« הקודםהמשך »
ART. III. --The Novels of Charles Brockden Brown. 7 Vols.
12mo. Boston: S. G. Goodrich.
We anticipate no contradiction when we assert, that to the mass of readers, no species of literature is so attractive as novel-writing. This is owing to many causes, some of which are sufficiently obvious to every observer. One of the chief, undoubtedly, is the excitement and consequent gratification of curiosity-a principle of the mind, which, as every one must. have experienced, is extremely susceptible of excitement, and when excited, extremely eager for gratification. It is a principle wisely implanted in our nature to quicken our investigating powers, and arouse our energies in pursuit of knowledge; and so effectual is its stimulus in this respect, that its immediate gratification is often the only inducement to the most minute and laborious research. Discoveries of great magnificence and high utility-in science and in art—in mechanics, chemistry, astronomy, geography,-in short, in almost every branch of human investigation,-have resulted from the ardour of pursuit excited by this feeling alone. The impulse which drives men to disregard the dangers and fatigues of exploring unknown countries, in order to ascertain the height of a mountain, the sources of a river, or the site of a city; or to undertake the performance of a tedious and hazardous experiment, or the solution of a difficult problem, for the mere satisfaction of knowing the result, must not only be strong but productive of delight. If this principle is so powerful, therefore, as to overcome the usual reluctance of men to attempt efforts which are laborious and of doubtful success, how great must be its influence in impelling them to inquiries that occasion no fatigue, and in which gratification is certain ?
And here lies the potent charm of novel-reading ;-without labour, without hazard, it affords to the mind the grateful employment of investigating and ascertaining the motives of actions, the issue of adventures, the development of mysteries, and the disentanglement of plots.
The gratification of curiosity, indeed, forms one of the most pleasing intellectual sensations we can enjoy. And what can more readily excite, or more strongly gratify it, than a wellcontrived series of adventures, skilfully narrated, the actors in which derive additional interest from being of the same nature, feelings and dispositions with ourselves? The work, therefore, which, in its progress, powerfully awakens and agitates the curiosity by the importance, the singularity, and the intricacy of the events it relates, will always be a favourite with the reading world. Such a work is a high-seasoned dish in literature; it
applies itself to the most active of our intellectual appetites, and becomes a luxury, which, when once tasted, cannot be relinquished until all its contents be devoured.
But although indulging curiosity be the principal, it is not the only means of attraction possessed by this species of literature. It has various other modes of communicating pleasure. It can interest by incident, arouse by novelty, and touch by pathos. It makes delineations of nature which we delight to contemplate. It presents views of society, which afford amusement or impart instruction, or yield the advantages of both. It revives pleasant recollections, awakens endearing associations, and fills the mind with animating and salutary reflections. There is, in fact, no scope for the exercise of genius which it does not afford, no field for the admonitions of wisdom which it does not embrace. Invention, memory, judgment, taste, knowledge, have all ample room for the display of their particular powers; and there are novels extant, whose production has called into action the full vigour of all these faculties, and exhibited the powers of literary aptitude in their highest excellence.
Novels of this high order are, indeed, but few. But a species of literature, susceptible of such excellence, cannot be refused an important station among the productions of mind. The vast and undeniable popularity of modern novels, has, indeed, given them such an influence over the opinions and manners of society, that it is no longer in the power of either statesmen or philosophers to view writings of this description with the indifference or contempt, in which, until within these last twenty years, they were usually held. All classes in Europe, from the prince to the pauper, from the archbishop to the sexton, from the fieldmarshal to the sutler, and, in our own country, from the president to the petty constable, read them, relish them, and talk about them, as if they formed one of the prime necessaries of life;—so that the appearance of a new novel has become an event of consequence in the affairs of mankind, and its merits and demerits are discussed with as much interest and anxiety as the prospects of peace or war, or of a good or bad harvest. Hence it is, that the character of the last Pelham fabrication has occasioned, in this country, as much debate as the Nullification question itself.
It is important, therefore, that works which exercise such a powerful influence over the public mind, should be narrowly watched by the conductors of the periodical press. Their doctrines and tendencies ought to be rigidly scrutinized, and, when found fallacious and corrupt, exposed to public disapprobation with just censure and unshrinking severity. On the other hand, when they advocate correct principles, and strengthen the cause of morality, they should receive from the critical tribunals such VOL. VIII. —NO. 16.
following portions have been either actually executed, or are in a state which promises speedy completion.
Miles. Merrimack river,
110 Connecticut river, above Hartford,
220 Potomac river,
182 Appomatox river,
110 Roanoke river,
322 Dan river,
150 Cape Fear river,
200 Wateree and Catawba,
275 Saluda river,
128 Seneca river,
In addition, annual appropriations have been made upon the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, to remove the accidental obstruc tions to which they are liable.
of the remaining river navigations, whose improvement has been proposed, we can quote none that possesses general and national importance, however valuable many of them unquestionably are to large extents of country.
