{391} [Rambler, Sept. 1859.]

Literary Notices

[Possibly by N. (all)—Blehl.]

The Life of St. Malachy O Morgan. By the Rev. John O'Hanlon. (Dublin, 1859.) This careful and valuable work has grown out of a sketch which the author inserted in an American periodical, and is one out of a projected series of above live hundred Irish saints. Of these the Life of St. Lawrence O'Toole has been already published, and the Life of St. Patrick is in preparation. In the case of a biographical or historical work, a reviewer looks, first, for new matter, contributed to the stock of facts already known, from sources hitherto unexplored; or, secondly, for a skilful condensation of the scattered notices, the minute details, and the conclusions which are to be found in various, rare, and voluminous works; or, for such original views of scenes and passages familiar to us as invest them with a new interpretation or a philosophical character; or, lastly, for such skill in composition and grace of style as may recommend the subjects treated of to readers who otherwise would never be induced to enter upon them. Of these qualifications Mr. O'Hanlon professes the second. His publication shows not only an acquaintance with the classical works upon his subject, but much collateral reading; while he has availed himself both of the writings and suggestions of contemporaries. His notes in particular show great diligence, and a most praiseworthy minuteness and accuracy. We do not pretend to criticise him in detail; but we are safe in saying, that {392} he has written as a scholar ought to write, and as a biography ought to be written. In his preface he disclaims for his work the graces of composition without undervaluing them. We wish he had kept close to the intention thus implied; at least his line of thought has struck us as sometimes somewhat ambitious. Of this character too, are certain quotations in the notes from Spenser. Walter Scott, Cicero, &c. We should not make this remark, except that his volume is to be one of a series.

Legends and Lyrics. By A. A. Procter. (Bell and Daldy, 1859.) It is difficult to review a volume of poems, from the want of a standard by which to criticise fairly what is so individual in its origin, and so capricious in its manifestations. How shall we weigh and measure what is of so ethereal a nature, and in its very idea so antagonistic to science? We judge of poetry according to our humour at the moment; and what seems to us strained, or affected, or fanciful, or obscure today, will tomorrow touch us as natural and deep. Each of us, too, has his own tastes, and the favourite of one is barely endurable by another. For ourselves, we confess we are not very fond of the free-and-easy style of the present day; we have been brought up in a severer and more classical school. How, then, shall we do justice to a volume which in point of composition too often savours of the age? We are accustomed to think that verse should either be blank or in rhyme; we do not like a mixture of the two. In the ballad metre, where the first and third lines do not rhyme, the defect is only in appearance; for they are but portions of the second and the fourth respectively, being merely broken in the printing for the convenience of the eye. And so of the anapśstic, when four long lines are chopped into eight. But a slovenly fashion has come in (partly in consequence of translations from the German, and the impossibility of imitating in English the double rhymes of that language) of letting the real endings of lines remain ragged and uncouth, with no musical response to sustain them, instead of being, as they should be, "married to immortal" rhyme. Thus the authoress before us has whole poems in which a line like "A little longer still and heaven awaits thee" is matched by "Then our pale joys will seem a dream forgotten;" though the second and fourth lines rhyme.

However, we did not take up our pen with the intention of being cross with a volume in which critics of every taste must find a great deal to admire. The "Tomb in Ghent," and the "Sailor-Boy," are as compositions perfect,—perfect in simplicity, pathos, sweetness, and precision. The same characteristics attach, different as is the verse and subject, to "A Doubting Heart," "Linger, O gentle Time," "Changes," "A Lament for the Summer," "A First Sorrow," and others. There are compositions in the volume of a bolder, wilder sort, which others will prefer, and with as much right to do so, as we to attach ourselves to the beautiful and serene; and there are others of a more thoughtful and deeper character, such as "A Woman's Question;" and "A Parting."

We should not use so many words unless we considered the {393} volume to be one which no reader will be sorry to have read. The authoress seems to prefer the Past to the Future; in doing so, she agrees with ourselves, who have ever thought Memory more poetical than Hope. Perhaps this is the reason why there have been so few great sacred poets; nature looking back, grace looking forward.

