Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 2) >> Important Simms Book Review >> Page 19

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 19

Reviews/Essays | 1849-10
Transcription 240 A Fable for Critics. [Oct.,


vulgar parochial selfishness which disfigures so greatly the popular
judgments of New England. This critic, for example, expends all his
praise upon the children of the East. He finds no others in the coun-
try, or, if he does, he dismisses them with a scornful complacency that
is rather absurd and amusing than destructive or severe. Cooper, for
example, is treated most contemptuously ; though we should traffic
unprofitably with the future to give his writings, loose and defective as
they are, for all the pretentious literature of all New England. Irving
is an exception. He is treated civilly, we night, say graciously, but
for a certain air of patronage which our satirist employs, and which,
when addressed to a veteran like Irving, is sufficiently offensive, in
spite of all the good things which are said. There may be reasons
for this exception, by the way, in the fact that the works of Irving are
now in course of publication by the same house which issues the satire.
Besides, the reputation. of Irving is no longer provocative of envy or
rivalry. It is a settled reputation, at, least for the present. It is no
longer within the courts, and the tacit conclusion, among his contempora-
ries, is to leave his case entirely to the future. His genius was never
of a combative character. Tie exhibited no salient points, in doctrine
or imagination, about which opinion could quarrel ; and he offended
against no known proprieties. His style was at once sweet and unex-
ceptionable, and he occupied a department which found him in nobody's
way. The case is very different with such a writer as Cooper, whose
faults are in due degree with his merits. His very originality must
provoke questioning—his very audacity and courage excite spleen and
anger. His career must necessarily have been a struggle, since, like
the strong swimmer, he disdained to go only with the currents.—But to
return to our muttons. Hear our satirist discourse on Emerson, whom
he styles a " Greek head on Yankee shoulders," and you fancy him
one of the most marvellous men that the world has produced. A pa-
rallel is run between him and Carlyle, greatly to the discredit of the
latter. None less than Plato will content him for a comparison. "Car-
lyle's the more burly," but "Emerson's the rarer ;"" Carlyle's the
Titan," but " Emerson the clear-eyed Olympian ;"" the one's two-
thirds Norseman,"" the other's half Greek," and so on through a long
string of absurdities, in very clever doggerel. And all this said of a
man who is really half-witted, and whose chief excellence consists in
mystifying the simple and disguising commonplaces in allegory. One
Mr. Alcott follows, of whom we know nothing, and our satirist does
not much to enlighten us. He gives to this gentleman a chapter of
homage, and shuts him up in a room with Plato, as a trusted brother,
though, in all probability, from what is said, he has been pilfering from
Plato's stores all his life already. Brownson has his chapter and Wil-
lis his the latter being likened to Beaumont and Fletcher, and made
the companion of Ben Jonson, though the flesh and blood of these


19