În respect to the several proposed channels of communication which we have selected as national, no doubt can be entertained that their entire execution as parts of one great and important system, would be of incalculable benefit to our country.. It only remains to ask, by whom or under what auspices they shall be performed, and there can be but one answer-by the Federal Government. We are aware, that the factious may at one time set up state rights to thwart an administration to which they are in opposition; that at another, a timid administration may seek to avoid responsibility, by throwing the rejection of an appropriation rather upon a principle than upon its own merits; or that a tottering administration may at another, seek popularity by declining to exercise its just powers: but the reason of the case unquestionably is, that where the means of doing good are vested, there must the power exist. The Federal Government is not merely a confederation of distinct states, but the representation of the majority of a single and homogeneous people ; and in this government was vested the sole power of collecting the vast revenues derived from our foreign commerce, and a right equal and co-ordinate with that of the separate states, of imposing internal taxes: it certainly required no direct enactment to show, that the funds derived from these sources might be devoted to whatever object the three branches of legislative authority should conceive it proper to apply them,
under their respective responsibilities to their constituents and the laws. If however the power be, from its very nature, thus extensive, its exercise must of course be governed by principles of sound policy, and it would be improper that the general government should execute of its own direct agency, any work that is not of general utility. But the national character is not to be judged of by the extent, the quality, or the location of the work; it will be ascertained by the exercise of sound discre
; tion, and determined by the influence of enlightened views. The question of its being confined within a single, or extended to various states, has no bearing upon the nationality of its character. The canal of New York is perhaps more important in a national point of view, than any other internal improvement that has ever been proposed or executed in the United States, while the Hudson and the Delaware canal, which lies partly in two states, and touches a third, is purely local. Nor do we hesitate to say, that the little cut of two miles, from Toomer's sound to Cape Fear river, being a part of the great line of navigation parallel to the coast, is as national as the general improvement of the Mississippi, which traverses the whole breadth of the Union, and unites climes of the most varied temperature, the snows of almost polar regions to the perpetual verdure of the tropics.
But the agency of the general government in internal improvement ought not to stop at works whose design and utility is strictly national; the benefit of the parts constitutes the benefit of the whole, and a paternal government will foster all praiseworthy objects of enterprise, however small may be the sphere of their influence. Here, however, the general government cannot in good policy act directly, but its resources ought not the less to be applicable to objects of real and obvious utility. The example of the state of New York points out a mode by which the general wealth may be safely and beneficially applied to promote undertakings limited in their local influence. The Hudson and Delaware canal, intrusted to a chartered company by the states of New-York and Pennsylvania, was in danger of being arrested for want of funds; the legislature of the former state forthwith loaned its credit to the company for a sum sufficient to complete its works, and took for its security a pledge of the whole. This course, which in this single instance secured the execution of a great and valuable work, might be safely taken as a general principle of action, and the Federal Government might, in all cases, when states or authorized associations of individuals shall have executed or provided for the execution of a certain proportion, not less than the half, of any public work, lend to them its credit, or its funds, for the purpose of executing the remainder, upon a pledge of the revenue of the whole. The sagacity of individual speculators, or the intelligence of legislatures, intimately acquainted with the circumstances of the enterprise, might be, in all cases, safely relied upon to shield the government
from loss. The same principle might perhaps be applied to roads, but the danger of loss and improper application becomes much greater in this case. It almost always happens, that the whole cost of roads is amply defrayed by the improvement of the value of the country through which they pass, and landholders might often safely venture the loss of a large proportion of the expenditure upon a road, in order to induce the government to bear a share. Roads too, where they are actually needed, almost always return a compensation sufficiently direct to induce their construction without the aid of government, and their benefits are more strictly local. The very infancy of our settlements will call for the formation of roads, and their quality will be improved with the growth of population. The great mails of the Union may require in some few cases the formation of roads, but it may be almost assumed, that when other circumstances do not determine their construction, the mail will be light and the necessity for roads less. The selection which has been made of the seat of our general government, has rendered routes which would not otherwise have been constructed, absolutely necessary, if that city be taken as the central point whence all the mail roads are to diverge. These routes are in no wise necessary to the commerce or communications of the country, except so far as a fictitious want is created by the location of the general post-office. Still it might not be an unwise provision for the general government, to loan on the pledge of the tolls, to aid in the construction of turnpike roads, some definite portion of their cost. In this event, the residue of the expense of construction would fall upon the state, or the district in which the road is situated, but the investment will be far less safe than upon canals or rail-roads.
It is a question which has been much agitated, whether it be better to perform public works at the cost of the public, or commit them to associations of individuals. In those countries where capital is superabundant, and more than suffices for the ordinary demands of trade, the question becomes one of expediency alone. If the undertaking be one that promises a fair remuneration, individuals can always be found ready and willing to embark in it. It then becomes the simple question, whether it be wise to intrust the interests of internal commerce to companies who have no other interest than that of obtaining the largest returns for the investment. The example of England is urged in favour of the latter course; and it has, no doubt, in that country, been eminently successful. France, too, after having for centuries held to the other method, has, within a few years, endeavoured to follow the example of England. Still, however, it may be