Imágenes de páginas

English authors may have to complain, that their productions are stolen by American publishers, they cannot say, now-a-days, that their children are defaced by any Gipsey process, in order that what is unlawfully obtained may not be recognised.

11.- The New Hampshire Book ; being Specimens of the Liter

ature of the Granite State. Nashua : Published by David Marshall. Boston: James Munroe & Co. 1842. 12mo. pp. 391.

The restless and migratory disposition of our countrymen gives little opportunity for the formation of local peculiarities of character. The denizens of town and country too frequently change places with each other, to allow the peculiar influences of either residence to exert a marked influence on their habits, feelings, and manners. The constant interchange between the inhabitants of the several States, the facilities for travelling, and the inclination for the pursuit of pleasure, novelty, or gain, which first created these modes of rapid conveyance, and which now sustains them by constant employment, are all operative causes against the formation of provincial traits of sentiment, expression, or custom. We are almost a nomadic people, a set of wandering Tartars, with hardly a knowledge of what local attachments mean. Accordingly, when an American visits Europe, nothing strikes him with more surprise than the prominency and fixedness of those features, whether moral or physical, which have grown out of the geographical position of the people. Character is local and hereditary. The inhabitants of a small town or city manifest the same traits, which their ancestors showed centuries ago. Some fact in the early history of the place, connected with its establishment, colonization, or conquest by a particular tribe, has left a deep imprint on the character of its inhabitants, the traces of which can be clearly discerned at the present day. Go out half a dozen miles from them, and you meet with people, who

appear of a wholly different race. In our own country, we travel on the wings of steam for a thousand miles, and find substantially the same class of beings, that we quitted four or five days before. The features of the country are different. We may have left the rock-bound shores of New England for the wide and fertile prairies of the West. But the men and women, in all important respects, are the same. They speak the same language, not usually varying even in accent ; they discuss the same political topics ; their clothes are cut after the same pattern,

which is, for the most part, no pattern at all. The same distance in Europe, extends through the territories of half a dozen kingdoms, and perhaps fifty provinces, the inhabitants of which, probably, speak about as many different languages and dialects. And the natives of each province have their mark, or shibboleth, which they carry with them wherever they go ; and they will detect the stranger, from his want of it, as soon as he has entered their borders. The lively Parisians will discover a provincial, before he has passed a day in the capital, and, though he be an utter stranger to them, will often be able to tell from what particular corner of France he came.

When will the inhabitants of Boston or New York be able to do the like ?

These remarks may not, at first sight, appear much to the purpose in treating of the “New Hampshire Book.” And yet they were naturally suggested by the examination of the work. Here is a volume of respectable size, filled with prose and poetry, on all sorts of subjects, proceeding from more than fifty different writers, all of whom were born and educated within the limits of one State. But strike out the names of the authors, some notices of individuals, and a few descriptive pieces, that relate to particular spots and remarkable scenery, and no one could tell in what part of the country the book originated. Knowing only that it was filled with contributions from some one State, it might be ascribed with equal probability to Maine or Missouri. The geographical features of New Hampshire are as strongly marked as those of any State in the Union. It deserves its title, as the Granite State. But its mountains of primitive rock have left no impress on the literature of the men they overshadow. It is true, that, under all circumstances, the highest order of literary talent will resist local influences, and assume a cosmopolite character. It ceases to be provincial, or even national ; it is universal, and becomes the property of all countries and of all times. But the volume before us is filled, in great part, with pieces of only modest pretensions. Its contents are made up, in general, of brief sketches, or extracts from works which were only designed to possess a temporary interest. Most of the contributors to its pages have only snatched an hour or two from other pursuits, to pen a stanza or a page, and, for this very reason, their productions are more likely than any others, to be tinged with a local coloring. Still, to our eyes at least, the State tint is nowhere visible.

The editors of the volume have executed their task with care and good taste. They have collected an agreeable miscellany, which, besides its peculiar interest to the inhabitants of one part of the country, will afford some pleasant reading

for others. The wish to show a long list of contributors has led to the admission of some pieces, the absence of which would improve the character of the volume as a whole. Some of the verses show more patriotism than poetry, and some prose articles display more good feeling than literary taste. The intellectual wealth of the State would appear to more advantage in copious extracts from a few writers, than in a heap of scraps from a multitude. And there was no want of materials of the highest merit. New Hampshire has given birth to many individuals, whose reputation is identified with that of the whole country ; though many of them, as the editors remark in the Preface," have not spent their lives in the State, but have sought their fortunes in other regions."

12. - On the Remote Cause of Epidemic Diseases. By John

Parkin, Honorary and Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Academies of Medicine and Surgery in Madrid, Barcelona, and Cadiz ; Fellow of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London ; Graduate in Medicine of the University of Erlangen. London : 1841. 8vo. pp. 198.

