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he could make himself familiar with the works of art in Dresden. At length his merits were perceived; and the sovereign of Saxony gave him leave to travel to Rome, with a pension of one hundred and fifty dollars, to continue two years. Such was the patronage of princely liberality! At Rome he made himself friends, and resided in Italy, chiefly in Rome, thirteen years. At length, in 1768, he was induced to visit Germany. As he saw the mountains of the Tyrol, his heart grew heavy; as he descended them on the north, he was seized with a real home-sickness for Italy. With difficulty he was induced to proceed to Vienna. Here he was well received by Kaunitz, who had a taste for the fine arts, and kindly noticed by Maria Theresa. It was in April 1766, that he entered Germany; and early in June, he was on his way again to Italy. On the journey, a criminal, who had been condemned to die, but afterwards had been pardoned, joined him as a travelling companion; and in Trieste, in the hope of getting some gold medallions which Winekelman had with him, murdered him at midday.
Winckelman's History of Ancient Art was first published in 1764. It is a work which is the common property of cultivated nations; original in its design; of acknowledged importance; full of taste, erudition, and eloquence. When we consider the nature of the subjects, in treating which he gained his glory, so unlike any thing that lay in his horoscope; or the melancholy events in his life, or the admirable style in which his works are written, especially when the imperfect state of German literature, previous to his leaving Germany, is remembered, we feel for him an unmixed admiration. Of how energetic a will must he have been possessed, to accomplish what he did, as it were in spite of his destiny! And how much is it to his honour, that, though he could find rest only among the creations of Grecian art, he preserved the pride of a German, and laid his laurels at the feet of his country.
We have now enumerated the most distinguished writers in the German language, who flourished before the year 1770; when a new era began in the history of German literature. We reserve the discussion of this recent period for another opportunity.
ART. VIII.-A History of the Life and Voyages of Christo
pher Columbus. By WASHINGTON IRVING. In three volumes: New-York: Elliot & Palmer. 1828.
We cannot present to the notice of our readers, a new work from the pen of Irving, without indulging ourselves in the expression of our unfeigned admiration of his genius and character: - his name stands associated in our minds, with so many endearing recollections; his example has done so much in purifying our national taste, and in vindicating our claims to literary distinction, that it would be ungrateful, not to convey to him, the high sense that we entertain of his public services, and, if it be necessary, to assure him of the strong hold which he possesses in the minds and hearts of his countrymen. It may in truth be said, that no author has mingled in his writings more of his own feelings and associations; his readers are admitted to the closest intimacy with his inmost thoughts, habits, and sentiments; nor is it possible for any to mistake them: he unconsciously reveals himself to us, as a man of the highest principles of virtue, honour, and liberality; a keen, but tolerant observer of the follies and absurdities of his fellow men ; a sound-hearted American, proud of his country, jealous of its honour, and attached to its free institutions. Men of his refined temperament of mind, and acute sensibility, whose aim is rather to charm the imagination, than to enlarge the bounds of knowledge, stand in need of the excitement of public favour; their minds are often clouded by doubts and misgivings of their own powers, and too much disposed to ascribe an undue value to the opinions of others, as a counterpoise to their own feelings of distrust and self-condemnation.
It is not our intention to discuss the merit of his former productions: his “History of New York, from the beginning of the World to the end of the Dutch Dynasty,” is, in our opinion, the most original of all his works; the name of Diedrick Knickerbocker is stamped upon the mind of every reader ; and his veracious legend, is known and quoted by all ranks and degrees of persons, with inexhaustible merriment. To be read, admired, and understood, by the great body of the people, is, indeed, to enjoy the highest reward of literary fame, and may be confidently regarded as the certain guarantee of its perpetuity. The succeeding works of Irving,—The Sketch Book, Bracebridge Hall, and Tales by a Traveller,--are too well known to require a critical examination. To us, they appear to display a finer tact of authorship, greater maturity of taste, and more enlarged views of human nature; but, at the same time, less boldness of outline and freedom of touch, than are to be found in his earlier works. He has shown himself strongest in American subjects; Rip Van Winkle, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Dolph Heighliger, and Wolfert Webber, are full of invention, poetic feeling, and picturesque humour. The humour of Irving, in our opinion, distinguishes him beyond all his contemporaries; his vein is singularly rich and original, flowing naturally from the subject, drawn from the simplest objects, and so mingled with the pathetic, as frequently to make our eyes overflow.
