Library Collections: Document: Full Text

Editor's Table, February 1852

From: Editor's Table
Creator:  A (author)
Date: February 1852
Publication: The Opal
Source: New York State Library

Page 1   All Pages

Page 1:


We take great pleasure in sending forth another number of our litttle monthly. We trust its contents will not be unpleasant to our teaders. From the preparation of them, we have derived that enjoyment which innocent, and still more, which use-ful employment secures to minds which it has pleased Providence, for a term, to render unfit for the active duties of life.


Before dashing in full into the discussion of our present subject, de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis, -- which, being done into English, means the multiform and multi-farious mass which accumulates on the Table of an Editor, -- we wish to correct a wrong impression which is entertained by some, with regard to the picture at the top of this page. Whatever may have been said about it, it is positively not the portrait of the Editor of the Opal. There is not such a looking person in the Asylum.


There is a class of readers, and in that we reget to say, that we shall have to place the "eating" Editor of the Oneida Morning Herald, whose attention can be arrested only by some rather gross (and oftentimes, the grosser the better) addresses to the senses. Books for children are ways made up in accordance with this prin-ciple, and on this principle has a somewhat grotesque looking figure been placed above. In the selection of a subject, we have probably made a mistake, certainly, as far as this Editor is concerned. It should have been an oyster, or, still better perhaps, a lam.


Our residence in this place has taught us a benevolent anxiety for others, lest they should be brought here also. Impelled by this anxiety, we are constrained to warn this Editor, gourmanderie, excessive eating, is a not unfrequent cause of insanity. Between the stomach and the brain, there is a mysterious but most intimate sympaty -sic-. Let him beware then. Especially should he beware, since, intrusted, though temporarily, with the care of an important public print, he unblushingly proclaims himself by a soubriquet which indicates a very gross nature, and manifests symptoms which may terminate in a nine or twelve months' residence in the Asylum.


The New York Evening Post -- In looking at a late number of this venerable, almost classic, Journal, we encountered an article which greatly surprised us. It surprised us because it was not in harmony with the character of the author of the "Thanatopsis," nor with anything else with which he is associated. After remarking on the quietness of the exodus from office which the Whig party were making, it states that there is one exception ; -- "The Deaf and Dumb had heard of the virtues of Sec. Morgan;" and after advising that the Canal accounts should be submitted to the inspection of the Blind, it concludes thus: "We cannot say which of the ex-State-officers is waiting for the expression of the approbation of the inmates of the Asylum at Utica; but Gov. Hunt, inspired by the good fortune of his Secretary, looks forward with placid confidence of going next year, with the canal certificates, out of public life, and bearing with him the approbation and endorsement of the Hospital of Idiots." Now, at the very best, this is a very poor article of wit. There is not salt enough in it to save it from the condemnation of Grub Street. But the offending point is, that such a paper as the Post should trifle thus with human misery. To be shut out from all communication with that "Nature which speaks a language so various and so glorious," (we here use the words of Mr. Bryant,) is not a subject for merriment; but insanity, oh! let it never be thought or spoken of but with tenderness and fear. A human soul, no matter where or in what condition it is, holds awful relations to God and an endless life; and though it may be shattered, -- all broken to pieces, like a mirror -- still, let it not be forgotten, that the same Almighty Being, who, on the great Day, shall gather together from the four winds the scattered dust of the body, will at the same time reunite into a harmony, that shall be perfect and everlasting, the broken fragments of the soul.


The Black Swan. -- We had the satisfaction of listening to this wonderful woman at her recent concert in this city. We are not sufficiently versed in the laws and terminology of music to be justified in attempting a formal critique of her singing. We cannot, however, forbear making a remark or two, suggested by the appearance of this extraordinary debutante.


In the first place, we cannot but regard it to be an interesting fact that the voice of the greatest compass known, and, probably, ever known, is possessed by a negro woman. Is it too much to anticipate, that, as Terence, a black man, was the first of Roman dramatists, as Tertullian, a black man, was, was but one exception, the most eloquent of the Christian Fathers, and as the Moors, all blacks, were the finest race of their time, so, Miss Greenfield is soon to become the first singer of the age in which she lives, and be made, simply from her becoming the mistress of her divine talent, the instrument of reinstating in its proper place, that branch of the human family to which she belongs?

Page 2:


Our second remark relates to the manner in which Miss G. has been noticed by the public press. This has been, on the whole, quite satisfactory. To this remark, however, there are some mortifying exceptions. We sometimes think that we should be willing to exchange all our peculiar, natural privileges for the European exemption from prejudice with regard to color. In a notice of the "Swan's" singing, in one of our city papers, a notice, on the whole, discriminating and just, we were much offended by the jeering, irreverent tone, of the whole article. The remark, for example, that "her voice, was perfectly white," was, doubtless, an effort after wit; but did the writer ever reflect what effort was requisite to secure the result which is the subject of his mirth: and, still more, did he ever reflect on what tremendous moral efforts were necessary to produce that repose of manner, that perfect dignity, with which Miss Greenfield encounters the trials, -- the insults, sometimes, -- to which she is subjected.


