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LITERATURE, ART, AND SCIENCE, IN 1863.
It is our object to present in the following pages an abstract and brief chronicle of Literature, Art, and Science during the year 1863, and our limits being narrow, only the most salient objects can find a place in our sketch. Literary production, like most other achievements of man in our days, has assumed gigantic proportions, and the tribe of critics and reviewers, whose business it is to watch the ever-rolling torrent of books issuing from the press, and to keep the public informed of what sort of matters the great stream brings down, have enough to do to fulfil their task with any thing like completeness. The artists are not behind the scribes in activity of production, and it is a puzzle to know what becomes of the mass of pictures which are yearly exhibited. The labours of science too are ceaseless, and are perpetually rewarded by the discovery of new wonders. All these things are recorded in detail in the periodical publications of the day, both those of a miscellaneous character and those which are devoted to special branches of knowledge, and these records are treasured up in many a library where they will be accessible to the curious of future generations. Our business now is but to skim lightly over the performances of the past year, fixing, if we can, upon those points by which it is most likely to be remembered. Literature takes the first place, and we find from the “Publisher's Circular.” that the number of new publications issued from the press during 1863 was 3878, falling short, but to a trifling extent only, of the issue of 1862, which was 3913. These numbers include the most insignificant as well as the most costly publications, the penny pamphlet and the gorgeously illustrated work whose price is counted in guineas. A large portion of this mass of printing must necessarily be ephemeral, and destined to be utterly forgotten and mostly destroyed when it has answered the temporary purpose for which it was designed. Works of a scientific character may have before them a career of usefulness, longer or shorter, but even these will have to make way at length for others more advanced. A few works of artistic construction, historical, romantic, or poetical, may be destined for immortality, or something approaching to it. But as it is not our business to prophesy, but to record, we shall content ourselves with endeavouring to mark out a few which, from the eminence of their writers or the novelty of their contents, have chiefly attracted attention, and which may be considered as characterizing the year 1863. We shall extract a few passages from the criticisms of the day, rather for the sake of recording the impression produced by these works upon contemporaries, than of defining the value which the mature judgment of posterity may hereafter place upon them. Mr. Kinglake's “Invasion of the Crimea" was perhaps the most notable book of the year 1863, having rapidly passed through four editions. This work, which was known to be in preparation by the author of “Eóthen,” had long been expected with anxiety, and it was eagerly read when it appeared. The book was soon the object of fierce attack from reviewers. The sarcastic tone which pervades it naturally roused hostility, and certain peculiarities of treatment applied to persons who were not favourites of the author were generally voted to be in bad taste. The public expressed its own opinion of the work in its own way, namely, by diligent perusal and incessant demand for copies at the reading libraries. The fourth edition contains no change in the original text, but some notes are added by way of rectification, the effect being to show how small an amount of correction the author has considered necessary, after running the gauntlet of hostile criticism. The materials on which this work is based are summed up as follows by a reviewer: “Ever since 1856 Mr. Kinglake has had in his hands the whole mass of the papers which Lord Raglan had with him at the time of his death, including the leading military reports of the officers serving under him, his official and private correspondence with sovereigns, ambassadors, ministers, generals, admirals, public functionaries, wild adventurers, and faithful friends. In addition to the knowledge derived from all this invaluable store of material, Mr. Kinglake has been greatly aided by the conversation and correspondence of English statesmen, and eminent soldiers and sailors, on the business of the war; men honourably distinguished by that noble freedom of speech which rests on the assumption ‘that what is best for the repute of England is the truth.' He has further been aided by information obtained from Russian sources, information tending to “uplift the repute of the far-famed Russian infantry;' and if we object that the authorities of the French war department have not availed themselves of Mr. Kinglake's overtures, we must not omit to give the due credit to every French commander whom he addressed, for the courteous, clear, and abundant answer accorded to every inquiry. Thus prepared and provided, the author of ‘Eóthen' has, in part, written a ‘History of the Invasion of the Crimea,'—a history which is destined, we think, to take its place on the book-shelf as a classical or permanent work, provided that the startling disclosures which it contains be ultimately accepted as true, and the interpreting commentary which it supplies finally adjudged to be philosophically sound. Of the literary merit of the book there can hardly be two opinions, though whether the sarcastic spirit which animates its pages is the fitting spirit in which such a book should be written, will perhaps be a question that a serious mind here and there will put to itself. The style