We heartily rejoice in the well-earned success of Irving; his reputation abroad, as a classical American author, is perfectly established ; the taunting question of “ who reads an American book ?” has been answered by him in the only way that it merited being answered.
Hitherto we have been accustomed to regard Irving wholly as a voyager in the world of fiction. In the work before us, he presents himself in the new light of the grave historian of perhaps the most memorable event in the annals of the world ; that by which an entire hemisphere was opened to the view of the nations of the ancient continent. An event, whose important consequences are yet but partially developed, in doubling the extent of civilized society, in preparing an asylum for liberal principles of government, and in opening
the way for the prevalence of a religious system, which, however varied in sect, and diversified in doctrine, rests on the foundation of universal toleration and unlimited charity. If, in assuming the character of the historian, Irving may have given up many advantages, such as his brilliant and inventive imagination, his powers of description and intense sense of natural beauty, and still more, his vein of delicate, yet keen-edged humour; attributes which have rendered his former works so fascinating; still he may find a compensation in the overpowering interest of his subject, while the graces of his chaste and simple, yet polished diction, remain to attract and delight his readers. The circumstances of the times, the brilliancy of the event, the difficulties overcome, the enthusiasm and chivalry of his hero, throw around his work the charms of fictitious narrative; while the dignity and importance of the discovery he celebrates, will place his work among the most important of histories. Our author, in his preface, briefly states the origin of his undertaking. We should do him injustice, were we to give it in any language but his own :
“Being at Bordeaux, in the winter of 1825-6, I received a letter from Mr. Alex. ander Everett, minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Madrid, informing me of a work then in the press, edited by Don Martin Fernandez de Navar. rete, Secretary of the Royal Academy of History, &c., containing a collection of documents relating to the voyages of Columbus ; among which were many of a highly important nature, recently discovered. Mr. Everett, at the same time, ex. pressed an opinion, that a version of the work into English, by one of our own country, would be peculiarly desirable. I concurred with him in the opinion, and having for some time contemplated a visit to Madrid, I shortly after set off for that capital, with an idea of undertaking, while there, the translation of the work.
“Soon after my arrival, the publication of Mr. Navarrete made its appearance. I found it to contain many documents hitherto unknown, which threw additional lights on the discovery of the new world, and which reflected great credit on the exertions of the learned editor. Still, the whole presented rather a mass of rich materials for history, than a history itself. These were precious treats for the mere man of research ; but the sight of disjointed papers and official documents, is apt to be repulsive to the general reader, who seeks for clear and connected narrative. These circumstances made me hesitate in my proposed undertaking;
yet the subject was of so interesting and national a kind, that I could not willingly abandon it.
“On considering the matter more maturely, I perceived, that, although there were many books in various languages, relative to Columbus, they all contained limited and imperfect accounts of his life and voyages ; while numerous valuable traits existed only in manuscript, or in the form of letters, journals, and pub. lic acts. It appeared to me, that a history faithfully digested from the various materials, was a desideratum in literature, and would be a more satisfactory occupation to myself, and a more acceptable work to my country, than the translation I had contemplated.”
In the prosecution of the work, upon the plan he thus discloses, he received many and important facilities, for which, in the remainder of his preface, he tenders due and adequate acknowledgments. The rich and valuable collection of the American Consul, in whose house he became an inmate, was hourly open to him; the Royal Library, and that of the Jesuits' College of San Isidoro, he found of ready access; from Don Martin de Navarrete, he received every possible aid ; and the Duke de Veraguas, the descendant and representative of Columbus, submitted the archives of the family to his inspection.