Pictures of Missionary Life in the Nineteenth Century. Vol. I. In the West. Vol. II. In the East. (Burns and Lambert, 1858.) These interesting sketches are for the most part taken from the accounts sent home by French and Belgian missionaries, as contained in the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. Of the two volumes which they form, we consider the second far the more interesting; we suppose the reason to be, that they relate to the East, the cradle of the human race; whereas the West is either the abode of savages who have degenerated from their first estate, and have no history, or of those European races whose history is our own. It is natural to the human mind to look up the stream, not down it, antiquam exquirere matrem;" and the filial yearnings which we feel towards Asia are seconded in the philosophic intellect by the reminiscences which linger among its scattered populations of former Christian teaching, and by the fragments of a still earlier revelation which are embodied in its idolatrous superstitions. Other objects too are lodged there of a liberal curiosity; the East has its own civilisation, and a settled immemorial social state, varying in its separate countries, yet, as it were, indigenous in each. Place and people belong to each other, as if the nations were, strictly speaking, children of the soil. Hence it is that persecution is possible in the East in a sense in which it is unknown in the Western hemisphere; and this, again, invests those regions with a solemn and special interest. The contrast is striking between the vulgar sectarian violence of the Wesleyans in Oceanica, and the fitful fury of their converts against the Catholic missionaries, which the collector of these scenes dignifies with the name of a persecution, and the terrible systematic efforts made in China and the Corea to eliminate the Christian name from the face of the earth. In the latter country, the persecution began in 1791, and lasted for at least twenty years. During that time more than eight hundred Christians were martyred, and among them ladies of royal blood and dignified magistrates. The persecution was renewed in 1827, and again in 1839.

Persecution implies two parties; and the superiority of the East is here again shown in the material which it supplies for the production of martyrs, as well as of martyr-makers. In spite of all that may be said about the degradation of human nature in those countries, there is in them, after all, a capability of self-action which surprises the self-sufficient European. Our author points out to our attention the paradox that the Corean mission "was founded without missionaries, and long supported without pastors." Mr. Marshall has lately directed our minds to the same remarkable country. In this age of the European world, when torpidity, scepticism, and apostasy are the order of the day, it is a wonderful and most gracious {394} relief to the oppressed spirit to look oft towards those distant regions, where the glories of primitive Christianity are renewed. They evidence both the power of the religion itself; and the unchangeable and unequivocal characteristics of that system of faith and worship which has ever been its instrument of operation. We hardly need add, that the initials at the end of the preface are a guarantee, before reading the volume, of the care and skill with which the materials supplied by the Annals are put together.

Bertrand du Gueselin, the Hero of Chivalry. (London: Burns and Lambert, 1859.) This is one of the prettiest stories which we have come across for a long time. It reads like a romance; and we can hardly believe that it is not one. If it all happened to the very letter, then truth certainly is more marvellous than fiction; and Sir Walter Scott wrote prose, not poetry; and his accounts of tournaments, and the knights and fair dames who figured in them, are but a poor copy of the heroic reality. In one point, indeed, Du Gueselin falls short; for he was ugly in feature, and clumsily built. But, having in candour made this admission, we maintain that his true story is a better romance than the most specious miracles of the minstrel or the story-teller. Du Gueselin was as brave and agile as Ivanhoe; as devout to his lady as Sir Kenneth; as shrewd and wary as Quentin Durward; as manly, liberal, and magnanimous as Cœur de Lion; as modest as Damian de Lacy; and as incorrigibly fond of fighting as Henry Gow. He was religious, loyal, openhanded, tender-hearted, and given to alms-deeds. In his first feat he comes forward, almost as a Desdichado, with his visor down; obstinate in his refusal to declare his name; and discovered only at length when, after unhorsing and unhelmeting fifteen knights, his own casque is torn off by his adversary's spear.

Of course there is a reverse to this fine picture, besides the hero's ugliness; and this is the best proof of the substantial fidelity, after all, of the history. We felt grateful, as we read on, that we were not born in the age to which it belongs. We have lately had occasion to insist upon the contrast which may exist between schools of learning and the general state of the population in which they are found. It answers to the contrast which exists in this day between railroads, together with the towns connecting them, and the expanse of country through which they run, with the parish roads and slow conveyances which are the legacy of the past. To think that Du Gueselin lived in, or after, the age of Juan of Navarre, Walter de Merton, Walter de Stapleton, and Adam de Brome! Civilisation was then making progress; the universities were the seats of the movement; but chivalry was hundreds of years behind the age. Rather the College Statute's of Oxford might have been written in the age of Theodosius or St. Gregory, on the one hand, or in the nineteenth century on the other; while the knights of chivalry were little better, morally, than Homer's heroes, or the sea-kings.