The cause of disease is involved in much obscurity, even in the simplest form in which the question can be presented ; and when we extend our view to epidemic diseases, which sometimes spread over and devastate vast regions of the globe, it is buried in mystery. This cause must be powerful, for its effects are irresistible ; it must be extensive, for its influence is felt in every part of the earth ; it must exist independently of local and temporary agencies, for it spreads its action over every variety of climate and through all vicissitudes of season. It has been sought for in the atmosphere, because that is the only known agent upon the surface of the globe, universal enough to meet all the points of its action. But, if it exist there, it has never been detected by direct inquiry. The most searching investigations of French chemistry could discover no difference in the composition of the purest air from the peak of Teneriffe, and the pestilential atmosphere of a Parisian hospital. He must be a bold man, therefore, who shall propose a theory to meet all the claims of these numerous and diversified phenomena, or an ingenious and able man, who shall from the phenomena themselves, and their affinities, discover the law that regulates them. To which of these classes

the author of this inquiry is to be assigned, our readers must judge.

The first thing to be done towards establishing a new theory is of course to demolish all preëxisting theories. This, in the present instance, is a task of no great difficulty. Mr. Parkin directs his attention chiefly to the “black death” of the fourteenth century, and the epidemic cholera of the present age, and regards them in some sort as exemplars, or representatives, of the whole class of epidemic diseases. He shows that the phenomena attending the spread of these diseases cannot be explained by the supposition of contagion, or of malaria, or marsh effluvia ; nor, in short, by any influence disseminated in the atmosphere, since the progress of disease from place to place has often been in direct opposition to the course of the wind, in climates where that course has been uniformly the sarne for a considerable time.

He looks elsewhere, therefore, for an agent sufficiently powerful and extensive for the exigencies of the case ; and he finds it beneath the earth's surface, - or crust, as Geologists more elegantly term it, - in volcanic action. There does not appear much of originality in the mere statement of this theory ; but there is more in the author's developement of it, and still more in his elucidation and defence of it. Our learned countryman, Mr. Noah Webster, many years ago, published, in two goodly-sized volumes, the history of Epidemics, and their dependence upon, or connexion with, comets, earthquakes, and volcanos. " Mr. Parkin, however, does not rely upon any coincidence in the times of their appearance, as evidence of a connexion in their origin, for he does not think these coincidences sufficiently constant to prove such connexion.

“ As the shock of the earthquake, and the eruption of the volcano, are the principal signs we have of this action being in existence, the only direct evidence, it may be considered, that could be adduced in support of the above hypothesis, would be the occurrence of those phenomena simultaneously with the outbreak of epidernic diseases. Such proof, however, is generally wanting ; for although, as will hereafter appear, epidemics are sometimes accompanied by earthquakes, these diseases frequently prevail without being preceded or accompanied by these phenomena, — while the influence of volcanos must be too limited to allow us to draw any deductions from this source, in respect to general plagues or epidemics.” — p. 35.

The author mentions five principal laws of volcanic action, with which those of epidemics thus coincide ; the action is felt or witnessed along particular lines of the earth's surface ; the regularity of their progress both chronologically and geographi-cally ; its effects are less on secondary, ihan on tertiary strata, and seldom witnessed on primary formations ; the effects are

VOL, LIV. - No. 115. 65

always greater nearer the sea or other collection of waters ; and, lastly, their limited duration, their periodical return, and their total cessation in that particular locality after certain definite periods.

It must be borne in mind, that, by volcanic action, is not meant, merely, the ebullition and spouting of fire of an actual volcano in full blast, but, as we have seen above, a certain power pervading the whole interior of the globe, which our author does not very clearly define, and of which, perhaps, even his own conceptions are not quite distinct. The idea is sufficiently familiar to geologists of a great mass of internal fire, pervading the bowels of the earth, an immense boiling cauldron, whose agitations shake whole continents in earth

akes, and whose outbreaks are the outpourings of volcanos. But we believe the supposition is original with our author, that there are other and more quiet means of communication from the hidden world within, mephitic vapors silently and invisibly escaping through fissures and fountains to poison our upper air, and steal away our health. He finds a confirmation of the correctness of this view of the cause of epidemic disease, in the connexion of this same volcanic action with the more visible atmospheric phenomena. He quarrels not, indeed, with the meteorologist in regard to the ordinary production of rain. But certain " aberrations of rain," as well as "irregularities of the seasons,

snow and hail,” and “storms and hurricanes, ” he finds, obey the same laws, as those which regulate the movements of epidemic and of volcanic action ; and therefore he infers, that there is between them all the relationship of common origin, at least, if not of cause and effect.

We have next a chapter giving a concise history of the Black Death, and of the Cholera, showing how the progress of each was attended by various remarkable atmospheric and subterranean phenomena ; and then what may be called the rationale of the whole theory, an explanation of the manner in which the volcanic action is itself excited, and in which it may be supposed to produce disease. The history is interesting ; but it would not be difficult to find coincidences enough of this sort, at any period of the world ; and it does not, therefore, to our minds, bring much additional evidence to the truth of the theory. In fact, we are not sure that we are quite convinced by the whole statement of the argument. Some objections occur to our minds, that we would fain see removed. But we have no space to offer them now; and, if it were otherwise, we have little inclination to do battle with a man who states his case so fairly, and who argues it with so earnest an enthusi


« AnteriorContinuar »