NOTICES & REVIEWS OF Poems (1851), by Samuel G. Goodrich

Reviews of other works by Goodrich

The Literary World, 7 (December 28, 1850): 525. Ed. Evert A. & George L. Duyckinck.

Poems. By S. G. Goodrich. Putnam.

Were Mr. Goodrich’s merits as a poet less than they are, he would still be entitled to the freedom of Parnassus, for his excellent services in times past to the Muses. He is the father and patron of illustrated American pictorial literature in the popular form of the Annuals, which, in due season attaining their majority, now live in their descendants in the Magazine enterprises of Graham and Godey. The Token has passed away. Not so the materials of which it was composed. Some of the best verses of living books, to say nothing of the exquisite prose-poems of Nathaniel Hawthorne, are taken from its pages. The most of the present collection, we believe, originally appeared there. They are now revived with delicate vignette and other illustrations, chiefly from the pencil of Billings. Some of these are exquisitely touched, and their characteristic merits faithfully rendered by the engraver.

Of the poems, the longest is the Outcast, the story of a murderer self-exiled to the wilderness. It contains some spirited descriptions of nature. His love for his brute companions of the forest—the love of a nature softened by sorrow, is thus beautifully indicated;—

‘And oft at morn, the mocking-bird

Doth greet me with its sweetest lay;

The wood-dove where the bush is stirred,

Looks from its cover on my way.

I would not break the spider’s thread—

The buzzing insect dances free;

I crush no toad beneath my tread—

The lizard crawls in liberty!

I harm no living thing; my sway

Of peace hath soothed the grumbling bear—

The wolf walks by in open day,

And fawns upon me from his lair.”

For an eloquent apostrophe to the Forest, which follows, we must refer the reader to the text.

We notice as the latest of these poems, one entitled Remembrance, in commemoration of Mrs. Osgood, written for Mrs. Hewitt’s promised volume, “The Memorial.”

Notice. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 2 (February 1851): 427. Ed. Henry J. Raymond.

G. P. Putnam has issued an elegant illustrated edition of Poems, by S. G. GOODRICH, comprising a selection from the productions of the author, which have made him favorably known to the public as an agreeable versifier. They are characterized by a lively fancy, a ready command of poetical language, and the elevation of their moral sentiments. The embellishments of the volume are executed with great skill.

Southern Quarterly Review, 19 (April 1851): 564-565. Ed. William Gilmore Simms.

32. Poems. By S. G. Goodrich New-York: Geo. P. Putnam. 1851.

As a specimen of book-making, this is one of the most beautiful volumes that we have seen for many a day. The paper and typography are exquisite, and it is absolutely crowded with engravings, at once happy in design and exquisite in execution. As an annual—a gift for the holydays—it is far superior, in external beauty, to most of the class for the present season. Its literary contents, without challenging admiration for the endowments of the author, are certainly respectable. As a poet, Mr. Goodrich takes no high position. As a writer of smooth and easy verse, he may rank with hundreds who have a much greater reputation. His claims will rest chiefly upon his large collection of books, histories, travels, sciences and philosophies for the young. These, with the exception of those which relate to our own country, (in which he shows a most improper but very common Northern partiality to his own section) are no doubt very useful volumes. The poems, in the collection before us, may be judged by a single specimen:

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“Life is a journey, and its fairest flowers

Lie in our path beneath pride’s trampling feet;

Oh! let us stoop to virtue’s humble bowers,

And gather those which, faded, still are sweet.

These wayside blossoms amulets are of price;

They lead to pleasure, yet from danger warn;

Turn toil to bliss, this earth to Paradise,

And sunset death to heaven’s eternal morn.

A good deed done hath memory’s best perfume;

A day of self-forgetfulness, all given

To holy charity, hath perennial bloom,

That goes, undrooping, up from earth to heaven.

Forgiveness, too, will flourish in the skies;

Justice, transplanted thither, yields fair fruit;

And if repentance, borne to heaven, dies,

’Tis that no tears are there to wet its root.”

Graham’s Magazine, 38 (May 1851): 408. Ed. George R. Graham.

