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Push about, in and out, thimble them cleverly.
ART. VIII. The Sketch Book. By GEOFFREY Crayon, Gent.
2 Vols. 8vo. London, 1819, 1820.
Though this is a very pleasing book in itself, and displays
I no ordinary reach of thought and elegance of fancy, it is not exactly on that account that we are now tempted to notice it as a very remarkable publication,-and to predict that it will form an era in the literature of the nation to which it belongs. It is the work of an American, entirely bred and trained in that country-originally published within its territory-and, as we understand, very extensively circulated, and very much admired among its natives. Now, the most remarkable thing in a work so circumstanced certainly is, that it should be written throughout with the greatest care and accuracy, and worked up to great purity and beauty of diction, on the model of the most elegant and polished of our native writers. It is the first American work, we rather think, of any description, but certainly the first purely literary production, to which we could give this praise; and we hope and trust that we may hail it as the harbinger of a purer and juster taste the foundation of a chaster and better school, for the writers of that great and intelligent country. Its genius, as we have frequently observed, has not hi* therto been much turned to letters; and, what it has produced in that department, has been defective in taste certainly rather than in talent. The appearance of a few such works as the present will go far to wipe off this reproach also; and we cordially hope that this author's merited success, both at home and abroad, will stimulate his countrymen to copy the methods by which he has attained it; and that they will submit to receive, from the example of their ingenious compatriot, that lesson which the precepts of strangers do not seem hitherto to have very effectually inculcated. *
But though it is primarily for its style and composition that we are induced to notice this book, it would be quite unjust to the author not to add, that he deserves very high commendation for its more substantial qualities; and that we have seldom seen a work that gave us a more pleasing impression of the writer's character, or a more favourable one of his judgment and taste. There is a tone of fairness and indulgence and of gentleness and philanthropy so unaffectedly diffused through the whole work, and tempering and harmonizing so gracefully, both with its pensive and its gayer humours, as to disarm all ordinarily good-natured critics of their asperity, and to secure to the author, from all worthy readers, the same candour and kindness of which he sets so laudable an example. The want is of force and originality in the reasoning, and speculative parts, and of boldness and incident in the inventive :--though the place of these more commanding qualities is not ill supplied
* While we are upon the subject of American literature, we think ourselves called upon to state, that we have lately received two Numbers, being those for January and April last, of · The North American Review, or Miscellaneous Journal,' published quarterly at Boston, which appears to us to be by far the best and most promising production of the press of that country that has ever come to our hands. It is written with great spirit, learning and ability, on a great variety of subjects; and abounds with profound and original discussions on the most interesting topics. Though abundantly patriotic, or rather national, there is nothing offensive or absolutely unreasonable in the tone of its politics; and no very reprehensible marks either of national partialities or antipathies. The style is generally good, though with considerable exceptionsand sins oftener from affectation than ignorance. But the work is of a powerful and masculine character, and is decidedly superior to any thing of the kind that existed in Europe twenty years ago.
It is a proud thing for us to see Quarterly Reviews propagating bold truths and original speculations in all quarters of the world ; and, when we grow old and stupid ourselves, we hope still to be honoured in the talents and merits of those heirs of our principlos, and children of our example.
VOL. XXXIV. NO. 67.
by great liberality and sound sense, and by a very considerable vein of humour, and no ordinary grace and tenderness of fancy. The manner perhaps throughout is more attended to than the matter; and the care necessary to maintain the rythm and polish of the sentences, has sometimes interfered with the force of the reasoning, or limited and impoverished the illustrations they might otherwise have supplied.
We have forgotten all this time to inform our readers, that the publication consists of a series or collection of detached essays and tales of various descriptions-originally published apart, in the form of a periodical miscellany, for the instruction and delight of America and now collected into two volumes for the refreshment of the English public. The English writers whom the author has chiefly copied, are Addison and Goldsmith, in the humorous and discursive parts—and our own excellent Mackenzie, in the more soft and pathetic. In their highest and most characteristic merits, we do not mean to say that he has equalled any of his originals, or even to deny that he has occasionally caricatured their defects. But the resemblance is near enough to be highly creditable to any living author; and there is sometimes a compass of reasoning which his originals have but rarely attained.
To justify these remarks, we must now lay a specimen or two of this Hesperian essayist before our readers ;-and we shall begin with one that may give some idea of his humorous vein, and his power of pleasant narration, at the same time that it relates to the scenery and superstitions of his native country. We allude to the legend of Rip Van Winkle, which begins as follows.
