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for various reasons, they are almost all below the standard which the intellect and the taste of the community would seem to require. Among the daily papers, the American and the Evening Post, the first conducted by Mr. Charles King, and the second by Mr. Bryant, the American poet, are marked by the greatest attention to literary subjects. Among the weekly papers, the Albion and the Mirror rank the highest; the former a political paper, devoted chiefly to English and colonial interests, and much read by the British in Canada as well as in the States; and the latter a literary paper, but wanting vigour and energy in thought and style. The religious newspapers of New-York form an exception to the general character of the newspaper press. They are conducted with ability, are strictly moral and religious, and, though representing different sects and classes, are tolerant, mild, and impartial. Of these, the Observer, the Evange list, the Christian Advocate and Journal, the Christian Intelligencer, and the Churchman, are the most prominent. There are, besides these, two French newspapers, political and literary; one German paper; some few devoted to Roman Catholic interests; and a number of obscure prints, that live their little day of transient popularity, and then disappear.
Of monthly periodicals there are two, the Knickerbocker, edited by Mr. Lewis Gaylord Clarke, and the American Monthly Magazine, edited by Mr. Park Benjamin. They are quite on a par of excellence with the best of our English magazines; have more of the serious and useful, and less of the frivolous and fleeting, than any of them; and many of the contributions to each would be highly estimated in any country. A new Review, published quarterly, has just been started, under the editorship of the Rev. Dr. Hawks, of the Episcopal Church, and is likely to be very popular. It is conducted with great ability, beyond doubt; but there is a fierceness of conservative wrath, and a bitterness of political scorn in some of its articles, which were meant to be poured out as vials of indignation against Democracy in general; but while they fall harmless on the heads of those intended to be the chief objects of its attack here, they will excite only a smile at their folly in the politicians of other countries, to whatever party they may belong; for it is difficult to imagine anything more grotesque than to see the avowed admirers of Republicanism, which all the Whig editors here acknowledge themselves to be, raising an outcry against Democracy as the greatest of evils. For myself, I think
66 COMMON SCHOOL UNION."
the cheap little paper of the "Common School Union" of far more value and importance to the formation of the public mind and public morals of the rising generation of the United States, than all the other newspapers, magazines, and reviews put together. These last aim more at amusement than instruction; and nearly all are more deeply interested in promoting the triumph of a party than in seeking out truth, or, when discovered, in defending it at all hazards, and proclaiming it far and near. While, therefore, political disquisitions, party politics, and acrimonious controversies occupy a prominent portion of the pages of the larger papers and publications adverted to, with a great admixture, in too many of them, of the frivolous and vitiating, this little bark "pursues the even tenour of its way," freighted with the rich ores of the most useful and important information that children can possibly possess, and best adapted to fit them for the due discharge of their duties as
Here are the heads of the subjects treated of in detail in a single number of this paper. 1. News of the day, in which the principal events are briefly, clearly, and pleasingly told. 2. Education, embracing facts and opinions of the highest value on this important subject. 3. Social morals: essays on duties and obligations in life, and reasons on which they are founded. 4. Science of government, unfolding all the great principles of state policy in the different forms of monarchies, aristocracies, and republics, with brief comments on each. 5. Duties of public officers defined according to the Constitution, with the advantages and disadvantages of particular appointments, and deficiencies yet requiring to be supplied. 6. Domestic economy, embracing the whole art of housewifery, and the best management of a family in every department. 7. Political economy, discussion and elucidation of the questions, What makes things cheap? and what makes them dear? What labour is productive? and what is unproductive? What are the uses of money? What are the laws that should regulate trade? and so on. 8. Agriculture, containing every new fact and process connected with this important branch of knowledge, including horticulture and botany, useful and ornamental. 9. Mechanics, the science and practice of all that belongs to the labours of artisans in every branch of manufacture. 10. Practical chymistry, in so far as it is applicable to the various processes of every-day business in ordinary life, with occasional descriptions of new and impor
tant discoveries. 11. Natural philosophy, in its most comprehensive sense; but, like all the others, explained in the most familiar terms, and illustrated by facts and the results of experiments.
Such is an epitome of the contents of a single number of one of these interesting sheets; and the result is, that it is perhaps the only newspaper in the world of which persons of pure taste could read every line, from beginning to end, without weariness or displeasure; for there is no space occupied by advertisements; no penny-a-line paragraphs; no births, deaths, marriages, prices of stocks, or any other kind of information suited only for particular classes. It is all good, all useful, all interesting; and I can conceive no greater benefit conferred on a community than the introduction and extensive circulation of such a paper as this. The sincerity of this opinion may be tested by the fact that I became a subscriber for 200 copies of the paper while in New-York, which were sent to England by the post, addresed to such members of both houses of Parliament, and private friends of mine throughout the country, as I thought most likely to approve such a publication; urging them, by the best arguments I could use, to do their utmost to increase and multiply such papers in every county and city of Great Britain.