Poems. By S. G. Goodrich. New York: Geo. P. Putnam. 1 vol. 12mo.

These poems, the production of one of the most voluminous authors that any country ever produced, and, in his effect on the education of young minds, one of the most useful, are melodious utterances of genuine observation and feeling, and marked by many agreeable traits of fancy. The illustrations, to the number of forty, are principally by Billings; and these alone should make the book an indispensable ornament of every parlor-table. They are all exquisite of their kind.

Wellman’s Monthly Literary Miscellany, 4 (May 1851): 202-205. Ed. D. F. Quinby.

For the last twenty years the name of Mr. Goodrich has been very constantly associated with American literature. He commenced as a publisher, in Boston, and was among the first to encourage by liberal copyrights, and to make attractive by elegant editions, the works of American authors. One of his earliest undertakings was a collection of the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, with a memoir of that author, by his widow, with whom he shared the profits. In 1828 he began “The Token,” an annual literary souvenir, which he edited and published fourteen years. In this appeared the first fruits of the genius of Cheney, who has long been acknowledged the master of the American engravers; and the first poems and prose writings of Longfellow, Willis, Mellen, Mrs. Osgood, Mrs. Child, Mrs. Sigourney, ad other eminent authors.—In “The Token” also were printed his own earlier lyrical pieces. The work was of the first rank in its class, and in England as well as in this country it was uniformly praised.

p. 202

In 1831 an anonymous romance was published by Marsh & Capen, of Boston. It was attributed by some to Willis, and by others to Mrs. Child, then Miss Francis. It illustrated a fine and peculiar genius, but was soon forgotten. Mr. Goodrich appreciated its merits, and applied to the publishers for the name of the author, that he might engage him as a contributor to “The Token.” They declined to disclose his secret, but offered to forward a letter to him. Mr. Goodrich wrote one, and received an answer signed by Nathaniel Hawthorne, many of whose best productions, as “Sights from a Steeple,” “Sketches under an Umbrella,” “The Prophetic Pictures,” “Canterbury Pilgrims,” &c., appeared in this annual. In 1839, Mr. Goodrich suggested to Mr. Hawthorne the publication of a collection of his tales, surrendering his copyrights to several of them for this purpose; but so little were the extraordinary qualities of this admirable author then understood, that the publishers would not venture upon such an experiment without an assurance against loss, which Mr. Goodrich, as his friend, therefore gave. The public judgment will be entitled to little respect, if the copyright of the works of Hawthorne be not hereafter a most ample fortune.

Mr. Goodrich soon abandoned the business of publishing, and, though still editing “The Token,” devoted his attention chiefly to the writing of that series of educational works, known as Peter Parley’s, which has spread his fame over the world. The whole number of these volumes is about sixty. Among them are treatises upon a great variety of subjects, and they are remarkable for simplicity of style and fecility [sic] of illustration. Mr. Goodrich has accomplished a complete and important revolution in juvenile reading, substituting truth and nature for grotesque fiction in the materials and processes of instruction, and his method has been largely imitated, at home and abroad. In England many authors and publishers have disgraced the literary profession by works under the name of “Parley,” with which he has had nothing to do, and which have none of his wise and genial spirit.

Besides his writings under this pseudonym, Mr. Goodrich has produced several works of a more ambitious character, which have been eminently popular.—Among them is a series entitled “The Cabinet Library,” embracing histories, biographies, and essays in science; “Universal Geography,” in an octavo volume of one thousand pages; and a “History of All nations,” in two large octavos, in which he has displayed such research, analysis, and generalization, as should insure for him an honorable rank among historians. We cannot better illustrate his popularity than by stating the fact, that more than four hundred thousand volumes of his various productions are now annually sold in this country and Europe. No living writer is, therefore, as much read, and in the United States hardly a citizen now makes his first appearance at the polls, or a bride at the altar, to whose education he has not in a large degree contributed. For twenty years he has preserved the confidence of parents and teachers of every variety of condition and opinion; by the indefectible morality and strong practical sense, which are universally understood and approved.