Furnished with such ample sources of information, our author has employed them to the best advantage, in developing the early habits and education of his hero, by which he was trained for his enterprise, and that mixture of the highest knowledge of his age, both practical and theoretic, with the enthusiasm of a crusader, the patience and humility of a martyr. It is, in this respect, that the work before us is novel, and most interesting. Other writers have recorded the bare facts of the voyages of Columbus, the glory that seemed to repay his success, and the severe reverses he experienced from the ascendency of envy and malignity. In that of Irving, we have seen for the first time fully illustrated, his extensive learning, his patient devotion under delay and suffering, sustained by the hope of extending the dominions of the cross, to regions of paganism and darkness; the holy, even if mistaken zeal, with which he proposed to dedicate the hardearned profits of his success, not to his own personal ease or the establishment of his family, but to the recovery of the sepulchre of Christ from the infidels. To appreciate the learning, and almost prophetic sagacity of Columbus, we must understand the state of knowledge at the time in which he lived. Although learning had begun to revive, after its long slumber of the dark ages, it was still mixed up with wild and baseless theories. Religious dogmas, founded less upon scripture than on human authority, were received as axioms in philosophy; and, in the dread of heresy, to impugn them, was frequently treated as a dereliction from the true faith. We cannot better illustrate the prejudices with which Columbus had to contend, even among the most learned, than by extracting the account of the council, held at the University of Salamanca, before which Columbus ap
peared, by the command of Ferdinand and Isabella, to maintain the truth of his belief, that the globe might be circumnavigated :
“Religion and science were, at that time, and more especially in that country, closely associated. The treasures of learning were immured in monasteries, and the professors' chairs were exclusively filled from the cloister. The domination of the
clergy extended over the state as well as the church, and posts of honour and influence at court, with the exception of hereditary nobles, were almost entirely confided to ecclesiastics. It was even common to find cardinals and bish. ops in helm and corslet, at the head of armies; for the crosier had been occasionally thrown by for the lance, during the holy war against the Moors. The era was distinguished for the revival of learning, but still more for the prevalence of religious zeal; and Spain surpassed all other countries of Christendom, in the fervour of her devotion. The Inquisition had just been established in that kingdom, and every opinion that savoured of heresy, made its owner obnoxious to odium and persecution.
“Such was the period, when a council of clerical sages was convened in the collegiate convent of St. Stephen, to investigate the new theory of Columbus. It was composed of professors of astronomy, geography, mathematics, and the other branches of science, together with various dignitaries of the church, and learned friars. He had been scoffed at as a visionary, by the vulgar and the ig. norant; but he was convinced, that he only required a body of enlightened men, to listen dispassionately to his reasonings, to insure triumphant conviction.
"The greater part of this learned junto, it is very probable, came prepossessed against him, as men in place and dignity are apt to be against poor applicants.
“There is always a proneness to consider a man under examination, as a kind of delinquent or impostor, whose faults and errors are to be detected and exposed. Columbus, too, appeared in a most unfavourable light before a scholastic body; an obscure navigator, member of no learned institution, destitute of all the trappings and circumstances which sometimes give oracular authority to dula ness, and depending upon the mere force of natural genius. Some of the junto entertained the popular notion that he was an adventurer, or at best a visionary ; and others had that morbid impatience of any innovation upon established doc. trine, which is apt to grow upon dull and pedantic men in cloistered life.
"What a striking spectacle must the hall of the old convent have presented at this memorable conference! A simple mariner, standing forth in the midst of an imposing array of professors, friars, and dignitaries of the church; maintaining his theory with natural eloquence, and as it were pleading the cause of the new world. We are told, that when he began to state the grounds of his belief, the friars of St. Stephen alone paid attention to him; that convent being more learned in the sciences, than the rest of the university. The others appear to have entrenched themselves behind one dogged position; that after so many profound philosophers and cosmographers had been studying the form of the world, and so many able navigators had been sailing about it for several thousand years, it was great presumption in an ordinary man, to suppose that there remained such vast discovery for him to make.
“Several of the objections opposed by this learned body, have been handed down to us, and have provoked many a sneer at the expense of the University of Salamanca ; but they are proofs, not so much of the peculiar deficiency of that institution, as of the imperfect state of science at the time, and the manner in which knowledge, though rapidly extending, was still impeded in its progress by monastic bigotry. All subjects were still contemplated through the obscure medium of those ages, when the lights of antiquity were trampled out, and faith was left to fill the place of inquiry: Bewildered in a maze of religious controversy, mankind bad retraced their steps, and receded from the boundary line of ancient knowledge. Thus, at the very threshold of the discussion, instead of geogtaphical objections, Columbus was assailed with citations from the Bible and the Testament; the book of Genesis, the Psalms of David, the orations of the prophets, the epistles of the Apostles, and the gospels of the Evangelists. 'To these VOL. III. NO. 5.