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Some years ago we took an antiquarian stroll upon Manhattan Island, in which we visited that church. On the outer wall of the eastern side of the church we found, near the water table, a freestone tablet, on which is the following inscription ;
" In this vault lies buried Petrus Stuyvesant, late CaptainGeneral and Commander-in-chief of Amsterdam in New Netherland, now called New York, and the Dutch West India Islands. Died August, A. D. 1682,* aged eighty years."
We have thus given a short notice of the most able and worthy of the Dutch governors of New York, and in so doing, trust we have brought to light some of the acts of that excellent man, which were veiled in obscurity, and beyond the ken of most, beside the historical antiquary.
The remainder of the volume under consideration is an Historical Sketch of the New York Historical Society, prepared by Mr. Folsom with much care and research, and constituting a document of great interest to its members.
We cannot leave the subject without again commending to the notice of the public this valuable collection of history. If the volumes to succeed it shall equal it in merit, they will constitute a series invaluable, not only from the rarity of the works in their original form, which are there given, but also by reason of their excellence. The selection is made with great judgment. And the introductory notices and notes, by the editor, from the ability with which they are made, add much to the value of the work.
* This is an error, as the last will and testament of Governor Stuyvesant was proved in 1672. See the work under review, p. 399. The stone tablet was erected about the year 1800, by a descendant of the Dutch governor, who trusted entirely to tradition in regard to the time of his decease. At this time, the vault' was repaired and enlarged, and the remains of the Governor were supposed to be recognised, after the lapse of nearly one hundred and thirty years.
Art. IV. - Italy. General Views of its History and Literature in Reference to its Present State. By L. MARI2 vols.
8vo. London. 1841.
Why is a good, or, indeed, any systematic literary history, so rare among us? Is it that the obstacles to its successful execution are so much greater than those which belong to civil history? The latter has to do with facts gleaned from tradition, or the pages of preceding writers. In the former, the books themselves are the facts of the narrative. The history of literature is the history of books. Every new fact implies the reading of a new volume, and instead of finding his story spread over comparatively few pages, as with the civil historian, the writer must sift it from whole libraries.
But not only must he know the especial authors that he criticizes ; he must, also, be familiar with the departments in which they are eminent. Whoever criticizes Shakspeare, must be acquainted with the drama generally. Whoever analyzes Locke, should be intimate with all the complex, contradictory schemes of metaphysics. Merit is comparative ; and how can we settle the standard of a writer, till we know that of his competitors ? How can we measure his performance, till we know the state of the art or science when he entered on it ?
There is, besides this, the difficulty of a sure taste to guide the literary, by no means demanded in the political historian. He must be something of a poet, or, rather, he must have sufficient fancy and feeling to be sensible to the charms of poetic fiction, who takes upon himself to disclose its beauties, often latent, to the reader. His own judgment must be true, who is to guide, to form, it may be, the judgment of others. The political writer bas, indeed, to weigh the actions of men. But it is in a moral balance ; and ten persons can decide on what is correct in morals, to one who can pronounce on what is correct in taste. An eminent example of this difficulty is afforded by Johnson, in his “ Lives of the Poets.” How sound in his judgment of men ; how untrustworthy in his criticism on their works !
But why is it that these difficulties do not seem to be felt by the nations on the European continent so sensibly as by the English and ourselves ? For such would seem to be the fact, from the much greater extent to which literary history has been cultivated by the former nations. There are bu four or five bistorians, of any value, of our vernacular litera ture, chiefly its poetry; and none, if we except Hallam’s re cent work, of a foreign language. Perhaps it may be, tha in England, as with us, the greater freedom of the press, as well as of social institutions, has invited the writer to the discussion of the more attractive themes of religion and politics ; more attractive, because they come home to the bosoms and business of men more nearly than abstract literary criticism and disquisition. The French until lately, the Italian and Spaniard even now, are excluded from this wide and lofty range of speculation, and naturally turn to those elegant departments of letters, which, while they delight the taste, and inform the mind, have nothing in them to stir the bile of a jealous police. They may safely venture on the examination of works, which have been pronounced safe by the censor.
Yet in England and America, although works of longue haleine in this province are rare, the critical propensity finds a large escape in the form of Reviews, Magazines, and the like periodical works, which operate as so many conductors to carry off the electric Auid ; insensibly and noiselessly, indeed, but, perhaps, not the less serviceably to the community.