Like many other eminent persons, Mr. Goodrich has sought occasional relaxation from the main pursuits of his life in poetry, and the volume before us contains some forty illustrations of his abilities, as a worshipper of the muse whose temples are most thronged, but who is most coy and most chary of her inspiration. They have for the most part been previously printed in “The Token,” or in literary journals; but a few are now published the first time. In typographical and pictorial elegance the book is unique. It is an exhibition of the success of the first attempt to rival the London and Paris publishers in woodcut embellishments and general beauty of execution.

That Mr. Goodrich possesses the poeti-

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cal faculty in an eminent degree, no one has doubted who has read his lines “To Lake Superior:”

Father of Lakes! thy waters bend,

Beyond the eagle’s utmost view,

When, throned in heaven, he sees thee send

Back to the sky its world of blue.

Boundless and deep the forests weave

Their twilight shade thy borders o’er,

And threatening cliffs, like giants, heave

Their rugged forms along thy shore.

Nor can the light canoes, that glide

Across thy breast like things of air,

Chase from thy lone and level tide,

The spell of stillness deepening there.

Yet round this waste of wood and wave,

Unheard, unseen, a spirit lives,

That, breathing o’er each rock and cave,

To all, a wild, strange aspect gives.

The thunder-riven oak, that flings

Its grisly arms athwart the sky,

A sudden, startling image brings

To the lone traveller’s kindled eye.

The gnarled and braided boughs that show

Their dim forms in the forest shade,

Like wrestling serpents seem, and throw

Fantastic horrors through the glade.

The very echoes round this shore,

Have caught a strange and gibbering tone,

For they have told the war-whoop o’er,

Till the wild chorus is their own.

Wave of the wilderness, adieu—

Adieu, ye rocks, ye wilds, ye woods!

Roll on, thou Element of blue,

And fill these awful solitudes!

Thou has no tale to tell of man.

God is thy theme. Yet sounding caves,

Whisper of Him, whose mighty plan,

Deems as a bubble all your waves!

The “Birth Night of the Humming Birds” has been declared by the London Athenæum equal to Dr. Drake’s “Culprit Fay,” and it may be regarded as in its way the best specimen of Mr. Goodrich’s talents. It is too long to be quoted in these paragraphs. In descriptions of nature he is uniformly successful, presenting his picture with force and exactness.

There are many examples of this in one of his longest poems, “The Mississippi,” in which the tradition that cluster around the Father of Waters, and the advances of civility along his borders, are graphically presented. The river is described as rising.

“Far in the west, where snow-capt mountain’s [sic] rise,

Like marble shafts beneath heaven’s stooping dome,

And sunset’s charming curtain drapes the skies

As if Enchantment there would build her home.

The bard laments that

“though these scenes are fair

As fabled Arcady, the sylph and fay,

And all their gentle kindred, shun the air,

Where car and steamer make their stormy way;”

Yet trust that in a future time,

“Perchance some Cooper’s magic art may wake

The sleeping legends of this mighty vale,

And twine fond memories round the laws and lake,

Where Warrior fought or Lover told his tale.

In the volume are several allegorical pieces of much merit, of which the most noticeable are the “Two Windmills,” “The Bubble Chase,” and “The Rainbow Bridge.” Several smaller poems are distinguished for a quaint simplicity, reminding us of the old masters of English verse; and others, for refined sentiment, as the ‘Old Oak,’ of which the key-note is in the lines,

Here is the grassy knoll I used to seek

At summer noon, beneath the spreading shade,

And watched the flowers that stooped, with glowing cheek,

Too [sic] meet the romping ripples as they played.

The longest of Mr. Goodrich’s poems is “The Outcast.” It was first published many years ago, and it appears now with the improvement suggested by reflection

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and criticism. Its fault is, a certain intensity, but it has noble passages, betraying a careful study and profound appreciation of subtler operations of the mind, particularly, when in its most excited action, it is influenced by the observation of nature.

The volume will take its place in the cabinets of our choice literature, and will be prized the more for the fact that by selecting American themes for the most elaborate compositions, Mr. Goodrich has made literature subservient to the purposes of patriotism.

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