One of the greatest obstacles which at present impede the free course of literature, and retard its improvement in America, is the absurd legislative enactment by which all imported books, with few and unimportant exceptions, are subjected to heavy duties, amounting to from thirty to fifty per cent., according to the size and style of the work, as the duty is not estimated by the price or value of the book, but by their weight avoirdupois, the impost by the tariff being thirty cents per pound. The consequence of this prohibitory duty is, that very few of the best English books are imported into the country their original high price, from our own equally absurd duties upon paper, with the additional price which this impost occasions, rendering it unsafe for booksellers to import English works at their own risk; and, therefore, hundreds of our very best productions are never seen on the west of the Atlantic. Most of the books imported are those of a transient, but, at the same time, a popular interest; and these are not imported for sale in their original shape, but for the purpose of reprinting, for which a single copy is enough. The protection of English copyright not extending to America, all our popular reviews and maga zines are here reprinted, including the Edinburgh, Quarter
LITERATURE OF THE AMERICANS.
ly, London, Westminster, and British and Foreign Reviews, Blackwood's, Bentley's, Tait's, the Metropolitan, and other magazines; and as the publisher here has nothing to pay for the contributions or articles, the heaviest item in the European cost, he reprints them at the mere charge of printing and paper, and sells them at a large profit. The Pickwick Papers, Mr. Bulwer's novels, and every other work of mere entertainment, are thus reprinted, and sold for one half, and sometimes for one fourth, their English price; and thus an extensive sale is secured. The people having but little leisure, every one being engaged in some way of business or other, and few books of solid instruction or useful learning being presented to them, while a host of light and frivolous works are amply offered to their choice, the only reading in which the bulk of the community indulge is that of the newspapers, the reviews, and the novels of the day. These, instead of being the occasional occupation of a portion of the time spared from severer studies, form the whole circle of their reading, and the result is just what might have been anticipated; first, that the reading of graver and more important works, in their complete state, even where these are attainable, which is but rarely, is thought too great a labour for any but professors and heads of colleges to undertake; secondly, that a vitiated appetite for the stimulating and absorbing is created and fed, becoming at length so pampered that it can relish no other kind of food; and, thirdly, that the newspapers and reviews give such party views of the topics on which they treat, and the books they profess to analyze, that few who confine their reading to these sources have any accurate conceptions of the true merits of either. Thus the most erroneous ideas are engendered and propagated respecting men and things, which strengthen into prejudices, and take such deep root as to defy all logic, reason, and experience.
The first step to the amendment of this condition of public taste in literature would be to repeal all duties on imported books, in whatever language or on whatever subject; the next, to enact a mutual and reciprocal law for the international protection of copyright for a limited period; and then to let the intercommunication of thought between nation and nation be as free as the air.* There are
* In Prescott's History of Ferdinand and Isabella, published at Boston, a work which does the highest honour to American literature, and which may take rank with the most elaborate and perfect productions of the first historians of Europe, the following passage and note deserve the serious attention of the legislators of Great Britain as well as of America, both of whom are yet behind, not merely the spirit of the present VOL. I.-T 13
some hopes that these steps may soon be taken, and a greater good could scarcely be accomplished for both countries than this.
In the fine arts it were unreasonable to expect that the Americans should have made much progress; considering, first, the infancy of their country as an independent nation; and, next, the almost universal absence of leisure in any extensive class. Notwithstanding this, there are already indications that the arts are relished and enjoyed by many, and that they will, ere long, be successfully cultivated by more.
Of music it is remarked that the Americans are great admirers, though it is very unusual to meet with any lady or gentleman who sings or plays in a manner that would be called "well" in England; and it is certain that they have not yet produced a single individual of their nation who has enjoyed any reputation as a public singer, instrumental performer, or composer of music in any form. Nevertheless, in the simple execution of sacred music in the choirs of public worship, there is an accuracy and a sweetness of harmony which is very striking to the ear of a stranger; and even in the oratorios that are now and then got up, the choruses are well sustained by American voices. But to the higher branches of the art they have never reached. Their patronage, however, of foreign singers is extremely liberal. Mr. and Mrs. Wood, but especially the latter, were greeted with large audiences throughout the Union; and Madame Caradori Allan has still more recently been attended, in all the large cities, with overflowing numbers, and honoured, most deservedly, with universal admiration.
In painting some progress has been made. The number of American gentlemen of fortune who have travelled through Europe, and brought back with them fine pictures of the ancient masters for their private collections, is considerable; and every fresh accession to the number and va riety of such pictures serves to familiarize those who see them with the best models, and thus to form a correct taste.
age, but even the example of the Spanish monarchs in the fifteenth century, for both still sanction the barbarous impost of a heavy duty on the importation of foreign books. Of these monarchs Mr. Prescott says:
"Foreign books of every description, by a law of 1480, were allowed to be imported into the kingdom free of all duty whatever; an enlightened provision, which might furnish a useful hint to legislators of the nineteenth century."
Ordenanças Reales, lib. 4, tit. 4, leg. 22. The preamble of this statute is expressed in the following enlightened terms: "Considerando los Reyes de gloriosa memoria, quanto era provechoso y honroso, que a estos sus reynos se truxessen libros de otras partes, para que con ellos se hiziessen los hombres letrados, quisieron y ordenaron, que de los libros no se pagasse el alcavala..... Lo qual parece que redunda en provecho universal de todos, y en ennoblecimiento de nuestros Reynos."-Prescott's Ferdinand and Isabella, vol. ii., chap. 19, p. 207. Boston, 1839.