The work before us presents a view of Italian literature, written in English. It adds nothing, however, to the stores of original native publication in this line ; since, though in English, it is by an Italian. Those who had the good fortune to attend the lectures of Signor Mariotti, some three years since, in Boston, will refresh their recollection of them in the more correct and complete form in which they appear in these volumes.
There is no modern literature, which, on the whole affords a richer field for the critic than the Italian ; none where the beautiful has been exhibited in a greater variety of forms, and where it has reached a higher standard of excel lence. It was in Italy, that the sun of civilization set upor the world, and there that the new light first broke upon the nations. At the close of the thirteenth, and beginning of the fourteenth centuries, when the rest of Europe was in dark ness, when many a priest could not read his missal, and science seemed to have fled to the disciples of Mahomet, those great master-spirits arose in Italy, whose works first revealed the full capacities of a modern idiom, and taught the cheering lesson, that all was not buried with the dead languages, that there was still a life for modern literature.
Since that epoch, between five and six centuries bave elapsed, during which, Italian literature, the offspring of fancy and feeling, conveying, in tones of ravishing sweetness, the music of thought in the music of numbers, has reflected, with chameleon-like sensibility, all the various influences of the social and political changes of the country. These changes are so distinctly marked, that a favorite practice with the literary historian has been, to distribute his subject into periods corresponding with the different centuries ; each of which is supposed to be stamped by a character peculiar to itself. Thus, in the fourteenth, we have the immortal productions of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, - the trecentisti, - the race of giants, whose words remind us of those gigantic trees, which, nourished by a virgin soil, tower up to a height that the cultivated products of civilization have never reached, throwing far and wide their branches for future generations to repose under their mighty shadows.
Then came the age of scholarship, when the mind, as if exhausted by original production, fell back on the labors of the past, and scholars, incapable of the higher flights of imagination, entitled themselves to the gratitude of posterity, by revealing the long-buried treasures of classic antiquity. With the classic models thus before them to form their taste, and with the resources of their own tongue fully displayed by the great writers of the earlier period, the Italians of the seventeenth century, — when other nations were just entering on the career of elegant letters, produced those chaste and beautiful compositions, which have made the age of Leo the Tenth the Augustan age of Italy.
Then followed the usual consequences, when the ripening bloom, falling into decay, was succeeded by feebleness and corruption. The debauched taste, sated and disgusted with the wholesome productions on which it had so long been nourished, sought for novelty in others of a more artificial and meretricious kind. The simple ways of nature were deserted. The new was preferred to the true, and change, though a bad one, to constancy. This was the sad age of No. 115.
the seicentisti, when the Italian muse, instead of the swee wild-flowers of her native soil, bedizened herself with th false brilliants, the cold tinsel, of foreign foppery. Last cam the eighteenth century, in which the more intimate inter course between nations stripped somewhat of its insulate peculiarities from every literature, giving to each, to a certai extent, the characteristics of its neighbour. The north, i particular, with its dark and solemn musings, has commune with the spirit of the south, infecting it with somewhat of it own romantic and sadder temperament. It infused into it also, a more masculine feeling, which led it, in Italy, to shak off the effeminacy of the preceding age, as it once mor formed itself on the severer models of the trecentisti.
Such are the strong lines which have marked the grea divisions of Italian letters. They have not been those, how ever, to which Signor Mariotti has conformed in his analysis Indeed, his work is not properly a history of literature, bu of the Italian mind, under the various forms, whether literar or social, in which it has unfolded itself since the Italian were a distinct people ; and the various causes, whether of political or religious character, that have influenced the op erations of the national intellect. The author's purpose thus briefly stated.
- Down in a southern clime, amidst the silent waves of tideless sea, there lies a weary land, whose life is only in th past and the future. It is my purpose to interrogate the mon uments of her past, to throw some light on the secrets of he future.
“ For Italy has been of late the favorite haunt of idle stran gers, who have judged in haste and prejudice ; who hav studied things, not men ; who have found no nation in Italy but the dust of nations. An Italian may, perhaps, be expect ed to entertain different ideas. He who has looked to hi country with the veneration of a son and the enthusiasm of lover, who has mused on her ruins and shrines, and mingle with the crowds of her cities, may, perhaps, have know enough of Italy to be proud of her memories, and to live o her hopes.
“Thus, when endeavouring to engage public attention o so trite a theme as the history and literature of Italy, it is wit the hope that an old subject may be presented under ne points of view ; that from a rapid and general survey of Ital as she has been, may naturally result some illustrations (