new poem, and it wil soon be mit." "Is it praxible? This is news indeed. I sail 10 res 61 I can zet hold of it. Such an author can never court the 1.08ez in vain. But while he writes poerry with one hand, let bira keep dashing off prose with me Lier." Scene shifts again. “Southey'—What has become cé the laureate; He used to sing such wid and sweet airs. So hizkly gifted a poet ought to krow, ta tie world can't afford to let bim slamber. But the horizon of literature is brightening every day. New airenturers are sising into notice along all the walks of fancy and elegance. The voice of rumor from afar, already speaks enthusias. tically of many new impressions which are forth-coming from the Scottish mint.' "True, and no doubt they will be exquisite in their way; but why exbaust all praise upon foreizo writers? There is Bracebridge Hall, by our countryman Irving, which we have good reason to be proud of. Even the pensioned dissecters of London and Edinburgh, with all their prejudices and hatred against every thing American, can't belp praising it.' Jodeed we bave a vast deal of pative talent, which only needs encouragement, to rival the most gifted writers of fiction beyond the water. O how delightful it will be, when America shall furnish her thousand popular tales in a year! Such bright anticipations, are enough to make us all regret, that we were not born in an age or two later.'
Now this craving, this-what shall I call it-this lit
erary dyspepsia, is assuming more and more the type of a sweeping and dementating epidemic; and should it continue to spread and to rage, the consequences must be deplorable indeed. Such aliment as is now almost exclusively demanded by the young, even of pious families, and by many professors of religion too, must needs produce a race of puny, and as Shakspeare would call thein, • lily-livered' exquisites of mere feeling and romance. For who will think of calling for Connecticut River roastbeef, after having free and constant access from childhood, to fruit, cake, floating islands, blue jelly, ice creams, whipt sillabub, and all the other sweet and fragrant temptations of the most celebrated confectioners? In like manner, should what is now called polite literature,' moulded as it is into a thousand seductive forms, continue to gain upon the public taste for a few years longer, who will think of plodding through Rollin, or Hume, or any other writer of sober history? How few will consent to pass their winter evenings, with such prosing and antiquated personages as Milton, and Johnson, and Cowper? Who now thinks of offering to the public, new editions of the most valuable English classics ? What prudent bookseller would embark his capital in such an undertaking ? Who of the trade' is so blind as not to see, that if he would get bread for his children, he must fill his shelves with trash and fiction ?
I speak now comparatively, but with emphasis and alarm-for sure I am, that while the standard of education is rising in our public seminaries, the more useful and substantial books, which were till lately familiar to the upper and middling classes of the community, are falling into neglect, and giving place to a species of writing, which, however amusing, or elegant, can never sus