Their contempt and consequent cruelty towards all but their {395} own Ťlite circle of prud'hommes, was nothing short of the tyrannical bearing of Greeks and Romans towards their slaves. Scott's Claverhouse, prating about Froissart, is their representative in the seventeenth century. Our clever authoress, in spite of her love of chivalry, is fully alive to the fact; though she would use gentler terms about it than our own. Alas, that the English should supply her with a special instance of it in the course of her narrative! Too weak to sit on horseback, the Black Prince contemplated from his litter the merciless slaughter of men, women, and children at Limoges, deaf to the entreaties of the unoffending people, who cast themselves on their knees before him praying for mercy. "Upwards of 3000 men, women, and children," says Froissart, "were put to death that day." "Such," says the authoress, "was too often the case in those days. The sympathies, courtesies, and charities of knights were for each other; while the sufferings of the common people were very generally despised or overlooked" (p. 148) The English are undoubtedly a humane tender-hearted people; yet how are we to account for their cruelty in war, whether under the Black Prince, or the Regent Bedford, in Ireland or in India?

Dissertatio de Syrorum Fide et Disciplin‚ in Re Eucharistic‚. Scripsit M. J. Lamy. Lovanii, 1859. This volume will be found by theologians and by ritualists to contain much interesting matter, brought together from works for the most part too expensive to be accessible to many readers. The original texts are always accompanied with a Latin translation, and that of John of Tela has been edited now for the first time. The author is, we think, a little credulous in believing the work ascribed by Asseman, Cod. Lit. vol. v., to St. John Maro to be his; at all events, we have been told by one who had seen the manuscript, that Asseman must have known, that it was not St. John Maro's work. Sometimes, too M. Lamy is not as exact as might be in his translations, e.g. in p. 73, the words "Lo vole" are rendered "nefas omnino est;" whereas we think "non decet" would be nearer the mark. On the same page a word which we believe is nothing but "Belteshazzar" puzzles him. Belteshazzar is used for any profane person, and the Syrian author simply confuses this name with Belshazzar, as the Septuagint seems to have done also. We desiderate also a fuller treatment of the knotty question touching the Invocation of the Holy Spirit in Oriental rites, upon which Orie wrote a tract, with which our author is apparently unacquainted. It is a question which requires, for the fair and unflinching treatment of it, ample theological as well as Oriental acquirements. But the extent amid orthodox use of Syriac learning which M. Lamy has displayed, will doubtless lead him as he grows older to further theological pursuits; and through these, in conjunction with a little severer criticism, we see reason, in the present very laudable essay, to expect a great deal from the zeal and learning of the author before us.

The Patrons of Erin; or, some Account of St. Patrick and St. {396} Brigid. By V. G. Todd, D.D. (London, Dolman.) Whatever Dr. Todd publishes on the subject of Irish antiquities comes to us with great weight from the circumstance that he has made them his study. It is reported, indeed, that his researches into that field of interesting learning had much to do in making him a Catholic. When, then, he tells us that he has drawn his narrative from those authors who represent the most ancient traditions, he speaks as one who ought to know what the value is of the various accounts which have come down to us of the great Saints whom he has made the subject of his memoir. Under these circumstances, we do not see who has a right to express an opinion on any points which he sets before us, but those who have such sufficient Irish scholarship as warrants their going by their own judgment. That the narrative is interesting and edifying there needs no learning to be qualified to pronounce; and these are the qualities for which readers look out. Moreover, it is written with the conciseness and reserve which befits a scholar. We are not sure, however, that he has always observed this self-restraint. If he has done so, and if the following passage in the speech of Nathi, king of Hy-Garchon, is really taken from any old document, it is a remarkable coincidence. "What right," said he of Palladius and his missionaries, "has this bishop and his priests to come into our country? He asked no permission from our monarch. He is come to overturn our ancient customs. He is attempting to introduce a religion which has not received the sanction of the state. He wants to bring us into subjection to a foreign power, and to make us subjects of the Bishop of Rome. We will not have this man to reign over us." Yet we must not hastily assume that this passage is not what it seems to profess to be. A coincidence of the same kind occurs in the history of the Vandalic persecution in Africa, which seems in good measure to have originated in a fear, not indeed of Ultramontane, but of Ultramarine influence.

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