of composition, if occasionally diffuse or tending to monotony, is characteristically fine; the language is lucid and pure, and, if we may so say, rather sculpturesque than picturesque. There is a sort of marble placidity in Mr. Kinglake's presentments of things or persons that shows an artist-like power of conception as well as workmanship. Sometimes, as in the description of the battle of the Alma, the multiplicity of detail, or the change of the point of view in the recital, may weaken the effect, or impair the integrity of impression; but, in general, the execution is that of a master in the art of letters.” Mr. Kinglake's unceremonious treatment of the great politicians and actors of the time has lent to the book an element of sensation which operates strongly for the moment. The Emperor of the French is handled in the severest manner, and with a warmth of indignation which is perhaps no longer shared by the English public. Some of the facts stated in reference to the conduct of British statesmen are so startling that much scepticism has prevailed as to their accuracy. “Discussion and careful rigorous examination must precede the acceptance of some of his revelations, and perhaps many of his conclusions, for his “History' is in great part an indictment of the ministers and people of England, as well as of the legitimate despot of Russia, or the usurping tyrant of France, the evil providence who, for his own ambitious purposes, favoured the war, contrived the alliance, imposed his own judgment on a British Cabinet, seduced the powerful volition of ‘the lustiest man of those days' in England, and made our peaceful conservative nation the servile and unconscious instrument of his own astute and unprincipled ambition.” The tenth volume of the Duke of Wellington's “Supplementary Despatches, Correspondence and Memoranda,” is one of great importance as containing documents relating to the transactions of Waterloo, the campaign in France, and the capitulation of Paris. Among the correspondents of the Duke are Lord Castlereagh, Lord Bathurst, Sir Charles Stewart, Sir H. Torrens, the Comte de Lally Tollendal, the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Orleans, the Duke of Otranto, and the Prince Regent. The volume contains two memoranda of the Duke, one on the plan of the battle of Waterloo, written in October, 1836, and one on the same battle, written in September, 1842, after the Duke had read the statements of General Clausewitz. “Without the aid of this work,” says a notice, “it may be regarded as impossible to understand the campaign of 1815, and, above all, the battle of Waterloo.” “In the despatches, letters and memoranda brought together, and arranged with remarkable care and ability by the present Duke of Wellington, we possess one of the most extraordinary pictures ever presented to the public for the use of historians.” “The Life and Times of St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux,” by J. C. Morison, takes rank as a work of accurate research and artistic execution. “It has all those merits which flow from a complete study of the original sources of information. The reader has the rare satisfaction of feeling at every page that he is brought face to face with the evidence of the times themselves, and that he is nowhere deluded by second-hand theories. Indeed, were it possible to despatch a special correspondent seven hundred years backward in the stream of time as easily as he can be sent as many thousands across the intervals of space, such a life as this of St. Bernard is what we might expect at his hands.” “As an animated panorama of the first half of the twelfth century, this life of St. Bernard has few if any equals. The laborious study which the author has devoted to his subject has left no trace on his style, which is free, animated, and flowing, and carries the reader pleasantly along without calling attention to itself. The numerous translations from St. Bernard's hortatory works are
The second volume of “The Constitutional History of England, since the Accession of George III., 1760 to 1860," by Mr. Thomas Erskine May, comprises “the history of party, of the press and liberty of opinion, of liberty of the subject, of the Church and religious liberty, of local government, and of Ireland and the British dependencies,” during the period in question. Of this important publication a critic says, “The present volume is no less interesting than the first. The history of parties is traced with a copiousness of knowledge, and a clearness of statement, which, notwithstanding that the subject has been much canvassed of late years, will be admitted by all candid students of our history to supply much that was before wanting in our information, and to define much that was before indistinct. . . . In a short concluding chapter, Mr. Erskine May takes a rapid view of the progress of general legislation during the past century, and of the social condition of the people, in which survey he perceives but one object which is not of an agreeable character, namely, the formidable and continuous increase of expenditure.” A fourth volume of Mr. Massey's “History of England during the Reign of George the Third,” embraces the period from 1793 to 1802, while Mr. John George Phillimore has commenced the history of the same reign, and has published a volume which has already attracted attention for an unusually bold style of treatment. Canon (now Dean) Stanley’s “Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, Part I.,” have found general favour, as well from the popular interest of the subject as from the excellence of the author's style, and the comparative novelty of treatment. The peculiar interest attaching for the moment to biblical questions has also tended to increase the curiosity with which the volume