. Whoever has made a voyage up the Hudson, must remember the Kaatskill mountains. They are a dismembered branch of the great Appalachian family, and are seen away to the west of the river, swelling up to a noble height, and lording it over the surrounding country. Every change of season, every change of weather, indeed every hour of the day, produces some change in the magical hues and shapes of these mountains, and they are regarded by all the good wives, far and near, as perfect barometers. When the weather is fair and settled, they are clothed in blue and purple, and print their bold outlines on the clear evening sky; but sometimes, when the rest of the landscape is cloudless, they will gather a hood of grey vapours about their summits, which, in the last rays of the setting sun, will glow and light up like a crown of glory. .
• At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little village of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government of the good Peter Stuyvesant, (may he rest in peace !) and there were some of the houses of the original settlers standing within a few years, built of small yellow bricks brought from Holland, having latticed windows and gable fronts, surmounted with weathercocks.
In that same village, and in one of these very houses, (which, to tell the precise truth, was sadly time worn and weather beaten,) there lived, many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple good natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle.' p. 57–59.
We pass over a very entertaining account of honest Rip's sufferings under a termagant wife, and of the various pastimes with which he sought to cheat the miseries of his thraldom.
• Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle as years of matrimony rolled on; a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edge-tool that grows keener with constant use. For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village; which held its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of his Majesty George the Third. Here they used to sit in the shade, of a long lazy summer's day, talk listlessly over village gossip, or tell endless sleepy stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman's money to have heard the profound discussions that sometimes took place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands, from some passing traveller. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, a dapper learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place.' p. 65, 66.
When driven from this retreat, he used to take his gun and shoot squirrels all day among the mountains.
• In a long ramble of this kind, on a fine autumnal day, Rip had unconsciously scrambled to one of the highest parts of the Kaatskill mountains. He was after his favourite sport of squirrel shooting; and the still solitudes had echoed and re-echoed with the reports of his gun. Panting and fatigued, he threw himself, late in the afternoon, on a green knoll, covered with mountain herbage, that crowned the brow of a precipice. From an opening between the trees he could overlook all the lower country for many a mile of rich woodland. He saw at a distance the lordly Hudson, far, far below him, moving on its silent but majestic course, with the reflection of a purple cloud, or the sail of a lagging bark, here and there sleeping on its glassy bosom, and at last losing itself in the blue highlands.
On the other side he looked down into a deep mountain glen, wild, lonely, and shagged, the bottom filled with fragments from the impending cliffs, and scarely lighted by the reflected rays of the setting sun. For some time Rip lay musing on this scene; evening was gradually advancing ; the mountains began to throw their long blue shadows over the valleys ; he saw that it would be dark long before he could reach the village, and he heaved a heavy sigh when he thought of encountering the terrors of Dame Van Winkle.
As he was about to descend, he heard a voice from a distance, hallooing, “ Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle !” He looked a. round, but could see nothing but a crow winging its solitary flight across the mountain. He thought his fancy must haye deceived him, and turned again to descend, when he heard the same cry ring through the still evening air ; “ Rip Van Winkle! Rip Van Winkle!”. He looked anxiously in the same direction, and perceived a strange figure slowly toiling up the rocks, and bending under the weight of some. thing he carried on his back. He was surprised to see any human being in this lonely and unfrequented place; but supposing it to be some one of the neighbourhood in need of his assistance, he hastened down to yield it.
« On nearer approach, he was still more surprised at the singularity of the stranger's appearance. He was a short square built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion-a cloth jerkin strapped round the waist --several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated with rows of buttons down the sides, and bunches at the knees. He bore on his shoulder a stout keg, that seemed full of liquor, and made signs for Rip to approach and assist him with the load.' pp. 68-70.
They scramble up the ravine together in silence, till they reach a green hollow in the bosom of the mountains.
. On entering the amphitheatre, new objects of wonder presented themselves. On a level spot in the centre was a company of odd. looking porsonages playing at nine-pins. They were dressed in a quaint, outlandish fashion : some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, of similar style with that of the guide's. Their visages, too, were peculiar: one had a large head, broad face, and small piggish eyes ; the face of another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white sugarloaf hat, set off with a little red cockstail. They all had beards, of various shapes and colours. There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout old gentleman, with a weather-beaton countenance. He wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high heeled shoes, with roses in them. The whole group reminded Rip of the figures in an old Flemish painting, in the parlour of Dominie Van Schaick, the village parson, and which had been brought over from Holland at the time of the settlement.
• Wirat seemed particularly odd to Rip, was, that though these folks were evidently amusing themselves, yet they maintained the gravest