But let us leave these things, which, we confess, have a little irritated us, as well as all right-minded people, and proceed to what is more agreeable, -- the examination of the favors of those who exchange their wares for ours.


Harper's Monthly Magazine, January, 1852. -- The first article of this splendid monthly contains an interesting view of the life of Franklin, by Jacob Abbott, and is illustrated with great beauty. No words can express the obligations which the people, and especially the young people of this country, owe to the author of this article, and to his distinguished brothers. We have read with peculiar satisfaction, the series of biographies recently furnished by the oldest of them. He has been very judicious in the selection of his subjects, and, though he must have been often severely tried by the prejudices of his education, he has, on the whole, written these histories with great impartiality. In his Life of Charles the First, for example -- a character so unpalatable in many respects to the Puritan mind -- he has given to his subject all the credit to which even the most extravagant admirer of the House of Stewart, would consider him entitled.


We do not know but that we ought to modify our praise on the present occasion -- at least, so far as to disapprove of the subject -- which he has selected. Franklin was a very great man. His strong sense, his scientific success, and his services to his country, especially in dealing with the petite maitres of France, and the obstinate prejudiced adherants to what was old, and merely old, in England-services which no other man could have rendered-will always ensure to him a place in the first rank of public men. But, that he was of the earth, earthy. He is the very last of our great men, whom we should wish to be the study of the rising generation. He drank water, while his fellow apprentices drank beer; not because drinking was wrong, but because drinking beer would save him the penny ha'penny a day. But in matters of mere thrift even, of which he is the boasted example, we could furnish a better specimen any where along the roadside in New England -- a specimen of men, who, forming their estimate of wealth on just grounds, but on the principle of the great and wise poet of Scotland --


"To catch Dame Fortune's golden smile -- Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by every wile
That's justified by honor --
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
Not for a train attendant,
But for the glorious privilege
Of being independent


We do not wish to deprecate the value of prudence and frugality, though we would not place them at the top of the catalogue of virtues. But were we compelled to choose, we would prefer to sacrifice all the advantages of this safe but narrow spirit, (we speak of the extreme to which Franklin would drive us,) and urge our youth to the other extreme, perilous as it is, described in the firm old ballad-


"Blow the trumpets, strike the drum,
To all the sensual world proclaim --
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name."


With regard to the other contents of the Magazine, we must speak with unqualified praise. They are fitted either "to raise the genius or to mend the heart." The superb mechanical execution of the work is worthy of the character of the truly great publishers.


Before leaving this number of "Harper," we cannot forbear expressing a wish, which we have long and earnestly entertained, and which the Proprietors of this Magazine might perhaps find it in their power to indulge. It is this -- to see together in some safe depository a full set of all the duodecimo works published by the Harpers. It has occurred to us, that in the "Opal Library," the Library of this Asylum, which contains about 500 inmates, such a safe depository might be found. This suggestion is thrown out for a practical and very feasible purpose. Should it meet the eye of the American Constables, it will doubtless be understood.

Page 3:


Methodist Quarterly Review, January 1852. -- This is one of the ablest periodicals of the country. We do not wish here to discuss the question, (which we cannot but regard as a very absurd one,) as to the wisdom of the Methodists in raising the intellectual character of their people, and to that of establishing colleges and cultivating letters. We cannot believe that any man was ever the worse for becoming familiar with truth or with beauty, which is its blossom. Whoever comprehends ever so imperfectly the capabilities and aspirations of any human mind, must be unwilling to fasten to the position of Wordsworth's poor peasant boy -- a position beyond, or above which he was never to progress --


"The primrose by the river's brim,
A yellow primrose is to him --
And it is nothing more."


We are glad, therefore, to have another number of this Review -- rich in information and truth, made more attractive by the decorations which literary genius have thrown around them.


The first article treats of a subject of infinite importance -- the dependence of Science on faith, not faith in the sense of a belief resting mainly and solely on processes of reasoning and intuition, but on faith as a law of our mental constitution -- in virtue of which a healthy mind receives without a question, the indications of the character and will of God, whether conveyed through His Scriptures, His Providence, or His Works. The elucidation of this subject by Prof. Lewis, of Union College, should be in the hands of every searcher after scientific truth.


