Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 2) >> Some Selected Simms Reviews in the Southern Quarterly Review 1849-1850 >> Page 18

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Page 18

Reviews/Essays | 1999


Merry Mount; a Romance of the Massachusetts Colony. In two
Vols. Boston and Cambridge : James Munroe & Co. 1849.

IT is not often that we receive any original literature from New-
England. Its writers are mostly didactic in their character. They
give us philosophies and sermons in abundance ; criticisms and philo-
sophies, history, and homily. But they seem to lack invention. Even
their poets are writers of moral and descriptive verses, rather than
that which demands fancy and imagination ; and Longfellow succeeds
admirably in a chaunt where he fails wretchedly in a fiction. New-
England has scarcely produced a single novelist, if we except Miss
Sedgwick, whose influences are rather drawn from New-York than
Massachusetts, and whose find mind owes its successes to a graceful
style, great good sense, and excellent descriptive powers, rather than
to a capacity for grouping and combining. The imaginative faculty
which is the great essential in all creative literature, is one in which
New-England exhibits deficiencies rather than possessions. Most of
the novelists of America, good or bad, it matters not, spring up in any
other section. Brown, Irving, Cooper, Kennedy, Bird, Paulding, Tucker,*
&c., owe their genius to a friendlier climate ; and were these sections
as adroit, as diligent and eager in trumpeting their achievements to
the world, as they have always thrown themselves in more northern
latitudes, it would be difficult to say in what departments of art and
fiction, the latter would not be excelled. It is, therefore, with a feel
ing of curiosity that we hail the publication of a romance, professing
to be of New-England growth entirely. We are told that the author
of the work before us has been in the field already. He is said to be
the author of a novel called " Morton's Hope," which we remember to
have read with pleasure, just ten years ago. His name is Motley, a
name which we must not allow to prejudice his productions. It
would be rank injustice to impute to them any thing heterogeneous.
On the contrary, his chief deficiency is rather a want of variety in his
fiction ; this want of variety implying a want of warmth and color.
" Morton's Hope " was a work, showing considerable power, an ease
and fearlessness of style, an eagerness in the action, and a purpose
and life in the characters, which constitute much of the merit of prose
fiction. But his story, if we do not now forget, was somewhat wan-