was read, as containing the views of a leading divine of the day. The work, however, does not seem intended by its author to give any very decided opinions on the critical questions which have lately occupied the minds of men, and here and there an expression occurs showing a willingness to leave open questions which have popularly been considered closed. “Professor Stanley has chosen a subject congenial to his office and adapted to his talents. In its treatment he has shown his usual ability. He has had signal advantages to qualify him for the work. Repeated visits to Palestine have familiarized him with the sacred region. He has written one of the best books on the geography of that land. He has an eye to discern and a pen to pourtray the features of the varied landscapes presented to the traveller by that hallowed country. Accordingly, the work is an able and an interesting one. The author catches the salient points as he proceeds, and sets them before the reader with vividness and vigour. He is evidently at home in his task. His geographical and historical pictures are drawn with the hand of a master. The work may be considered a companion to his “Sinai and Palestine,' showing equal ability in sketching places, characters, and courts. The strength of the author lies in the admirable method in which he places his varied knowledge before the mind of the reader. It is not often that so great attainments are combined with such skill and beauty in writing. His illustrations are appropriate, his comparisons striking, his style and language excellent. The author is strongest in his knowledge of geography and history. He is as accurate too as he is strong. In these departments, and they are the main elements of which the work consists, none need fear to follow him with unwavering confidence, and to accept his statements.” The second, third, and fourth parts of Dr. Colenso’s “Pentateuch and Book of Joshua Critically Examined,” have, as they successively appeared, called forth an immense amount of criticism and comment, and hosts of books in refutation of the views advanced. The first part, which appeared in 1862, created, as is well known, great excitement, and vehement expressions of disapproval. In the succeeding parts the author comments in return upon objections raised, and the prefaces to these volumes are probably the parts which are chiefly read, while the more solid details of the critical examination are adapted for the consideration of professed theologians. The history of this work is very peculiar, and whatever opinions may be formed as to the validity of its views, it must always remain an important phenomenon in the annals of the Church. “It is not,” says a reviewer, “as a biblical critic of profound learning that Bishop Colenso challenges our consideration. He has appeared before the world in the character of a revolutionary reformer, popularizing those objections to our oldestablished belief which were well known before to students in their libraries, and insisting on the public demolition and abandonment of certain sacred traditions. In this character he has provoked his opponents, and won the sympathy of his supporters.” “In this (third) part of his work Bishop Colenso, both in his preface and in the book itself, strictly maintains his ground. He is no less destructive in his treatment of the Pentateuch than he was at first. The numerous answers which he has read and considered have made no impression on him. But there is something of a change in his attitude towards the institutions and formularies of the Church of England. He maintains, with considerable force of argument, his right to remain a bishop of the Church, notwithstanding his views about the Old Testament. He even contends for the orthodoxy of his belief that our Lord was subject to the ignorance and errors of his time relating to the Scriptures of the Covenant; and therefore that the testimony borne by the recorded sayings of Jesus to the historical truth of the Books of Moses is not conclusive. At the same time, the revolutionary ambition which so startled the public in the first part still shows itself.” In the fourth part the first eleven chapters of Genesis are minutely criticized, and the double narrative which they are alleged to contain is analyzed. In the preface “Bishop Colenso propounds those more general views in which the mass of readers can find interest with the least tax upon their patience. Again in this, as in his former prefaces, the Bishop shows wonderful coolness and temper. He seldom resorts to any artifice of recrimination stronger than that of quoting the words of his opponents, and appending to them, within parentheses, a point of exclamation. Whatever may be thought of Bishop Colenso's matter, his manner is certainly deserving of praise.” In the course of the month of November proceedings were commenced against Bishop Colenso, in the Court of the Bishop of Cape Town, upon a charge of heresy contained in this work and another published by Dr. Colenso some years ago. The result of these proceedings, against which Dr. Colenso merely protested as being illegal, was a decree deposing him from his bishopric. The validity of this decree remains to be seen. The third volume of Dr. Davidson's “Introduction to the Old Testament." brought that work to a conclusion. It is one in which biblical criticism is applied with the freedom which has hitherto been only exercised by German commentators. Dr. Davidson's work, although chiefly founded upon the labours of the German school, contains original views, the author not confining himself to merely reporting the opinions of others. It certainly contains a large mass of learning and information not easily to be obtained elsewhere. Dean Milman's “History of the Jews," a work which appeared thirty years