It would be pleasant if we had time and space for a notice of all the articles of this number. We cannot refrain, however, from expressing the satisfaction which we have derived from the article on Dante, which often reminds us of our Prescott -- beyond all question this age's master of the Literature of Italy. The article on the Antigone is a fine piece of criticism.


Southern Literary Messenger. Richmond, January, 1852. -- Another welcome visiter from the Sunny South -- of which the mechanical execution would be a great recommendation, if it had no other merit. The leading article in this number continues the History of the City of Richmond. What ideas are awakened by the mere mention of this City, ideas of patriotism, honor, eloquence and chivalry.


It has been often asked, why Southern men, such men as this article describes, have not been more occupied in purely literary pursuits? We think that it would not be difficult to state circumstances, which have directed the splendid talents of the South, rather to the investigation and elucidation of political rather than critical subjects. There is one department of Literature, however, in which they have probably surpassed any previous age. That is Eloquence. We do not believe that Patrick Henry was, in any of the qualities of a great orator, inferior either to Demosthenes or Chatham.


The circumstances above alluded to will also account for the eminent success of Southern Statesmen and Civilians, in formal and elaborate statements of doctrines in general politics and constitutional law.


This Magazine proves that a portion of this genius is now directed towards the cultivation of letters; and we feel confident that the land which gave birth and education to Wirt and Grimke -- the Addison and the Gifford of America -- will, with such vehicles of communication as the Southern Literary Messenger, show that she is as capable of success in poetry, history and criticism, as she has heretofore been in deliberative and forensic eloquence.


Littell's Living Age -- This rich and instructive periodical comes to us weekly. We are not sure that the publishers, in their work of selection, have not undertaken a more difficult duty than that of furnishing original matter. However this may be, it is very certain that their success is complete. We look forward with eagerness for our weekly treat, in which there is always such a just combination of the strong and the delicate, the wholesome and the pleasant. The stately, time-honoring, experience-loving London Quarterly, the earnest, vehement, progress-loving Edinburgh, the airy, racy, truth-telling Blackwood, all meet together, and there results that improvement to our minds which always attends on an active but well-regulated function. We cannot help applauding the publishers for not allowing any of the smooth, but ruinous, poison of the Westminster Review to enter their compilation.


It is a matter of surprise to some, perhaps, and of pride to all, that one of the most frequent and valuable contributors to 'old Blackwood' is a countryman of our own, -- a genuine Yankee, -- the Rector of St. Johns Church, Hartford, Conn.


Whig Review. -- We welcome another number of this able Review. The leading article is on the question which at present absorbs the attention of all political speculators, 'Non-intervention.' The article is written with great ability. It would, of course, be deemed presumptuous in us to enter the lists where such a man as Mr. Webster is just now contending. Still, let us be allowed the liberty to suggest, that all statesmen do not sufficiently consult an authority as satisfactory and conclusive on questions of politics and law, whether municipal or International, as it is on all questions relative to the essential happiness of our race, -- we mean the Word of God. The Bible is the only just interpreter of History. "The Lord GOD omnipotent reigneth." Let us never lose sight of this fundamental fact, in politics. The practical preference is, in all things, to "study to mind our own business," to do what we can of duty in our sphere, and leave the issue to be determined by the sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent God. With regard to the "liberation of Europe," the dethronement of tyrants, &c., we have long been convinced of the divine truth of a saying of a great Christian philosopher of our country, to a set of men who came beseeching him to aid them in a plan of instantaneous, indiscriminate and uncompromising reform. "If," said he, "there be a scheme of benevolence, which cannot be reached by the simple, mild genius of Christianity, depend upon it, the time for its accomplishment has not yet come."

Page 4:


The second article brings us into familiar and most instructive acquaintance with the real levers which, under God, are to move the mind of Europe, -- Villemain, Cousin, Guizot, Michelet, and Cuvier. And then follows an article, which makes us even admire and value more than before those masters of poetry, philosophy and everything else that is interesting in humanity -- Spencer and Shakspeare.


Success to this noble work.


The Ecclesiologist. -- We have received and read with attention the last number of the New York Ecclesiologist. Its object, as its title imports, is to awaken a higher interest in ecclesiastical proprieties, to aid the devotions of Christians by furnishing what it considers just views with regard to Ecclesiastical Architecture, the interior arrangements of churches, the order of public worship, and sacred music, -- in short, to cultivate the aesthetics of religion.


The Address of the venerable President, (John M'cVickar, D. D., Professor of Moral Philosophy and Belles Letters, in Columbia College.) is beautifully written, often ingenious and sometimes elegant. He claims a much higher class of ideas than those belonging to mere propriety (decorum) as the field of Ecclesiological Science, for each is the lofty phrase used to describe the subject of inquiry and teaching. It is a science of types -- certain forms and colors in building, certain arrangements of services, certain positions in the performance of public worship being deemed typical of certain portions of divine truth -- authorized exponents of the Word and Will of God. In all this we cannot sympathize. All those arrangements and combinations which, on the well-known principles of human nature, are favorable to a spirit of devotion, favorable especially to that reverence, the absence of which, it may almost be said, is the characteristic of the age, we most cordially welcome in the construction, internal arrangements and services of our churches. More than this is not only unnecessary, but, we are bound to say, dangerous.


The expensiveness of many of our new churches, the sacrifice of the main object to be attained -- the accommodation of as many worshippers at possible -- to the gratification of mere taste, the prominence given to certain things which have nothing whatever to recommend them except some associations with antiquity, and more than all the absence, necessarily caused by this devotion to artistic peculiarities, of an all-absorbing idea that a church is a place in which to pray and praise and worship God, and in which His Word is to be proclaimed and expounded -- these are things, we would say make ecclesiology dangerous.


With regard to the prevailing taste for what is styled Gothic Architecture, we may be allowed to make a remark or two.


In the first place, this disposition to identify Gothic and Christian Architecture is wholly destitute of any rational or historical foundation. We do not wish to enter into a discussion of the truly difficult question, as to the origin of the Gothic style. Still, we have our opinion. It is not pretended, we resume, by the most zealous members of the Ecclesiological Society that its origin is to be traced to any supernatural source. It is a mere matter of reasoning and history. -- We will venture to suggest, then that the churches of the dark ages, in their form and style, partook of the character of the times. Every thing in the shape of a house, as it was constantly liable to attack, needed to be strong. The churches, from the habits of the age, were also strong or rather massive. We say massive rather than strong. The Roman arch, and the cylyndrical column, were weakened into the pointed arch and clustered column. And yet the style required great weights to be supported. The buttresses, therefore, which we are so eager to imitate, are really deformities rendered necessary by the defects of the structure they are to support -- just as a stick of timber is placed against the side of a tottering barn. Yet these deformities are one of the chief characteristics of the Gothic style. Now, are we to be called on to degrade the character of our Holy Religion, by allowing that its types are to be found in a style of architecture which is essentially defective because it is essentially unnatural.


But, again, on the supposition that we might with propriety and truth associate the Gothic style with our Holy Religion what are we to say of the attempts at it, which are standing or starting up all over our country? Massive buttresses, supporting light brick walls, or quite possibly wooden ones -- unnatural and inconvenient arrangement or confusion rather of doors, seats, windows (round tri-foil and slit) recesses, &c., for the sake of no assignable object except their unnaturalness and inconvenience. But what shall we say of the "painted windows" as they are called? Do the lovers of "Gothic" suppose that the green light that shoots and cuts about in all directions in one of our new churches, any thing like that of an old cathedral in Europe, which does nothing more than soften the whole of the light of the building-like the effect produced by the mixed colors of a forest in autumn?

Page 5:


An eloquent divine of our country, and an earnest but judicious lover of wit, too, once described to us somehow thus, the effect produced on the appearance of a beloved portion of his congregation by this gothic light: --


"The lady of one of the families of my congregation was beautiful in her natural state.


"'Her hair was like the links of gowd,
Her teeth were like the ivory,
Her cheek, were lilies dipped in wine.'


"But as I looked on her from the pulpit of my new church, she had become gothicized. Her whole countenance appeared, as if she was suffering from a severe attack of jaundice; her dear boy, next to her in the pew, seemed frightfully sick from scarlet fever; and her loving husband, at the head of the pew, had the appearance of being most gloriously blue; and all this from the 'dim religious light.'"


And, by the way, what did that old poet mean by those words? We have, sometimes, suspected that "dim religious light," meant the dim light of religion, or the light of a dim religion. Such a metathesis would be perfectly proper in the times to which he alludes. But for our part, we go for light. Darkness is the abode of Error. In Spencer's solemn words --


"Light she hateth as the deadly bale,
Aye wont in desert darkness to remain,
Where none might plain her see, nor she see any plain."


Especially do we hold it to be in perfect taste to fill with a blaze of material light, that place in which the everlasting Gospel shines.


Graham's Magazine. -- The February number is already on our 'Table.' It is now, as it always has been, the dulce decus et praesidium of America genius: for it has been an honor for an author to communicate with his readers through such a medium, and the vastness of its circulation ensures to such authors a substantial remuneration.


We have space at present for only gratefully acknowledging the following;


Our Country, a richly filled and beautifully printed weekly.


The Lantern, giving excellent light.


Dickens' Household Words.


Missionary Herald, of which we have use for more than one copy.

Page 1   All Pages

Pages:  1  2  3  4  5